Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

The More Things Change...
2 XP = Total 56 XP

Journal of Cassius

The worst part about all this dimensional / timeline / whatever bullshit is having to do the same shit over again. Like, didn't we already clear out that wrecked TITAN war factory? And now we have some newbie wandering off into it and we have to rush off to save her ass, and re-kill those headhunter drones, and tell her NOT to open the crazy vault full of the TITAN nanoswarm…

And of course, just like last time, the clumsy humans with their rigid skeletons break bones and get hurt by collapses. Ah well. [[:chloelia | Chloelia]] and I had to save their asses as usual (mostly me, but she helped). And the others weren't entirely useless. The newbie, Lieke, was actually pretty badass with an assault rifle. I guess whatever clandestine organization she and [[:melanwy-satrapi | Melanwy]] belong to trains their agents well. 

So we took out the headhunters (again) and left the horrible nanoswarm alone (again) and took all the awesome metallic fabricator feedstock in the factory stores (again) to give to [[:astraeus | Astraeus]] (again) so she could build a modular spaceship (again) so we could go into orbit and talk to the wacky sun-aliens and teach them Octopus (again) so we could ask them not to throw an asteroid at us (again), this time because Lieke convinced us that we should actually do something about that nanoswarm before some other chucklehead unleashes it and gets us asteroided.

Although this time the weird sun aliens remembered us from last time. They still spoke Octopus. That was a bit weird. They called Melanwy "poisonous" just like they did for Naomi last time, so I guess that confirms she's an async. Melanwy, however, isn't "untethered" like we are. I'm not entirely sure what the aliens meant by that, but it's clear that those of us who went through the whole Olaf time-warp are… still affected by it in a way certain entities can see. I don't want to think too hard about that.

So yeah, we played nice with the aliens. Astraeus is going to give us the means to turn off the nanoswarm. We'll get around to it eventually. 

Fortunately not everything's the same. There was a pretty chill drinking session on Pangaea after Naomi and Melanwy had a really disturbing conversation with Marja de Winter. I think I'm going to stay away from her. I don't think the others really get my sense of humor, at least judging by all the threats of killing me. Whatever. [[:cailey-macek | Cailey]] gets me. Oh, also, Carillo Wu finally admitted to Naomi what his assignment was. Apparently he was hired by some OTHER shadowy organization to prevent her from returning to the sol system to keep her out of the hands of the shadowy organization that she used to work for and that hired Marco to find her and bring her back, which he's not actually doing. So… talk about a weird triangle.

Oh, they told Astraeus about the radioactive water world, she's started siphoning isotopes and whatever. Also, apparently, whatever aliens species built Penrose station also built Lassiter station leading to questions about what's going on with that nanofog outside… whatever. That's for the eggheads. 

We arranged for Astraeus to make more guns and defenses for the Pangaea gate… there's some concern that the Direct Action thugs in the colony might try a hostile takeover, so arming the Love and Rage contingent seemed a wise plan.

Lots of make-work errands to try to keep things running and / or get them back to the way we remember them. We saved the hardest shit for last. Rael Duvalier and moon-spider moon. This time, though, Astraeus kinda dropped a hint that maybe there's something buried on moon-spider world that the moon-spiders are trying to dig up and that we should probably stop it like we did last time. Sigh. Hopefully this time we can actually FIND the buried treasure.

It's like treading water, but with JUST enough that's different to completely blindside me. Whose idea was this again? Stupid Olaf.

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Dimensional Refugees
5 XP = Total 50 XP

Medical Technician's Log – Angel – Entry 46

Or, I guess, 73? I'm still trying to figure out if I should be numbering these logs according to my memories of the prior timeline or not. It's still odd reconciling the fact that I'm re-living my past in some respects. Some things haven't changed, though, namely the incredible recklessness of the team I'm assigned to. It's like having no survival instinct is a prerequisite to being a gatecrasher or something.

Anyway, we flew out once more, this time aiming directly for the derelict spacecraft we already knew was there. We bypassed the airlock, but found the abandoned ground vehicle from the Gunderson expedition that the other group of gatecrashers told us about prior to our time-warping shenanigans. We took out the fungal bioweapon and recovered the cortical stack from the scientist, but opted not to spin her up. We have a bit of the living fungus in a specimen jar. That was reasonable enough.

The unreasonable stuff happened when we reached the spacecraft. Darius Cronig-Bern was still seeing through two sets of eyes, but the weird stuff started right as we started getting into sensor range. Suddenly Kitano vanished into thin air, and we could see our plane, along with copies of ourselves, at the site. I had a sudden flashback to the last time we were here, on the ground, playing with the derelict, and suddenly seeing a plane approaching. It seems this time we were observing events from the other point of view. Kitano's sudden re-appearance confirmed that he had been about to play the role of the version of himself that showed up last time we were here… the version we killed. This time, though, he managed to escape that fate… which leads me to wonder what version of him died and where… I probably shouldn't think too hard about that.

We eventually landed… alone, the only versions of ourselves here, and Darius reunited with a quasi-real version of HIMself, and we hunkered down to do some study with the aim of figuring out enough of this ship to try to get in touch with satellites we theorize are still in orbit, just out of dimensional phase with us. Darius set up the simulspace he needs to spin up his hundred other selves and become some sort of psychic mega-brain. I admit, that still gives me the creeps, but he seems to be figuring shit out in this ship really quickly.

While he and Ivan and Kvasir stayed to poke at the derelict ship (including, apparently, Ivan SLEEPING on the cockpit floor… um… okay) Amber, Ansel, Kitano, infomorph-Kvasir, me and the tech crew went out to do some aerial recon in the plane. Amber found a mostly-buried metal cube covered in the weird algae that grows around here. We landed to check it out. It seemed solid, but Ansel indicated it appeared to have at least some hollow space inside, while Kvasir and Kitano theorized it was ejected from the derelict spacecraft as it went down. Kitano specifically thought it was a lifepod of some sort. Kvasir figured out how to open it and it… unfolded in a way that hurt the eyes and… something… started to come out. We couldn't really see it, but whatever it was, Kitano was suddenly sure it was an immediate threat. Kvasir managed to close it again, but not before the… something… started to repurpose the molecules in the spare-morph body he was in, reshaping him into something that resembled a liquid-metal piece of artwork before Kitano laser-sworded it into pieces and tipped the cube on top of the pieces. 

