Thursday, September 1, 2016

"The Vault of the Iron Guardians" - Escape from the Hollow Earth, Chapter Six

Mädchen Gegner was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1919. She was the illegitimate daughter of Leibhaber Gegner, a member of the German Worker's Party. She studied physics and engineering from 1937 to 1943 and was one of the few female scientists working on the V-rocket system with Werner Von Braun.

At the war's end in 1945, Gegner's mother told her that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler. This information was a revelation to Gegner who always thought of herself as superior to her peers, a genius surrounded by lesser minds. The knowledge of her birthright served to fuel an incipient megalomania that continued to grow within her throughout her adult life.

After the end of the war, Gegner was recruited by the US army as part of Operation Paperclip and began working on rockets for American guided missile systems and eventually space exploration.

Gegner faced terrible sexism throughout her career both in the German and US military. She resented the lack of recognition for her contributions.  This further fueled her growing megalomania and isolation. She started her own secret cabal of neo-Nazis with the goal of one day starting a Fifth Reich with herself as the true heir of Der Fuhrer!

During the 1950s she developed an interest in the occult. She researched the expeditions of the Thule Society and their discoveries regarding Ultima Thule and the lost civilization of Atlantis. She eventually came into the possession of artifacts collected by Doctor Heinrich Vortex. These artifacts were crystals of reportedly Atlantean creation. Gegner studied the crystals throughout the early 1960s and managed to collect more. She eventually learned that the crystals could control space and time.

In 1975, she met Professor Hoshi Overton, a Japanese-American physicist working on a device he called the Prometheus Engine. The Prometheus Engine would allow a person to transmit their consciousness to their younger self, allowing one to relive their life with all the knowledge of the future. Gegner sensed an opportunity and teamed up with Overton to complete his invention.

Events came to a head in 1980 when Doctor Overton discovered that Gegner was a part of a secret Neo-Nazi cabal and that she was planning on using the Prometheus Engine to travel back to 1933 and re-write world history by preventing the fall of Nazi Germany. Gegner moved quickly to send her consciousness into the past but Overton tried to stop her. In the ensuing melee, both minds were simultaneously transported into the past.

The sixty-year-old Gegner woke to find herself in her teenage body in Berlin. She immediately sought out the secret Thule Society and impressed them with her knowledge. She was brought into the confidence of prominent Thule Society member Doctor Vortex. Vortex, an aristocrat and officer in his fifties, and Genger, a teenager with preternatural intelligence, soon became partners.

Vortex had long known of the secret history of Ultima Thule but it was Gegner's knowledge of Atlantean technology that provided the missing link to his aspirations. Together, Vortex and Gegner traveled the world in search of Atlantean artifacts and power crystals. But they were thwarted at every turn by the heroes of the Hyperion Society, including Gegner's old partner Professor Hoshi Overton - now a young man going by the nom de guerre "Hiroshima Overdrive".

In a recent adventure, the pair came into the possession of an ancient artifact known as the Lodestone. The Lodestone was said to point the way to the lost island of Ultima Thule. They planned to use the stone to find the ultimate source of the lost Atlantean technology. However, the Lodestone could only be operated by an individual with psychic powers. To that end they kidnapped Edith Odinsdottir, a long-time enemy of Doctor Votex, and forced her to use the Lodestone to lead them to their destination.

An expedition was then undertaken to discover Ultima Thule, lost for millennia in the frozen north. Little did they expect that the "island" of Ultima Thule was, in fact, an inter-dimensional portal that would transport them to a fabulous Inner World...

(cue theme music)


Noted scholar and literary historian Cedric Justice,
along with his manservant Panda,
has embarked upon an expedition to
the North Pole to find the fabled island
known as Ultima Thule.

With him are four famous associates
of the world reknown Hyperion Society - 
Bodak Danger, the Welshman with fists of stone!
Jack Flash, myserious and ageless Englishman!
Hiroshima Overdrive, Japanese inventor and adventurer!
Edith Odinsdottir, beautiful Icelandic psychic and occultist!

They have found themselves stranded in 
a mysterious inside-out world of perpetual noontime
filled with deadly jungles, giant dinosaurs, and savage beast-men.

After discovering an ancient crypt,
the expedition was kidnapped by a mysterious flying saucer
and transported to the city of Atlantis
where they were forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena
of Hierophant Tiamat before being freed 
by the rebel leader Marduk.

