Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

A Whole New World
+8 XP = Team Olaf Total: 42 XP, Team Pangaea Total: 40 XP

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu" Report

Damn it. I did not sign up for shit like this. Primary target remains secure, but frankly I'm not even sure what to believe anymore. And you know the weirdest part? You're not even the same "you" I've been reporting to thus far. I'm a sailor marooned in a version of reality that isn't the one I remember from just a few days ago. Then again, according to Dr. Gunderson, it IS that reality, I'm just perceiving it differently. My head hurts, and it probably won't get better anytime soon.

"Gunderson." Yeah. Whatever or whoever he was, he brought us through the interior of this enormous dyson sphere. Yellow crystalline structures the size of cityscapes grew haphazard from the sphere "ceiling" above us. The red star in the center glowed with red power reflected in the soft yellow glow of the crystals that, we were told, were all one enormous super-intelligence… the supposed "sphere creators." I'm not sure I buy it, and I was pleased to note some skepticism among both my traveling companions and the other group of sphere explorers we met when we came back up. How can inanimate crystals have created this? We've seen no evidence of tele-operated machines, and the strange cyclopean buildings we emerged from all appeared derelict. Still, who knows.

The other group was full of… odd people. I guess you have to be a bit off  to gatecrash so far into the unknown, and then take a big plane across a planet so large that there's no realistic recourse should anything terrible happen to you. Once the obligatory gun-aiming standoff was defused, we met each other and started the process of feeling each other out. 

The Olaf expeditionary's obligatory corporate stooge was a guy that bled "security operative" from every synthetic pore. He started off the meet-and-greet with a fairly aggressive demand to know who we were and why the fuck we were on Olaf. To be honest, my own companions' caginess about their answers didn't help matters. The primary target's own confrontational social style wasn't initially conducive to mutual trust, but eventually they realized that we came here for mutual trade and support as representatives of another exile-colony trying to find a way back to Sol. Our arrival in the midst of a base camp suddenly and mysteriously empty of all people caused the necessary concern and curiosity to explore deeper, and thus… here we were. Although the Olaf group had a much more vested interest in the return of their comrades, we at least had some reason to wish the return of over a hundred scientists and technicians for the gain and benefit of Pangaea.

It seems the Olaf group has, to use the vernacular, "seen some shit." This led to a small amount of "shit-comparison" between our groups which was entertaining, but eventually we remembered that the mysterious Dr. Gunderson was standing there, silently, the whole time. We kind of gave him the "what now" look. After all, he's the guy who claimed to have a solution to the missing scientists. 

What followed was a string of barely comprehensible science gibberish about how all possible realities and times co-exist and it's only our limited frame of reference that creates the illusion of time and space and cause and effect. Gunderson claimed that the crystals built this sphere as an enormous reality-bending machine that artificially imposes different frames of reference on observers who might otherwise not perceive those perspectives. Or, to use the "simplistic not at all accurate" explanation, can warp reality to different versions of reality.

The disappearance of the base camp personnel, along with other weird anomalies on the surface of Olaf are… side effects of these energies which are being bent to vast and different purposes. Gunderson claimed that even though the crystalline sentience was far too advanced to even be able to conceive of us let alone communicate with us, it had… absorbed a pair of egos from the Sol system named "Kshatra" and "India." Kvasir confirmed that according to his mesh archives both those names at least circumstantially checked out as people who exist or existed back there. This led to some concern as to how these people came into contact with these crystals, and whether the crystals have already invaded the solar system… worries for another day.

Gunderson wanted to attempt to negotiate with the crystals via the interface of these two barely-transhuman egos to try to get the base-camp personnel back. He claimed not to know what we might offer in exchange for such a favor, but seemed to think that "Kshatra" at least had a grasp of transactional economics. Gunderson claimed that the more "agreeing perspectives" we had in one place, the more stable our "framework" (or, as I doublessly erroneously understood it, our "pocket of reality"). We all sort of shrugged and said "ok" and piled into the shuttle. Gunderson led us back into the sphere where we eventually landed on a big crystal, and suddenly had our ectopic interfaces invaded by a… vision… of some yellow fractal angelic… thing. It spoke with two voices. 