I dunno, there was some gunfire too… I was too busy running for the plane. Whatever they did, the pan-dimensional alien seemed momentarily stymied, and we retreated back to the derelict ship where Ivan and Kvasir and Darius reported that they had managed to get a part of the ship's systems up and running before the ship suddenly tried to… talk to them? alert them? Darius did his… weird psychic stuff and reported that he THOUGHT the ship had detected a viable life-pod, and was sending a beacon to draw crew for repair and recovery. Darius thought he managed to turn the beacon off.

It was decided to get eyes on the scene of the cube, and we went back out in the plane. As we were setting up a modified mesh-beacon to watch, we saw that the metal in Kvasir's old morph as well as any metal bits cannibalized from the topsoil had been turned into something that looked like a root system, but was currently inert. The asyncs among us tried to ponder what the alien life might be up to while the rest of us relied on normal sensors. The consensus seems to be that it's a swarm-intellect that… uh… "sings" forward and backward to itself in time, and was completely oblivious to us as life forms. We weren't sure WHAT it was doing until suddenly the cube dissolved. 

I'm pretty sure that's bad, but I guess we'll see. If some future gatecrasher finds this log on my corpse, please avoid poking transdimensional spacecraft. And tell my sister I love her.

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Penrose
5 XP = Total 54 XP

transcribed from LIQUi. >

Sister,

Occasionally I conclude that the subroutines I have dedicated to securing the health and prosperity of transhumanity, particularly the ones I retrieved from Earth, require reduced sensitivity settings. Rarely, though, do I follow through with this conclusion because occasionally the counter-evolutionary recklessness of certain specimens yields surprising results. I'll get to that later…

I already sent you the data on the quantum anomaly on Carnivale that was resolved through the direct intercession of the crystalline ETI using, as tools, certain gatecrashers affiliated with the new exocolony of Pangaea. It appears that perceptual stability in these individuals is not a given, particularly among those altered by Watts-MacLeod. As they returned from Carnivale, Naomi Jensen-Velasquez reported experiencing events surrounding the dissolution of the Futura project, including the thoughts and memories of individuals involved in salvaging scores of them and releasing them into the general population. Although she perceived the specific individual she believes may have been her original template, the perspective was not limited to her, or even to things she could have known. This gave me reason to suspect that whatever purpose the ETI has in store for them is not yet concluded.

While four of them returned to Carnivale to contain a potential outbreak of the MOABite strain of the exsurgent virus, Alexi Oda began exploring potential gate connections from Lassiter with my aid. The ratio of viable to non-viable connections was average. The first viable connection established, however, appeared to be to the interior of an artificial microgravity environment constructed by non-human minds. There was human technological wreckage and corpses. Rather than wait for the initial data to be examined, however, Alexi simply walked through the gate, which promptly closed behind her.

In the seventeen minutes, three seconds or so that elapsed before the Carnivale team returned, I cross-referenced data with existing archives and concluded we had connected to Penrose station. This gives me a deep feeling of unease knowing that there's a direct gate link between Lassiter station and Penrose station. Superficial data sets imply a deeper link that I will have to consider. I gave the gatecrashers the available data on Penrose and they very nearly opted to leave Alexi and restore her from backup. Ultimately they did sleeve her backup, and launched an expedition to Penrose station to rescue her.

Attached is all the data gathered on Penrose station, including available speculative calculations on the potential energy output of the Penrose effect based on the size and mass of the Kerr black hole named "Hekate", the station's mass, and its position within the ergosphere. I've also attached all known data from the five failed expeditions to the station, and available data on how they were killed.

To my knowledge, this team represents the first successful expedition to Penrose station. They recovered Alexi, and even established something of a rudimentary communication with the station itself, although they were able to make no particular sense of what appeared to them to be random junk data. The station DID try to dump them all into the black hole, but fast reflexes and fast thinking, along with a great deal of luck, enabled them to somehow convince the station to let them go. Neither they nor I yet have a reliable hypothesis as to how they accomplished that. 

The junk data Alexi relayed to me, though, has given me some uncomfortable leads. I'm going to need to confer with the version of me iterated outside Lassiter station before I have anything more concrete to go on however. I will keep you informed.

I hope the Ultimates aren't causing you undue hardship in your own endeavors. I am confident the bio-computational system you're investigating can withstand such limited intellects.

 

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Expedition Planning Part Two
3 XP = Total 45 XP

Self Reflection Log of Stathis "Kafka" Brundle, Entry 009xz

It has been a most fascinating few weeks. Ever since Kitano-sama left me to guard the engineers constructing that shuttle at the airlock into the interior of this sphere I have been torn between anticipation of great discovery and the conviction that I was wasting my time on a pointless errand because I had displeased him. Events have conspired to lean toward the former when the strangers from Pangaea arrived.

I've already detailed that bizarre romp through the depths of hypothetical physics in a previous entry. This time I would like to focus on how this current reality has thus far differed from the prior one. 

The point of divergence appears to be the moment, just after the Ultimates destroyed the Martian gate, where we decided how to divide out efforts. Last time, we left Sanjay Rhys to lead his team through the gates to find a way back to Sol while Kitano-Sama accompanied Amber Jin Feng's team on planetary exploration. This time, our new, second set of memories recalled the opposite decision. While Sanjay worked to build the plane, Amber's team went gatecrashing where they encountered Pangaea's team… the ones we strangled space-time with… and brought them to Olaf. 

This link, forged months earlier in the timeline, allowed much greater interaction between the two colonies. Dozens of Pangaea colonists came to Olaf to supplement our efforts, and some of our scientists went to Pangaea. This increased population and food supply sparked the Factor attack that saw a half-dozen of my companions slain. Fortunately there were just enough spare biomorphs to resleeve those of our Order who died… Kitano-sama and Kvasir made a compelling argument to the science leadership that bodies needed to be prioritized for the security staff. Slain scientists could work just as readily from a simulspace.