Now they must undertake a perilous mission
to infiltrate the palace of Hierophant Tiamat
and steal the Gate Key that will free
the true Atlanteans of old before Tiamat
allows her ally the evil Nazi Doctor Vortex 
to summon an army of German soldiers bent on conquest!

Jack Flash was loading the unconscious gate guard onto the hand-cart when he heard a jug of wine being dropped to the ground. It was the other gate guard returning with the jug of wine he was sent to retrieve.

Before the gate guard could react, Edith Odinsdottir reached out her hand and took control of the guard's mind. She mentally commanded him to come forward, be quiet, and stand against the wall. The guard mutely complied.

Edith telepathically asked Jack Flash and Bodak Danger to knock the guard unconscious. Each politely deferred to the other, insisting that the other have the honors. The exchange became a discussion, then a debate, and was escalating towards argument, when the guard showed signs of regaining control of his faculties. Bodak and Jack counted to three and simultaneously knocked the guard out. They added his limp body to the back of the wagon.

GM Note - I haven't got all day!
I interrupted their discussion with the guard clearing his throat and saying, "I haven't got all day. Which one of you will punch me out?"

The heroes followed the flow of slaves entering and leaving the palace to the slaves' entrance. They parked their cart filled with exotic decorative pond fish-creatures and unconscious guards nearby. They showed the guard at the door the jug of wine and were waved inside. Jack Flash and Bodak Danger carried a bundle of wrapped weapons suspended from a pole carried on their shoulder. Utuk and Hiroshima Overdrive were similarly encumbered. The group appeared to be hauling laundry or equipment. They too were waved inside after a cursory inspection.

Once inside, Edith asked one of the other slaves in her pidgin Atlantean, "Where we find dungeon?"

The slave looked apalled at the use of the low language. "Speak Atlantean while in the palace! What business do you have in the dungeon?"

She held up the pitcher, "Wine for guards."

"You must be new! Down the hall to the right. Take the first stairs down to the left!"

Edith and her companions complied.

GM Note- How many Atlantean slaves does it take to deliver wine?
Apparently five because that's the size of the not-at-all conspicuous group of slaves carrying bundles of weapons suspended by poles wandering around the slave halls. 

They eventually found the heavy iron door of the dungeon. The rest of the group put down the bundles and withdrew their weapons - swords and clubs as well as two death-ray lances and two stun-ray pistols taken from the gate guards.

Edith knocked on the door. The small window opened up and she was interrogated in Atlantean. She showed the wine jug. The guard looked confused. She used her mind control to coerce the guard into opening the door.

The armed heroes rushed the door as it opened. They forced their way in and began shooting at the four guards within. As the beam of light from the death-ray passed over a guard, they would scream in pain and fall to the ground. Hiroshima noted that it somehow overloaded the nervous system, resulting in a painful death.

The guards put up brief resistance but were ultimately dispatched.

Bodak Danger was knocked unconscious by one of the death-ray beams. Luckily, Edith was able to find an Atlantean medical kit for use by the guards. She quickly applied healing salves and bound Bodak's wounds. Bodak was back in fighting form in no time.

GM Note- OSHA approved dungeons
Edith's player asked if the guards had any first aid kits. I said yes, but it would cost a Style point. She paid up. We joked about how the dungeons were OSHA compliant and had a standard first aid kit and defibrulator unit by the exit, along with a little sign that indicated the route to the exit in case of a fire. Edith's player made me promise to include this little tidbit in this write-up.

There were three locked iron doors, one to the left, one to the rear, and one to the right. Keys were found upon searching the guards and the heroes unlocked the door to the left.

They found a wing of prison cells filled with prisoners from several humanoid species. Someone said something about coming back later and exploring the next door when they heard the Chinese-accented English of Panda, "Hello! Hello! Is that the Hyperion Society? Are you here to rescue me? Have you found Cedric?"

They acknowledged Panda but told him that they hadn't found Cedric and that they'd be back to rescue him later.

The opened the middle door and saw a long corridor that ended in a vault door. The vault door was guarded by two robotic sentries!

