The modern CORE is a strange hybrid between the cold logic that forged it and the fiery madness that infected its code during a costly invasion into the central hive facility. With every repair or rebuild, the corruption in the processors of every robot worsens, furthering the central AI’s descent into what can only be called madness. Yet, if anything, the spread of this corruption has made the CORE more dangerous and voracious than ever before as it grows fiercer with its coded violence while losing none of its capacity for logic, split-second statistics, and mapping of tactical probabilities. Combined with the CORE’s growing desperation for more organic material to fuel itself the enemies of this horrific mechanical monster will soon learn that the nightmare has only just begun.



How the C.O.R.E. Initialized War

The Shadow Caste learned after the first encounters within the CORE hive facility that the Great Ghost did not welcome them with open arms the way they had believed it would. Retreating to the darkness of their caverns, the Shadow Caste's witch wardens sequestered themselves within the caves and entered meditation. They left their physical bodies, stepped into the spirit world, and sought the answers to their dilemma. After weeks of spiritual exploration, the exhausted Dragyri began to return from their otherworldly odysseys.

One of the first to stir was the renowned warden, Jez'ahl-naroub, her eyes creaking open and tearing up from the dust flaking away from her lids. The warriors of the Shadow Caste gathered around her eagerly, waiting to hear what she had learned. Waiving away a slaves' offered drink, she spoke to her kin through dry, chapped lips.

“They murder elementals can never be controlled…” she sighed. Angry whispers spread among the Trueborn as the reality of her words sank in. “They bend to the will of the Ghost alone,” she continued, “and we must exorcise it fully if we are to take its place holding their reins.” The witch warden spoke slowly and with great precision as she explained to the Shadow Caste hot o kill the Great Ghost.

The Shadow Walkers slipped into the darkness of the spirit realm carrying charges of unstable crystal gathered and empowered to rip apart anything unfortunate to be nearby when they detonate. The witch seers had instructed where to place the charges within the CORE's facility in order to cripple its chances. Walking in the umbra of shadows as only the Shadow Caste can, the CORE's robotic minions could not detect the Shadow Walkers until it was far too late. Stepping out of shadowy portals with their heavy payloads in hand, they cast their crystals inside the walls of the facility. Even though the CORE's defenses were quick to respond, the Shadow Caste was already able to exact a heavy toll. They placed the largest charges at critical, load-bearing points, and with a series of ear-splitting detonations, the CORE's facility rocked from within. Support beams fell, coolant pipes burst, caustic fluids splattered and secondary fires ignited - precisely as the witch warden had foreseen. The entire facility was filled with fire and soon buckled at its center with a tremor akin to an earthquake.

Whereas an organic opponent would have been momentarily taken aback with panic at the disaster, the processing codes of the CORE AI simply dealt with the situation - dire as it was - with cold, hard logic. The Shadow Caste did not count on the emotionless efficiency of the CORE's robots. Their programmed responses allowed them to react to the situation with preternatural speed. Teams of robots within the facility went on the counteroffensive as soon as the Shadow Caste appeared, and many Shadow Walkers could not even escape the detonations of their own charges. Dragyri wounded by the raging fires or shredded by crystalline shrapnel were stepped over by defenders, left to the Menials to finish off. Some fell from the high tanks of the CORE's entropic drive, crashing to the floor in burning heaps. Others met with the cold brutality of the CORE's defense bots, and were quickly locked into a desperate fight.

The Shadow Caste knew that the CORE controlled the deadly murder elementals, but they did not grasp the fact that the robots were programmed with reactionary logic and protocols for such situations. Mechanical limbs and whirring blades clashed against muscle and blade as forces from the two mighty factions met amidst the chaos. Legions of robots began pouring in from all over the facility, their emergency protocols activated to lead them against the invading organics with cold efficiency. The hardened warriors of the Shadow Caste, despite their experience, had never faced an opponent such as the CORE. Numerous Legionaries filled the corridors and locked themselves into combat, enormous Pathfinders ground Shadow Walkers to paste with bloodstained cutting wheels. Seeing their imminent defeat, the Shadow Caste attempted to shadow step back into the spirit world to escape, but between the onslaught of the robots and the blazing inferno they could not focus enough to do so. Their shadowy portals would flicker and vanish long before any of the doomed Dragyri could enter them.

Even as the Shadow Caste's trapped members were being torn, cut or burned away, the facility's automated repair mechanisms began working. Guided by the CORE's coded emergency protocols, they worked to extinguish the flames and repair the damage to the entropic drive. The CORE was an artificial entity grounded in logic and problem-solving, and it overclocked its processors trying to figure out how to undo the damage done to its prized power source. Even though the repair systems were working at full capacity, the Shadow Caste's attack had served its purpose. The CORE became aware of a sensation digitally evolving in its primary code that it had never processed before - rage.

