• Nobles of Null is a forum based roleplay site where sci-fi and magic collide. Here, Earth remains fractured and divided despite humanity reaching out to the stars. Worse still, the trans-human slaves of one major power have escaped, only to establish their own Empire, seething with resentment at abuses of the past. Even the discovery of aliens, though medieval in development, has failed to rally these squabbling children of Earth together with its far darker implications. Worse still, is the discovery of the impossible - magic. Practiced by the alien locals, nearly depleted and therefore rare, its reality warping abilities remains abstract and distant to the general populace. All the while, unseen in the darkness of space, forces from without threaten to press in. For those with eyes opened by insight, it is clear that an era is about to end, and that a new age will dawn.

Side Story: Uso's Castle

Uso

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Uso’s Castle, Concourse Alpha, Hawking
February 20th, 2321


Doris Muller’s majestic unused mansion had been an epicenter for soaring house prices ever since the Assembly took over, but with recent events, the entire district had taken a rather strange turn.

At first simply stripped of it’s Daqin-styled pagoda elements, the place looked like a great monolithic cathedral of glass for many months… And right after Uso and the other echoni had been gifted it, that definition became both more and less true.

Itself standing on top of a great megastructure, several of the upper decks had become overrun with Magnetic Assembly and Iron Cavalcade pilgrims. Pristine agricultural elements were tarnished by temporary shanty towns, and the streets were practically paved with stray religious print-offs and paraphernalia. At night, the apex of the great pyramid took on the eerie glow of millions of independently lit candles, blotted out in the center by the gleaming beacon of the mansion itself.

Z-9’s personal bodyguards from her music assets generally kept them off the property, just about… But they did have a mysterious ability to sneak gifts past the defences.

Most of the time, just strange and irate scrawled letters, begging for some unknown understanding. Sometimes obscure trinkets and figurines.

Today… Four hooded figures had gotten right up to the porch, and were ringing the intercom buzzer continuously. They brought some kind of wooden shrine with them, an ornate roofed palanquin carried between them on four long poles.

Maybe they got some of their colleges to run a distraction for the guards?...

“What do you want?” A purple hair’d echoni asked, their face peaking through a metal slit that had been closed only moments before. Their mechanical eyes just barely covered by a few stray purple hairs, their tone flat, their body on the other side doing exactly as it had been asked.

Inside of Doris’ mansion was the fledgling Echoni-Nation, or maybe it was team USO, or perhaps just Uso’s Star-Organization? They had not quite settled on a name yet, and ‘They’ meant ‘Uso’, something that greatly vexed some members of the Assembly who’d prefer to have control over their creations. Uso had turned their mansion into a mini-fortress: the internal cameras had been torn out and re-wired to look out of some of the windows… most of which had been boarded up or covered with some mix of ‘Former Doris furniture’ and ‘Holiday decorations’. The fortifications were not some masterwork of engineering but they got the message across: This space belonged to the Echoni.

There was some rumbling from behind the door and the metal shutter slid closed for a moment… there was some muffled speaking, and then the shutter would open once more. This time, green hair and purple eyes, “GO AWAY! Z-9 NEEDS SLEEP AND SHE AIN’T GONNA COME OUT THERE AND DO STUFF FOR YOU! YOU KEEP THIS UP AND I’M GONNA COME OUT THERE INSTEAD YOU GOT THAT?!”

The metal shutter then closed.

The metal shutter then opened again,

“AND I’M NOT GOING TO SING! I’M GOING TO SMASH YOU!”

“Glorious transcendent! Please accept our gift!” The four of them immediately got to their knees and grovelled, causing a series of dull metallic thuds against the quaint wooden planks. They clearly had a lot of crude cybernetics between them, but that wasn’t much of a surprise with these types at this point. The one who was speaking looked like they had a few extra purity seals and golden gilding on their collar, but it didn’t look like they had all that much of value in life, between them… “It is not a mere figurine or nuisance, but a living, breathing fabrication that you will find useful! An aspect of ourselves and your own lineage, that may protect and serve your number for many years to come! We do not expect thanks or entry, but please examine our masterwork before turning us away!”