The first thing it asked is who we were. I told it "Carillo Wu" but I had the distinct impression that the Kshatra/India interface was looking a lot deeper into my sense of self-identity than that. I didn't hear anyone else answer. The second thing it asked is what we wanted. I gave it the agreed party line of "the return of the Olaf scientists." Again, I didn't hear anyone else answer, but I presume they all said pretty much the same thing.

Thus began a roller-coaster that left my head spinning in seven directions at once.

Suddenly all of us (except, notably, Gunderson) found ourselves standing on Carnivale under a night sky. In one direction there was the gate. In another, the colony. Suddenly, a small army of Ultimates mercenaries burst through the gate and we had a front-row seat to the military precision and skill with which they began their assault. It was a replay of the past, but this time we were squarely in the firing line. Bullets tore into us, we scattered. Some of us refused to believe this was real and just stood there blinking. Others engaged camouflage. Suddenly Luna charged them, plasma-sword flaring. I gaped. I mean, I knew she was a bit crazy, but charging hundreds of Ultimates soldiers alone? That's just suicidal.

But then she did something… seemingly impossible. She split into thousands of copies of herself… none exactly identical to the others, more like she drew to herself all the possible versions of herself that she could. Turns out, thousands of insane sword-wielding anarchist pop-stars can do quite a number on a small army of Ultimates mercenaries. The synth-dinosaur gatecrasher among us flew over and closed the gate, stopping reinforcements from arriving. That's when we all sort of felt it… or I assume the others did… kind of like a vibration in the pit of our being… the knowledge that with a bit of effort we could just… change things. At least once. Per person.

Suddenly we found ourselves elsewhere. It was right next to the gate on the radioactive impact crater that we'd been using as a half-way house between Lassiter and Pangaea. As we gawked, the gate opened and out came a rag-tag group of desperate people led by Luis Acosta. He blinked, surprised, and then recognized Luna and the rest of us who had worked with him… as if for the first time since the Ultimates attack. Things were different. This time, they hadn't come upon the science station we set up with the help of Astraeus it was just us… and those of us playing the game of alternate-reality cause and effect in our heads realized that without Carnivale having been conquered by the Ultimates, we never fled to Lassiter, and never entered Astraeus' employ… and Acosta and his refugees never got the manufacturing capability to establish a viable colony on Pangaea. 

Indeed, we accompanied Luis back and saw the desperate straits of his hundred or so survivors. There was some debate as to whether we should open the gate to Lassiter and meet Astraeus again for the first time and establish a connection. Some among the group were hesitant, perhaps fearing her reaction to being invaded by a larger group than dropped by the first time. In all the disagreement, the group started to splinter. The crazy samurai goth-angel from Olaf just started walking off into the jungle for some goddamn reason. Suddenly, Marco got a particular look in his synthetic eye and we all felt another reality shift emanating from him. Instead of the desperate gaggle of squatters, suddenly there was a colony all around us, and Acosta and others were bringing armloads of salvaged human technology through the gate. It seems Marco changed things so that Acosta's gatecrashers found another abandoned and derelict human colony to provide them the spare parts of equipment they needed. Also, for some reason, Marco was back in his old biomorph again. The situation still wasn't as good as what we had going with Astraeus, but it was… better… and then, of course, reality changed again.

There we were, aboard the alien satellite parked above the impact crater from before. This time, the planet below looked like it had recently suffered an enormous impact event. The Olaf people were clearly frustrated by what was a seemingly abandoned satellite, but we'd been there before, and made short work of re-establishing contact with the enigmatic aliens who live in the system's sun and communicate through variable electromagnetic energy. We all had to wait the few hours for Chloelia to teach the aliens octopus color-shifting language again, but we eventually figured out that TITANs had started pouring through the gate again, and just like ten years before, the aliens threw an asteroid at them. 