The corridor was ten feet wide and ninety feet long. At the far end stood two artificial warriors. Each warrior was roughly humanoid with a cylindrical metal body and cone-shaped top. Their arms and legs were made of segmented pipes and writhed like massive snakes. At the end of one appendage was a death-ray lance. The other appendage terminated in a deadly buzz-saw blade!

As soon as the outer door was opened the two guardians stood to immediate attention and trained their lances at the entrance.

Jack Flash, Bodak Danger, Hiroshima Overdrive, and Edith Odinsdottir took cover on either side of the entrance and fired their death-lances at the Iron Guardians. The beams passed harmlessly over the metallic covering of the deadly machines for they possessed no nervous system to overload!

The Iron Guardians shined their death-ray lances towards the entrance forcing the heroes to duck back behind cover.

"Well," said Flash, "That's it. Our weapons are useless. What do we do now?"

Hiroshima drew his short sword and charged screaming down the hallway.

Flash sighed exhasperatedly. He drew his sword and ran off after the Japanese inventor. The rest of the party followed suit with Utuk bringing up the rear.

The group ran a zig-zag pattern down the hall in an attempt to present a difficult target. Despite their efforts, many screamed as they were submitted to the painful beam of the death-ray. Jack Flash quickly caught up with and passed Overdrive. Overdrive was struck by a death-ray and crumpled to the floor. The rest closed with the Iron Guardians and fought them hand-to-hand. The metallic sentries fought back with spinning buzz-saw hands!

Bodak Danger punched a heavy dent into the first Iron Guardian and sent it falling to the floor. Utuk jabbed his obsidian-tipped spear into the other with Bodak delivering a crumpling blow with his mighty fist.  Though the battle was a terrific challenge the Hyperion Society won the day.

The vault door was a flat wall of metal with no hinges, apertures, keyholes, or handles. Jack Flash walked up to the vault and touched it. A diamond-shaped opening appeared in the center of the door and widened until it was large enough to admit an adult human. Jack Flash held the door open while everyone filed into the vault.

GM Note - Kudos to the Dungeon Safety Committee
There was another request for stored first aid kits which I provided at the cost of a Style Point. Once again we joked about the OSHA-compliant safety standards of the Hierophant's dungeon and I complimented their safety committee. 

The vault measured twenty feet wide and forty feet deep. Its walls were lined with niches and shelves filled with treasures. Along the wall to the left were six richly painted urns. The lid to each urn was sealed with wax and gold leaf. Their personal effects were stacked on a shelf on the opposite wall. Hiroshima distributed it and donned his rocket-powered flying harness and tool belt. Nearby was a collection of fabulous head-dresses belonging to the Hierophant. Edith smiled and took one. She placed the feathered monstrosity upon her head and looked insufferably proud of her trophy.

GM Note - Nice Hat!
Edith's player inquired about the head-dresses. Once again, I charged her a Style Point and she gladly paid. 

Above a stone plinth near the far wall hovered a purple crystal the size of a man's leg. It rotated slowly in mid-air. It was the gate-key! Edith approached it slowly and removed the crystal. She held it gently in her hands.

Suddenly a commanding voice barked a command in old Atlantean. Its archaic syllables understandable even to modern ears, "REMAIN STILL AND BE QUIET!" The words buzzed with power, just under the audible range. Those who heard it were compelled to follow the command.

GM Note - Narrative Intrusion
Although the Atlantean Power Word linguistics roll was high enough to dominate everyone within ten feet, I gave everyone a Style Point to compensate them for the upcoming narrative intrusion. I suspended game rules momentarily in order to provide some exposition and set up for the next scene.

Doctor Vortex entered the vault accompanied by a sullen dark-haired teenage girl wearing the long black leather coat of a Nazi officer. It looked comically over-size on her small frame. With them were eight soldiers armed with sub-machine guns. Two of the soldiers guarded Hierophant Tiamat who was bound and held hostage.

"You haf done vell in helping us access zis forbidden vault. Ve never vould haf made it past ze Iron Guardians vithout du."

The teenage girl walked up to the frozen form of Hiroshima Overdrive. He recognized his old research partner immediately - Mädchen Gegner!

She touched his cheek with her hand, "Guten tag, herr Overton. What a surprise to see you here. It is too bad zat ve shall never meet again."

She removed his tool belt and draped it over her shoulder, "Du vill not be needing zis I suppose. Danke for such a thoughtful gift!"

Overdrive gritted his teeth and trembled in anger.

