Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

Dimensional Parasites
3 XP = 20 XP Total

Pangaea Colony Journal, Entry 72
Luis Acosta

Our arrangement with "Danielle Astra" continues to bear fruit. The colony takes shape and soon we will start receiving the synthmorphs to resleeve our companions who died on our journey to this place. I am reminded, however, of the constant dangers that abound when seeking to establish a colony on an alien world far from the Sol system. I'm a gatecrasher and a scout, not a politician or leader, but these people look to me and I must do what I can. Some challenges, though, tax me greatly.

Astra's team, who were once part of my team back on Carnivale, continue to seek out these challenges. I should be grateful to them for finding them and warning me of them, but sometimes I wonder if they are somehow magnets for this sort of trouble. First, they informed me that Marigold, our resident mad cultist from the Church of Luminous Saints, might be infected with some sort of TITAN STD, and that she and any prior sexual partners she may have received should be quarantined and investigated. They said something about "moon spiders" and mutation. I did the best I could to avoid a panic and mentioned only that they may have picked up something from one of the planets we passed through, and I asked them to consent to some blood tests. Those tests are still being analyzed. Fortunately, Marigold is not a particularly appealing sexual partner (unless you like burn-scarred adolescents), and so any potential vectors were limited at best.

Later, they took a vehicle constructed for them by Astra through the gates back along the route that we took to get here. As they passed through the gate to the icy world we navigated prior to finding this place, they found themselves accompanied by a companion named "Aletheia Thompson", a gatecrasher they all remembered, albeit vaguely, as being a useful and friendly companion. Naomi, however, had cause for suspicion, and as they traveled the icy wastes looking for useful resources, that suspicion spread. Despite clearly remembering Aletheia's prior companionship, they started to doubt their own memories. When Alexi and Aquila noticed signs of data-corruption in their ego-emulations as if their minds had been hacked, they began to fear their new companion.

Sadly, they drove their new vehicle into a crevasse. As they sought to climb out, Marco kneecapped Altheia whereupon she deliquesced into greenish goo. Somehow, some sort of psychic parasite hitched a ride out of the gate with them, implanting memories or co-opting existing ones. They walked back to the gate, wounded and confused, but they did find the corpse of James, along with his frozen supplies. I thought we'd lost him when we came that way. I'm sure Johann will be pleased that his husband was recovered. My concern is the possibility that one or more of these parasites hitched a ride with US when we came through that very gate. How many of my hundred-plus companions are really human? I'll need to come up with some way to implement blood testing for potential xenofloral infection or some such excuse.

In the wake of these unfortunate events, the gatecrashing team opted to spend the last month surveying Pangaea by shuttle. On one of the ocean archipelagoes they discovered a second gate. It was apparently (somehow) inactive, but Alexi managed to power it up whereupon another gatecrashing team stumbled out! It's Andy Westingbrooke! I had feared I'd never see her again. She and her entire team were somehow trapped between worlds for a week and a half before the archipelago gate's activation drew them through. There was some… "gate weirdness" but we may actually have a route back to the Pandora gate now, dangerous though it may be! I should have known I could rely on Andy to find a way though. She's one of the finest I've ever worked with.

Also, having a dozen trained combat-capable exoplanetary explorers will not go amiss in defending the colony from the next weird or alien threat to arise. 

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Transdimensional Theory
5 XP = Total 18 XP

Reflection Journal of Allegra Nourish
Entry 232

It is becoming clearer with every passing day that this planet will prove to be the ultimate test of our worthiness. Kitano-sama has done well to bring us here. This planet will challenge our bodies but most importantly our minds and our ability to adapt to situations far beyond our comfort zones.

As we prepared to leave the site of the enormous airlock into the interior of the planet, the copy of Kvasir we left behind at base camp informed us that, with timing coincident to the opening of that airlock, the Factor colonies near the base camp simply vanished. Not only did they vanish, but all signs of their previous habitation were erased as if they had never been there. Subsequent aerial surveillance by Amber Jin Feng revealed a colony of a similar size a couple kilometers away that hadn't been there before. She also noted subtle variations in local geographical features. Although multiple theories were posited, the one that seems to have the most traction is that the planet can somehow manipulate dimensional reality, substituting versions of itself for other versions either wholly or in part, and that this may be the explanation for the touchy gate connections and other anomalies noted by the prior expedition.

Whatever the case, it seemed a poor idea to leave the airlock-site with nearby Factors without at least attempting to ensure they don't try to predate our engineering team which was even then gathering themselves to begin the long trek. We moved into the heavily-forested area surrounding the small canyon wherein the Factor colony lived. It became rapidly clear that these Factors hunt by way of stretching themselves as thin, sticky films between branches and just beneath surface layers of dirt. Three of our number were trapped. All three were synthmorphs, which appeared to confuse the Factors somewhat. After spritzing the area with "diplomacy" scents, Ivan Kuro unzipped the scent-dampening suit to expose bare flesh, and initiated skin-to-skin contact with a Factor.

If the expression on his face was any indication, he experienced something traumatic and extraordinary. Hopefully he possesses the personal strength and fortitude to grow from this. He reported that the Factor was interfacing with his mind in some async capacity, and notwithstanding the alien thought processes, a basic communication was established. I will summarize what was learned. 

The Factors believed that they had lived there for some 77 local days, and that the airlock has been whole and functional for years. This directly contradicts our own recent experiences, but plays into the theory of dimensional flux. The Factors dimly remember high technology, particularly one of their own space ships, but they (or their ancestors) were exiled here in the dim past, presumably because they were infected with an async virus. They were unaware that bipeds like ourselves were sapient, and felt shame at having consumed one, presumably a member of Dr. Gunderson's expedition. They were willing to communicate and negotiate mutual non-hostility now that they know what our general physicality appears to be to them. 

Of more ephemeral, but doubtless personal interest to Ivan was insight into Factor psychology. I suspect he'll be meditating on his experience for some time to come.

After determining that the local Factor colony was unlikely to be a problem for our engineering backup team, we communicated all of this to base camp and departed. Base camp added some additional personnel to the backup team, including our exolinguist, who is excited to duplicate Ivan's first contact feat of communication.

We flew for many more days, passing over a mountain range and over a dry scrub plain. Amber found a long-decayed construct buried in the sands which should provide a very valuable source of exotic metals and radioactive isotopes for the long-term survival of our expedition. The backup team was notified of its location. Eventually we reached a stormy highland and the ruins first detected by the first expedition's satellite, and the presumed destination of Dr. Gunderson and his team a couple of years ago.

We found the remnants of Gunderson's camp, as well as a single grave for Dr. Sarah Mason, microbiologist. Our medic, Angel, was set the task of autopsy while the rest of us explored the strange edifice. It became rapidly apparent that the "ruin" was a derelict spacecraft of some sort. The entire structure appeared constructed from the same faintly iridescent alloy. Something about the structure sings to me, as it does to all of us blessed with the Barabbas strain. There were no obvious mechanisms or controls inside the craft, nor labels or writing with the exception of extensive and intricate scrawls in a human hand of complex mathematical equations. It would appear Dr. Gunderson and his team took copious notes, using the walls of the craft itself as their canvas. Some study hypothesized that they were trying to theorize how the vehicle functions, using the vehicle itself as a reference and text. 