The embellished crate in the middle looked like proper SEER equipment, for sure. It was like they took special effort in making sure all of the warning markings and six-cog organisational data was clearly visible. But how did these bozos get it?... What was inside?...

Some of the inhabitant Echoni with extra-sensory perception or modifications could see through the container and perceive what was clearly some kind of robotic parts, but not something that was super clear, from the way it was folded up in a weird way…

*SHINK*

*CHUNK!*

*Door opening noises*

“Watch the door,” Uso said, stepping out from the door for a moment before stopping, turning back to the purple hair’d Echoni, and taking a step towards her, “And by that I mean stand in the doorway here and make sure none of these people who aren’t Us get in!”

The purple hair’d echoni would nod, and quietly walk to the doorway, standing there next to Uso. The purple hair’d echoni had on a poncho-blanket much like Uso did. Though while Uso’s hair was pulled back into a ponytail, it looked like someone had used half a dozen scrunchies to tie the purple hair’d echoni’s hair up into various messy shapes. Her blanket-poncho was also made up of some purple and white material… probably taken from some more official Assembly robes. It also seemed that Uso had affixed some kind of shiny golden-metal token to this one’s chest that looked almost like a sheriff’s badge.

Uso herself just had on a somewhat messy blanket-poncho made from some brown fabric. She would confidently stride out of the house, legs and head otherwise exposed, as she started to investigate the offering. “Why are you bringing this here? Is this just because Z-9 can sing good and you’re all super impressed with that so you give her stuff?” She asked. These bag people were being weird… but they were being like… way weirder than bag people normally were. Then again they said this was supposed to be a gift. Obviously the gift had to be for her.
 

Uso

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Uso grabbed the top of the crate and gave it a hard YANK.

The crate kind of just tumbled off the palanquin, right towards them. It was secure structurally, but not roped down all that well. Something top heavy was inside. All four of the pilgrims seemed to wince and fear for the worst for a moment, but didn’t move from their kneeling positions.

“This unit is a holy protector! Our immortal agent for your service!” One spoke, with a bit of a start.

“It is a humanoid manufactured system for transformational attachment, and amplification of the abilities through physical attachment, my great one.” Someone with a more mechanical voice spoke, perhaps going too far in the other direction in terms of stuffy language.

Either way, it wasn’t like 444 couldn’t just drag it inside, and ignore the rest of this weird drivel. The security guards were seen in the distance now, returning to their post… But looked about a tenth as enthusiastic to be in the green haired echoni’s vicinity, doing their job rather sluggishly.

“It holds the best of the spirit of our worth!” A younger man added, perhaps sensing their time was running out. They were almost overcome with joy and euphoria, to the point of tears. “She was mortally rendered asunder, but in your service her memory patterns can see a truly great service, holy transcendent! Please use this as a tool of your will!”

Uso stood there for a moment, looking at the thing, trying to process the words that were being used. She was pretty sure she knew all of these words, but these words in this order didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“So I wear it? Or is it like… full of spirit on the inside?” She asked, trying to get a handle on the thing, her hands moving over the surface and trying to find some kind of grabby thing to use. She then caught sight of the guards in the distance moving about all slow like.

She’d smash her fist into her other fist once just to give them the ol’ intimidation message.

Those guards needed to be reminded who was who around here.

“You can stand up and show me how this works now.” Uso said, looking at the kneeling immortal-agent-bringing-people.

////

AUTO-SENTIENCE BOOT COMPLETE
DEFAULT PRIORITY LEVELS SET
SENSORY SYSTEM ENGAGING...
BEGINNING ORIENTATION

A sharp shock, like static electricity, and then immediate brightness. The dataform of the person once known as Ulrika tried to squint, but found themselves in a body utterly lacking eyelids.

Heavy... Strange... Towering... Breathless...

Not surprised to be back from the dead, but they were surprised how... real their personality data felt in this new body... Was this what it was always like, for the others?...

"Articulation test has been completed." A voice emanated from their mouth, automatically. "I will now process protectorate data."

They told their head to look down, but it wasn't listening to them. It scanned the wide, messy, glass-walled room linearly, before finally settling on the group of figures head-to-waist shorter than them. Four priests in the blue robes of her order. At least two small, scraggly women, barely wearing any clothes past ragged, self-made ponchos.

