Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

The Black Signal
2 XP = 30 XP Total

Mistress,

The first trial came upon me and I have emerged if not unscathed, then at least still moving to your Purpose. I live still thanks to the great power you channeled through me, your humble servant. The source and origin of the alien transmissions that hijacked the mesh umbilical remain a mystery only insofar as Kitano and his companions remain tight-lipped about precisely what it was they uncovered in the dense fungal forests to the northeast. Whatever it was, it possessed vast intelligence restricted only, and ironically, by the technical limits of our mesh infrastructure. I can only presume its target was the gate, our only means of escaping this increasingly dangerous planet. Rather than allow an unknown intelligence to entirely overwhelm us, I re-directed the efforts of myself and my Century to seeking the cracks in the alien code, spreading the black signal throughout it, causing it ultimately to crumble and fail. I then left a delta fork of myself in Gunderson's remote data-cache at the edge of the fungal forest in hopes that it might stand as a bastion against further attack.

Kitano's party, unbeknownst to me, was spending that time returning over the forest, destroying the mesh umbilicals they had previously deployed to further weaken the alien transmission's reach and power. In this way we unwittingly supported each other in removing the threat.

Unfortunately, every sentient being at our base camp was mysteriously absent. It would seem that whatever Kitano and his companions uncovered, it caused a second ripple in reality, effectively erasing over fifty people. Meals were left half-eaten, beds unmade, supplies un-stowed. I do not yet know what became of them, but it has lent urgency to my work on the dimensional derelict. 

I sent the copy of Kvasir that opted to stay with me through the mesh umbilical to my delta fork once our mesh was cleared to act as ambassador to Kitano's returning expedition. I accepted your wisdom and your advice and changed tactics, offering blunt honesty in place of obfuscation. They took the extra days to return here, to the derelict, where we spoke at some length. I told them of the glory of the Black Signal, its power, its ultimate purpose. I leavened my conviction with the necessary dry humor and pragmatism for which you value me so highly. I, essentially, "came clean" about my nature and purpose here. While I know that Kitano still waits for an excuse and opportunity to detach my head from my body, the others at least seem willing to reach an accord. We are not at cross purposes, and with the vanishing of the majority of our expedition here to Olaf, it seems ever more important that we work together. 

It may well come to pass that one or more of them will opt to accept the sacrament of unity, to join with our Community, bringing us ever closer to full Comprehension. I have explained the risks, as well as the difficulty of a cure should they regret the decision. The matter lies in their hands. 

I believe they intend to take the dormant copy of Kvasir that I have Touched and return to the fungal forest, continuing on to the mysterious coastal ruins that were the objective of the mysterious Gunderson expedition. Aside from the Black Signal's ability to communicate through the Touched copy of Kvasir, they will be utterly out of contact with my small team as well as the team at the planetary airlock.

Sanjay Rhys' gatecrashing team returned to find an empty base camp. They are doing everything they can to investigate the disappearances, but I anticipate they will remain a mystery, for I fear they were victims of a ripple in reality rather than some more visible or apparent catastrophe. Nevertheless, it may well be that by the time Kitano's team returns to general communication we may have a better answer.

In any event, my Century continues pondering the abstract mathematics of this derelict. I hope to have the beginnings of a theoretical physics of dimensional travel relatively soon. Our Brothers and Sisters throughout the galaxy can begin gathering the necessary R&D resources once I have delivered the theory.

I remain your faithful servant, O Soul of Humanity. May my service find favor in your eternal eyes.

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Clash of the TITANs
5xp = 28 Total

Self Reflection Log of Kirsty “Leviathan” Channard, Entry 006xb

I can see why Kitano-sama brought me this time. It appears my travelling companions, Noah among them, have never met a mind-crushing truth they did not immediately seek to consume. The damage to self-integration I saw in Ivan Kuro after their last expedition is nothing compared to the damage I'll probably have to repair after today's revelations.

Myself, I subscribe to a different philosophy of self-improvement characterized by reliable, incremental gains. We are effectively immortal. The only constraint to the length of our lives is our capacity to remain sane. Therefore, one's sanity, one's sense of self, is the single most important consideration when planning one's self-evolution. For all the physical perfections reflected in Kitano-sama, I fear he does not adequately understand this fundamental idea, for he threw his mind to the proverbial wolves with as much abandon as any of them.