In all our reality-shifting thus far, our implants, muses, and other systems seemed to shift to the current reality while our memories remained consistent. We had, by this point, become used to checking our muses to find out what time and date we were in this time. We rapidly realized that this TITAN invasion happened about a week after Luis and his people found the mysteriously abandoned and derelict human colony full of awesome technology. So… Good job Marco, you killed everyone on Pangaea with TITANs. 

That's when Kvasir shifted reality. We found ourself back on Pangaea, surrounded by desperate refugees who had just arrived, but this time, we led Luis and his forward-team through the six gate-transitions directly to Olaf, establishing a reality where the fresh Pangaea refugees established early contact with the freshly marooned Olaf expedition, allowing mutual trade and support almost from the start. We observed the aftermath of this reality… Olaf's population booming with useful Pangaea refugees bringing crates of biologicals to supplement the Olaf expedition's food stores while Olaf's science and fabrication capacity permitted Pangaea to thrive. It was almost perfect.

Almost, because all those additional people and all that additional food apparently attracted a full-scale assault by the nearby Factor sequence. More than a dozen enormous Factor eating machines attacked the camp and started eating people. I could see the expressions on the faces of my companions, especially those who had yet to exhaust themselves warping reality to their whim. We were so close to what we wanted, so close to a stable pair of colonies with all personnel accounted for, did any of us dare to make another shift without understanding the full consequences of what would happen?

The primary target locked eyes on one of the killing machines using her talents to freeze or confuse it. The corporate stooge leapt into impressively swift action, ordering scientist noncombatants to start mass-fabricating certain chemicals that apparently "smell" like the Factor words for "peace" and "sentience." Once that stuff started rolling off the fabbers and getting thrown in bucketloads at the attackers, the assault fell into chaos and confusion. Their dinosaur did some co-ordination from the skies, and everyone pitched in to stop the fight. Their crazy fashion designer practically threw himself at one of them. I felt a reality shift from that direction, but there was no apparent change… that I remember anyway.

Apparently the Factors didn't even realize we were sentient, and once they were forced to recognize that they backed off. They even vomited up the cortical stacks of the people they ate.

And things… sort of stabilized. I felt some reality shifts from the corporate goon and from our own gatecrasher, but nothing seemed to change. The… energy, for lack of a better word… that had permeated all of us dissipated. I let mine go willingly, and I got the distinct impression that the crazy samurai did the same. I did it because I didn't trust myself with that sort of power. I suspect his motives were… different.  That said, we now find ourselves in a new reality where Pangaea and Olaf are connected, we never met Astraeus or the hyperintelligent shades of the color blue. We never found the crystal-ship in the sea, nor the psychic gate-parasite. 

In fact, I'm starting to recollect memories I know shouldn't be there… memories of being on the Chat Noir side of the Fissure gate when the Ultimates attacked rather than the Carnivale-side… memories of accompanying Luis Acosta and his refugees, of Chloelia's bus being used to ferry the injured or weak, memories of Alexi's aid increasing the speed with which the gates could be cycled… memories that made Luis' refugee expedition to Pangaea safer and more successful than… my previous set of memories would indicate. In fact, now that I think about it, I have no memories of Karim Jalal at all after Marco's brief encounter with him on Carnivale prior to the Ultimates attack. 

We stuck around to help the Olaf folks in the aftermath of the Factor attack, but we need to get back to Pangaea and decide how much of our previous gatecrashing adventures we want to repeat… if any… and if so, how we want to change things this time. The moon-spiders and their deacon are still out there. Astraeus still needs raw materials. The sun-aliens are still uncontacted. Psychic parasites have left our minds uncolonized. We're starting over… sort of… but now we have regular and reasonably secure trade and communication with a significant scientific expedition who has just lost about 30 people to Factor attack. Do we dare try to find Rael Duvalier again and bargain for new biomorphs? 

I don't know. I don't know about any of it, and I'm sure you are thinking I've cracked. Doubtless you remember this new "version" of me, this new perspective, as if it has always been me. You probably don't even know what the hell I'm talking about when I talk about moon spiders and Duvalier and purple sun-aliens and the like. I'd think I was crazy if I didn't remember all of it. 