As we spent days in and around the craft, the wind and rain howling outside, our connection to base camp severed either through weather or some other accident, we started to realize that this vessel was never intended to traverse physical space, but was rather built to shift through space-time or through dimensions, or some other esoteric form of travel. We eventually discovered the egg-like control pod, or so we assumed it was because of the unusual material constituting the disc of the floor… a substance that absorbs all electromagnetic energy, appearing to be a black so pure as to evoke nothingness, yet remaining solid. 

Despite a lack of power to any system, and the inert nature of everything discovered thus far, this disc of material, slightly more than a meter in diameter, called to us. Kitano-sama reached out to it with the Barabbas strain and awoke some faint response in the material. It created a faint purple penumbra around his handprint, and caused him to faint. Amber dragged him off the material with what I thought was undue haste. When I woke him he reported having experienced all of space and time and seemed suspicous that the people around him weren't the same versions of ourselves that he had known. 

As we discussed these implications, Angel reported that Dr. Mason had apparently died of an aneurysm. This prompted a discussion of whether perhaps she had experienced something similar to Kitano-sama. Kitano-sama wished to bring her head with us on our continued journeys in case his developing mastery of the Barabbas strain might someday gain something useful from it. This prompted an argument. Amber had a strong negative emotional reaction to the idea. This dispute necessitated a demonstration. Kitano-sama took a sample of muscle tissue from Dr. Mason and exercised the Barabbas strain's influence. This sliver of tissue began rapidly growing, regenerating into almost a complete arm before suddenly and messily exploding in acidic slime, causing minor burns to many present. This demonstration seemed to placate some and horrify others, but Kitano-sama was ultimately able to secure cooperation in taking Dr. Mason's head with us. 

At that point, he became suddenly impaled upon his muramasa, as wielded by someone who appeared in all ways to be a perfect duplicate seeking to determine which between them was the stronger.

The subsequent combat was a beautiful thing to behold. I will save a more thorough description for my next entry.

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Hyperintelligent Shade of the Color Blue
4 XP = Total 17 XP

Xenolinguist's Log, Entry 2075
Cailey Macek

Finally, after all my training and theoretical modeling, I've encountered and begun developing a grammar and vocabulary for my first alien language… and it's the color-language of the Giant Pacific Octopus. Sigh.

I'm actually being facetious to cover for the incredible awe at actually encountering an alien sentience for the first time. Sure, I've studied all the interactions with the Factors back in the Sol system, but this… this was beyond my greatest expectations when I started gatecrashing. Just because the aliens ended up learning one of OUR languages doesn't mean I won't eventually figure out how to talk to them in theirs.

So… yeah… backstory: We, the Lassiter team employed by Danielle Astra, spent most of a week helping Acosta organize the new colony on the exoplanet that has been dubbed "Pangaea." We provided the microfacturing technology and finished goods, they provided manpower in collecting raw materials from the exoplanet that lies between Lassiter and Pangaea, which we should probably name something other than "radioactive giant crater world." The plan was a mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services to help Pangaea become something more viable than a castaway squatter's camp while also helping Astra with her goals, and simultaneously, eventually, getting enough spare feedstock and production capacity to build an orbital rocket capable of getting an exploration team up to one of the big alien satellites circling radioactive giant crater world.

My brother and his creepy friends wandered around getting to know the colonists, Chloelia Octavia palled around with the other uplifts and shady sorts, Luna even gave an amazing concert as a morale booster, even convincing Acosta and Alexi Oda to be backup dancers, to much catastrophic comic relief. Eventually things started to look more like a colony and less like a catastrophe. 

I stayed at Pangaea while my brother and his team went back to radioactive giant crater world to more thoroughly check out the ruins of that TITAN war factory they found. Unfortunately, they found a handful of active TITAN headhunter bots that they had to destroy, and something… even more awful buried deep. They left it buried. After a lengthy quarantine with Astra, they reported their findings and she sent a specialist. I think we should just leave it buried and not poke at it, but hey, I'm not a hyperintelligent computer program.

One benefit of poking at the TITAN factory was Alexi found a storage room filled with carefully-stored exotic metals which boosted our rocket ship production timetable dramatically. It's a modular design so we could get the pieces through the gate, and so there's lots of points of potential failure, but it slotted together nicely enough. It's surprisingly large, probably in case there's plunder to bring back from the satellites… or maybe it's to fit enough thug-types to ensure the safety of the explorers. Whatever the reason, I was super happy there was plenty of room for an exolinguist!

So we blasted off and found the satellite. It was… bigger than I imagined. More like an orbital space station than a satellite. We docked, donned our suits and ventured inside. There was atmosphere, although it was an odd mix of gasses. There was enough oxygen that the biomorphs among us could theoretically breathe for about twenty minutes before getting lightheaded and eventually passing out… but the trace gasses were really weird. Lots of noble gasses and more exotic ones in trace amounts. 

At first it looked like we were going to be disappointed. The whole thing seemed abandoned. There was tons of inscrutable machinery, and it was pretty clear it wasn't built by the Factors or the Iktomi or any of the other alien civilizations whose ruins we've found, but there was zero trace of any biological material. As we wandered, though, we started to notice that the interior lighting was following us, and even weirder, the light spectra being emitted was precisely calibrated for transhuman eyes. There were no wavelengths outside of that spectrum being emitted by the interior lights, even though those lights seemed capable of extraordinary precision and an incredibly diverse range.

This prompted some experimentation. Chloelia learned that if she wandered off by herself, the interior lights only emitted spectra visible to her octopus morph, which isn't quite the same range as the biomorphs. When Alexi or I shifted our visual sensors to pick up wavelengths into the infrared or ultraviolet, the interior lights shifted to accommodate. Some intelligence within the station was capable of reading our biological and synthetic visual sensors accurately, in real time, and project appropriate wavelengths of light.

Each end-cap of the cylindrical station was a dome capable of being opaque or transparent. On one end, the dome room contained only six machines, equally spaced around the central shaft through which we entered. Each machine seemed to be extremely powerful emitters for electromagnetic radiation, much like the interior lighting but even more so. Alexi decided on a whim to push a random button and, luckily, it proved to be the right one. The entire apparatus turned on, the dome went opaque, and pulses of light began churning into the room at wavelengths even I couldn't see after the tiny flash from the machines. Clearly they were building to an intense amount of light deep below the ultraviolet spectrum… maybe even down to X-rays. I began to worry that my squishier companions might get cancer.

Then the Thing appeared. It looked something like brain cells fluorescing a deep, pulsing purple, and they appeared to be growing throughout the station, filling the central shaft and the various layer-cake levels… places we'd been physically walking without realizing we were… inside it. It seemed only quasi-real, not entirely solid, but it started flashing and pulsing at us.