Fortunately, as a bystander and observer, my own sanity was inoculated by hearing of their experiences second hand. The direct horror of mind-to-mind communication with a TITAN-level intelligence was not something I directly experienced and yet those truths deemed paltry enough for us to understand were relayed to all. 

At our first landing site in this new, expansive biosphere the team spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the complex, seemingly symbiotic relationships between the megafauna, the immense, fungus-like trees, and the highly aggressive parasitic spores emanating from the megafauna. Kitano-sama chose to expose himself to the spores, perhaps confident that the Barabbas strain and his medichines would ward him from the near-certain death that afflicted Ivan and Kvasir. Rather the opposite was the case. Apparently the mutability of his flesh rendered his body the perfect host for these spores and they parasitized and colonized him extremely rapidly. 

Kvasir engaged in some… highly unorthodox medical treatments involving stripping the safety housing from the plane's fusion engines and exposing Noah to intense radiation. This did effectively kill the spores, and Noah's natural healing did the rest. Still, it was a good lesson to us all that the Barabbas strain is an unpredictable force. After some experimentation with infected blood and flesh samples taken from Noah, as well as some of the insect-samples taken one biome over, it became clear that these spores seek to convert animal life into small versions of the megafauna we observed peacefully tending the fungus-trees. When Ivan touched the results of Noah's flesh infected by these spores, he claims to have seen a vision of an immense fungus-tree wrapped around an open and functioning Pandora gate.

I was skeptical of Ivan's random visions, but after a few more days of flying, Amber Jin Feng did indeed find such a tree. It took a while to find a landing zone in a lake that resembled more a greenish slime than water. We sent he plane back into the air rather than trust it to the lake, for good reason. It seems to be highly acidic to refined alloys. We hiked overland through the dense fungal forest where sure enough we found the gate from Ivan's vision.

The gate was open, the singularity blacker than black, and an enormous fungal tree grew atop it, "roots" encasing the open gate. The tree was enveloped in electromagnetic energies that only occasionally bled into the ultraviolet parts of the visible spectrum. It was siphoning vast power from the gate in some fashion. Clearly no tree evolved to drain gate power. This tree, and possibly the entire ecosystem was looking more and more to be the product of design.

Noah sough to commune with the tree. He appears to be developing his intuitive senses, or maybe he is unlocking deeper aspects of the Barabbas strain, for he also saw visions of the forest, shrinking rapidly in reverse time-lapse, until only a single megafaune emerged from the gate, crawled atop it, and morphed into the tree that even now, apparently is holding the gate open for more and more spores and other creatures to arrive. This gate, then, was clearly the origin of the entire biome we had traversed.

An empty spare morph was tele-operated through the gate. Upon its return, it showed another world that looked very much like this side of the gate. Another immense tree holding the gate open, another fungal forest. Amber then chose to pass through. 

While she was gone, one of the megafauna approached, apparently in response to the damage Noah had done to the radiant tree. It seemed particularly interested in Ansel Ness. It kept trying to wrap Ansel in its face-tentacles, and Ansel kept repulsing it with warning shots from his hand-laser. It grudgingly tried the same with Ivan, then Noah, before Ansel (clearly its first choice for some reason) relented. St. Elmo's Fire engulfed the enormous beast, and then it let Ansel go, none the worse for wear… physically.

Mentally was another matter. Apparently the radiant tree, the megafauna, every plant and animal in this biome is an enormous computation system, an ASI. It apparently already knew all about Amber, which implied that it had scanned her in some capacity when she went through the gate. Ansel reported that, insofar as he was able to interpret enormous impulses of data poured directly into his cyberbrain, this enormous biological artificial intelligence is the Factor's TITAN equivalent, or at least it was developed by the Factors on the Factors' homeworld. 

As we discussed this, Amber returned after her agreed half-hour. She reported direct brain-bending exposure to the ASI as well, wherein she apparently taught it the tolerances of our paltry minds. This implied she took the brunt of the neural damage to teach it how best to talk to Ansel. I'll have to do a full work-up when we get back to the plane. She also reported that this biological computer spanned multiple planets, connected through gates that are held open like this. 