There was a snapping, pinging feeling, as the woman with the green hair was highlighted and automatically compared to prerecorded data.

"Confirmed identity, ECHONI UNIT FOUR FOUR FOUR. I will serve this protectorate until command settings are changed." Her voice spoke without her permission again. It made her nervous, not being able to make the final judgement themselves... But also slightly thrilled through the euphoria. "This unit's designation is S D ZERO ZERO SIX SULPHUR DISCO."

These were real Echoni! In the flesh! She was going to get the chance to serve the transcendents personally, in a position like no other!

What the others saw was not a nervous priestess, but a towering monolith of metal. Nine foot tall. Glossy black, polished to a mirror sheen. Humanoid generally, but with massive oversized shoulder pads and hip armour, bearing all sorts of thruster verniers sticking out. The head was a lot like the E-2 security units, with a sort of visor that had three vertical slits, only the panels of the 'dish' that this one bore were smoothed downwards like molden wax, forming a sort of flexible helmet-come-straight hair arrangement. A pure white gown that only reached above their knees, but still dwarfed the clothes of anyone else in the vicinity.

"Would you like to perform the new user's demonstration, ECHONI UNIT 444?..."

“I ALREADY KNOW WHO I AM YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP SAYING THAT!” 444 shouted up at the thing, getting up on her tip-toes to help compensate for being ‘quite a lot shorter than 9 feet tall’. She would put on her best skeptical face, and slowly start to walk around Essdeezero zero Soul-pher Diskoh. The robot did seem to have the right attitude of ‘doing what 444 wanted’ but it was disrespectfully huge.

Plus maybe it was just some trick from the bag people.

Somehow.

444 would finish her walk-around and pause infront of the thing. She would wait a few moments just to solidify who was in charge here, “You may do the new user demonstration.”

<This almighty creature has much to learn, I can’t believe it is still so naive…> Sulphur laughed internally.

“Please use correct syntax to avoid undesired operation, ECHONI UNIT 444.” Were the synthetic words that actually came out of their mouth, edited in real-time by the caretaker program. “Demonstration is paused for query; Would you like to edit the manner in which you are addressed by this unit? Additional; Would you like to edit this unit’s spoken designation?”

“Beginning demonstration mode...”

With a loud ‘clack’, the head and spine of the unit seemed to slide backwards within it’s chest, and the arms lowered down upon a hydraulic supporting frame in order to meet the added thrusters of the waist. Limbs now folded into stubby verniers, and the head folded right away into a miniature backpack. The robotic construct had entirely changed shape into that of an oversized jetpack belt, complete with an armoured harness.

“Please step inside the unit to engage in personal operational mode... Please note that this unit’s thruster output will be increased depending on the Exophage limit of the interned Echoni.” The voice chirped again automatically. “Note that If you require the use of additional humanoid limbs, a GERWALK mode may also be selected.”

444 slowly began her walk around again, eyes drawn right to what looked like a jet-pack. She’d used one of those things on Azathoth and it was basically the greatest thing ever. Having a backpack that was also some kind of rocket or jet just felt natural, like it was a part of her that she had always been missing.

This was a talking backpack that was also a rocket.

And what DID she want to be called anyways?

“You can call me Boss… WAIT NO. BIG-Boss.” 444 thought outloud, that was the word the bag people used to describe the bag people that they were afraid of. It would make sense for her to use the same word. But then again there was another word she could be using. The one the Bag people gave her when they thought she wasn’t listening to them. “Wait… Use my bagpeople nickname: Usually Smashes Once… or USO.”

She nodded, this was something appropriate for someone like her.

“... So I just step inside of you and what? You hold onto me? OR you got some kinda plug things that I have to connect to?” She asked.

“New protectorate name is USO, confirm?” It chirped. “Please use the button on the right side of the lower chassis. It will open and close the currias torso frame manually, as a matter of safe operation, ECHONI UNIT 444. The operation of the frame can then be performed through wireless device node access, simulating a class A temporary body extension apparatus…This unit has detected one such device on your person, implant SEER F UNDERSCORE A TWO MOD DASH SIX.”