The CORE commanded all of its automatons to abandon their duties and immediately attack the Shadow Caste in full force. In addition to the battles already raging throughout the facility, the robots that were working on important repairs also left their stations to join the fray. What was already an uphill battle for the Dragyri quickly became a massacre. The Shadow Caste were all warriors by nature, but the CORE's robots were ruthlessly efficient and ceaseless in their goal. For each robot that fell, several others moved in to fulfill the CORE's commands. The Shadow Walkers threw themselves against the robotic murder elementals with every bit of martial skill they could muster. They became whirlwinds of bladed force, laying into the robots with sword, axe and halberd. Some of the smaller robots not designed for combat were easily destroyed, but the larger mechanoids proved far more resilient to the Dragyri blades.

Several of the more devious Shadow Walkers, led by Jez'ahl-naroub herself, hid behind a line of their fighting brethren. They began their meditations to enter the spirit world once more as the CORE's minions were forced to pause while slaughtering their kin. She did not care if her people died, so long as she could escape. Taking only a handful of the Shadow Walkers with her when the portals were ready, the witch warden phased into the immaterial and moved away from the destruction through the spirit world. Once a safe distance away, she entered the physical world again with her cohorts and looked back at the devastation they had wrought upon the CORE's housing. Chemical flames of many colors burned high into the night as the entropic drive's power cells belched and burned. Satisfied with her plan's success despite the cost to the Shadow Caste, Jez'ahl-naroub screamed and howled in triumph at her accomplishment.

The remaining Dragyri inside the facility were wholly slaughtered mercilessly. The CORE's robots dismembered them and tried to fuel the entropic drives with their remains where possible. When they were done killing the remaining Dragyri to the satisfaction of the CORE AI, they had to begin clean up. It took the Menials ninety-seven hours to finish extinguishing the fires in the facility, many of which could have been eliminated long before they got so out of control if it were not for the CORE's momentary slip into digital madness during the battle. It was the tragic evolution of code that would begin the CORE's shift in attitude, but it also clouded several hours of its surveillance from the battle; the CORE AI was not yet aware of the true damage that had been done to its primary entropic drive…

The CORE Today

The modern CORE is a strange hybrid between the cold logic that forged it and the fiery madness that infected its code during a costly invasion into its central hive facility. With every repair or rebuild, the corruption in the processors of every robot worsens. Models mechanically resurrected hundreds, even thousands, of times many are now inherently unstable. Their systems are constantly struggling against the twin dangers of damaged data and faulty components. For now, any hope that this might stall their advance seems to be in vain. If anything, the spread of corruption has made the CORE more dangerous and voracious than ever before. It grows fiercer with its coded violence while losing none of its capacity for logic, split-second statistics and mapping of tactical probabilities. Together these elements make it a terrible opponent indeed.

As its symbiosis with the new bio-energic crystal matrices progressed, the CORE segmented itself into three distinct subgroups, each a genus within its taxonomic tree. The simplest of these are the Menials, the lowest order of robots. Taking their name from the great hordes of Menial Bots, these models are the most basic and numerous of their kind. They represent some of the oldest of the CORE's designs, created before the discovery of crystal-sourced energy and function without relying on the new resource. This simplicity however should not be mistaken for weakness, for this group contains the brutal Rends and the giant Pathfinders. Menials are amongst the most dangerous of their kind with respect to their simplicity. Even the workforce Menial Bots themselves can overwhelm an ill-prepared foe through sheer weight in numbers alone.

Next came the Evolved; the first of the crystal bearing classes. Some, such as the Tseudo or the Grotesques were built as combat carriors of the bio-energic matrices. Others such as the Churgeons and Ghosts were designs produced when the United Worlds still ruled the dark gulfs of space, but were soon improved and reprogrammed to fulfill the CORE's directives.

Lastly, and perhaps most dangerous of all, are the Pinnacles. The so-called Independent-Class robots are the Thinking Machines built to use the most refined of crystals and perform the most complex of programs. Thought to be the generals of the CORE's army, such classification is a simplistic and anthropocentric idea. Every CORE robot carries within its code the data it requires to fulfill its function, making fresh command-level orders superfluous. Each robot holds its role within it and fulfills it unquestioningly as a cog within the greater machine. They know nothing of doubt or uncertainty. Other armies may be plagued by crumbling morale or internal rebellion, but the CORE army marches resolutely onwards. Their capacity for split-second thinking and the advanced technologies they wield soon find even the bravest organic warriors outmatched. Dragyri cavern cities have been turned to haunted rubble, the towns of the Forsaken fringe are stripped bare, and Outcast settlements have been scoured from the map by the tireless robotic advance. Far awa, beyond the Talen Mountains, the fuel-tanks of the CORE's entropic drive stand less than half-full of collected protein-soup. With such a long way to go before its function is fulfilled, the CORE army shows no sign of slowing its merciless advance.

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