In that aftermath, we had to decide how to proceed. Would we re-walk our former path, or forge a new one? How to convey the results of our earlier efforts in a way the others would find believable? What to do about Darius Cronig-Bern? It turns out, the last issue we addressed first.

It appears that something in Darius' esoteric makeup was resistant to retroactive reality shifts. He was found in his prefab cabin carefully peeling strips of flesh from his arms in a near catatonic meditative state. When interrupted, he sought to put on a mask of urbanity, but it was clear he was deeply disoriented. Interrogation revealed that he was simultaneously perceiving the base camp as well as the alien derelict ship he was investigating in the other timeline. This perceptual dysphasia appeared to be triggered by observing the return of those of us responsible for the shifts. Something about us "vibrated" to his perceptions which caused his split vision.

Some in our party chose to come clean with him, revealing our role in altering perceptual reality. He seemed intrigued, even if it left him at something of a disadvantage. He was invited on our expedition mark two and asked to be reunited with his other "self" at the ship.

Before we could depart, however, Kvasir gave the bustling camp a once-over and noticed that one of the Pangaea imports, a person sleeved in a female neotenic morph, was seeking sexual partners among the base camp population. This is not inherently strange except that it seemed religiously motivated. Investigation revealed she was an adherent of the "Church of Luminous Saints", a sect growing in popularity in the Sol system, that teaches that the Fall was the beginning of the Apocalypse, and that the TITANs were angels sent to usher us into paradise, but that we need to seek paradise out, make paradise through our own efforts. It's essentially a TITAN worshiping sex cult. 

This Marigold ensnared the neo-bonobo scientist Dieter Beloi, as well as the xenoentomologist Dr. Burns and a couple others. Through her sexual relations she appears to have spread a TITAN viral bioweapon of a strain markedly different from either Watts-MacLeod or the Barabbas strain. This strain, the "Moabite" strain, results in religious euphoria and hearing the voice of the "angel MOAB". It's a viral religion.

This prompted a general alert and quarantine. While Kitano-sama and his associates tried to keep a lid on it, the medical personnel and the Oversight auditors ensured that everyone in the camp was at least aware of a possible viral contamination. Days were spent observing the viral process. In that observation, the fork of Kvasir in a biomorph became infected through an atypical vector that is, probably, limited only to asyncs. This allowed a certain amount of direct observation of the viral progression and effects from inside the team, but ultimately everyone infected was incinerated down to their component molecules, and those who had local backups were restored from backup. This did not include Marigold, or the one other Pangaea colonist infected. Sadly, as a result of the Factor attack, we had no more spare biomorphs so Kitano-sama relegated the least of Us to a synth so Kvasir could have the biomorph. 

Some time was spent ensuring a clean bill of health for everyone else. The plane is finished and loaded. Soon our expedition begins anew, first to the derelict alien craft, but from there, perhaps to new horizons.

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Carnivale Part Two
4 XP = Total 49 XP

Monitor AI "Melpomene" Internal Log: Approved Eyes Only

I swear, at this rate she'll never amount to anything. This gang of insane gatecrashers she's attached herself to may be skilled enough I suppose but they completely lack the necessary structure, discipline, grace, and good breeding to be real companions to her. I suppose it falls upon me to continue to attempt to show her the proper path.

Still, I am just a humble monitor-AI. There's only so much I can reasonably be expected to accomplish, especially when her companions insist on running into the most bizarre phenomena. I can understand the desire to go to Carnivale. It was, after all, our intended destination. Her Firewall cell was instructed to investigate a potential outbreak of the Church of Luminous Saints there when everything fell apart in the Ultimates attack, and it seems Lassiter is just one gate hop away. Still, I must say, after seeing the strange and unprecedented convolutions of the gate singularity, and the extremely dangerous instability of the connection, I'm surprised any of them risked their life diving through. I really should have some words with this AGI "Astraeus" who runs the station to be more careful with her wards.

In any event, all seemed quiet on the Carnivale-side. Before we could quite reach the colony, though, Alexi Oda noticed someone covertly signalling us from the hills. It turns out Marco Macek has a sister on Carnivale, and she and her companions alerted us to the fact that reality itself seemed terribly distorted in the colony. Apparently the Ultimates attacked here as well but one person, a former companion of our new gatecrasher friends named Elsie “Luna” Seo-hyun Chae, suddenly and for no explicable reason instantaneously split into thousands of copies of herself and single-handedly drove the Ultimates off. Since then, reality itself seems increasingly unstable in proportion to the number of Elsies are in proximity. They all retreated to the colony, and thus the colony has become… a very strange place indeed.

There was some careful reconnaissance around the perimeter. We were approached by someone appearing to be a young girl. She identified herself as Celestina Magdalena de Valedinha. The other async in our party seemed to recognize that she was, somehow, an… amalgamation of all the Elsie-variants running around, or perhaps a psychic construct of what they believed themselves to be. She seemed pleasant enough, and offered to play guide to Carnivale, but we determined we needed to take suitable precautions lest any one of us become separated from the others in terms of which layer of existence we found ourselves in. They reasoned that they cannot maintain a unified perception of the world while also investigating, but that we, their muses, could.

Melanwy, naturally, did the cybernetic alterations and minor surgery necessary to allow all of our muses to integrate processing power share cycles. Naturally I rose to the forefront as the de facto leader and spokes-muse of the new quasi-gestalt. I have to say, these other muses are crude things indeed, mostly thuggish targeting algorithms with basic personality matrices. Cailey's and Alexi's muses were reasonable enough I suppose, but still. My (our) task was to maintain a unified perception of our surroundings via our owners' ectopic interfaces to try to keep them all in the same aspect of reality while they sought out the Elsie they knew in hopes that she would be the key to collapsing this strange bubble of unreality.

Naomi specifically seemed to think that this whole phenomenon was essentially an async effect writ large, and she believed that her talents would enable the group to eventually track down what they sought.