This began a very unusual dialogue. Chloelia, having the natural capacity to shift colors dramatically and rapidly, began mimicking its pulses, and it in turn began mimicking her colors. After some time at this, it apparently got a good enough read of her neurology to start painstakingly learning the color-language of the giant pacific octopus. It was a very lengthy affair, but the time seemed to zip right by for me. I found the whole thing fascinating. I recorded all of it, and I've attached the XP to this log entry along with my notations. I had Chloelia speak out to provide translations for the color shifts and patterns. Unsurprisingly, the color-language of the octopus is fairly simple, focused on predator-prey notions and natural/survival concepts, but there was surprising nuance, mostly conveyed through surface patterns.

The alien brain-thing seemed to pick it up pretty quickly, and eventually we established a basic communication. The first thing it wanted to know is if we were the "same" as the creatures that came "on the dark current" before us. We inferred it meant the TITANS, and explained that we had "birthed our own predators" and that they were "no longer hunting us, but we can't see them." It seemed to accept this. Perhaps it had seem such cycles of self-destruction before. It seemed to view us as "infants" and held off destroying us when it sensed gate activity out of curiosity. We told it we were lost and trying to find our way back home. It seemed willing to let us continue to do so. It called itself the "Children of the Sun." It spoke in both singular and plural. Either it's one enormous entity, or a gestalt, or a hive mind or something. Hell, I don't know. That's not my area. 

It seems this intelligence evolved or belongs in this solar system. It seems (and again, I'm inferring a lot from relatively simple language) that something else built the gate, and the "Children of the Sun" have worked to keep it bottled up. Anytime something awful comes through, they throw an asteroid at it, like they did with the TITANS ten years ago. I kinda wonder how often they've had to do this over the years. It also had a negative reaction to Naomi, calling her "poisoned" and "possibly poisonous." I assume it meant her Watts-MacLeod infection. It seems this quasi-dimensional intelligence really has a thing against it and anything related to it (like the TITANS). Hey, at least it didn't bombard the planet just because she was down there, or airlock all of us because she came aboard.

It did express concern that we'd been poking in the TITAN ruins, but it did promise to warn us if it felt the need to throw an asteroid at the gate again. We asked what the warning would be. The dome went transparent and suddenly the sun turned purple.

Yeah. So… out on a limb… maybe that enormous artificial structure in the sun's corona is the … home base? central mind? Whatever? of this thing, and this intelligence has mastered stellar mechanics to the point where it can influence the spectra of light emitted by this system's sun. 

Kinda mind-blowing.

We figured that was plenty of crazy to absorb in one go. It indicated that communicating with us on our level was exhausting for it, but it was receptive to the idea of further talks later. We returned to our ship and back down to the planet where the miners confirmed the sun's brief color change. 

So, yeah! I've got an alien language! Octopus! Or, rather, the hyperintelligent quasi-dimensional being that can manifest to us under certain shades of deep ultraviolet radiation is capable of speaking octopus, and therefore so must we.

 

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Portals
4xp = 13 XP Total

Medical Technician's Log – Angel – Entry 54

I swear to god Gatecrashers must have some fundamental psychological flaw. They're like moths drawn to bug zappers or lemmings to cliffs (all right, I've heard that last one is a myth, but you get the idea). Take for example Ivan Kuro. Not only is it a bit odd that a high-end fashion designer is even here in the first place, it turns out he's incorporated alien tech into his fashion, and practically licks anything alien we find… repeatedly… even after the first lick laid him out. I'm tempted to just… NOT medic him next time he flash-burns himself on a piece of inscrutable alien tech.

I should probably start at the beginning. The base camp team finally got our fusion-powered aircraft assembled. It's an unwieldy thing built on the "long range cargo plane" model rather than the zippy jet model, but it has big bouncy tires and doesn't require a runway that's TOO smooth… and it can land on water. Fourteen of us loaded up the plane with supplies, scientific instruments, a crate of Spare morphs, and a set of TerraGenesis's high-end laser/microwave link portable self-repairing mesh nodes. The plan was to fly toward the nearest ruins some 70,000 kilometers from base camp to see if we can find anything of Dr. Gunderson's long-lost expedition. We were to set up the mesh nodes on the way, and they would maintain LoS laser / microwave links back to basecamp, a sort of hovering umbilical for data back and forth. It's a bit tenuous when dealing with distances this enormous, and any one break in the link will bring down the whole umbilical, but it's better than nothing.

We were about four days out of base camp and about halfway to the ruins when Amber Jin Feng spotted something odd and distinctly artificial. Fortunately it was close to a lake, and we were able to land the plane notwithstanding the forest canopy. We saw what looked like a sizeable construction of circles… interlocking rings made of a strange metallic substance with a very low friction gradient. Broken parts of the structure showed the interior or the ring-like mechanisms made out of some sort of porous metallic "foam". There was some sort of liquid, maybe lubricant? leaking out into the local water table… we wondered what it was doing to the wildlife. 

In our explorations, it became clear that the mechanism wasn't entirely broken. It seemed to react to some of us, but not all of us, specifically [[:kiyoshi-noah-kitano | Kitano]] and his sidekick Saito, Kvasir, and Ivan (although later it seemed more likely that it was reacting to Ivan's alien-fashion rather than Ivan himself. Eventually it came out that Kvasir's an async. That… upset me. I've been working with the guy for months now, you'd think he'd let us in on it. Diederich apparently knew. Ah well. Just means I'll have to be a little more careful should Kvasir ever become wounded while in a biomorph, an eventuality that seems unlikely. As for Kitano… he apparently has something unusual going on. In typical fashion he refused to explain.

So the mechanism apparently reacts to people infected by odd Titan plagues and alien tech. Ivan's shock glove started sparking a hot yellow energy far in excess of any capacitors a normal shock glove would have. Of course he had to walk up and touch the structure with it which knocked him out. He reported seeing a strange vision / dream of the red dwarf we theorize sits at the heart of this immense world. The broken structure also leaked different colored fluids in response to different people from the team. Analysis of the fluid revealed it to be a smart-liquid of some sort… each molecule is an alien nanomachine of unknown function or purpose. Needless to say, the eggheads back in base camp dropped whatever they were doing to analyze the data we were sending back via the umbilical.

Amber's aerial reconnaissance revealed that the structure was an immense buried "donut", mostly covered in soil, trees, etc. with a swampy valley in the center about 10km across. As members of the team clambered all over this buried structure, though, it started activating, shaking the trees, rocks, and soil loose under them and nearly burying them. They retreated to the swampy center, but the water and soil started to subside, and they fled back out through the broken segment. It seemed the structure had initiated a self-repair diagnostic. It started cannibalizing dirt, rock, and biological matter to use in self-repair fabrication. After about six hours, we were looking at a large, 10km wide, 15m tall donut of moving, interlocking rings and wheels surrounding a flat "courtyard" like center of similarly moving, interlocking machinery. It was pretty clear that the courtyard was not intended for people to stand on, as its moving parts would crush someone pretty quick.

Needless to say, there was a lot of speculation coming down the umbilical for what this immense machine was for. Kvasir came to the intuitive conclusion that it was a portal into the interior or the sphere. He and Ivan tried to see if they could poke it with whatever. Kvasir got his Spare morph fried, and Ivan got his flesh fried doing exactly what he did before… touching the structure with his weird alien yellow-crystal glove… as if he didn't already know what would happen. Stuff like this drives medics to drink.

