Aphex matter is a semi-physical substance produced by arcanely fuelled alchemical transmutation processes. Its not-quite-mundane nature allows it to slightly disregard the laws of physical existence; specifically: converting any kinetic or electromagnetic energy applied to it into more of itself.

Although hideously expensive, it has found several uses, for example as active armor for the gigantic steam-tanks, the pride of the Locastrian armed forces. On rare occasions, one may even see it covering the steam-powered exoskeletal armor of some of the Military's elite squads.

Item Description

To the untrained eye, this wondrous material looks nothing special - it has the unremarkable, unlovely appearance and consistency of unrefined asphalt, matte-black and lumpy. It comes in all shapes and sizes, great, plastic slabs or a hard, glistening coating.

It is always bitterly cold to the touch and rapidly absorbs any body heat without ever warming to the touch. The surface feels oddly frictionless, almost as if questing fingertips are repulsed by a powerful magnetic field. Prolonged contact will result in a tingling, electrical feeling when the unnatural substance tries to repulse mundane flesh.

While fresh out of the arcanely fuelled furnace in which it has been synthesized, it can be cast and sculpted, even painted on if heated enough.

Once the material sets, it begins to manifest it's supernatural powers. The uneasy union of extradimensional effluvium with mundane materials creates a bending of the natural laws within the substrate of the Aphex matter. The extradimensional reactants gone into its production simply makes it not fully compatible with physical reality, creating some strange (but reproducible - and at least partly controllable) results.

The unnatural immunity towards material existence manifests as an ability to convert any kind of energy applied to itself into more Aphex matter. If struck, irradiated, heated or in any other way saturated with energy, it will - instantaneously - grow slightly thicker and harder on and around the point of exposure, strengthening its weird covalent bonds, leaching off the force of any blow or cut to create more of itself.

The kinetic energy in the impact will simply not carry through to the other side of the Aphex layer, which makes it ideal for protective applications. The more force one applies to the material, the stronger and more durable it gets. The accumulated, localized increase in mass resulting from physical abuse will, over time, give an Aphex shielding a tumorous look, covered in odd-looking, unaesthetic bumps and nodules. Indeed, Aphex will, even without ever being exposed to combat, accumulate mass over time just by absorption of ambient energy, background radiation and careless handling.

Production

Aphex matter is synthesized by drawing forth the stuff beyond physical existence. This can only be achieved by applying a powerful negative-energy field which creates a rent in the very fabric of the universe. Obviously, this can only be done by great power expenditure and only for short periods of time - the distillation of extradimensional matter also have a very poor return efficiency.

Once the non-matter that lies beyond the physical has been extracted, it is held within a heavily warded containment vessel, over which a powerful negative-energy field is being maintained. By a complex arcane distillation, it is then alloyed with certain essential salts, exotic vapors and unusual theurgies to create, at the end of a long and arduous process, Aphex matter.

The whole process must take place within a reaction chamber where, again by great expenditure of power, the laws of this world and those of the Beyond hold sway in equal amounts - the weird and unnatural reactions needed to create Aphex matter would never be able to take place under the laws of the normal world.

The newly formed Aphex matter must then be quenched in a series of exposure chambers to acclimatize it to withstand exposure to the mundane reality. Unquenched Aphex matter is extremely volatile and may unravel violently, throwing scalding streamers of superagitated transdimensional effluvium in all directions.

The life span of Aphex matter is randomly variable, ranging from three months to six years. It can lose its abilities from one instant to the other, and there is no way of predicting when this will happen, other than that an Aphex shielding that has seen extensive use are more likely to fail than one in pristine condition. The material does not change in any detectable way when destabilizes, which has resulted in many an unpleasant surprise for a warrior wearing his trusted Aphex breastplate into combat.

Uses

In Locastus, City of Mirrors, Aphex matter has found many uses. However, due to the horrific cost associated with its production and handling, it is mostly limited to military use. It is mainly used as active armor for the massive steam-tanks and, sometimes, on personal breastplates, shields and steam-powered exoskeletons. Among the elite Traghax Knight companies, the Heron Guard has adopted the Aphex armor as its hallmark.

Smaller amounts can be found as shock absorbers in grenades, recoil dampeners in heavy artillery and in heat shielding of high-efficiency steam engines.

Aestetically, it is hopeless, rendering all it covers a matte-black, slightly melted finish. In military applications, this is not always a drawback, however. Indeed, the disturbingly organic, hellish aspect it lends to the Locastrian steam-tanks and exoskeletons plays no small part in the fear those weapon systems strike into the hearts of the enemies of Locastus.

Despite its unique characteristics, however, Aphex matter has many severe drawbacks, quite aside from the excessive cost and difficulty involved with its manufacture. The material is also extraordinarily heavy, with almost the same density as lead, and will, adding to the wearers discomfort, absorb all his body heat. Prolonged contact has been known to result in hypothermia, as the wearer's body depletes its energy resources trying to heat something unheatable.

Another potential problem is that Aphex destabilizes catastrophically when in the presence of thaumic energies. Magic in any form cross-reacts violently with the alien material, and causes its transdimensional ingredients to flash-evaporate into a plume of feathery plasma, incinerating anything nearby.

The third major problem with Aphex is its inherent instability and unreliability. The material can, without prior warning, lose its wondrous capabilities and become brittle like porcelain - obviously not a good thing to have happen in the middle of combat. There are no reliable way to test if an Aphex shielding are about to destabilize, which makes for nervous tank-crews, even when protected by a material worth its weight in gold.

Author's Notes

There's been a surge of steampunk/thaumatech subs on Strolen recently - and I cant help getting inspired. This is one of these early-morning ideas that seem perfectly reasonable and logical at half past five in the morning. I just hope that I can make what seemed a perfect idea at the time carry over to bear scrutiny under the light of day.

/David

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