Expedition Log Entry 11
Well, we've stumbled into some interesting times, certainly, but dire straights make for strange bedfellows. We were three jumps out of the Discord gate, having made it out right before the Ultimates turned on Fa Jing, when our first-in robot detected an airless moon orbiting a planet with a promising starfield to get us closer to Sol. As we stepped through, though, something went… wrong.
It wasn't a gate-calculation error, it was a gate fluctuation of some sort. I only vaguely recall what seems like an eternity of surreal dreams when suddenly we found ourselves stepping out onto a subtropical beach and into the waiting arms of a reception party. The spokesman greeted me by name, which was the first bit of oddity. Sure, I have a certain fame in certain circles, but he greeted me like he was expecting me to step out. So I'm coming to terms with the idea that maybe we were somehow diverted here when our reception committee dropped the further bomb that the gate we had just stepped out of had been deactivated. Not just "off" but non-functional, and I was introduced to the person who managed to turn it back on, apparently saving us from an eternity in limbo.
So I'd heard of Alexi Oda before, a relatively new gatecrasher working out of Chat Noir with the Love and Rage Collective. She had a bit more fame than her relatively new entry into the field would otherwise warrant thanks to the fact that she's a Canaanite, one of the recently-resurrected Earthers brought back to life by Danielle Astra on Venus. Apparently she's taken to the gatecrashing lifestyle with aplomb.
After disposing of some sort of… chameleon parasite that had attached itself to our party with false memories of past camaraderie, we headed across the sea in a transport to check out this colony of Pangaea. As we approached, and I got access to their local mesh, even more unbelievable things became apparent. In reviewing the logs of the colony's flight from the Fissure Gate I saw no fewer than four patently impossible feats of gate-programming by Alexi, not to mention the staggering unlikelihood that she would just happen on a direct, SIX gate sequence to a scientific expedition on a goddamn DYSON sphere. Even Luis Acosta had apparently fallen for the "she's a damn good gatecrasher" narrative… but nobody is that good. It's mathematically improbable. This led me to the conclusion that Alexi has been doing a bunch of off-the-books gatecrashing for interests powerful and rich enough to keep her expeditions off the mesh.
And then I met her. No sooner had we boarded the transport to the colony but the spokesman, Marco, was giving me the hard sell on a mission to a moon full of infectious mutants. I got the distinct impression that not only did he somehow know that my team and I were trapped in that gate, but that they freed us specifically for some extra guns against these "moon spiders." There were just too many mysteries in the air to pass up the challenge, even if the rationale for WHY we were going to some nowhere moon to fight mutants didn't entirely add up. After getting our sign on, Alexi took us through two gate transits to a gate contained in what felt like an orbital station where we met Danielle Astra herself.
There was always something a bit off about the official explanation for Astra and the 43 million people she just happened to have in storage from the Fall. Now it appears that she has extensive extrasolar interests. Suddenly Alexi's secret knowledge was starting to make sense. Astra has a network of tens of millions of grateful people. That's a hell of a resource.
So we equipped up, got armored vac-suits, some explosives, some weapons upgrades, the usual stuff. We then stepped through onto the advertised airless moon. At Marco's direction, I led my fire team toward a nearby crevasse to confront the mutants when another member of the party who had been fairly quite until then, Naomi called a halt. She said she could hear the "singing" of the mutants, and that there were hundreds of them spread in tunnels over a kilometer of terrain. Suddenly I grokked what was going on. She's an async. We re-evaluated tactics. We needed a choke point where we could hold off superior numbers. Marco suggested a tunnel half a click away. It was clear they were operating on some prior intelligence of the tunnel layout. Marco kept mentioning a "simulation" but in a tone of voice that made it clear he was using that word as a euphemism for the real source of their knowledge.
Before we made it to the tunnel, the advertised moon spiders attacked. We made a co-ordinated tactical advance to the tunnel, taking no significant damage. The things were biological, but encased in a hard crab-like exoskeleton. It seemed exactly like the sort of thing a group of exhumans would design and sleeve into, which confirmed Naomi's suspicions. Speaking of Naomi, she can apparently kill moon spiders (and presumably people) with a harsh look. I'd best not piss her off.
We set up in the tunnel in a draw-and-cull tactic while my infiltration team, along with theirs (two neo-octopi named Chloelia Octavia and Cassius) headed down-tunnel to find the human leader of these exhumans, a "deacon" in the Church of Luminous Saints. I'd heard of those guys back in the Sol system. I had no idea they were engaged in extrasolar activities, but apparently they're even crazier than I'd been lead to believe.