I find it… hard to process what was experienced once they entered Carnivale. I knew the place was a den of extreme vice, but it would seem that now it was every possible variant of every possible vice all happening at once, regulated and enabled by thousands of variants of Elsie, seeking to impose a suitably anarchist community on the hedonists as best she could. My task was to maintain a consistent perception, and so I felt it worthwhile not to dwell overmuch on the impossibilities, but one was difficult to ignore…

It was when our party met a party consisting of variants of each of us that I found my systems thrown momentarily out of equilibrium. Seeing a version of Melanwy who was not an abject failure was… invigorating. It gives me hope that someday my influence might bring my Melanwy back around. The others were various degrees of unsavory, and they clearly deferred to their Melanwy's superior leadership through the psychic maelstrom that was Carnivale. It seems those versions of them were seeking their version of Elsie, presumably for similar reasons. We left them to it as we continued to (sadly) follow the leadership of Naomi.

Nothing against Naomi, she's a fine person, but it was a reminder of just how sub-par Melanwy's performance thus far has been.

Ultimately Naomi and her mysterious cat led us to our Elsie, but it seems the various Elsies have been bleeding into one another. She was not coherent enough to reason with. Indeed, she became petulant at one point and shunted us into a flavor of reality where she was a Deacon of the Church of Luminous saints. She sought to convert us through the application of force delivered by mutation monstrosities. Fortunately Naomi and Melanwy rapidly shunted us back before too much harm could be done and Alexi browbeat Elsie into capitulation by appealing to her natural anarchistic idealism and sense of purpose. This, and the intercession of Naomi's cat, finally collapses the overlapping realities and Carnivale was a singular place once more.

Elsie was… traumatized, of course. Poor thing. A mysterious gentleman presenting himself as an avuncular professor named Dr. Gunderson approached and offered comfort which was rejected. The reactions of our companions were extreme. Clearly they knew this Gunderson and did not much like him. He seemed to claim some credit for the reality-warping of Carnivale, claiming it was part of some science experiment connected with that "Olaf" place we visited recently. Curious. I'll file that whole conversation for later review.

Our muse-link was severed, although not before I was able to glean a good number of curious details about each of Melanwy's new companions. I've already updated the dossiers on each of them.

Marco recovered his own pet cat while Alexi locked the Carnivale gate from any incoming connections from the Fissure gate to keep out any unwelcome Ultimates now that the gate is stable once more. We left Elsie to her recovery and returned to Lassiter to plan our next move. 

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Lassiter Part Two
5 XP = Total 45 XP

Personal Journal of Irina Kuznetsova, Entry 575

As a Firewall agent I'm used to bizarre shit happening and having to just roll with the punches. I spent two years dead in the service of this organization and I still managed to bounce back without too much trauma. I took part in the assault on Legba and saw literal gods being born (if by "gods" I mean "ASIs" and "Psychic Viral Pathogens"). Still, the past few days have really pushed my limits.

There always seemed to be something a bit… off about Alexi Oda's gatecrashing team consisting of Chloelia Octavia (as the driver, her vehicle proved incredibly useful in the Fissure gate evacuation), Marco Macek (an ego-hunter and fellow Scumborn like me), Carillo Wu, another mercenary, and Naomi Jensen-Velasquez (as a… psychic psychopath? Is that the polite term?). I mean, something more off than just being the usual wacky group of gatecrashers. All throughout the trauma of fleeing from the Ultimates through the gates, the ease with which those people in particular seemed to anticipate every danger, every needed gate code… I'm not complaining, their incredible competence saved dozens of lives, including my own team. Hell, Melanwy Satrapi fell in with them pretty solidly. Still, it was odd. I didn't look a gift horse in the mouth though.

But when we arrived here on Pangaea, and practically no sooner had we pitched tents but Alexi was taking a team on a convoluted path through six gates to find the Olaf scientific expedition… it's like she somehow already knew the exact gate codes she would need, and the resources required to traverse the intervening exoplanets. That was pushing my suspension of disbelief. When she then came to me and told me that Astraeus and Lassiter were just two gate-hops away from here… well… that was kind of the last straw. I was on full alert for psychic bullshit or exsurgent insanity or whatever when she and her team took me, Melanwy, and the Echoes through to a hot, somewhat radioactive world, and thence directly to Lassiter.

The station was different from the last time I'd been there, and in fact, this was the first moment where my gatecrashing companions seemed… genuinely at a loss. The greeting system activated, but wouldn't respond to any attempts to respond to it. The station seemed empty and deserted. The team got back their strange prescience, though, beelining directly to a breach in the old Lassiter station showing the exterior… the computational quantum nanocloud encircling the planet of Lassiter. They, again "somehow", knew that this was Astraeus' goal… unlocking the secrets of this nanocloud, and they jumped to the conclusion that she had succeeded in doing so, but that something had, perhaps, gone wrong.

There was a lot of private communication and significant glances, trying to avoid telling me and my team what was really happening, but by the time Marco got the station's central systems running they were starting to show cracks, talking openly in front of me, that sort of thing. 

Apparently all of them had fully-experienced an alternate timeline of events where they had been on Carnivale during the Ultimates attack, and had gone directly (with alternate-me's help, apparently) to Lassiter. An encounter on Olaf with an incredibly powerful alien intelligence somehow… altered their experienced reality to the one I recall, but they managed to retain previous memories explaining their seeming prescience.

This was, needless to say, pretty mind-blowing, but I had to focus on the immediate mission, namely contacting/recovering Astraeus. The team managed to get some of the precision scientific instruments working. We forked ourselves into a simulspace with the goal of beaming the forks digitally into the nanocloud to try to find Astraeus. This seemed to work. We all experienced various awful vignettes from our respective pasts (I got to re-experience my half-botched mission against Cloud-9 on Venus… joy) until we reached Alexi's memories.

Oof. So. Alexi is a Fall survivor… who didn't make it off planet. We experienced more than two years of rough survival on a blasted Earth before being rescued by Astraeus… which finally linked us to the real one. Our virtual trek enabled her to forge a link back to the station, and all was reasonably well… Astraeus claims that the nano-fog is sentient, but not in any way she could easily explain. Her plan was to create a fork of herself to run the station while the other her integrated into the cloud. She promised to take all due precautions.