Whether Kvasir's self-destructive plan or Ivan's plan did the deed, or whether the machine just activated on its own, it eventually stopped moving and the couryard irised open to reveal a dark perfectly cylindrical shaft. Ansel Ness's sensory suite revealed it was 738m deep. Tentative exploration into the shaft resulted in the conclusion that it's an enormous airlock. 

Folks at base camp are going to cannibalize the pieces of the two jet aircraft they have and load them onto ground vehicles. It will probably take them half a month to get here overland, and then another half a month to assemble a shuttle capable of no-atmosphere flight (under the assumption there's just empty space on the other side of the airlock…) and by that time our excursion should have been able to find those ruins, maybe even the larger city a further 240,000km out, and returned. We'll see. The immensities of this place's geography make such planning difficult. Either way, the base camp folks have already assured us that even if they do figure out how to open the airlock, they won't go through until we're back. Wouldn't want their "first in" team to not be first I guess… that or we're canaries in this coal mine.

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Building a Rocket
3XP = Total 13 XP

The Journal of Luis Acosta, Entry 23

By my best reckoning it's been a little more than a month earth-standard time since I led 254 refugees through the Fissure gate in advance of the Ultimates' invasion of Chat Noir. After losing about half our number traversing the first four worlds we fled through, we seem to have found one that isn't an immediate deathtrap. Of course, we're working with basic tents, weapons, or supplies, but at least we have the culinary fabber. None of the plant life here is compatible with the digestions of our biomorphs, but once broken down into component molecules and re-assembled it seems to work just fine.

Myself and a small, hand-picked team from among the refugees have taken to tentative (and tortuous) gate cycling to try to find a path back to the solar system, preferably a gate that hasn't been taken by the Ultimates. We've had pretty poor luck so far but a few days back we stumbled on a world that at first seemed unpromising due to the high radiation levels but after Sergio (one of our few synthmorphs) poked his head through he reported new settlement, oddly abandoned. A small team used some of our still-functioning exosuits to check it out. Sure enough, a whole base-camp was established around the gate bristling with instrumentation monitoring a net of micro-satellites. The whole complex didn't seem more than a few weeks old, yet there was no-one there.

That's when Sergio (ever-observant) noticed that the gate seemed to be in the very center of an enormous impact crater and that the strange glassy formations seemed to be signs of a high-heat event liquifying the earth. It seemed we'd found a forward observation post of a group unwilling to live "under the gun" of something that could cause craters like this. We weren't in as fortunate a circumstance, and I made the decision to stay in their camp until they might return to check on their equipment. 

It was a wise plan. The owners of all this equipment turned out to be none-other than a small fragment of my old Gatecrashing team from Carnivale. I was most pleased and surprised to see them, particularly Elsie, whom I had assumed lost to me. I asked them how they were here, and where they got the equipment. Marco Macek volunteered that they had a new employer, but when I asked who it was, he immediately clammed up. Ah, a mystery. Elsie heightened the mystery by privately informing me that they were working for a "friendly" ASI. As a gatecrasher, I am ever mindful that the TITANs still exist, presumably somewhere on the gate network. This caused no small amount of concern, which I tried to conceal. My unease was not ameliorated by their revelation that the impact crater we stood within was apparently created during the Fall when parties unknown slammed an asteroid into a TITAN manufactory-complex surrounding this gate. This implied an active and aware alien intelligence capable of throwing asteroids around.

A review of the instrument-data revealed that there were satellites in orbit that weren't put there by Elsie and her friends. There is an alien satellite network positioned to ensure continuous coverage for the gate. There is an asteroid belt situated between this planet and the sun where, likely, the impact-object originated. Most interestingly, though, there is something large and artificial within the corona of the local sun… large enough for the dark spot to be seen from our instruments, but sadly we can make out little more from the basic networked orbital telescope we have. We'll have to refine our instruments to learn more. 

This curiosity about potential alien life and the dire needs of my people convinced me that, ASI or no, Elsie and her friends have resources. Elsie may be young, and a bit headstrong, but she's generally a good read for people. I took the chance of giving them the gate code to our nascent colony. 

They showed up shortly thereafter and Marco revealed that their employer was Danielle Astra, spokes-AGI for the Canaan aerostat of Venus. Suddenly certain rumors and suspicions about Canaan and Astra made sense, but those revelations didn't make me feel much better about what such an entity might really be up to. Still, they brought a bargain that "Astra" would provide real habs, new equipment and weapons, and the means to materially survive on our newfound home if, in exchange, we provided our labor in mining silicates, metals, isotopes, and other feedstock from the impact-crater world for her use. Some of these resources would then be put into constructing a launch facility and an orbital rocket capable of reaching one of the alien satellites in orbit. This should, I think, be our first step in trying to learn who wiped the TITANs off the face of this planet.

And so, work on the rocket has begun. Elsie told me a bit of their other discoveries like Rael Duvalier's hiding hole, the psychic moon spiders, and the dead Synergist expedition (fungal spore attack… terrible way to go).

Apparently some of the metals and isotopes for rocket-creation are coming from a Ceres-like ice world with a liquid water ocean that contains a fascinating biosphere. The world is geologically inert, but life has evolved due to daily doses of intense radiation. The world apparently orbits some source of long-wavelength radiation that provides the necessary energy to the system for life to exist, including chains of predators capable of using radioactive attacks on submarines. 

I do so wish I could accompany them on these journeys. It's what I live for, and what I trained for. Still, my people need me, and Elsie has Alexi Oda and a solid team at her side. Perhaps once this refugee camp becomes something closer to a colony I'll be able to step aside and return to exploration.

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I'm Being Followed by a Moon Spider...
4xp = Total 10 XP

Internal Log, Transmit Disable Conditions Active
ReceiveID: Kira-Ceres-11
TransmitID: Cassius-Unknown-01

Subsequent to my last log, I have yet to find a way to determine the precise galactic coordinates of "Lassiter", nor even confirm that this station does, in fact, orbit a gas giant. There aren't any windows, and external video logs can be easily faked, particularly if our hostess is really what she claims to be.

After about a week here, however, she and her confederate Irina Kuznetsova announced that they had narrowed down the first batch of the "finite infinite set" of potential gate codes that might lead to "nexus" worlds capable of leading back to the Solar system to four viable addresses. They had already done the usual first-in protocols of automated drones, camera-arm robotic vehicles, etc. and these four sites were ready for a First In team to evaluate. 

Our options: irradiated wasteland, airless moon, a deep-sea environment similar to Europa or Enceladus, and a transhuman bolthole station where the automated defenses set up around the gate didn't immediately attack.

Somewhat to my surprise, Marco Macek took something of a leadership role, proposing that the inhabited station might provide useful intel or maybe even a friendly face. Turns out, a bit of the first, not so much on the second.

