Internal Log, Transmit Disable Conditions Active
Subsequent to my last log, I have yet to find a way to determine the precise galactic coordinates of "Lassiter", nor even confirm that this station does, in fact, orbit a gas giant. There aren't any windows, and external video logs can be easily faked, particularly if our hostess is really what she claims to be.
After about a week here, however, she and her confederate Irina Kuznetsova announced that they had narrowed down the first batch of the "finite infinite set" of potential gate codes that might lead to "nexus" worlds capable of leading back to the Solar system to four viable addresses. They had already done the usual first-in protocols of automated drones, camera-arm robotic vehicles, etc. and these four sites were ready for a First In team to evaluate.
Our options: irradiated wasteland, airless moon, a deep-sea environment similar to Europa or Enceladus, and a transhuman bolthole station where the automated defenses set up around the gate didn't immediately attack.
Somewhat to my surprise, Marco Macek took something of a leadership role, proposing that the inhabited station might provide useful intel or maybe even a friendly face. Turns out, a bit of the first, not so much on the second.
So, I got to meet Rael Duvalier, the self-styled "father of uplifts". His extrasolar bunker was pretty posh, and complete with uplift servants in little tuxedoes presenting us with champagne and finger foods. Reading between the lines a bit, it seems his other extra-solar project, the "Siba Institute for Biological Anomalies" took a hit from sabotage or terrorism or something. He bought the rights to this particular useless rock because it happened to be relatively close to SIBA (astronomically speaking) at four light-months away. I'm not sure why that was important. Maybe he got here by egocast or something. Whatever the case, he's been clever enough not to go opening his gate randomly for fear of what else might come out, and has instead been using QE communication back to his "other selves" in the solar system, seeking to leverage his wealth and resources to gatecrash his way TO his current location from the Pandora gate, which he confirms is the only functioning solar system gate still free of Ultimate control.
He proposed data sharing. He'd give us what his other selves have figured out, and in exchange we share planetary location data with him from our other expeditions in hopes that together we might find some linkups. We all put a pleasant face on it, but it seems that my companions all knew or suspected some unpleasant things about Rael. His bonobo butler didn't seem too pleased with continued service. Whatever, fuck the monkey.
We reported all that back to Irina and Astraeus, both of whom said they'd handle the contractual details. Yawn.
Next up was "airless moon." We opted to make our initial intrusion on foot rather than using Chloelia Octavia's shuttle. It was pretty much as-advertised, a gray, airless moon. We were all in suits, of course… stupid bulky things. Fortunately there didn't seem to be as much potential need for my ability to fit in tiny crawlspaces on this one. Marco sent us out in pairs to do a perimeter check. I figured this would be my opportunity to get Chloelia alone, but stupid Cailey Macek grabbed me by an arm and dragged me off. Crazy bitch. Anyway, at about the point where we were too far apart for easy tactical coordination, some stuff happened.
Alexi Oda found… something. Image attached. It's a very tall "totem" made of twisted metal and flayed human bodies… like, skeletons with ragged strands of connective tissue holding them together. I guess with no atmosphere or weather or whatever there's no wear or tear or decay, which means someone MADE those skeletons that way BEFORE stringing them up. I mean, I don't have the automatic revulsion-reaction that I would have if it was a totem covered in, say, octopus corpses, but it was still kinda fucked up.
Marco found tire tracks from a transhuman vehicle, and a mostly-toppled flag with some weird religious iconography.
Then we all found the moon spiders. Out from rocks and craters scuttle some things… they had a lot more than 8 legs, and had mostly white chitinous coverings except for the ends of their leg-claws which were red. They jumped us. I grabbed Cailey and we bolted for the gate, which seemed to be the general consensus judging by the shouts. It seems many of the team weren't as good as low-g acrobatics as I am. Alexi got pounced and the spider started wrapping her up in some silvery smart-material… a fate that also fell upon Chloelia, Luna, and Marco. The Moonrise rescued Alexi and Luna, but were too late for the other two, who got wrapped up and dragged underground.
