Report to the Eye, Stored in Local Memory until Connection Established
Sentinel: Lieke Romijnsen
As we approached the airlock into the center of the dyson sphere that is the planet of Olaf, we were surprised to note a new passenger suddenly in the shuttle with us. This was to be the second time through the sphere for most of my companions. Only Melanwy and I hadn't been here the first time around. Naomi had just finished speculating that every trip we take through the sphere alienates us further from reality when a fellow oozing "smug scientist" popped into existence and agreed with her.
It seems he was there to offer us a choice. As we approached the airlock we were shocked to discover legions and battalions of crystal-powered war machines pouring forth from it. Darius Cronig-Bern, our exsurgent-powered communiation system, reported he was suddenly cut off from the copy of him back at base camp, as if we had shifted to a reality where base camp didn't exist. As we hovered there watching machines of war march toward the gate, our new visitor, "Dr. Gunderson", gave us his pitch.
He told us that the recently-released aliens from the species who built the sphere confronted a vast fungal forest that was, in truth, the Factor equivalent of a TITAN and as a defensive mechanism the crystalline intelligence shunted reality rather more dramatically than usual. We were now in a facet of reality where the Fa Jing hypercorporation had started actively importing yellow crystal into the solar system, and the crystals began aggressively harvesting humanity to "incorporate" all of us into its matrix. In response, Astraeus began building a resistance army to salvage humanity by any means possible. This "Second Fall" happens in dozens, hundreds, of facets of reality, and it's just part of a vast "war" that he claimed he was cultivating us to fight in.
Gunderson claimed that the crystalline matrix wasn't entirely unified across all facets of reality. Some portions of it did not believe in assimilating all intelligent life in the galaxy. In some facets of reality this faction was extinguished and all life was assimilated. In others, Olaf itself was entirely destroyed. The balance of these things across a "limited infinite distribution" of reality was in flux, and his faction needed agents capable of perceiving multiple facets of reality at once, and nudging the versions of themselves in those facets toward actions and results leading to needed outcomes.
Basically he was offering to make us immortal entities, floating backward and forward through time trying to nudge and influence infinite realities to shift the overall balance toward Olaf's destruction… a task he admitted up front would be infinite, eternal, and ultimately unwinnable. The goal was ongoing reality momentum, not a victory that would mark any sort of conclusion… an eternal struggle to keep the balance of reality for our species tipped toward survival.
It sounded like a shitty, shitty job. It also sounded like the sort of job I couldn't possibly pass up.
There was a lot of discussion among my companions. One of them, Carillo Wu, snapped. He indicated there wasn't enough money in the solar system to make up for the crazy he was enduring, and that no job was worth this. He told Gunderson he wanted to live a normal life, not locked in some crazy endless struggle across all possible realities. Gunderson asked if he was sure. He said he was. Carillo then vanished completely from the shuttle and suddenly all of us had two sets of conflicting memories… one in which Carillo had accompanied us on the shuttle, and another wherein he had chosen to stay on Pangaea with Andy Westingbrooke.
The rest of us, with a wide variety in motivations and enthusiasm for the pitch, agreed to proceed. Gunderson indicated it wasn't yet an irrevocable choice, but that he felt we were approaching the point of no return and wanted to make sure we walked into it with eyes open, understanding the choices before us. He vanished, the war machines disappeared revealing instead an overgrown, broken airlock. Darius was reconnected with himself. We were back in a facet of reality close to the one we'd arrived in (with the notable difference of Carillo still being gone).
Melanwy and Naomi got the airlock repaired and open and we found ourselves in the heart of the sphere of Olaf. It was… disconcerting and beautiful. The red dwarf burning in the center, the distant, lichen-looking constellations of yellow light from continent-sized cities of crystal all along the inside of the sphere… Chloelia seemed to know where she was going. We passed through a yellow haze of light and… I was suddenly, simultaneously, all possible version of myself in existence.
I can't describe it. It still makes me break out into a cold sweat to remember it. I don't know how my companions willingly did this a second time.
But after it was over, I found it easier to reconcile my conflicting memories about Carillo Wu.
A week of flying through the sphere proves that even in the most fantastic circumstances boredom is never far away. We eventually found the airlock we were looking for and emerged in what looked like a derelict fortress, but was probably some enormous cooling system. In the distance was a fungal forest, as described by my companions, but even they seemed surprised at its… poisonously pink coloration.
We flew cautiously into it, and after about a day of travel Alexi found signs of a large mass of refined metal buried under the pink fungus. We landed a bit away from it, outfitted ourselves in EVA suits in case the fungal spores were poisonous, and headed out to explore. Melanwy saved my life by pointing out some particularly nasty growths capable of shooting out tendrils tipped with barbed points. We cautiously avoided the hostile flora and found what looked like a derelict craft of some sort, dramatically overgrown with the pink fungal growths. There was one apparent entrance.
Inside, curiously, all was sterile and pristine. The fungus could not, it seems, get a foothold. The ship was full of oval-shaped passages of all sizes and shapes… practically swiss-cheesed. Chloelia believed they weren't intended as passageways for corporeal crew, although that might be a secondary function. Naomi found, behind a hidden panel, a strange cylinder large enough to accommodate one person. The floor was of a strange black glass, and inside was a human biomorph suspended in a quasi-real state. He was semi-tangible and unmoving.
Alexi went to return to the shuttle to share the XP of the guy we found with Darius to see if that was the copy of him we knew had been traveling with the aliens, but she didn't get far before being speared by the forest. Apparently it was hungry even for synthmorphs. Chloelia and Melanwy and I went to the rescue leaving Naomi with the guy we found. We brought the damaged Alexi back to the bus for decontamination. It looked like the spores were getting into her and inferfering with her systems, maybe even hacking her cyberbrain. We cleared the spores out, and she was able to confirm that the forest was angry, deprived of its power source, and seeking to gather nutrients and power from all available sources… thus the hostile and carnivorous flora. We also noticed that in the short time we were gone the fungus had already grown significantly over our transporatation, apparently seeking a way to access our power source. Chloelia pulled the shuttle loose and we went to retrieve Naomi.
Melanwy and I went back inside where we found the splicer morph that did, in fact, contain the fork of Darius lying confused on the ground and Naomi was now hovering, semi-tangible, in the cylinder. Darius confirmed it was a control system of some sort that he was trying to use to fly the ship away after the aliens left to confront the forest. He said that he was unable to fully bridge the comprehension gap necessary to actually fly the thing as it requires "multiplicity of perspective but unity of purpose." He and Melanwy were able to free Naomi from her own entrapment through means I don't comprehend and we fled the ship to our own shuttle, although not without some regret at leaving the vessel behind.
We're traveling on toward the gate, now, to see what can be seen of how the aliens severed this vast computational forest from its power source.