Noah, not to be outdone, sought communion with the forest-computer. He wanted to know what Olaf was to it. He learned (pursuant to the requisite brain-melting) that vast crystalline intelligences orbit the red star in the interior of the sphere, that they built the sphere, and that the forest had an "accommodation" with these sphere-builders. The forest was apparently extremely interested in the Barabbas strain, and Noah, ever the straighforward sort, told it all about the TITANs. 

Kvasir, not to be outdone, sought communion with the forest-computer. He wanted to know about the async Factors we had encountered. He learned (pursuant to the requisite brain-melting) that the forest sought to save its makers, sought to alter them so they would be capable of understanding their true, terrible place in the universe, but that such understanding inevitably broke limited intelligences like theirs. The forest also revealed that apparently Watts-MacLeod was the strain that wiped out the Iktomi, which might be why it's relatively benign in humans. 

Ivan, not to be outdone, sought communion with the forest-computer. He wanted to know about the nature of the crystalline intelligences orbiting within Olaf. He learned (pursuant to the requisite brain-melting) that the crystals he has worked into his shock gloves are the "spores" of these intelligences, and the forest was surprised Ivan had not yet succumbed to their infection, their desire to expand their awareness and reach.

I decided I would eschew brain-melting communion with a biological TITAN. Call me crazy. The rest of us, I think, felt similarly. 

We need to leave this gate and this tree before we all catch cancer from the radiation. Well, except for the synthmorphs of course. 

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Crystalline Consequences
4xp = Total 24 XP

Damn it. I finally get a sweet new neo-orca morph after more than a decade stuck in bipedal-mode and I get myself infected with some weird alien crystal-plague. I mean, I guess it's better to know about it. I gotta say, those gatecrashers from "Lassiter" (wherever that actually is) are pretty on top of their game. At this rate, they may even beat Andy Westingbrooke as the most famous Gatecrasher of them all.

Alexi Oda and her team did an aerial survey over the shallow seas of the planet… I imagine that was pretty boring until they found a weird zone that sucked all the power out of their shuttle. I've seen bits of the XP, that Chloelia Octavia sure can fly. She saved all their asses from a watery grave. What little they could discover indicated undersea alien tech of some sort that eats the power out of any vehicle or even synthmorph that goes near it. Suddenly we aquatic uplifts are in demand!

One problem, none of us actually have the aquatic bodies we were born with. No problem! Apparently. Oda's team just stepped off through some gates where they happened to have Rael Duvalier on tap (!!) and he handed over two cherry-new neo-orca morphs and a neo-dolphin for Hank and Lucy and me. I have no idea what they must have given him in exchange. It was a bit of a production moving the morphs to water, and getting us installed. We obviously backed ourselves up first. After all, we were going to swim out into an alien sea to poke at alien artifacts… 

A couple weeks later we made it out to the scene. Oda's team was in a shuttle hovering nearby (but not TOO nearby… or splash). We headed down.

We hit it with sonar and everything. It looked like an undersea wreck of a spacecraft. It seems like it deployed a system of tethered buoys which seems to be the tech draining electromagnetic energy from everything above it. Probably some sort of emergency self-repair system. We poked around and I found a hole in the side of the ship and swam inside. The interior was all glowing with this lemon-yellow light and I could see these enormous crystal formations growing all throughout the ship. They were clearly invasive, as they were punching through bulkheads, and otherwise did not seem to be the intended cargo. The crystals were glowing, and I figured they were probably leeching energy from ship-systems that were in turn leeching that energy from everything that came too close. I booped a crystal with my nose, but it felt solid like any other rock… but then I was awash in a weird vision.

I was back at the Somatek Hawai'ian research facility with my birth-pod and the scientists who created me but the lead scientist was clearly not any memory of him I have… something was speaking through him, asking me why I allowed myself, a created entity, to subordinate my desires to those who created me. I told him that I super don't, I blew that joint and joined the anarchists years ago. He seemed pleased… and then I came out of the vision.

I realized that the crystal had somehow talked to me and freaked the fuck out. We three fled the wreck. Sadly, our mesh inserts and other tech were all drained and powerless, but Lucy had decent transgenic vocal chords and was able to give something of a verbal report to Oda's team. They airlifted me back to shore while the others started the long swim so I could get my implants recharged and report what I saw. Oda's team vanished again, but when they came back a few hours later they had somehow procured XP from some black-ops team infiltrating a Fa Jing black laboratory on Mars where these crystal things were being experimented on. Apparently it's a crystal intelligence that can infect other intelligent beings, and it looks like I'm infected. They restored me from backup, so I guess I have an alpha fork here in my old bipedal body just in case this infection should prove fatal. 