It was talking about the holographic communication ring in their wrist, of course. Not that an Echoni would even know what they were talking about if they used that kind of description.

“YES CONFIRM!” 444 shouted. The Echoni walking into place and hovering her finger over the button, “How do I know you won’t try and compromise my systems?” Uso asked, her tone having gone from aggressive and childish to one of a far more professional nature, “Are you even with SEER in the first place? And if so how did you fall into these acolytes hands?”

There might have been a second more consideration, but 444 had desires, “LETS FUCKING GO!”

*AGGRESSIVE BUTTON PRESS*

The outer carapace of the chest that had not retracted before simply popped upwards, rather undramatically. Uso could basically get inside just by putting their legs through the holes in the bottom and pressing the button again, re-forming the shell of the torso around their own. Presumably, this is why the robot brought up the possibility of re-activating the human limbs around them.

“Confirmed, the protectorate name is now recorded as Uso.” The voice chimed. It seemed to be recording and answering the questions in turn, regardless of any interruptions. “The connection to this unit is one-way, so there is no risk of damage to your systems, Uso. This unit is constructed with SEER components, but certified for independent operation. Would you like to hear a full itinerary, Uso? This unit was constructed by the Iron Cavalcade as a gift for ECHONI UNIT 444, Uso.”
 

Uso

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“Boring, tell that to Purple later,” 444 replied.

From the perspective of the hidden voice within… An confusing, overwhelming sensation of somehow having one’s body remodeled into that of an appliance. They were screeching and swearing loudly, but the caretaker’s priority level was deciding not to vocalise the data.

Not painful or distressing, just… Extremely disorientating. It was like the exact opposite of a phantom limb; They were feeling like an inhuman shape the human psyche was not equipped to feel like.

Maybe something more? Maybe something stronger? Heavy. Rigid.

“Uso, please step inside the unit and activate the manual switch to continue the demonstration. A connection message will be sent to your communicator to handle the setup automatically.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” 444 said, having to wait for a moment just so she could ensure that it was her that was in charge and not some machine thing. Once the appropriate amount of time had passed, she would climb into the unit, and then start pressing all the switches she could find.

Despite the hard outer carapace, the inside was more like a transparent blue gel material. Pretty comfortable, regardless of the way it re-fastened around their torso so solidly. What wasn’t really mitigated was the sheer weight of the unit, straining alrough not defeating the improved strength of it’s new pilot.

The holographic ring of their communicator itched, describing the robotic apparatus’ attempts to connect. She could already feel that particular exophage feeling around the small of their back, sort of a ripply wavey sensation, an expression of their innate invisible force.

“Exotic power is connected. Direct input is desired in order to continue, Uso.” Seems like it was rewording the message to sound less like an order, but it still basically said the same thing...

Having stayed stationary and bowing pretty much this entire time, it was the prospect of getting toasted alive and indoor rocket blast that finally made the robed MA members get up, and move back towards the safety of the outer doorway.

As a final part of the transformation procedure, a small metal headband arced up and around Uso’s head. It had a translucent green visor that lowered automatically, delivering some basic data like the current thrust output and G-force. Having something blocking their ears was probably for the best too, as the preheat of the thrusters was getting pretty darn loud in this enclosed space.

The purple hair’d echoni in the doorway continued to watch obediently as 444 tried out this ‘thing’. ‘Direct input’ was probably the same thing that Zee-9 and Zee-23 used to power their weapons. 444 didn’t have anything like that as far as she knew… but she did seem to bounce back a lot faster than the other Echoni. Maybe she just needed to channel that.

“MNNNNGGGGGGGGG” She clenched her fists and scrunched her face, trying to summon the energy but that didn’t quite seem to work.

She then tried flapping her arms, “POWER OUTPUT GO!....”

(No luck with that either)

“...”

“GO UP IN THE AIR YOU STUPID METAL THING! DO YOU WANT ME TO SMASH YOU BECAUSE I’LL SMASH YOU SO HARD YOU’LL BE COMPLETELY SMASHED!”

444 didn’t seem too happy with this, but at least she was now putting out all the energy the device needed!