She stood on her toes and kissed him gently on the forehead.

Doctor Vortex walked over to Edith, "Zo ve meet again, fraulein Odinsdottir. It seems zhat zhis time I vill not be denied my prize." He took the crystal from her hands and smiled. His leathery skin made slight stretching noises.

Edith's eyes narrowed and she reached out with her telepathic powers. She attempted to control Doctor Vortex's mind. He looked blank for a moment. Then he looked at her in mock disappointment.

"I'm afraid your world renowned powers vill not vork on us, fraulein Odinsdottir." He gestured towards the young lady taunting Professor Overdrive, "Fraulein Gegner, you see, is an expert in Atlantean technologies." He pulled a necklace out from under his shirt, revealing a small white crystal, "Her knowledge of the properties of Atlantean crystals has made her an infaluable ally. Ve are all immune to your trickery, geist hexe!"

"Now ve zhall take ze key und open ze Gate. Zis land zhall prove easy picking fur our Wehrmacht."

Vortex looked at the Hierophant, "Our doman over zis land, zis Ultima Thule, vill help us fulfill our fuhrer's dream of total conquest. Today - Ultima Thule. Tomorrow - all ze Earth. Zhen," he waved his hand in the air before grinning again, "Who knows?"

Vortex walked towards the exit, "Guten tag und auf weidersehen!" He gave an order in passing to two of his soldiers, "Tote sie. Besuchen sie uns auf dem Pylon wenn sie fertig sind."

They jumped to attention and saluted, "Seig heil!"

Doctor Votex and fraulein Gegner left the vault with six soldiers and their hostage, Hierophant Tiamat.

Edith telepathically translated Vortex's last words for the rest of the group, "Kill them. Join us at the pylon when you are finished."

Once they were alone, one soldier spoke to the other, "Werden wir sie jetzt töten?"

"Nein. Wir haben ein paar Minuten, bevor die Hexe Macht endet."

"Möchten sie eine zigarette?"


The two each smoked a cigarette and spoke of the coming invasion of the Inner World and how easy it will be to conquer such primitive people. One pointed out that once they were in possession of the Atlantean crystals, nothing would stop them from conquering the Outer World.

Eventually the guards stepped out their cigarette buts and prepared their sub-machine guns. One took aim at Jack Flash.

Suddenly Jack was a blur of motion. He grabbed the soldier's weapon and stabbed him with his sword-cane. He lived up to his name as he spun around and killed the second soldier immediately afterwards.

"Right," said the English aristocrat as the paralysis wore off his companions, "What's our next move?"

Edith replied, "We should check to see if there's anything else of use in this vault."

They searched but found nothing else immediately useful.

Jack took one of the sealed jars and opened it. It was filled with a sweet-smelling honey-colored liquid that almost glowed. He took a tentative taste. It tasted incredible! He never felt better! He passed the jug around and everyone took a swig.

GM Note - The Fountain of Youth
Jack's player figured that the liquid was Amrita, the Water of Life from the Fountain of Youth. The six jugs was all that was left. I figured drinking a jug of Amrita would slow the aging process by one-half. Drink one jug and you'd live to 200. Drink two and you'd live to 400. Three for 800, four for 1600, five for 3200, and six for 6400 years.

What was hilarious was that Jack is Atlantean, so he's immortal. Drinking the Amrita would do nothing for him. I think Jack's player was hoping for a healing potion or something. 

Since everyone drank only at most a fifth of a jug, instead of doubling their life span it would slow the aging process by 20%, so they might live to 120. 

The unopened door contained another wing of dungeon cells. These cells contained more humanoids including two hawk-men and a chimpanzee-man. Overdrive established communication with them and determined that the hawk-men were diplomats and spies from the Aerie who had been caught, interrogated, and tortured. They were no friends of Tiamat and would help the rebels against her.

The inventor inquired, "Do you have a flying craft?"

"No. But the hierophant has two. They are parked on a landing pad atop her palace!"

The heroes freed Panda from the other wing of cells. They asked the young Chinese man where Cedric was taken. Panda replied that Hierophant Tiamat had him tortured in an effort to coerce Cedric into translating Doctor Frankenstein's notes on reanimating the dead. Cedric was being held under guard in one of the guest suites in the palace.

