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Lifeforms
Ethereal
City/ Ruin
4.63
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Comments: 17
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Rating: 4.625
Condition: Normal
ID: 5411

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October 29, 2009, 4:01 pm

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Cheka Man

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Cog Devils

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"Aye, 'dis here is yer problem, squire. Yer gone and got yerself a Cog Devil infestation in the ol' gear box, haven't ya? Look at the little bugger squirm, eh? Nah, dont be embarrassed, squire. It's better than lice on yer privates, innit? Coz, they're harder to get rid of, they are. And a lot more expensive too.."

Istherm Mild (esq.), licensed steam engine mechanic, overheard advicing one of his customers…

In Locastus, City of Mirrors, much of the ever-present steam-technology, clockwork and other mechanika is enhanced and made possible by power runes or enchantments. Transmission shafts and chain gears, cogs and pistons, boilers and gear boxes are often stamped with intricate, glowing strings of thaumainterferometric meta-equations or rune-like, power-enhancing Aether glyphs, working together in a myriad ways to increase tensile strength in a drive shaft, maximizing boiler output in a steam engine furnace and tweaking chemical reactions within exothermic reaction chambers.

The use of symbolotheurgy in mechanical applications produce machines which demand less maintenance, extract the maximum amount of energy from the fuel, and can function beyond the capabilities of their non-enhanced counterparts. With the use of thaumatechnology, it is even possible to transphase a machine´s parts so that it no longer exists fully within the boundaries of physical reality, allowing for power transmutations and chemical reactions otherwise not possible under the natural laws.

A thaumatechnologically boosted machine is an impressive and unsettling sight, power runes and thaumoequation strings glowing on casings and moving parts, stamped deeply into the blackened steel and cast iron. A shimmer of argent mist sometimes builds among the innards of an enhanced mechanism, as stray puissance accumulates like a mirage, making the moving parts indistinct, sometimes, impossibly, seeming to pass right through one another as if the cast iron is no more substantial than smoke.

The Aetherial effluence of an enchanted mechanism can be felt as an almost-subconscious tingling, buzzing feeling, the intensity of which is proportionate to the power output of the machine in question. Higher levels of Aetherial exposure on an unprotected human can have devastating effects, similar to those associated with radioactivity. In addition, any greater concentration of Aetherial energies can result in a tear in the membrane separating this world from the Spirit Realms, the Grey Void, and can, if you are unlucky, allow the alien creatures and materials of the Beyond access to the material world, with strange and terrible results.

Even with this wonderful, complex marriage of magic and technology functioning smoothly and reliably, a thaumatechnologically enhanced machine remains vulnerable to interference - and there is, for the operator of such a device, no greater irritation then an infestation of Cog Devils.

Preface to: "A Primer to Locastrian Thaumatechnology", by Dr. Mya Ukomm
(Required reading for all first-year students of Thaumatechnology)

Cog Devils

Cog Devils are small, noncorporeal entities that thrive, nest and propagate in the puissance-saturated innards of any thaumatoenhanced mechanism, causing all kinds of problems as they bask in and eat not only the extruded effluvium but also the kinetic energy of the machines moving parts.

No one knows where Cog Devils come from, but it is possible that they are created spontaneously by any sustained concentration of puissance. Whatever their origins, they are a scourge of the thaumatechnologically enhanced industry.

If the Cog Devils infest clockwork, for example, they will absorb potential energy from its wound spring, causing the mechanism to work slower than usual. If present in a steam engine, their presence will result in a lowered boiler output or reduce the expansion of gas within its pistons.

The amount of energy absorbed by a single Cog Devil is minuscule, but they propagate swiftly, by division, and as their numbers grow, their effect on their machine habitat will quickly become noticeable.

A machine infested with Cog Devils will, gradually, begin to lose efficiency. It´s power output will decrease while, at the same time, its fuel demands will increase. In the early stages, these changes are subtle and hard to diagnose as a Cog Devil infection, rather than normal wear and tear.

As the Cog Devil population grows, the effects will become more and more obvious, erosion will occur since ball bearings and lubrication mechanisms start to fail, metal fatigue and stress fractures becomes apparent, boilers melt as it struggles to produce enough steam power to perpetrate continuous motion and gears, drive shafts and transmission cantilevers runs red-hot, sizes up and tears themselves apart, with catastrophic results.

More than one of Locastus´s heavily thaumoaugmented steam engines have torn itself to pieces in a deadly spray of white-hot cogs and whirring bits of jagged shrapnel, so Cog Devils is a threat taken seriously by the Locastrian industry.

Physical Description

Cog Devils are invisible to the naked eye, but can, when viewed through a magesight hex (or a pair of Aetheric Goggles) be observed as small, vaguely flame-like smears of ghostly luminescent smoke entwining and enmeshing themselves endlessly through the rotating transmission shafts, pumping pistons and spinning cogs of their machine nest, basking in the various, delicious energies emanated by the enchanted mechanisms.