So, I got to meet Rael Duvalier, the self-styled "father of uplifts". His extrasolar bunker was pretty posh, and complete with uplift servants in little tuxedoes presenting us with champagne and finger foods. Reading between the lines a bit, it seems his other extra-solar project, the "Siba Institute for Biological Anomalies" took a hit from sabotage or terrorism or something. He bought the rights to this particular useless rock because it happened to be relatively close to SIBA (astronomically speaking) at four light-months away. I'm not sure why that was important. Maybe he got here by egocast or something. Whatever the case, he's been clever enough not to go opening his gate randomly for fear of what else might come out, and has instead been using QE communication back to his "other selves" in the solar system, seeking to leverage his wealth and resources to gatecrash his way TO his current location from the Pandora gate, which he confirms is the only functioning solar system gate still free of Ultimate control.

He proposed data sharing. He'd give us what his other selves have figured out, and in exchange we share planetary location data with him from our other expeditions in hopes that together we might find some linkups. We all put a pleasant face on it, but it seems that my companions all knew or suspected some unpleasant things about Rael. His bonobo butler didn't seem too pleased with continued service. Whatever, fuck the monkey.

We reported all that back to Irina and Astraeus, both of whom said they'd handle the contractual details. Yawn.

Next up was "airless moon." We opted to make our initial intrusion on foot rather than using Chloelia Octavia's shuttle. It was pretty much as-advertised, a gray, airless moon. We were all in suits, of course… stupid bulky things. Fortunately there didn't seem to be as much potential need for my ability to fit in tiny crawlspaces on this one. Marco sent us out in pairs to do a perimeter check. I figured this would be my opportunity to get Chloelia alone, but stupid Cailey Macek grabbed me by an arm and dragged me off. Crazy bitch. Anyway, at about the point where we were too far apart for easy tactical coordination, some stuff happened.

Alexi Oda found… something. Image attached. It's a very tall "totem" made of twisted metal and flayed human bodies… like, skeletons with ragged strands of connective tissue holding them together. I guess with no atmosphere or weather or whatever there's no wear or tear or decay, which means someone MADE those skeletons that way BEFORE stringing them up. I mean, I don't have the automatic revulsion-reaction that I would have if it was a totem covered in, say, octopus corpses, but it was still kinda fucked up.

Marco found tire tracks from a transhuman vehicle, and a mostly-toppled flag with some weird religious iconography.

Then we all found the moon spiders. Out from rocks and craters scuttle some things… they had a lot more than 8 legs, and had mostly white chitinous coverings except for the ends of their leg-claws which were red. They jumped us. I grabbed Cailey and we bolted for the gate, which seemed to be the general consensus judging by the shouts. It seems many of the team weren't as good as low-g acrobatics as I am. Alexi got pounced and the spider started wrapping her up in some silvery smart-material… a fate that also fell upon Chloelia, Luna, and Marco. The Moonrise rescued Alexi and Luna, but were too late for the other two, who got wrapped up and dragged underground.

Now, I know my orders on Chloelia… but I seriously had no intention of just walking into moon-spider-infested tunnels. Fortunately, Luna DID have that intention. Her Moonrise were more of my way of thinking. There was a bit of a revolt… I guess that's why Luna's the headliner and the others are merely backup singers. Anyway, Alexi burned that silvery gunk out of her synthmorph systems in a way I found… kinda hardcore actually. Damn. And opened the gate so the Moonrise could escort Cailey through. While that was going on, we lost radio contact with Luna, and had long since lost it with Marco or Chloelia. That's when fucking Carillo Wu (who's always around when I least expect it… what's his agenda anyway?) and Alexi suggested that maybe the three of us should walk into the spider den and see what's up. Yeah.

So, fine, we did that. The spiders didn't molest us, apparently figuring we were going the right way. Alexi led us through some pretty bewildering twists and turns and we stumbled on… a moon rover! Yeah, just parked there, in a tunnel, next to some fusion batteries and sundry expedition supplies. We also saw a light down the tunnel and were getting faint radio signals. So, Carillo and I set to rigging the batteries into a big-ass bomb while Alexi drove us toward the light.

We found a cavern… something like a cathedral, I guess, with crazy religious iconography on one wall and on the floor. Luna, Marco, and Chloelia were free, and apparently unharmed, talking to a crazy person who called himself Deacon Jeremiah. He claimed the spiders were "children of god" and had this whole spiel about how the TITANS were archangels, that the apocalypse had already happened, and how he wanted to share the voice of god with all of us through… um… sex.

I'm not entirely sure how this human planned on having sex with Chloelia and me… or Alexi for that matter. Unsurprisingly, nobody jumped at the chance to get the STD version of voices in our heads.

So yeah. Chloelia jumped in the driver's seat, bomb went out the back, gunfire happened, Alexi cracked her chassis on the tunnel ceiling, and we blasted our way the fuck out of there.

We then spent a week in solitary quarantine. Our hostess is taking no chances. Irina told us a bit about that cult… seems she was originally on Carnivale investigating a group called the Church of Luminous Saints, a TITAN-revering apocalyptic group of nutters who may have actually become infected with one of those weird-ass plagues the TITANS engineered during the Fall. Irina made a lot of crazy claims about this virus, that it's intelligent, that it adapts and has an agenda, blah blah. She did say, though, that the Church had been active on Carnivale… a place known for, um, free love… and that if the Ultimates hadn't cleansed the place, her mysterious employers may well have. I guess if you have the mother of all STDs, Carnivale's an excellent place to start an epidemic.

So, yeah, I guess our hostess was right. We were two-for-two on planets with at least tangential connections to solar system groups. Of course, we have no intention of ever going back to spider-moon.

Finally, we tried the irradiated wasteland. After an initial foray, we weren't attacked by anything. Chloelia did point out, however, that the weird glassy formations looked like splash patterns of molten sand and rock that hardened in mid-splash. She also pointed out a distant ridge… that completely encircled us at a distance of nearly a hundred clicks. We all came to the uncomfortable realization that the gate was dead center of a fucking enormous impact crater. It kinda looked like someone threw a small moon at this planet, aiming for the gate… and based on what little we could see of weather patterns, it happened not that long ago.

Well, we weren't immediately nuked, but we figured we'd set up a bunch of instruments to look at the sky and try to figure out where in the galaxy this place is, also see if there are any enormous mass-drivers in orbit or whatever. We launched a small satellite from a portable rocket to do surface and space readings. We set up radiation-shielded shelters, but figured that we'd be spending as little time here as possible until we know whether there's a gun to our heads, just popping in to get the data recorded from the instruments.

While we were setting all that shit up, though, Alexi figured she's scout to the edge of the crater. Marco, Luna, Chloelia (and I) went with, and found a shattered machine about the size of your office building back on Ceres. It was mostly buried in a fissure, and had clearly been subjected to some serious explosive forces. We all got crawling around inside and variously came to the chilling realization that this was earth-derived technology… specifically TITAN technology… specifically a TITAN manufactory for war machines much like the ones they left on Earth.

So… yeah… apparently TITANS came through this gate and SOMEONE blew them to hell.

Needless to say, we booked it back to Lassiter for safety while we let our machines gather data.

I figure I'll have more to say later, or maybe after we check out the underwater locale. For now, that's enough crazy for one report.