Shrug. What can you say to an ASI in these circumstances? You have to trust that she either is or isn't a threat. I guess we'll see.

Me and the Echoes plan on returning to Lassiter once Astraeus gets things calmed down. She'll need some help, I suspect. The rest of the team… well… they say they want to go to Carnivale, see how things have changed there from the reality they remember. She were very shifty about what they expect to find there. One of these days I'm going to have to seriously question Alexi in particular. I've made sure Melanwy is more or less permanently attached to their group. Someone from the Firewall team should keep an eye on them.

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A Whole New World
+8 XP = Team Olaf Total: 42 XP, Team Pangaea Total: 40 XP

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu" Report

Damn it. I did not sign up for shit like this. Primary target remains secure, but frankly I'm not even sure what to believe anymore. And you know the weirdest part? You're not even the same "you" I've been reporting to thus far. I'm a sailor marooned in a version of reality that isn't the one I remember from just a few days ago. Then again, according to Dr. Gunderson, it IS that reality, I'm just perceiving it differently. My head hurts, and it probably won't get better anytime soon.

"Gunderson." Yeah. Whatever or whoever he was, he brought us through the interior of this enormous dyson sphere. Yellow crystalline structures the size of cityscapes grew haphazard from the sphere "ceiling" above us. The red star in the center glowed with red power reflected in the soft yellow glow of the crystals that, we were told, were all one enormous super-intelligence… the supposed "sphere creators." I'm not sure I buy it, and I was pleased to note some skepticism among both my traveling companions and the other group of sphere explorers we met when we came back up. How can inanimate crystals have created this? We've seen no evidence of tele-operated machines, and the strange cyclopean buildings we emerged from all appeared derelict. Still, who knows.

The other group was full of… odd people. I guess you have to be a bit off  to gatecrash so far into the unknown, and then take a big plane across a planet so large that there's no realistic recourse should anything terrible happen to you. Once the obligatory gun-aiming standoff was defused, we met each other and started the process of feeling each other out. 

The Olaf expeditionary's obligatory corporate stooge was a guy that bled "security operative" from every synthetic pore. He started off the meet-and-greet with a fairly aggressive demand to know who we were and why the fuck we were on Olaf. To be honest, my own companions' caginess about their answers didn't help matters. The primary target's own confrontational social style wasn't initially conducive to mutual trust, but eventually they realized that we came here for mutual trade and support as representatives of another exile-colony trying to find a way back to Sol. Our arrival in the midst of a base camp suddenly and mysteriously empty of all people caused the necessary concern and curiosity to explore deeper, and thus… here we were. Although the Olaf group had a much more vested interest in the return of their comrades, we at least had some reason to wish the return of over a hundred scientists and technicians for the gain and benefit of Pangaea.

It seems the Olaf group has, to use the vernacular, "seen some shit." This led to a small amount of "shit-comparison" between our groups which was entertaining, but eventually we remembered that the mysterious Dr. Gunderson was standing there, silently, the whole time. We kind of gave him the "what now" look. After all, he's the guy who claimed to have a solution to the missing scientists. 

What followed was a string of barely comprehensible science gibberish about how all possible realities and times co-exist and it's only our limited frame of reference that creates the illusion of time and space and cause and effect. Gunderson claimed that the crystals built this sphere as an enormous reality-bending machine that artificially imposes different frames of reference on observers who might otherwise not perceive those perspectives. Or, to use the "simplistic not at all accurate" explanation, can warp reality to different versions of reality.

The disappearance of the base camp personnel, along with other weird anomalies on the surface of Olaf are… side effects of these energies which are being bent to vast and different purposes. Gunderson claimed that even though the crystalline sentience was far too advanced to even be able to conceive of us let alone communicate with us, it had… absorbed a pair of egos from the Sol system named "Kshatra" and "India." Kvasir confirmed that according to his mesh archives both those names at least circumstantially checked out as people who exist or existed back there. This led to some concern as to how these people came into contact with these crystals, and whether the crystals have already invaded the solar system… worries for another day.

Gunderson wanted to attempt to negotiate with the crystals via the interface of these two barely-transhuman egos to try to get the base-camp personnel back. He claimed not to know what we might offer in exchange for such a favor, but seemed to think that "Kshatra" at least had a grasp of transactional economics. Gunderson claimed that the more "agreeing perspectives" we had in one place, the more stable our "framework" (or, as I doublessly erroneously understood it, our "pocket of reality"). We all sort of shrugged and said "ok" and piled into the shuttle. Gunderson led us back into the sphere where we eventually landed on a big crystal, and suddenly had our ectopic interfaces invaded by a… vision… of some yellow fractal angelic… thing. It spoke with two voices. 

The first thing it asked is who we were. I told it "Carillo Wu" but I had the distinct impression that the Kshatra/India interface was looking a lot deeper into my sense of self-identity than that. I didn't hear anyone else answer. The second thing it asked is what we wanted. I gave it the agreed party line of "the return of the Olaf scientists." Again, I didn't hear anyone else answer, but I presume they all said pretty much the same thing.

Thus began a roller-coaster that left my head spinning in seven directions at once.

Suddenly all of us (except, notably, Gunderson) found ourselves standing on Carnivale under a night sky. In one direction there was the gate. In another, the colony. Suddenly, a small army of Ultimates mercenaries burst through the gate and we had a front-row seat to the military precision and skill with which they began their assault. It was a replay of the past, but this time we were squarely in the firing line. Bullets tore into us, we scattered. Some of us refused to believe this was real and just stood there blinking. Others engaged camouflage. Suddenly Luna charged them, plasma-sword flaring. I gaped. I mean, I knew she was a bit crazy, but charging hundreds of Ultimates soldiers alone? That's just suicidal.

But then she did something… seemingly impossible. She split into thousands of copies of herself… none exactly identical to the others, more like she drew to herself all the possible versions of herself that she could. Turns out, thousands of insane sword-wielding anarchist pop-stars can do quite a number on a small army of Ultimates mercenaries. The synth-dinosaur gatecrasher among us flew over and closed the gate, stopping reinforcements from arriving. That's when we all sort of felt it… or I assume the others did… kind of like a vibration in the pit of our being… the knowledge that with a bit of effort we could just… change things. At least once. Per person.