Yet it never happened.

I need a drink.

View
Into the Sphere
4XP = Total 32 XP

I’ve fallen in with an odd group, although odd is definitely relative. I supposed compared to the team my initial fork still travels with this group is par for the course. Gatecrashing is a career move that definitely attracts the eccentric, and I'm certainly no exception to that rule.

Some days ago, I was monitoring the security and surveillance I set up at the expedition base camp, as usual, when I felt a… strange pressure, a premonition of some immense event, potentially devastating to all conscious minds in the camp. In a panic, I did the only thing I could think of and I downloaded myself into one of the extra splicer morphs without activating the thaw process. Apparently it worked. Next thing I knew I was looking through biological eyes at five strangers.

I did what I could to ascertain who they were. They claimed to be gatecrashers from the colony that Sanjay Rhys found, Pangaea. They apparently returned with Rhys to find everyone at base camp mysteriously gone, and some alien signal trying to co-opt our local mesh. Somehow Darius Croenig-Bern defeated this signal. I sent some mesh-inquiries to the copy of me at Croenig-Bern's camp, but he apparently departed with my primary self and is no longer in contact. The copy of me at the airlock camp confirmed the newcomers' story, however.

It seems that whatever strange force caused the Factors to vanish from base-camp's vicinity and appear near the airlock may be responsible for similarly vanishing our base camp's personnel. Since that initial incident coincided with the activation of the airlock, the only real idea I had was to see if fiddling with the airlock might change things to bring them back. It was a bit of a stretch, I know.

After sharing news with the newcomers, they agreed to use their own aircraft to travel to the airlock camp's location. They appear to have an async with them. She unnerves me, but perhaps it's just the … sensation of resonance I get when I look at her. She was very curious as to how an AGI could become infected. We spoke a bit. I feel somewhat confirmed in my decision to stay digital as often as possible. Giving the virus its way by going biological just seems to encourage it to make you less and less stable. Perhaps I'm doing her a disservice.

Their pilot is a neo-octopus. She seems quite skilled, and we were aloft and making good time. About twelve hours into our journey their scout and gatecrasher noticed refined metal on the surface which turned out to be a derelict vehicle. A quick mesh inquiry to the airlock camp indicated that none of them had lost a vehicle, which led to the hypothesis that maybe the long-lost Gunderson expedition had lost one fairly close to base camp, less than a week by surface-travel, that had been overlooked by previous flyovers.

We opted to land at the closest stretch of flat ground. As we approached the derelict vehicle, however, we noticed a humanoid form slumped against a wheel with glowing blue filaments sprouting from it and infiltrating the surrounding countryside. Alexi and Marco, being synthmorphs, opted to approach. They rapidly determined that the filaments appeared to be some sort of fungus, and highly electrified, capable of incapacitating synthmorphs. Both of them took some damage before they were able to back off. Chloelia somewhat recklessly poked a filament with a tentacle confirming that the electric shocks hurt biomorphs too. Wherever the fungus was contacted it seemed to discharge energy like a capacitor, leaving the fungus a dull blue, but also stimulated rapid growth in the direction of the contact in keeping with a "stinger" predatory style. 

After some careful analysis, it appeared that the fungus was drawing power from the dead synthmorph's power supply, and also the power supply of the vehicle. Naomi was able to leverage the body free of the fungus and onto the vehicle's roof, where Marco was able to carefully remove the cortical stack. We abandoned everything else as a lost cause. 

Once in the air, Alexi and Marco booted the stack up in a field simulspace they had. She was Xinghua Ming, a member of Gunderson's expedition. Apparently, only days out of base camp, they encountered Factors and were forced to flee a conflict after having been wounded and damaged. Six hours later, Ming's body began to malfunction and she remembered nothing more. This seemed to confirm that the fungus was some sort of Factor bio-weapon. She seemed saddened that Gunderson and her other team-mates didn't return for her. 