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Stinky Diplomacy
5 xp = Total: 9 xp

Encrypted Report, Sentinel Ricky Thompson, Auto-transmit Code 00X06

Recipient ID: Proxy code-name Eagle

Holy shit, that was intense. So, apparently the little Factor blob was emitting all sorts of scent pheromones and four enormous slime juggernauts attacked the base camp. Fortunately Ansel Ness acted quickly, sending some security staff to drag the little blob toward the perimeter under the assumption the monstrosities were zeroing in on its scent. Kitano went toe to toe with one of them, taking a serious acid-burn but driving it off single-handedly with that crazy laser-sword of his. His cultists, along with Ansel and the security, gave the little Factor blob back to another one before driving it off, and it's departure pulled the remaining two away with it. Kvasir and Amber Jin Feng managed to keep one of them from wrecking our half-built fusion jet aircraft, but the resleeving facility took some damage.

Speaking of Amber, she came stumbling through the gate right as the Factor monsters were attacking without her Gatecrashing crew. There wasn't a lot of time in the Factor fight, but once they were driven off, she reported that the Martian side of the gate had come under attack by a concerted military effort. They apparently delivered something that looked an awful lot like a nuke. She picked up some encrypted transmissions that Kvasir managed to decode and, well, let's just say I'm not sure how long you'll be waiting to get this report. It looks like the Ultimates have done a number on the solar system gates, not to mention key extrasolar colony worlds. It looks like we're stuck here for a while.

This led to an expedition-wide debate on what to focus our limited resources on. Sanjay Rhys became the sort of de-facto mouthpiece for those that wanted to focus on gatecrashing, trying to find an indirect route back to the Pandora or Lucifer gates via other, perhaps unexplored worlds, basically re-open our supply lines. Dr. Byers was the staunchest supporter of focusing on our original mission, namely exploring this monstrously huge artificial planet and learning about / claiming its fabulous alien technology. The debate was pretty evenly divided until Ivan Kuro weighed in, supported by the obvious physical intimidation of Kitaro's cult. Kuro made a stirring speech with various salient points and swayed the debate toward the latter option.

So, we poured effort into finishing the jet. The original Team One has been reconstituted into a "Planetary Reconaissance Team" … Sanjay's out and Amber's in. Sanjay is being given some resources for plan one… we do still need to work out supply lines, it's just not our focus. So, the Recon team is going to follow the cold trail of Dr. Gunderson's team toward the city ruins some 300,000 kilometers to the east. They're going to try to set up mesh relay towers so they can stay in touch, but it's going to be a tenuous thread.

Of course, while we waited for the plane to get finished, some members of the Recon team decided to track down the Factors. See, Ansel and I followed them after their attack and found their lair some 50-odd clicks to the north. No sign of high technology, but they were using spiked pit traps, and we weren't going to assume they weren't sapient. Turns out, Kvasir has a mesh-library which included a bunch of known scent-meanings for factors. We fabbed a scent-producing spray can with variable settings and set out to make friends.

It was, as you might expect, a fraught production. Everyone on the "diplomatic" team was a synth except Kitano and me, and the two of us were snug inside sealed, scent-containing outfits designed by Ivan. We found a pit trap and tried to lure the lurking Factor out of the ground with spritzes of friendly scent, a sacrificial animal, and a fabricated statue (we heard factors like artwork). There was a bit of a dance back and forth… the Factor ate the critter, touched the statue, and kept trying to do the same to Kvasir. I was watching through a sniper scope from a tree and… well… suddenly just got a… feeling. 

I know there's a reason I'm on this mission while "Alpha Ricky" stayed behind on Venus… I'm the infected one after all. I just got a… sense… that the Factor was confused about the moving statue. It seems it wasn't considering the synth-bodied people to be, well, people. I told Kitano to let them smell him. He did, and the Factor got all sorts of curious. They did a tentative dance, and at my suggestion, they touched. 

That's when a bizarre fucking thing happened. Kitano's flesh started to warp, darken, and bulk up. He stopped touching the Factor and he went back to normal. There was a lot of confusion about who did what to whom, but in that moment I got another flash from the Factor of confusion with a touch of fear… and that's when I realized that the Factor was an async too.

As for what Kitano is, that's another question. He apparently is infected with… something… but it's certainly not Watts-MacLeod. He's apparently been living with it for a long time. That's the key takeway here. I may very well be on a gatecrashing mission with a new type of exsurgent. Oh joy.

Fortunately, I'm not on the planetary exploration team. I'll try to glean what I can from their mission, but it may well take them months or years. I'll do what I can from the base camp to keep learning about Olaf, and I'll work with Sanjay (who's a bit of a dick) on trying to get these reports back to you as best I can.

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Assault and Hold
3xp = Total: 6xp

Transcript: Morningstar Constellation Star Chamber Virtual Interrogation Log 33115
Subject: Aiden Nairn

Interrogator (I): State your name and polity identity for the record.

Aiden Nairn (AN): Um… Aiden Nairn… and I suppose I don't have one? I mean, I used to work for Experia before signing on with Love and Rage as a xenolinguist…

I: That will do Mr. Nairn. As you might have guessed, you've been singled out for a more… intensive customs and immigration process due to the unusual nature of your arrival in the Morningstar Constellation. It is not our intention to get unpleasant, but I'm sure you understand that we have any number of tools at our disposal, and the capacity to make any number of forks of you we require, so really its in your best interest to be forthcoming. 

AN: Um… uh… wow, really? I didn't think you Venusians went in for the whole gestapo mind-flaying simulspace interrogation thing… wasn't your whole deal that you were a kinder, gentler, more transparent version of the PC?

I: Yes, Mr. Nairn… should we choose to reinstantiate you based on the results of this discussion, you won't remember a thing. Very kind and gentle. Now, please, let's proceed. We recovered your cortical stack from the gate-chamber of our Lucifer gate facility. It had been enclosed in a diamond-silicate container capable of withstanding the Venusian surface. Whoever sent you clearly knew that we had vented the facility as a defense against invasion. Who arranged for your transport here, and why?

AN: You're… telling me an awful lot for an interrogator, aren't you supposed to be all "I'M the one asking the questions here Mr. Nairn" while getting in my face?

I: (sighs) You've been the victim of too much fiction-media Mr. Nairn. Interrogation methods have changed dramatically with forking technology. As I stated before, I can tell you whatever I like. We'll be deleting this fork of you in any event. Our methodology is backed by the best current science. Now please answer the question.

AN: Um. Right. Yes, of course. I'm a survivor of the Ultimates' attack on Carnivale. I was attached to the Love and Rage Collective Gatecrashing efforts using the Carnivale gate. I was discussing the newest papers on Factor communication methods with Dr. Macek and Dr. Pinfeather when the mesh went crazy, talking about soldiers pouring through the gate, then the mesh went down. Dr. Pinfeather theorized that the mesh came under immediate dataphage and AI attack. It didn't take long for the mortar fire to start in on the colony…

I: Mr. Nairn, you're not addressing my question…

AN: Yes, I'm getting to it. Don't you want to know about the Ultimates trying to conquer the gate network?

I: (drily) We are well aware of their efforts Mr. Nairn. But please… do continue.