Suddenly we found ourselves elsewhere. It was right next to the gate on the radioactive impact crater that we'd been using as a half-way house between Lassiter and Pangaea. As we gawked, the gate opened and out came a rag-tag group of desperate people led by Luis Acosta. He blinked, surprised, and then recognized Luna and the rest of us who had worked with him… as if for the first time since the Ultimates attack. Things were different. This time, they hadn't come upon the science station we set up with the help of Astraeus it was just us… and those of us playing the game of alternate-reality cause and effect in our heads realized that without Carnivale having been conquered by the Ultimates, we never fled to Lassiter, and never entered Astraeus' employ… and Acosta and his refugees never got the manufacturing capability to establish a viable colony on Pangaea. 

Indeed, we accompanied Luis back and saw the desperate straits of his hundred or so survivors. There was some debate as to whether we should open the gate to Lassiter and meet Astraeus again for the first time and establish a connection. Some among the group were hesitant, perhaps fearing her reaction to being invaded by a larger group than dropped by the first time. In all the disagreement, the group started to splinter. The crazy samurai goth-angel from Olaf just started walking off into the jungle for some goddamn reason. Suddenly, Marco got a particular look in his synthetic eye and we all felt another reality shift emanating from him. Instead of the desperate gaggle of squatters, suddenly there was a colony all around us, and Acosta and others were bringing armloads of salvaged human technology through the gate. It seems Marco changed things so that Acosta's gatecrashers found another abandoned and derelict human colony to provide them the spare parts of equipment they needed. Also, for some reason, Marco was back in his old biomorph again. The situation still wasn't as good as what we had going with Astraeus, but it was… better… and then, of course, reality changed again.

There we were, aboard the alien satellite parked above the impact crater from before. This time, the planet below looked like it had recently suffered an enormous impact event. The Olaf people were clearly frustrated by what was a seemingly abandoned satellite, but we'd been there before, and made short work of re-establishing contact with the enigmatic aliens who live in the system's sun and communicate through variable electromagnetic energy. We all had to wait the few hours for Chloelia to teach the aliens octopus color-shifting language again, but we eventually figured out that TITANs had started pouring through the gate again, and just like ten years before, the aliens threw an asteroid at them. 

In all our reality-shifting thus far, our implants, muses, and other systems seemed to shift to the current reality while our memories remained consistent. We had, by this point, become used to checking our muses to find out what time and date we were in this time. We rapidly realized that this TITAN invasion happened about a week after Luis and his people found the mysteriously abandoned and derelict human colony full of awesome technology. So… Good job Marco, you killed everyone on Pangaea with TITANs. 

That's when Kvasir shifted reality. We found ourself back on Pangaea, surrounded by desperate refugees who had just arrived, but this time, we led Luis and his forward-team through the six gate-transitions directly to Olaf, establishing a reality where the fresh Pangaea refugees established early contact with the freshly marooned Olaf expedition, allowing mutual trade and support almost from the start. We observed the aftermath of this reality… Olaf's population booming with useful Pangaea refugees bringing crates of biologicals to supplement the Olaf expedition's food stores while Olaf's science and fabrication capacity permitted Pangaea to thrive. It was almost perfect.

Almost, because all those additional people and all that additional food apparently attracted a full-scale assault by the nearby Factor sequence. More than a dozen enormous Factor eating machines attacked the camp and started eating people. I could see the expressions on the faces of my companions, especially those who had yet to exhaust themselves warping reality to their whim. We were so close to what we wanted, so close to a stable pair of colonies with all personnel accounted for, did any of us dare to make another shift without understanding the full consequences of what would happen?

The primary target locked eyes on one of the killing machines using her talents to freeze or confuse it. The corporate stooge leapt into impressively swift action, ordering scientist noncombatants to start mass-fabricating certain chemicals that apparently "smell" like the Factor words for "peace" and "sentience." Once that stuff started rolling off the fabbers and getting thrown in bucketloads at the attackers, the assault fell into chaos and confusion. Their dinosaur did some co-ordination from the skies, and everyone pitched in to stop the fight. Their crazy fashion designer practically threw himself at one of them. I felt a reality shift from that direction, but there was no apparent change… that I remember anyway.

Apparently the Factors didn't even realize we were sentient, and once they were forced to recognize that they backed off. They even vomited up the cortical stacks of the people they ate.

And things… sort of stabilized. I felt some reality shifts from the corporate goon and from our own gatecrasher, but nothing seemed to change. The… energy, for lack of a better word… that had permeated all of us dissipated. I let mine go willingly, and I got the distinct impression that the crazy samurai did the same. I did it because I didn't trust myself with that sort of power. I suspect his motives were… different.  That said, we now find ourselves in a new reality where Pangaea and Olaf are connected, we never met Astraeus or the hyperintelligent shades of the color blue. We never found the crystal-ship in the sea, nor the psychic gate-parasite. 

In fact, I'm starting to recollect memories I know shouldn't be there… memories of being on the Chat Noir side of the Fissure gate when the Ultimates attacked rather than the Carnivale-side… memories of accompanying Luis Acosta and his refugees, of Chloelia's bus being used to ferry the injured or weak, memories of Alexi's aid increasing the speed with which the gates could be cycled… memories that made Luis' refugee expedition to Pangaea safer and more successful than… my previous set of memories would indicate. In fact, now that I think about it, I have no memories of Karim Jalal at all after Marco's brief encounter with him on Carnivale prior to the Ultimates attack. 

We stuck around to help the Olaf folks in the aftermath of the Factor attack, but we need to get back to Pangaea and decide how much of our previous gatecrashing adventures we want to repeat… if any… and if so, how we want to change things this time. The moon-spiders and their deacon are still out there. Astraeus still needs raw materials. The sun-aliens are still uncontacted. Psychic parasites have left our minds uncolonized. We're starting over… sort of… but now we have regular and reasonably secure trade and communication with a significant scientific expedition who has just lost about 30 people to Factor attack. Do we dare try to find Rael Duvalier again and bargain for new biomorphs? 