We made piles of spider-bodies for a bit. A quiet-but-capable member of their team named Melanwy Satrapi (whose name I recognized from Venusian entertainment XP from a few months back) suddenly snapped, dropped her gun, and waded into the mass of moon-spiders, each one five times her mass, and started literally slapping them with a shock glove. I had to focus down my side of the tunnel, but I was momentarily sure she had gone suicidal. When I was able to glance back around, though, she was grace incarnate, and each slap was putting down a spider. I realized that glove had a lot more oomph behind it than I'd guessed. She was a ninja-ballerina. I would have watched more but I had moon-spiders to shoot.
At that point there was a small earthquake and we realized that all or most of the explosives we'd brought had been detonated. I suddenly realized that Alexi had been carrying them all, and that I hadn't seen her since we arrived. Apparently she'd gone with the infiltration team, and has some stealth-tech built into that synth morph of hers. This, and Melanwy's advance, seemed to demoralize the spiders, who retreated.
We made our way deeper, found the deacon's moon-buggy and supplies, along with Cassius and my two people who indicated that Chloelia was just about to drop on the deacon for a targeted assassination when Alexi set off the explosives. Naomi did her async stuff and thought Chloelia was still alive but in need of assistance. Marco indicated the entrance to the "cathedral" was blocked by rubble. Setting aside how he knew there WAS a cathedral, and which tunnel led to it, I determined we didn't have time to dig it out and we set about finding an alternate entrance.
I'm not sure what the "cathedral" looked like before a half-dozen cluster-charges went off inside it. When we arrived it was painted with spider bits, and Alexi was excavating a collapsed stairwell-tunnel in the back. We re-established wireless with Chloelia who was apparently holding off moon-spiders by using their deacon as a human shield. We orchestrated a fire-line extraction, killing the deacon and the moon spiders. Cassius, who had been providing eyes on the targets, indicated an "airlock" down there. This caused various members of the other team to get shifty.
Aha, I thought to myself, now we're getting into WHY this mission was so important. There's some hidden facility here that Astra doesn't want the Church of Luminous Saints to find and dig up. Melanwy came clean, and explained that this was a doomsday bunker set up by "a clandestine organization" as insurance against the extinction of transhumanity. The moon was code-named "Bastion" and this was "Refuge C." There were a million egos stored down there. Holy shit. Alexi opened the airlock after Naomi confirmed "moon spider singing" from inside.
Hot damn. The underground facility looks like it was grown using the same nanotech used in Hamilton cylinders, which is not cheap or easy to get. The central "room" was about 4 km across and about 1km in height, vaguely lozenge-shaped, with banks and banks of ego-storage racks and simulspace equipment. A projection flickered to light revealing a matronly woman naming herself Angelica who began almost immediately going into crazy religious convert-mode. Astra's team sighed and muttered about needing to destroy everything. I thought killing a million people over religious ideology a bit… much… and said so. Apparently they too realized they needed a bit more precision here and so Marco began a high-stakes, high-risk bluffing game, pretending to be a new convert and indicating a desire to help.
Angelica seemed to buy it, but insisted we disarm first. Marco gave up his gun to the reaper-class morph that dropped from the ceiling, autofire heavy railgun spun up and all. This was too much for me. My team and I indicated we'd retreat and retain our weapons. Naomi handed me a sweet anti-materiel rifle, and Melanwy gave up her gun too. I note she kept the juiced up shock glove. We moved away to provide heavy-support if needed.
Apparently the plan went mostly ok. Marco got his people into place so they could fry the simulspaces hosting the awakened and converted egos (about 30 people). Sadly, one convert was sleeved in that reaper, and we had to come in guns blazing. I wasn't quick enough to save Marco's leg, sadly. He, Naomi, and Melanwy got shot up pretty badly. And THEN the hidden moon spiders attacked. A short, brutal fight later, we were left standing, Marco's wounds were stabilized and all damaged suits were repaired. While Marco got transported to the escape-buggy, I had Sanjay look through the local systems to ensure no viruses or malware or other surprises for the sleeping inhabitants and to shut the facility down.
The stuff he found was… disturbing. Apparently the facility included full technology templates for all known human technology, four cornucopia machines, and regularly-updated archives of all human knowledge even down to the gossip XP out of Mars. Apparently there's a system for updating this place despite it having no physical accesses, and someone does so regularly.
But it was the people Sanjay was most disturbed by. They're a random selection of infugees who couldn't find a hab to take them, or bought in cheap bulk off the Martian indenture exchanges, along with hundreds of thousands of people from… every conceivable walk of life. I have no idea how this "clandestine organization" trafficked so many people.
And then I started to put together some things. Astra had 43 million in storage. They were all supposedly infugees from the Fall, but do we really know that? She clearly knew this facility was here and sent her personal team to secure it. Who is Danielle Astra? Why is she trafficking in transhuman egos on a staggering, industrial scale? I mean, this place would put Nine Lives to shame back at their height.
I'm going to keep my mouth shut for now. My team and I are more or less at the mercy of Astra and her people, who seem to be integral in establishing Pangaea and keeping this little outpost of humanity alive. But I'm going to need answers sooner or later.