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.