Overdrive ordered Utuk to help Panda find and rescue Cedric Justice. The rest of the heroes were going to try to stop Doctor Vortex!

The rest of the captives were also freed but Overdrive detained the two hawk-men, "Wait, I have an idea."

The group, including the two hawk-men, made their way outside the palace to the gardens. The hawk-men pointed out the landing pad on the roof of the palace.

The heroes bade their farewell to Utuk and Panda before the pair ran back into the palace in search of Cedric.

Jack Flash held on tightly to Overdrive who activated his rocket harness and shot to the roof. Each of the hawk-men then took hold of Edith and Bodak and followed more slowly behind.

A single discus-shaped flying saucer supported by telescoping legs stood on the landing pad. Overdrive scanned the city with his binocular field glasses. From atop the palace he had a good view of the city of Atlantis.

The city stretched in all directions as far as he could see. He could make out concentric rings and radial spokes of canals converging on the Great Tower. In the other direction rose a ridge of mountains about fifteen miles away. The tallest mountain rose like the prow of a ship away from the city. At its peak was a metallic pylon like the one they saw overlooking the waterfall. Halfway down the mountain he saw a landing pad and a thousand-foot covered bridge that led into a large tunnel entrance carved into the mountain. He spotted a discus-shaped flying saucer on the landing pad. It had to be Vortex!

By the time the others reached the landing pad Overdrive had already gained entry into the flying saucer and familiarized himself with the alien controls. Everyone boarded the strange craft and Overdrive lifted it from the landing pad.

He ignored the landing pad flew straight for the tunnel entrance. His plan was to crash through the columns of the covered bridge and land outside the entrance. Jack Flash shouted, "There's no time!" before pushing Overdrive away from the controls.

Jack Flash increased speed and drove straight into the entrance.

The flying saucer was forty feet wide but the tunnel entrance was only twenty feet wide and fifty feet tall. At the last moment, Jack Flash turned the craft ninety-degrees on its side. Everyone was thrown to the side of the craft as it crashed threw a few of the columns supporting the roof of the bridge and flew sideways into the tunnel.

The saucer screamed and sparks flew as it plunged past the entrance hall and crashed into the corridor leading to the gate room where it came to a stop. The craft was wedged into the corridor at an awkward angle.

Edith Odinsdottir and one of the hawk-men climbed through the hole torn into in the roof of the saucer while the rest descended through the open aperture in its belly.

Four German wehrmacht soldiers gathered at the entrance to the gate room. The entrance was at the far end of the corridor near the twenty-foot high ceiling. They took cover and readied their sub-machine guns.

Jack Flash held onto Hiroshima Overdrive and the pair rocketed down the corridor and into the gate room. The pair flew right over the heads of German soldiers and landed on the round platform containing the gate matrix.

The two hawk-men carried Bodak Danger and Edith Odinsdottir towards the guarded entrance but the beating wings of the bird-men were much slower than the Japanese inventor's rocket harness.

The guards sprayed the corridor with automatic fire. Edith and Bodak both dropped from their hawk-men carriers and rolled to avoid the gunfire. The automatic stairs rose beneath their feet and lifted them to the gate room entrance as they ran down the remainder of the corridor.

The German soldiers were reloading their guns when Bodak burst through the entrance. Bodak shouted, ""HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SOUR, KRAUT?" as he punched a soldier who flew across the room.

Hiroshima Overdrive and Jack Flash squared off against Doctor Vortex atop the gate platform. Two officers held Hierophant Tiamat at gunpoint on the far side of the platform while the young Mädchen Gegner manipulated the colored crystals on the matrix table.

Vortex was dressed for battle in his ornately carved golden breastplate. Gegner wore Overdrive's tool belt around her waist. She also wore an oversized mechanical glove on her left arm and an electrical rifle was attached to a generator worn on her back.

Vortex stepped forward to confront the heroes. He used his Atlantean power words to command them, "Stop und be quiet!"

The pair complied. Doctor Vortex told Gegner to continue activating the gate while he dealt with the intruders.

Doctor Vortex slowly approached Jack Flash, "Attack your Japanese friend."

Hiroshima was held transfixed in horror as Jack Flash drew his sword-cane and slashed at the inventor and missed. However, Jack held the death-ray lance in his other hand and bathed Vortex!