Now, I know my orders on Chloelia… but I seriously had no intention of just walking into moon-spider-infested tunnels. Fortunately, Luna DID have that intention. Her Moonrise were more of my way of thinking. There was a bit of a revolt… I guess that's why Luna's the headliner and the others are merely backup singers. Anyway, Alexi burned that silvery gunk out of her synthmorph systems in a way I found… kinda hardcore actually. Damn. And opened the gate so the Moonrise could escort Cailey through. While that was going on, we lost radio contact with Luna, and had long since lost it with Marco or Chloelia. That's when fucking Carillo Wu (who's always around when I least expect it… what's his agenda anyway?) and Alexi suggested that maybe the three of us should walk into the spider den and see what's up. Yeah.
So, fine, we did that. The spiders didn't molest us, apparently figuring we were going the right way. Alexi led us through some pretty bewildering twists and turns and we stumbled on… a moon rover! Yeah, just parked there, in a tunnel, next to some fusion batteries and sundry expedition supplies. We also saw a light down the tunnel and were getting faint radio signals. So, Carillo and I set to rigging the batteries into a big-ass bomb while Alexi drove us toward the light.
We found a cavern… something like a cathedral, I guess, with crazy religious iconography on one wall and on the floor. Luna, Marco, and Chloelia were free, and apparently unharmed, talking to a crazy person who called himself Deacon Jeremiah. He claimed the spiders were "children of god" and had this whole spiel about how the TITANS were archangels, that the apocalypse had already happened, and how he wanted to share the voice of god with all of us through… um… sex.
I'm not entirely sure how this human planned on having sex with Chloelia and me… or Alexi for that matter. Unsurprisingly, nobody jumped at the chance to get the STD version of voices in our heads.
So yeah. Chloelia jumped in the driver's seat, bomb went out the back, gunfire happened, Alexi cracked her chassis on the tunnel ceiling, and we blasted our way the fuck out of there.
We then spent a week in solitary quarantine. Our hostess is taking no chances. Irina told us a bit about that cult… seems she was originally on Carnivale investigating a group called the Church of Luminous Saints, a TITAN-revering apocalyptic group of nutters who may have actually become infected with one of those weird-ass plagues the TITANS engineered during the Fall. Irina made a lot of crazy claims about this virus, that it's intelligent, that it adapts and has an agenda, blah blah. She did say, though, that the Church had been active on Carnivale… a place known for, um, free love… and that if the Ultimates hadn't cleansed the place, her mysterious employers may well have. I guess if you have the mother of all STDs, Carnivale's an excellent place to start an epidemic.
So, yeah, I guess our hostess was right. We were two-for-two on planets with at least tangential connections to solar system groups. Of course, we have no intention of ever going back to spider-moon.
Finally, we tried the irradiated wasteland. After an initial foray, we weren't attacked by anything. Chloelia did point out, however, that the weird glassy formations looked like splash patterns of molten sand and rock that hardened in mid-splash. She also pointed out a distant ridge… that completely encircled us at a distance of nearly a hundred clicks. We all came to the uncomfortable realization that the gate was dead center of a fucking enormous impact crater. It kinda looked like someone threw a small moon at this planet, aiming for the gate… and based on what little we could see of weather patterns, it happened not that long ago.
Well, we weren't immediately nuked, but we figured we'd set up a bunch of instruments to look at the sky and try to figure out where in the galaxy this place is, also see if there are any enormous mass-drivers in orbit or whatever. We launched a small satellite from a portable rocket to do surface and space readings. We set up radiation-shielded shelters, but figured that we'd be spending as little time here as possible until we know whether there's a gun to our heads, just popping in to get the data recorded from the instruments.
While we were setting all that shit up, though, Alexi figured she's scout to the edge of the crater. Marco, Luna, Chloelia (and I) went with, and found a shattered machine about the size of your office building back on Ceres. It was mostly buried in a fissure, and had clearly been subjected to some serious explosive forces. We all got crawling around inside and variously came to the chilling realization that this was earth-derived technology… specifically TITAN technology… specifically a TITAN manufactory for war machines much like the ones they left on Earth.
So… yeah… apparently TITANS came through this gate and SOMEONE blew them to hell.
Needless to say, we booked it back to Lassiter for safety while we let our machines gather data.
I figure I'll have more to say later, or maybe after we check out the underwater locale. For now, that's enough crazy for one report.