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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? Responses (12)
It gives black knights a new reason for their armour's blackness. 5/5
And once more you prove that you've got infinitely better Steampunk ideas than I. I rather like this, as well as the extreme disadvantages of it. I might use this, in part...
Very interesting, especially useful for settings blending science and magic, or where magic and science are interchangeable. Nice job, Ouroboros!
This is a fascinating concept; not likely under the rules which my steampunk world operates on - magic itself is too inherently dangerous and the degree of energy involved would give good odds of both drawing every Whisp for miles and provoking a severe case of thaumic fallout every time it was produced.
However, given the somewhat different rules in operation here, it's awesome. I particularly like the way it gives things coated in it a misshapen, lumpy, and organic appearance, even if the underlying object is a thing of angles and planes.
And I am glad you appreciate the term tossed out to describe this kind of thing - thaumatech just sounds better than 'magictech' or 'technomancy' in the sense of a steampunk feel, don't you think?
Well, much of this is taken from and inspired by my fellow steampunk buffs; Chaosmark and Kessil. Thanks, guys!
Suggestion: What would everyone think of a steampunk quest?
And in turn, a fair bit of Kuramen has been inspired by your posts.
I dread what Siren would trot out for a steampunk quest, but it might be interesting to see what resulted in general...
Likewise, my steampunk ideas (what few I've done) have been inspired by your setting and work. It's an infinite loop! Arrrgh!
Edit: The thought occurs to me that a steampunk/thaumatech quest would be interesting, but not get anywhere near the level of response that most quests get (and even those can be all across the board with the number of submissions).
Cute, and very ... interesting.
One would suggest this though: Aphex matter, in a true vacuum, could be stable. However, under normal conditions, it is constantly exposed to the thermodynamics of the local environment, is is pulled upon by the gravity of the world, etc, etc.
You have noted the refrigerant qualities, perhaps correctly applied, it could bring forth antigravity effects as well, even with its high density.
Applied correctly, I could see it having quite a few uses above and beyond what is described above; a bit of Aphex matter, bound around, say, a vial of Chaosmark's True Ether, could make for one hell of an effective bomb. An antigravitic effect might be possible as well, if you sealed something in it; I doubt you'd really want to fly anything with this property, because the moment the effect destabilizes you'd drop like a stone, but it could be used for some truly gargantuan devices.
I like the notion of a true vacuum letting it be stable; perhaps the city could stockpile it in a specially-designed storage space, halfway out of existence, where the normal environmental effects don't apply, and where perhaps, not being exposed to these radiations, it remains a semi-fluid. Maybe exposure to normal radiations is what makes it set, kind of like cement curing, rather than the heat radiating away from it.
Bumping the sub which inspired Steam Punk Quest!
Oh, and I echo CP's comment.
Love metamagic materials! Awesome!
Now this is some seriously exotic stuff, I like how it's just so not of this world and constantly reminds you that it is. The frictionless surface with the lumpy melted look, and the way it can just decide to stop 'being'