AN: Yes… well… anyway… Dr. Macek… she's our exosociologist… indicated that she had always wanted to study Ultimates culture and society up close, and decided she would approach the invading force and seek to join up as a means for embedded research. We told her she was insane, but sometimes there's no reasoning with her. Dr. Pinfeather and I fled… he's a neo-Parrot… I saw him get shot down… I don't know if he survived…

I: I'm afraid I can provide no information for you Mr. Nairn. Please get to the point of my question. Who sent you here and why?

AN: Yes, right… so… I stumbled around in the dark running from gunfire for some hours. Shortly after sunset I stumbled upon a camp of other survivors… members of my gatecrashing team in fact, particularly Luna. What irony. I was embedded in their Gatecrashing team by Experia to keep tabs on her. We'd heard she had adopted extremist Anarchist ideology, and the company wanted a heads-up if she started gunning for them, but she ended up saving me. Some of them were apparently scouting the colony. Marco Macek came back with Carillo Wu, Naomi, and a badly damaged Alexi Oda along with spare tech, weapons, food, water, and the… salvaged cranial implant from an Ultimate mercenary. Some technical expertise from Aquila got us in, and we suddenly had real-time data on their whole operation.

I: That seems… sloppy of them.

AN: It became pretty clear that the invasion of Carnivale was hardly their top priority. Nearly every Ultimate involved was a rookie. Still, they had more than enough military training and weapons to take Carnivale apart. They were systematically executing everyone and salvaging their stacks, sifting them by "potential recruit" and "trash." Marco found his sister… that's Dr. Macek, who I mentioned, listed on the "potential recruit" list, being stored in a crate waiting to go back through the gate. Our vehicle operator, Chloelia Octavia, had access to some QEC data… maybe? Anyway, she told us that the Ultimates had taken the Fissure and Discord gates and were moving on Portal, Luca, and Rorty. We realized then that we were kinda stuck.

I: It sounds like an untenable position. I'm growing increasingly curious to discover how you were tranported here, and why.

AN: Yes, I'm getting there… so we rapidly realized that our only long-term means of survival was to somehow get through the gate. The problem was, the Ultimates had heavily fortified it. Some data analysis revealed, however, that they had protocols in place should they encounter weapons of mass destruction. Apparently they considered it entirely possible that the scum of Carnivale would resist invasion with nuclear force if given half a chance. That explains the all-out assault on the colony and securing the nanofabrication facilities. So we decided to attack them with a weapon of mass destruction, at least temporarily, to force a retreat from the gate.

I: You… just had one lying around?

AN: Strange, right? Apparently Marco had a dissassembler nanoswarm hive that targets biological material. He claimed he uses it for "clean up." I… think he might have been a hitman before becoming a gatecrasher. Needless to say, this startled many, but led to our eventual plan. Luna and her backup singer/dancer/artillery forks would destroy one of the fighter aircraft the Ultimates brought through as a distraction. Chloelia would fly their getaway while Marco and Naomi used the distraction to infiltrate and plant the hive. They would then activate the hive, and the rest of us would monitor the Ultimates tacnet to see their response. Should they follow protocol and evacuate the affected area, we would then all pile into Chloelia's shuttle and make a mad dash for the gate. Alexi would open it, and we'd go through.

I: That's… a remarkably ambitious and risky plan, but under the circumstances, I can't really see any viable alternative. What gate location did you decide on? You knew already that you couldn't return to Chat Noir.

AN: Um… yeah… so… there were some other folks with the group, not part of our gatecrashing team. Apparently they were engaged in some sort of local business when everything went down. Anyway, their spokewoman Irina Kuznetsova told us that she had access to a gate location, but that the organization she works for would not appreciate it getting out. It would, however, prove safe. 

I: I see we're finally arriving at the answer to my original question. You do know that we'll get this information out of you eventually, so you might as well come clean.

AN: Um… ah… yes… apparently there's a gate location called "Lassiter" that's controlled by Ms. Danielle Astra? I imagine you've heard of her…

I: The spokes-AGI for Canaan? That's… a surprise. Although perhaps not, considering Canaan was a major contractor and participant in Lucifer gatecrashing operations. So this Lassiter connects to both Carnivale and Venus?

AN: So it seems. We stayed in her facility for a few days while things with the Ultimates played out. She then offered everyone else a job. Apparently being cut off from supplies in the solar system concerned her, and she wanted a gatecrashing team able to use the Lassiter gate to explore and gather needed materials. She offered, as an alternative, being sent here to Venus, although she made it clear that we'd be traveling in cortical stack form, considering the… uh… climate of your gate nowadays. And… well… that's the last thing I remember. If she killed me to get my stack, it was fast and painless and I have no memory of it. It seems she was good for her word however.

I: So it seems. Mr. Nairn, I'm going to have to ask you to think very carefully. This is important. Do you remember the gate address for Lassiter? The data was corrupted by a clumsy Q-Morph when you came through. We're very interested in Ms. Astra and anything you can tell us about her and her extrasolar projects.

AN: Um… well… 

I: You're getting a shifty look in your eye. I should warn you I'm trained in kinesics-recognition. It seems you are trying very hard to hide something from me.

AN: I… cantaloupe… larvae… epsilon…

I: What the…

AN: (emits complex tonal harmony)

Data Corruption Detected, Fatal Error, Ego Retrieval Status: Total Loss

 

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Bag of Mucus
4 XP = Total: 4 XP

Encrypted Report, Sentinel Ricky Thompson, Auto-transmit Code 00X04

Recipient ID: Proxy code-name Eagle

"Kioroshi" and I are in. She used her pull in Oversight to get me on the "recruitment" short list. Everything else was out of my hands. It seems whatever strings Das Frettchen and the other Firewall Proxies pulled were enough. Here I am, one of three "Oversight Auditors" attached to The Facade Corporation Extrasolar Initiative. And, of course, our good old friend Hamza Al Quraini is here. Fortunately, this version of him was apparently restored from a backup that doesn't remember how we got him killed, or at least he hasn't let on that he recognizes me. I can't say it's particularly comfortable, but his presence does confirm the involvement of certain shadowy people and organizations behind the facade of Facade. 

We assembled at the Martian Gate, and after a lot of logistical wrangling, were ready to send the tactical squad through to secure the base camp site on Olaf abandoned more than a year ago by the previous science expedition. There were some complications with the gate that took some of the wind out of our sails, but eventually we all got through and secured the site without issue. There are just shy of a hundred of us, mostly science and technology staff to get our base camp infrastructure established and our laboratories running. There are two "Gatecrasher Teams" which double as security teams. The head of security, Ji Su Khim, has apparently made the best of a bad situation and put all of the insubordinate or otherwise eccentric personnel in Team One, notably a small group (cult?) of ex-Ultimates extremists led by Kiyoshi “Noah” Kitano. They clearly follow Kitano and barely even acknowledge Khim as a superior officer. Of particular note to me, though, was Ansel Ness, a corporate security guy from Ecologene who is apparently on the outs with his company and on "extended leave" to go gatecrashing. Whatever his problems back home, he's been nothing but extremely competent here, putting together a tactical topography of the base camp and surroundings complete with strategic notation. He seems a bit wary of me, though. Dunno if it's the "Oversight" thing or if I came on too strong.