They appear, from their carefree cavorts and acrobatics, to be quite happy little creatures, leaping and rubbing themselves ecstatically on the moving machine parts, although there seems to be little intelligence in their behaviour.

They do not exhibit pack traits or, indeed, any form of communication or cooperation with their own kind. In that respect, they resemble more microbes than higher life forms.

Extermination and Population Control

A Cog Devil can, under ideal conditions, reproduce by division once every 24 hours, quickly establishing a viable colony in any infected mechanism.

The more established and entrenched a colony gets, the harder it is to eradicate, although the reason for this is unknown.

No one knows exactly where Cog Devils come from they just seem to appear out of thin air. Wherever their place of origin, it must be a place radically different than this world indeed, they seem to be oddly aspected to technology, almost as if that is their natural habitat.

Outside of a thaumatologically enhanced mechanism, a Cog Devil quickly fades away, dissolving into nothing within a matter of minutes. However, it can travel from machine to machine if it has some form of technological conduit, a puissance conductor cable or a connecting drive shaft. Caught out in the open, it cannot move and will quickly perish.

Just about the only reliable way of keeping down Cog Devil numbers is to perform regular, scheduled stops of the Machine in which the infestation has taken root. Since the Cog Devils feed off of the kinetic energy in the machine´s moving parts, a period of inactivation can curb their expansion and keep down the Cog Devil population. A longer period of inactivity (1-2 weeks) will starve the infestation to death, although a mechanism once infected, will be susceptible to a recurring infection.

Since long-term stops can spell economical ruin for a small-to-mid-scale fabricator, the operators of thaumatically enhanced machinery has learned to accept short periods of inactivity in the small hours, preferring a small decrease in productivity before a major disaster.

Some of the larger production plants run duplicate production lines, one active while the other is inactive. This arrangement is usually planned so that the duplicate machinery is isolated from each other, avoiding cross-contamination of Cog Devils.

Sometimes, especially in the case of the larger, more complicated and expensive industrial systems, any period of inactivity is just not an economical possibility. Then, other means of keeping down the Cog Devil population must be employed.

However, any method except direct starvation is unreliable at best. Physical violence is, of course, of no use whatsoever and warding hexes have only a limited effect. Rituals of exorcism acts more as a mild deterrent than a form of banishing.

Sprinkling the machines with certain arcanely charged salts has been seen to have some effect, but the alkali carries with it other problems corrosion to metal parts and interference with the salt´s puissance from that produced by the machine. 

For smaller mechanisms, such as clocks, a casing of transparent lead crystal seems to help keeping the Cog Devils out, although this alternative is, of course, impractical for the larger pieces of machinery.

Author´s Notes

Not sure how these critters were born, I´m afraid. I guess I just figured that even shining, sophisticated thaumatechnological contraptions shouldn´t be immune to vermin.

More than anything, they were an excuse to order my thoughts and expand upon Locastrian thaumatechnology.

Thanks to Kassil and Chaosmark for inspiration. Kassil should also have kudos for his Aetheric Goggles, mentioned above. I just blatantly assimilated (stole) them into my setting.



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Comments ( 17 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Kassil
November 7, 2008, 18:20
0xp
I dearly love the notion of these vermin. They're gremlins, adapted to thaumatechnology; perhaps in the quiet hours when the machinery isn't doing as much, you can hear the infestation as an occasional faint cackling, whistling sound, a cross between the sound of a fire and of the radio waves of the aurora.

One possible explanation for them that I could think of would be a kind of spontaneous generation; in the highly charged environment of a thaumatechnological engine, the concentration of energies might be enough to coalesce into a kind of lifeform, which would serve to explain why they're so attracted to machinery and why, outside that environment, they're rendered helpless.
Voted Chaosmark
November 7, 2008, 19:17
0xp
"{...} small, vaguely flame-like smears of ghostly luminescent smoke entwining and enmeshing themselves endlessly through the rotating transmission shafts, pumping pistons and spinning cogs of their machine nest, basking in the various, delicious energies emanated by the enchanted mechanisms."

Oh my gosh, I just got a visual of Fern Gully.

Horrifying revelations and scarred memories aside, I love this submission. The Cog Devils are very much usable and interesting, and they make a very good excuse to get more description of Locastrian thaumatech. :D
Voted Cheka Man
November 7, 2008, 19:39
0xp
Another great submission from you. I fear my computer might have a Cog Devil colony inside it.
Ouroboros
November 8, 2008, 17:43
0xp
An old friend of mine (who is actually a computer engineer) claims that the only way of avoiding computer problems is to increase your computer totem. Apparently, this is achieved by gluing bits of crystal, seashells, crucifixes, dreamcatchers, feathers, tiki-figures and coloured beads to the casing of the computer. His laptop really looks like a magpie´s nest. I´m not making this up, I swear....

/D
MoonHunter
March 26, 2011, 13:04
0xp
One of the best charms of this bit is actually a small tray of seasalt on top of the case(preferably seasalt that has been exposed to sunlight for 24 hours (pull it in at night if you can)). I have had friends computer show actual and timable improvements when the tray was there... and it often crashed and was slower when it was not. His wife through out his tray of salt... and two days later it had a fatal drive crash. Again, you opinion and results may vary.