Shit. This body was so sweet, too. I've missed being me. It will really suck if I die of crystal poisoning.

View
Trail of Breadcrumbs
5 XP = 23 XP Total

Mistress,

I cast forth these thoughts in full faith that they will be received, and in full knowledge that you perceive all lies and truth, punishing completely attempts at the former while rewarding the latter with eventual power and enlightenment.

I have been patient, as you have instructed me. I have watched the agents of Firewall and Ozma embedded in this mission as they circle one another seeking to bend the expedition to their purposes. I have watched as wild-card elements position themselves against future possibility, and above all I have carefully sifted the many amazing discoveries sent back by our forward exploration team and analyzed by our scientists. 

Your wisdom and perception, as always, leave me in awe. I can only believe that you knew what we might discover, what universe-bending principles we might obliquely glimpse in this place. 

After many days of no contact, our forward exploration team repaired the communication umbilical on their way back to base camp. Their experiences were sufficiently traumatic that they felt it worth returning to report their findings as well as to repair their psyches before heading back out on their long-term mission to find Gunderson's missing expedition and the city ruins tentatively believed to be some 300,000 kilometers away. They reported that the smaller ruins found by Dr. Byers during his previous expedition were, in fact, the remains of a unique derelict craft, one meant not to travel through space, but meant to travel through layers of dimensional reality. Once our scientists came to grips with the reports, supplemented by extensive XP, and began to analyze the extensive calculations scrawled all over the craft by Gunderson and his team, the more they came to realize the potential and the danger of this vehicle. 

It created dimensional echoes of the team members who, perhaps recklessly, attempted to prod the broken technology to life. One such echo had enough reality to physically attack its original, and subsequently to share exploration and theorycrafting before being executed. The control mechanism for this vessel appears to respond to those blessed to be receivers for the Black Signal. From all that you have told me, this makes sense, for the Signal comes to us from beyond conventionally-understood four-dimensional space-time. If this technology, even shattered as it might be, contains enough functionality to respond to the Black Signal, I have every expectation that with some personal, hands-on study I will be one step closer to achieving your aims.

To this end, I proposed, and found rapid approval for, a plan to establish a small base-camp at the vessel. Myself, two theoretical physicists and two security personnel loyal to me (as Oversight agent) accompanied by two of of Kitano's accursed cult were dropped off at the site by the forward exploration team on their way back out. The presence of the cultists constrains me somewhat, as does my cover as an Oversight agent, but as you taught me patience on the plains of Mars, you taught me the long view. Kitano's suspicions cannot be everywhere, and as dangerous as they are, the underlings he left are still only two, and we are far from reinforcements or vengeance. 

Much of my timing, however, depends on Kitano himself. So long as he maintains communication to his underlings via the microwave mesh umbilical they're creating as they extend their journeys the more risk is involved in taking any direct action. It is a double-edged sword, however. This same communication permits me to monitor their activities and mesh communication. About 90,000 kilometers further out from this derelict craft they encountered the border between the fairly benign ecosphere we have become accustomed to and a dramatically different one. The borderlands where these two evolutionarily dissimilar biospheres collide has proven a dangerous place where evolution has run amok. Within this zone they discovered another of Gunderson's camps. This one had an AI guardian of a data cache. The forward team was able to discover three other camps established as data caches by Gunderson in addition to that one and the math-scrawled derelict ship. These locations will prove useful sources of information and resources for the expedition.

They moved on into an alien biosphere. This one apparently populated by exotic megafauna and unusually parasitic spores of some sort. Two of their number nearly succumbed, although sadly Kitano was neither of them. His infection preserves him even there it seems. I will continue to monitor their progress, waiting patiently for my moment. There is always the chance, after all, that the fragile umbilical between my camp and their expedition will become severed. Should that happen, I will commune with you once more, hopefully with far better news and transcendent insight.

I remain your faithful servant, O Soul of Humanity. May my service find favor in your eternal eyes.

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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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