I don't know. I don't know about any of it, and I'm sure you are thinking I've cracked. Doubtless you remember this new "version" of me, this new perspective, as if it has always been me. You probably don't even know what the hell I'm talking about when I talk about moon spiders and Duvalier and purple sun-aliens and the like. I'd think I was crazy if I didn't remember all of it. 

Yet it never happened.

I need a drink.

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Into the Sphere
4XP = Total 32 XP

I’ve fallen in with an odd group, although odd is definitely relative. I supposed compared to the team my initial fork still travels with this group is par for the course. Gatecrashing is a career move that definitely attracts the eccentric, and I'm certainly no exception to that rule.

Some days ago, I was monitoring the security and surveillance I set up at the expedition base camp, as usual, when I felt a… strange pressure, a premonition of some immense event, potentially devastating to all conscious minds in the camp. In a panic, I did the only thing I could think of and I downloaded myself into one of the extra splicer morphs without activating the thaw process. Apparently it worked. Next thing I knew I was looking through biological eyes at five strangers.

I did what I could to ascertain who they were. They claimed to be gatecrashers from the colony that Sanjay Rhys found, Pangaea. They apparently returned with Rhys to find everyone at base camp mysteriously gone, and some alien signal trying to co-opt our local mesh. Somehow Darius Croenig-Bern defeated this signal. I sent some mesh-inquiries to the copy of me at Croenig-Bern's camp, but he apparently departed with my primary self and is no longer in contact. The copy of me at the airlock camp confirmed the newcomers' story, however.

It seems that whatever strange force caused the Factors to vanish from base-camp's vicinity and appear near the airlock may be responsible for similarly vanishing our base camp's personnel. Since that initial incident coincided with the activation of the airlock, the only real idea I had was to see if fiddling with the airlock might change things to bring them back. It was a bit of a stretch, I know.

After sharing news with the newcomers, they agreed to use their own aircraft to travel to the airlock camp's location. They appear to have an async with them. She unnerves me, but perhaps it's just the … sensation of resonance I get when I look at her. She was very curious as to how an AGI could become infected. We spoke a bit. I feel somewhat confirmed in my decision to stay digital as often as possible. Giving the virus its way by going biological just seems to encourage it to make you less and less stable. Perhaps I'm doing her a disservice.

Their pilot is a neo-octopus. She seems quite skilled, and we were aloft and making good time. About twelve hours into our journey their scout and gatecrasher noticed refined metal on the surface which turned out to be a derelict vehicle. A quick mesh inquiry to the airlock camp indicated that none of them had lost a vehicle, which led to the hypothesis that maybe the long-lost Gunderson expedition had lost one fairly close to base camp, less than a week by surface-travel, that had been overlooked by previous flyovers.

We opted to land at the closest stretch of flat ground. As we approached the derelict vehicle, however, we noticed a humanoid form slumped against a wheel with glowing blue filaments sprouting from it and infiltrating the surrounding countryside. Alexi and Marco, being synthmorphs, opted to approach. They rapidly determined that the filaments appeared to be some sort of fungus, and highly electrified, capable of incapacitating synthmorphs. Both of them took some damage before they were able to back off. Chloelia somewhat recklessly poked a filament with a tentacle confirming that the electric shocks hurt biomorphs too. Wherever the fungus was contacted it seemed to discharge energy like a capacitor, leaving the fungus a dull blue, but also stimulated rapid growth in the direction of the contact in keeping with a "stinger" predatory style. 

After some careful analysis, it appeared that the fungus was drawing power from the dead synthmorph's power supply, and also the power supply of the vehicle. Naomi was able to leverage the body free of the fungus and onto the vehicle's roof, where Marco was able to carefully remove the cortical stack. We abandoned everything else as a lost cause. 

Once in the air, Alexi and Marco booted the stack up in a field simulspace they had. She was Xinghua Ming, a member of Gunderson's expedition. Apparently, only days out of base camp, they encountered Factors and were forced to flee a conflict after having been wounded and damaged. Six hours later, Ming's body began to malfunction and she remembered nothing more. This seemed to confirm that the fungus was some sort of Factor bio-weapon. She seemed saddened that Gunderson and her other team-mates didn't return for her. 

About six hours after we encountered the fungus most of us began showing symptoms as well. It appears the spores in the air caught in our lungs and synth bodies. I pumped myself full of anti-fungal and anti-biotic drugs, which seemed to fight it off. Chloelia found a lake to land in and submerged, drowning the fungus. Naomi just… concentrated hard… and coughed the fungal mass out of her sinuses. The synthmorphs were less lucky. Alexi caught her infection quickly and isolated the parts of herself infected until removal could be effected Marco shut himself off completely. Naomi had to perform significant cleaning and repair services to get the fungus out. Eventually we seemed clean once more.

We arrived at the airlock camp where we met the engineers who were converting the suborbital shuttle to something spaceworthy. They reported completion. Luna recruited one of Kitano's people to come with us in exchange for the loan of one of their laser-swords. We piled into the shuttle with Chloelia piloting and entered the airlock.

The trick, of course, was in opening it. I tried, but much like the attempt made by my primary fork, all I got was a headache. Naomi made an attempt to attune to the lock and… something dramatic happened. Her eyes began glowing red and she started spouting glossolalia, alien words beyond the capacity of our muses' ability to translate. A risky attempt by Alexi to distract the seemingly-possessed Naomi allowed Luna and Marco to strike her and break her connection to whatever was in her mind. Suddenly the airlock began to close above us and open beneath us. 

When the floor opened up, a lemon yellow light poured up and we faced a gulf, a vast interior space filled with skyscraper-sized glowing yellow crystals covered in traceries of alien circuitry. Hovering below us was a small shuttle and a humanoid figure in an EVA suit waving up at us. We established communication and he identified himself as Dr. Alexi Gunderson. He claimed to have opened the airlock for us and he wanted to show us a place to land where we could speak face to face.