The overlap between marginal communities is our primary source of this. The Wicca community and the Computer users which in the begining were both maginal groups, started this kind of synergy.
Voted Scrasamax
November 9, 2008, 17:01
0xp
Well, did it work? If a few doo-dads glued to the case will keep my comp running fast and clean I'll take it with a smile!
Voted valadaar
November 9, 2008, 19:13
0xp
Excellent little beasties! Some might try and propagate these creatures for use in sabotage!
Voted Murometz
December 4, 2008, 10:44
0xp
Darn, i get to these too late! If I had gotten here earlier, my comment would sound a lot like Kassil's first paragraph.

Steampunk gremlins. Excellent.
Voted EchoMirage
December 16, 2008, 4:11
0xp
I usually associate malevolence with gremlins, not a blissfully unaware interference.
Also, I'd prefer other methods of extermination.
Voted angryscotsman93
February 8, 2009, 0:02
1xp
Always friggin' awesome, Ouroboros. I've always liked your entries, and this one's really very interesting. I've always found it kind of interesting to look at machines sort of as bodies, so this fits in perfectly. It makes me think of some Chaos taint from Warhammer 40,000: the kind of thing that would have a normally emotionless techpriest hopping up and down in rage, desperately trying to find a way to stop the spread of the cog-devils. These could be used as the beginning of a story-line for something...

There's a game I play called Iron Grip: Warlord, where almost all technology is steam-based (I believe that they're a little more advanced than the Locastans, but don't have access to magic). The nation of Atelia is fighting for its freedom from the neighbouring nation of Fahrong. So, just imagine this: an Atelian warfleet (in steam-powered airships) appears in the skies over Locastus, currently in the midst of a great battle with a larger Fahrongian warfleet. After a few hours, during which the cannon shells that missed rained down from the skies, destroying buildings at random (the Atelians are much better marksmen, so most of those stray shells are from the Fahrong vessels), the Atelians are victorious. Setting down near the center of Locastus, they ask for permission to dock and have the local engineers make repairs to their vessels so as to escape home. The Locastan leadership reluctantly allows this, but only if the Atelians permit Locastan units to stay stationed around their vessels to prevent any monkey business. The Locastans do a fine job with the vessels, but within a few days of reaching home, it becomes clear that the vessels have been infected with Cog Devils! Soon enough, the infection spreads throughout the warfleets, and even ground vehicles, such as the hard-hitting tank battalions whose bold counter-attacks against any Fahrongian attack are holding the front together-barely. In desperation, and with their hearts burning for vengeance, the Atelian High Command sends the PC's, who are semi-disgraced officers trying too regain their honor, and their units aboard the single uninfected vessel back to Locastus. Once there, they are once again guarded by the elite units of the Locastan military, but now the situation has changed greatly. You see, the annual fete is in town, and the Bloated Moon herself has come out to watch the festivities... and her new "guests." Under constant supervision by both the Locastan soldiers AND perhaps the most powerful sorceress in the world, the PC's must formulate a plan to kidnap one or more Locastan mechanics and shuttle them back to Atelia so they can figure out how to save the most important pieces of their defense network. What could make this even more interesting would be if then, the PC's were then ordered to go on a mission to infect the Fahrongian fleet with the Cog Devils, then return the Locastan mechanics to their home city without being butchered by the Locastan troops or the city's all-powerful patron.

Whaddya think?
MoonHunter
March 26, 2011, 13:08
0xp
I wish that second paragraph had been added as an idea to the submission. That is a great idea.
Cheka Man
November 11, 2009, 19:48
0xp
That would make a great rp angryscotsman93.
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
February 10, 2011, 7:20
0xp

Great work as usual, re-read this and voted.

Voted MoonHunter
March 26, 2011, 13:10
0xp

I have always loved steampunk and thaumatology.  This is a perfect addition to magical steampunk and magi-tech systems. 

 

Not only is this a great idea. It is really well written.  The into bit is colorful and in character.  The entry of the text book is perfect as it sets the scene for the rest of the submission.  The rest of it is clear, concise, and useful.

Two paws and a tail up for you.

Voted MysticMoon
March 26, 2011, 21:19
0xp

Even though my focus right now is on pure fantasy, your work is so evocative that it makes me want to read through all the Locastus subs.

There are so many ways the mayhem these critters cause could bring about difficulties and misunderstandings, that they are sure-fire conduits to adventure.

Voted Ted
March 27, 2011, 12:12
0xp

Absolutely epic.

PoisonAlchemist
July 27, 2011, 14:20
0xp

I have a soft spot for techromancy, and this could have great applications in a steampunk game. "Oh no, we need this device to run and save the town! But it's infested with cog devils!" I don't know why I think of these little things as adorable, but I do. While they don't really need an origin story it would be nice if there were some theories. 

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