About six hours after we encountered the fungus most of us began showing symptoms as well. It appears the spores in the air caught in our lungs and synth bodies. I pumped myself full of anti-fungal and anti-biotic drugs, which seemed to fight it off. Chloelia found a lake to land in and submerged, drowning the fungus. Naomi just… concentrated hard… and coughed the fungal mass out of her sinuses. The synthmorphs were less lucky. Alexi caught her infection quickly and isolated the parts of herself infected until removal could be effected Marco shut himself off completely. Naomi had to perform significant cleaning and repair services to get the fungus out. Eventually we seemed clean once more.

We arrived at the airlock camp where we met the engineers who were converting the suborbital shuttle to something spaceworthy. They reported completion. Luna recruited one of Kitano's people to come with us in exchange for the loan of one of their laser-swords. We piled into the shuttle with Chloelia piloting and entered the airlock.

The trick, of course, was in opening it. I tried, but much like the attempt made by my primary fork, all I got was a headache. Naomi made an attempt to attune to the lock and… something dramatic happened. Her eyes began glowing red and she started spouting glossolalia, alien words beyond the capacity of our muses' ability to translate. A risky attempt by Alexi to distract the seemingly-possessed Naomi allowed Luna and Marco to strike her and break her connection to whatever was in her mind. Suddenly the airlock began to close above us and open beneath us. 

When the floor opened up, a lemon yellow light poured up and we faced a gulf, a vast interior space filled with skyscraper-sized glowing yellow crystals covered in traceries of alien circuitry. Hovering below us was a small shuttle and a humanoid figure in an EVA suit waving up at us. We established communication and he identified himself as Dr. Alexi Gunderson. He claimed to have opened the airlock for us and he wanted to show us a place to land where we could speak face to face.

Everyone was suitably suspicious, but after some conversation we grudgingly followed him to a landing place in the sphere's superstructure where we had an EVA-suit to EVA-suit conversation. He said a great many things about trans-dimensional theoretical physics which were fascinating, and which I'll be storing in separate data logs for further analysis. He didn't know about the missing base-camp personnel, but didn't seem surprised. He indicated that the entire sphere was an immense machine constructed solely to artificially manipulate perceptual realities. The odd events on the surface were byproducts of the sphere's true function which, Gunderson claimed, was to artificially unify the perceptual frames of reference of every piece of the vast crystalline intelligence that lives in the sphere and has propagated throughout the galaxy.

Essentially, he claimed that every intelligent yellow crystal everywhere in the galaxy is all part and parcel of one immense intelligence. It's not a hive, or a gestalt, it's just one enormously powerful sentience and the sphere is the mechanism whereby it's many far-flung pieces can think and perceive in unison.

Gunderson proposed a method whereby we might gain the return of the missing personnel. It involved seeking the attention of this meta-intelligence and gaining its cooperation in shifting "perceptual reality" such that we once more exist in a version of events where they weren't missing. Upon learning of the Ultimates' assault on the Solar system gates, he was momentarily concerned, but posited a similar shift in reality might fix that problem. Needless to say, many of us looked askance at any course of action that would draw the attention of such an entity to the Solar system, particularly in a "change reality" kind of way.

Gunderson claimed that my primary fork and the forward expeditionary force had arrived at the ruins he called "the citadel" and he offered to bring us together. His theory was that gathering a larger number of "perceptual frameworks" in one place would create an "anomaly" in the system that would be more likely to draw the attention of the crystalline intelligences for the purposes of initiating communication. We opted to follow him to join with the other group to discuss our options.

We flew through a strange blue field where I instantaneously experienced every possible version of myself through every permutation of possible events. It was… disorienting. Aside from that, nothing seems to have changed, but I'll shut down this log for later review while I make a mental inventory.

 

View
The Citadel
4 XP = Total: 34 XP

Internal Log 00×343AX

Visitors have arrived. My contemplation was perturbed by shifting probability on the charm axis suggesting potential waveform shift in my immediate vicinity. The perspective variant being affected was one in which the Citadel and its vast machineries were in decay. The visitors, transhumans from the solar system equipped with a fusion-powered jet aircraft, had landed. I could not help but feel a twinge of remorse that we hadn't waited for the resources to construct one of those ourselves. We would have saved ourselves a good deal of pain and tribulation in the fungal forest.