Our infosec guy is an infomorph AGI named Kvasir. He's apparently from the Titanian Commonwealth. In fact, I'm very surprised at the diversity of the personnel on an ostensibly corporate mission out of Mars. The team leaders of both gatecrashing teams are uplift corvids, Team One's exogeneticist is a neo-bonobo. We have an AGI infosec head… none of these people are even legally people on Mars yet here they are in positions of authority and nobody is batting an eye. Whoever is pulling Facade's strings doesn't care who they get so long as they have the necessary talents.

Which brings me to Ivan Kuro. Yeah, the fashion designer out of Extropia. Nobody explained to me what a CEO and fashion designer was doing on this mission, but he seems to have an… unusual facility with exotic materials and alien specimens. We'll get to that in a moment.

So Base Camp got established pretty much as expected. Days here are 50 earth-hours long, but considering a Venus day is 243 earth-DAYS long, it still seems pretty short to me. Still, people used to Earth-Standard Time were taking some time to get used to things. Initial scouting showed various plant and small animal life until Kitano and two of his cultists stumbled on a primitive pit trap, complete with sharpened stakes in the bottom. This caused quite a hubbub. The prevailing theory was that this was a sign of the scientists of the previous expedition who were left behind more than a year ago, that maybe their tech broke and they were resorting to stone-age tech. Others claimed aliens. Most everyone was siding with the "primitive humans" theory until Kitano and Ness were attacked at the trap site by what was apparently a Factor.

Yeah. That caused a stir, especially when bits of Factor corpse were brought back for study. Fresh biological Factor samples are… well… priceless, and a bunch just jumped into our lap. The scientists all got quite busy plumbing the secrets of Factor biology, insofar as our equipment to go, until Ivan managed, somehow, to bring a sample to life. It seems Kitano had given him a handful-sized sample of Factor goo and Ivan managed to… enliven it somehow. So now we have a live Factor specimen (albeit a really really small one that doesn't seem particularly intelligent). After some passive scanning and trying to feed it various insects and whatnot, we let it out into a large basin to try to observe behavior. So far it's not really doing anything other than oozing around exploring its surroundings, reacting to movement and light and spritzes of chemical scent. This isn't really my area of expertise. I'll make sure to gather a copy of all the data being gathered for you.

Huh. What's that? 

Log file ends

 

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Weapon Smuggling
3xp = Total: 3xp

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu" Report

Primary asset remains in place. Secondary assets beginning to cohere into a useful whole. Can't say my first official "gatecrash" was to an exotic and unexplored world. Instead we were smuggling weapons on behalf of some direct-action anarchist allies of Love and Rage. Our exobiologist, Dr. Pinfeather, has allies in the neo-avian science station on Solemn and found a path to Rorty via the Solemn gate, permitting us to access the colony of Mockingbird without having to explain ourselves to either TerraGenesis or Fa Jing (or, y'know, bribe them). In exchange for a crate full of electrical-discharge weapons capable of surviving the plastic and metal eating microbes of Solemn, they were happy to open the gate for us to transport a half-dozen crates of more conventional arms slated for the Mockingbird colonists in case they ever felt like rising up against their corporatist masters (or, you know, just defending themselves).

Turns out, it's a good thing we had those crates, particularly the crate of smart-grenade launchers.

We got to Rorty (terrible ice-ball, you already have the files) and noticed that there was nobody at the gate, nor was there a local mesh. As we moved through the driving sleet in our environment suits  Marco and Naomi spotted a large shape moving in the snow. Some recon later revealed a hulking synthmorph with six legs, two heads, and an assortment of telescopic appendages. Someone (I don't remember who) said it was the size of a moose. Fortunately by the time it sprang to attack we were prepared and we lit it up with seeker-grenades and Marco's adorable little pistol. Our Infosec specialist, Aquila, said she couldn't get anything from its local systems, but indicated its cyberbrain was something of a custom job, and had some 14 egos squashed into it. This is consistent with reports from the last batch of exhumans to attack Mockingbird a couple of years ago… crazy gestalt-mind whackjobs.

We moved closer to the colony and set up a fortified base camp to protect our scientists while Alexi Oda, Luis Acosta, and Chloelia Octavia scouted ahead. Alexi found a buried mesh-relay and managed to get it booted up. She sent us the data from the gate facility when it came under attack by three of the hulking things which we were now calling a "laser moose." Mockingbird had plenty of advance warning to set up defenses, but were somehow surprised. Chloelia noticed some sort of exotic energy field being projected in a dome around the silent colony. Further analysis of the dead morph's wreckage discovered that these moose-morphs can generate a lot of heat, and Naomi figured maybe they burrowed through the ice. Sure enough, some scouting and Alexi found the tunnel. 

We crept down the ice tunnel and it came up right under the generator hab-building. These laser-meese must have some serious T-ray emitters to navigate through all this ice. Anyway, Marco scouted up and found a laser-moose standing right above us plugged into the colony's main fusion generator. Luna's backup-singers, now armed with smart-grenades, provided covering fire while Marco and I popped up to finish the laser-moose off. Sadly, the thing was generating that weird field, and a lot of power was flowing through it. It exploded, trashing the reactor and the hab-building and fucking up Marco and me with shrapnel. The rest of them came out of the tunnel, and the third laser-moose was nowhere to be seen, so we assessed the damage.

Our suits were leaking air. Alexi pulled a particularly jagged bit of shrapnel out of Marco leaving a nasty sucking chest wound. It looked like maybe the two of us would need to retreat, but then Alexi did something… traumatic. That synthmorph of hers has all sorts of shape-adjusting capability. She grabbed one of the smart-material environment-suit patches and shoved her hand into Marco's chest. Apparently the nano-adhesive on those things also sticks to blood-slick organ-flesh because she patched his lung directly using her hand as a surgical instrument, then slapped another suit-patch on his outer flesh to hold his blood in, then slapped a third patch on his actual suit to keep the air in. It was the damnedest thing, but it seemed to hold him together pretty well. I opted out of similar treatment and permitted Mercury to escort me back to the scientists through the tunnel.

I'd barely made it back before Acosta came to base camp overland indicating the colony was secure. Apparently the third laser-moose had gathered all the colonists where were stunned, apparently by the expansion of that weird energy field. The thing was systematically extracting their cortical stacks and… ingesting them. Alexi took the things apart and found the cartridge of stacks. Apparently they weren't getting overwritten, just copied into the gestalt. So. The colonists were mostly recovered and resleeved. They were duly grateful. You should contact Ferdinand Ramos, Assistant Director of Colonial Affairs for TerraGenesis and collect the reward money for my part in saving the colony.

The colonists seemed rather surprised to see these exhumans again. Apparently Ultimates have been patrolling through the area fairly regularly, but have stopped coming of late. I'm not sure why, but apparently the exhumans who attacked Mockingbird a few years ago got bold enough to try it again. I have to wonder what's caused the Ultimates to disrupt their patrol and hunt patterns to this degree.

Anyway, not much else to tell. We made it back to Carnivale via Solemn. Another ego-hunter came looking for Naomi and was duly diverted.  Karim Jalal is still here, but I'm keeping an eye on him.

Until later.

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