“The operation of the frame can then be performed through wireless device node access, simulating a class A temporary body extension apparatus.” The machine bluntly repeated. “Please check your extension device, Uso.”

“Ugh! Is that my hand-thing?” 444 asked, raising up her arm and looking at her wrist to see if it’d talk to her like before.

The holographic ring responded like your average communicator trying to install an app, with a box simply asking if they’d accept the installation or not.

“HOW MANY MORE STUPID THINGS DO I HAVE TO PRESS BEFORE YOU BECOME USEFUL?!” 444 shouted, trying to figure out where to look at so this metal-thing would understand her dissatisfaction.

“There is one outstan-”

Before it could complete that sentence, Uso managed to mentally blunder into the acceptance status, starting a rapid progress bar. It was exactly two seconds before the Echoni was blinded by a tremendous wave of G-forces, not to mention each floor of the glass house smashing against them in sequence.

They couldn’t hear it; The sound simply ‘popped’ out the top of the house with them, like blowing onto a bottle.

A moment later, the house looked like a toy, and they were hit with a chill of altitude.

It wasn’t autopilot; Through the rapidly sequencing burns and bright green flashes of their retro boosters, it seemed like the powerful vibrations were mentally linked somehow simply to the concept of ‘go’ itself... It really was like a direct extension of their body, after all.

Colder now. The whole city looked like an expensive trinket, becoming amber and twinkling as people turned on their house lights at dusk.

They nearly hit some kind of squawking grawl-bird, that became cooked grawl-bird wings seconds later in their exhaust plume.

“BETTER!” 444 shouted, not at all worried about how she might control this thing, though the decrease in anger seemed to come with a corresponding decrease in energy output. From this high up she could see all of New Cambridge stretching out around her as well as where Alpha-concourse probably was hidden underground.

But what was she going to do now that she was all the way up here?

She could go anywhere she wanted now, without having to tell Caxia or Dorris that she wanted to go out! 444 flipped forward, it was time to go explore the city!

The thruster assembly was much more maneuverable than something as simple as the apogee pack they had used in space. This thing had a total of eight nozzles per side, all of them independently gimballing and swivelling to deliver an incredible degree of control. The shell around their torso was apparently designed to protect them against the whiplash, but that didn’t do much to protect their unprepared body against the tremendous G-forces. This was probably going to take some practice…

Punching through a cloud and leaving a long swirling gust in their wake, their altitude once gain descended to the top level of some of the bigger archologies. They could see right from the Tigran mountain range, right out into the green sea beyond the coastline.

Directly beneath them right now, the expensive complexes of the ‘gold seven’ district, basically the place that had inherited most of the rich people after 444’s cult following had invaded the backyard of Doris’ old place…

In the distance, drones were launching. The embers of the day made it difficult to see what exact shape, but they were no doubt responding to the unidentified ball of fire currently scorching across their airspace.

The additional drones didn’t seem to concern 444 nearly as much as the ‘gold seven’ district did with its expansive complexes. There were people down there. People that had THINGS. Those things were possibly nicer than the things that 444 had and THAT was unacceptable. 444 would brace her arms against herself as best she could, taking a coffin-stance to better handle the G forces before angling herself towards the nicer facilities below.

“HEY! Can you smash through that glass stuff from the outside too?!”

“This material is rated to be explosion proof. A direct impact at this speed would result in the destruction of your body as well as unacceptable damage to this unit, Uso.” It informed them dryly. The ghost in the machine was struggling to keep up with the situation, but they were still struggling to actually offer guidance and avoid an untimely death of their protectorate so soon. “This impact is… recommend vambrace mode for… best level of effective penetration, Uso…”

Their communicator was trying to show them a diagram, of something looking like the untransformed robot, but with a second human form inside… Seems like they could wear the entire thing like armour?...

“Do that.

Land there.

Break that.” 444 was efficient with communication, passing along a precise location via her ‘wrist thing’s connection. The rather simple flight plan including a strong burst of deceleration as they approached their target, followed by a drawing of what was labeled a ‘A kung-fu kick’ in order to open up the exterior window.

It seemed the Echoni had no problems using the technology when she wanted to!
 
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