They explored the sun towers, inadvertently activating self-repair in one of them before venturing to the entrance of the Citadel itself. Much to my surprise, one of them was touched by the sphere-builders sufficiently to activate the sun gate. I opted to immanentize in the entry to greet them.

They recognized the physical form I manifested, which was a useful data point as it suggested familiarity with the Olaf expedition. Verbal engagement confirmed this hypothesis with additional data. Apparently, the expedition I was a part of was recalled while the corporate powers-that-be hashed out ownership and exploitation rights from their shadowy rooms. These explorers were from a subsequent expedition possessing the data from the first.

I engaged them affably enough, although a certain lack of immediate trust was to be expected. The one touched by the sphere builders, Ivan, seemed willing to accept my invitation to enter the Citadel but the others were hesitant. The neo-crow and the corporate security android were cautious, but the warrior in the exotic winged biomorph seemed the most overtly hostile in a quiet way. Still, I think I intrigued them enough with the simplest explanation I could manage of this sphere's function and purpose that we will be able to engage in tentative mutual trust. 

They want to either return me to their base camp, or arrange a line of communication from there to the Citadel. The fungal forest prevents conventional communication across the vast surface of Olaf. Fortunately I am well aware of less conventional options. If these new visitors can be convinced to work with me, I look forward to showing them some of the possibilities available to one who has scratched the surface of this sphere's potential.

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Mercenary Murder
4XP = Total 28 XP

Xenolinguist's Log, Entry 3112
Cailey Macek 

Goddamnit Marco, why couldn't you have gone into a nice career like xenobotany or genehacking. I mean, don't get me wrong, you're a pretty good ego hunter, but nobody wins them all, and sometimes bad luck comes home to roost.

Apparently, according to Astraeus, your little 3-way dance with Carillo Wu and Karim Jalal come to something of a conclusion. Our companions noticed you'd been missing while they prepared to investigate this news of a dyson sphere and made some inquiries. They eventually found some evidence that Jalal had jumped you with the help of some shady colonists, stole Chloelia's shuttle, and absconded with you to parts unknown. Despite the fact that it's a big fucking planet, some good guesswork and Alexi Oda's talents for overland tracking and exploration found Jalal's hidden base where he had been building (thanks to a fabber stolen from the colony) a field-psychosurgery suite. 

The assault took the life of Venus. Luna's  posse of grenadiers is smaller by one until we can get her resleeved. The assault also took out Karim, fortunately. They found you, sort of. They recovered you. Sort of.

I can't really imagine the months of adaptive torment your ego underwent, each time your mind would break the system would map weaknesses and psychological strengths and reboot you from the cortical stack to try again. By the time it was done, it was a program custom-created to extract the maximum amount of information from your brain. I'm glad they deleted what was left. It would have broken my heart to see that version of you.

The cortical stack itself was recovered, and ultimately sleeved into one of Astraeus' synthmorphs. I know how much this must suck for you. Sources of biomorphs are few and far between, but hey, I've adjusted to my synth, you can too, and at least this way you're still alive, mind intact and unbroken. Whatever that asshole was trying to learn from you it's not worth obsessing over revenge. Hell, Karim's in Naomi's pocket anyway, so we'll have to wait until they get back from their trip to that dyson sphere that other gatecrashing team was talking about. According to that raven in charge, Sanjay, their home base has access to biomorphs, so maybe there will be some good news in a few days.

I can't tell you this to your face right now because your revenge settings are still maxed out, but I care about you. You're alive, but you could easily have not been, all because some psycho asshole was trying to get closer to Naomi. I don't know why she's so important to you, why she stopped being just another job, nor do I understand why Carillo seems to be doing something similar, but she's trouble. I like her well enough, but you need to re-evaluate your existence a bit. Maybe some time in a synth will be good for you.

Here's hoping.

 

View
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.

View
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.

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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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