The German occultist grimaced at the pain and embarrassment of Flash having taken advantage of the loophole in his command

"Gah! Attack your fiend twice!"

Jack was forced to attack Hiroshima Overdrive twice with his sword.

The attack freed Overdrive of the effect of the mind control so Vortex tried a different tactic, "Attack each other!

Overdrive attacked Jack but missed. The attack negated the mind control over the immortal and Jack responded by shooting Vortex again!

Jack called out, "Overdrive is being mind controlled! Someone attack him and snap him out of it!"

Edith Odinsdottir complied by shooting at Overdrive with a purloined Luger. Her aim was unfortunately too good and she accidentally shot the inventor in the head! Overdrive fell to the ground in a spray of blood!

Odinsdottir cried out, "No! No no no!"

Gegner momentarily stopped fiddling with the colored crystals to point her mechanical gauntlet at Jack Flash. Glowing circles emanated from the palm and Flash was struck by a powerful force field which pushed him over the side of the gate platform.

Flash fell thirty feet but landed nimbly. The automatic stairs rose beneath his feet as he immediately began running back up to the top of the platform.

Flash reached the top of the platform and fired his death ray lance at Vortex. Vortex howled in pain!

He spun towards Gegner and ordered her to open the gate!

Gegner replied that the destination was not completely entered. Opening the gate now would send them to a random location.

Vortex ordered her to open the gate immediately. Gegner complied, activating the crystals.

The dome around the platform became a grey fog and everyone on the platform staggered as if it had been spun at great speed. Vortex grabbed Gegner. Gegner grabbed the control crystals and the pair ran off into the grey swirling mist. They were followed by the two officers who abandoned Tiamat.

The gate was closing. Jack Flash looked at the spot where Vortex and Gegner escaped then back at Overdrive lying in a puddle of blood on the floor. He gritted his teeth and ran off into the mist to catch the escaping villains!

The gate closed!

Hierophant Tiamat ran over to Overdrive. The inventor lay unconscious but alive on the floor.

GM Note - A Close Call!
Originally, Edith's shot put Overdrive at -4 Health. He would have died on the following round if he didn't stabilize. However, on the next round Edith's player said, "Wait! I have some unused Style Points. Can I spend them to reduce the damage I did to him?" I said sure. This reduced Overdrive's damage and put him at -1 Health. He stabilized on the next round. 

Odinsdottir ran up to the platform and used the Atlantean healing crystal to save Hiroshima Overdrive.

Bodak Danger dealt with the remaining German soldiers. At the end of the fight he was holding one by the shoulder and punching him in the stomach over and over again shouting, "SOUR KRAUT! SOUR KRAUT! SOUR KRAUT!"

Overdrive came to. He and Edith took Hierophant Tiamat prisoner. The hawk-men demanded that she be turned over to them so that they could take her to the Aerie. The others refused and said she would be taken to Marduk.

The heroes returned to the palace and rejoined Utuk, Panda, and the now-rescued Cedric. There they met Marduk who had used the escape of the slaves from the dungeon as a distraction which allowed him and the Vril-Ya rebels to seize the palace. Their underground movement was now a full-blown rebellion.

Unfortunately he would not be able to free the True Atlanteans as he had planned. The heroes turned the recovered gate key over to Marduk but he now lacked the control crystals that operated the matrix table. Without both the gate could not be opened.

Bodak suggested they return to the pylon at the waterfall and use that gate. Marduk explained that the city of Atlantis was on an island that moved through the sea. It would be difficult to locate that pylon.

Edith remembered that she had a lodestone recovered from that same complex. Surely it would point the way? Marduk explained that the lodestone pointed the way to the nearest Atlantean city.

The team vowed to search the Inner World for another pylon. In addition, they would find the way back to the Tree Village and return Utuk to his family and his betrothed.

Panda and Cedric decided to stay behind in Atlantis to help Marduk in his rebellion.

The others took the remaining flying saucer and flew off in a random direction in search of Utuk's home.

As the flying saucer flies out over the concave sea, the camera pulls back. The saucer recedes to a tiny dot. Clouds and floating mountains fly past and the camera passes a small artificial "sun". The camera continues to pull back before passing through the outer shell. The camera continues to withdraw revealing the outside crust of the inner world, a dry grey wasteland of dust and rock. 

Eventually the horizon shrinks to reveal the Earth's moon.