Everyone was suitably suspicious, but after some conversation we grudgingly followed him to a landing place in the sphere's superstructure where we had an EVA-suit to EVA-suit conversation. He said a great many things about trans-dimensional theoretical physics which were fascinating, and which I'll be storing in separate data logs for further analysis. He didn't know about the missing base-camp personnel, but didn't seem surprised. He indicated that the entire sphere was an immense machine constructed solely to artificially manipulate perceptual realities. The odd events on the surface were byproducts of the sphere's true function which, Gunderson claimed, was to artificially unify the perceptual frames of reference of every piece of the vast crystalline intelligence that lives in the sphere and has propagated throughout the galaxy.

Essentially, he claimed that every intelligent yellow crystal everywhere in the galaxy is all part and parcel of one immense intelligence. It's not a hive, or a gestalt, it's just one enormously powerful sentience and the sphere is the mechanism whereby it's many far-flung pieces can think and perceive in unison.

Gunderson proposed a method whereby we might gain the return of the missing personnel. It involved seeking the attention of this meta-intelligence and gaining its cooperation in shifting "perceptual reality" such that we once more exist in a version of events where they weren't missing. Upon learning of the Ultimates' assault on the Solar system gates, he was momentarily concerned, but posited a similar shift in reality might fix that problem. Needless to say, many of us looked askance at any course of action that would draw the attention of such an entity to the Solar system, particularly in a "change reality" kind of way.

Gunderson claimed that my primary fork and the forward expeditionary force had arrived at the ruins he called "the citadel" and he offered to bring us together. His theory was that gathering a larger number of "perceptual frameworks" in one place would create an "anomaly" in the system that would be more likely to draw the attention of the crystalline intelligences for the purposes of initiating communication. We opted to follow him to join with the other group to discuss our options.

We flew through a strange blue field where I instantaneously experienced every possible version of myself through every permutation of possible events. It was… disorienting. Aside from that, nothing seems to have changed, but I'll shut down this log for later review while I make a mental inventory.

 

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The Citadel
4 XP = Total: 34 XP

Internal Log 00×343AX

Visitors have arrived. My contemplation was perturbed by shifting probability on the charm axis suggesting potential waveform shift in my immediate vicinity. The perspective variant being affected was one in which the Citadel and its vast machineries were in decay. The visitors, transhumans from the solar system equipped with a fusion-powered jet aircraft, had landed. I could not help but feel a twinge of remorse that we hadn't waited for the resources to construct one of those ourselves. We would have saved ourselves a good deal of pain and tribulation in the fungal forest.

They explored the sun towers, inadvertently activating self-repair in one of them before venturing to the entrance of the Citadel itself. Much to my surprise, one of them was touched by the sphere-builders sufficiently to activate the sun gate. I opted to immanentize in the entry to greet them.

They recognized the physical form I manifested, which was a useful data point as it suggested familiarity with the Olaf expedition. Verbal engagement confirmed this hypothesis with additional data. Apparently, the expedition I was a part of was recalled while the corporate powers-that-be hashed out ownership and exploitation rights from their shadowy rooms. These explorers were from a subsequent expedition possessing the data from the first.

I engaged them affably enough, although a certain lack of immediate trust was to be expected. The one touched by the sphere builders, Ivan, seemed willing to accept my invitation to enter the Citadel but the others were hesitant. The neo-crow and the corporate security android were cautious, but the warrior in the exotic winged biomorph seemed the most overtly hostile in a quiet way. Still, I think I intrigued them enough with the simplest explanation I could manage of this sphere's function and purpose that we will be able to engage in tentative mutual trust. 

They want to either return me to their base camp, or arrange a line of communication from there to the Citadel. The fungal forest prevents conventional communication across the vast surface of Olaf. Fortunately I am well aware of less conventional options. If these new visitors can be convinced to work with me, I look forward to showing them some of the possibilities available to one who has scratched the surface of this sphere's potential.

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Mercenary Murder
4XP = Total 28 XP

Xenolinguist's Log, Entry 3112
Cailey Macek 

Goddamnit Marco, why couldn't you have gone into a nice career like xenobotany or genehacking. I mean, don't get me wrong, you're a pretty good ego hunter, but nobody wins them all, and sometimes bad luck comes home to roost.

Apparently, according to Astraeus, your little 3-way dance with Carillo Wu and Karim Jalal come to something of a conclusion. Our companions noticed you'd been missing while they prepared to investigate this news of a dyson sphere and made some inquiries. They eventually found some evidence that Jalal had jumped you with the help of some shady colonists, stole Chloelia's shuttle, and absconded with you to parts unknown. Despite the fact that it's a big fucking planet, some good guesswork and Alexi Oda's talents for overland tracking and exploration found Jalal's hidden base where he had been building (thanks to a fabber stolen from the colony) a field-psychosurgery suite. 

The assault took the life of Venus. Luna's  posse of grenadiers is smaller by one until we can get her resleeved. The assault also took out Karim, fortunately. They found you, sort of. They recovered you. Sort of.

I can't really imagine the months of adaptive torment your ego underwent, each time your mind would break the system would map weaknesses and psychological strengths and reboot you from the cortical stack to try again. By the time it was done, it was a program custom-created to extract the maximum amount of information from your brain. I'm glad they deleted what was left. It would have broken my heart to see that version of you.

The cortical stack itself was recovered, and ultimately sleeved into one of Astraeus' synthmorphs. I know how much this must suck for you. Sources of biomorphs are few and far between, but hey, I've adjusted to my synth, you can too, and at least this way you're still alive, mind intact and unbroken. Whatever that asshole was trying to learn from you it's not worth obsessing over revenge. Hell, Karim's in Naomi's pocket anyway, so we'll have to wait until they get back from their trip to that dyson sphere that other gatecrashing team was talking about. According to that raven in charge, Sanjay, their home base has access to biomorphs, so maybe there will be some good news in a few days.

I can't tell you this to your face right now because your revenge settings are still maxed out, but I care about you. You're alive, but you could easily have not been, all because some psycho asshole was trying to get closer to Naomi. I don't know why she's so important to you, why she stopped being just another job, nor do I understand why Carillo seems to be doing something similar, but she's trouble. I like her well enough, but you need to re-evaluate your existence a bit. Maybe some time in a synth will be good for you.

Here's hoping.

 

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