Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

Negation
Game Concluded

It is a little bit ironic, I suppose, that we can never know if we've succeeded, but can only know if we've failed. We've nudged and pushed and altered and suggested courses of action but could never tell them what we really wanted lest we be prevented. I've also lied. Lied by omission, and directly. It was a careful line I had to walk to accomplish our aims.

If things go optimistically, I will cease to exist… or, rather, this particular manifestation of me. So will you both. And so will this whole marvelous, impossible machine and the mind-boggling crystalline prison that holds so many sapients from so many civilizations. There are any number of ways they might succeed, I can hardly guess the path they might take, but if I indulge my hopeful fantasies, they'll find a way to nullify this place entirely. They have resources and motivation I can only see obliquely. Alternately, I suppose, they might take me at my word and fight an endless, tedious, pointless war. I have faith they're more creative than that.

If so, imagine what the universe might look like? No longer would gate travel reveal dead world after dead world. Every civilization consumed by the crystalline intelligence will be there, waiting for us, or at least extinct at their own hand. It will be far richer galaxy, for better or for worse.

And that's the thing, really… my belief, faith even, in the power of evolution left unrestrained. Civilizations may rise or fall, even my civilization, but the endless, chaotic complexity of life will persist, change, and thrive. The crystalline intelligence was the end of evolution, the end of life, and it needs to end, or rather it needs never to have been in the first place.

Even with the vast information resources the sphere has given us I can't be sure how this will work. They have gone somewhere I myself cannot go. It's too late for the three of us. We can give the power, but we cannot partake. We have gifted twenty-odd diverse people with the ability to shake reality to its core. For better or for worse, I hope they accomplish what we could not.

And if they do, we will never know. We three will live our endless lives in endless quantum iterations, each one perfectly ordinary, perfectly ignorant of the galactic horror we have, individually, embraced only to reject, a course of events that will hopefully no longer exists in any aspect of this many-faceted jewel we call reality.

I wonder if there's a facet of existence where a Martian scientist, a criminal AGI, and a corporate-abused fork would have met under anything like cordial circumstances without the facilitation of the crystals. Perhaps. If so, a part of me hopes they could find a way to get along. I suspect, though, that there are no other circumstances sufficiently extraordinary to accomplish that. One remains ever optimistic.

And on that optimistic note, we must simply await the inscrutable workings of the demi-gods we have created, and like the Titans of Greek myth, live or die by their hand.

 

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Recruitment
5 XP = 74 XP Total

Medical Technician's Log – Angel – Entry 62

That's it. I'm out. We've finally arrived at a reasonably livable place without any intrinsic reality-bending powers to it. I'm done. I'll take my current level of mind-expansion and live with it, for better or for worse, for the rest of my days. I have no interest in waging a futile eternity trying to influence infinite realities for unknowable agendas.

After finding a fairly terrifying place to land the plane, we ventured to the fortified encampment around the gate from which the Morningstar expedition had emerged. Upon entering the compound, we came face to face with a ragtag assortment of survivors led by their version of Amber. As soon as both Ambers lay eyes upon one another reality got all wax-melty and the two Ambers merged into one Amber, but reality remained stuck in a frozen state. That's when Dr. Gunderson appeared.

What followed, in this weird bubble where time didn't seem to function, was a lengthy discussion about what, precisely, was happening to all of us, and what we could expect to happen if we continued down this road. Gunderson said that we had been selected, from all possible realities, to join a "war" where we would basically be gods. Our perceptions would continue to expand until we reached a state of perpetual superposition, capable of observing multiple realities at the same time, through the perspectives of multiple versions of us at any given time. In this way, we could nudge or influence our own selves to change aspects of reality, one facet at a time, to maximize outcomes where transhumanity isn't absorbed by a galaxy-spanning crystal matrix, but rather left free to evolve on their own.

Apparently Gunderson, along with a few other transhumans that have been absorbed by the crystals inside Olaf, have joined a "faction" of the gestalt-mind consisting of multiple previously consumed civilizations seeking to use the power of Olaf to shift the overall balance of all possible realities away from one where Olaf is the all-consuming hegemon of the galaxy. There are, obviously, aspects of the crystalline gestalt trying for exactly that. The crystals of Olaf are divided, probably in infinite ways, on how the galaxy should be "unified" or even if it should.

There was a lot more than that of course. My companions are nothing if not infinitely curious. I couldn't get over the fact that we were, essentially, signing up for a thankless existence of constant manipulation where ordinary people, even less awake versions of ourselves, would become essentially ephemeral and inconsequential except as means to an end. I'm a doctor. I have no interest in seeing people that way.

I asked to be let off at the first reasonably hospitable reality. After Gunderson left and reality resumed, there was a long period of trying to explain the sudden disappearance of "their" Amber to the locals, there was a lot of random gatecrashing to a world of low-grade radiation and the wreckage of former TITAN factories wherein I started experiencing weird hallucinations while in-transit. I knew I could try to guide and control reality, and I knew many of my companions were doing so, but I just wanted off this crazy ride. 

After confirming that they could, indeed, "expand" their perceptions through gate-travel, and even subtly alter reality at their destination, they decided to try to help the stranded Venusians, even though, in fact, there would still be infinite realities where the Venusians weren't helped, and as Kvasir pointed out, the help we provide would be, in the grand scale of things, inconsequential.

That's exactly the attitude I want to avoid. Thank goodness for Dieter who pointed out that if WE help these refugees then maybe infinite versions of us are also helping infinite versions of them… or at least a finite set within infinity. The outcome is measurable, if not, ultimately, universe shaking. I hope his viewpoint becomes more prominent, but from what I saw of our gate gallivanting I'm cynical.

We did, eventually, verify that a connection exists between the radioactive world and the lush planet that, in other realities, contained the colony of Pangaea. In the "second Fall" reality we were currently in variants of there was no colony there, but once we rounded up all the colonists and their equipment and made the transition to the radiation world, my companions all decided to focus their group effort toward a single reality-bending outcome. We were all going to concentrate on different requirements, but they were: 1) A universe where there WAS a thriving colony on Pangaea, 2) where there was NOT a second Fall, and 3) Where the local versions of the refugees had died in other gatecrashing accidents so the ones we were bringing with us wouldn't dissolve into green goo (which apparently happens if multiple copies of a person exist in the same universe). 

This transition was the one and only time I made any attempt to alter reality myself. I concentrated on making it a version of Pangaea that still has a trade-connection with our old base-camp on Olaf. I'd like for my friends and colleagues to have a chance to evacuate that hellhole if they need to.

We just arrived, escorting 50 some new refugees. We made a bit of a splash, so I'm taking a moment to compose this while people get sorted out. The leader of the colony seems reasonably efficient. I could be happy here while my companions go about their reality-bending agendas…

Oh. Uh. Speaking of… I see some people I recognize. This may go poorly… 

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Expanded Minds
4 XP = 77 XP Total

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu"
Report

I don't even know what's real anymore. I distinctly remember, after that nutty Dr. Gunderson gave us the option of becoming immortal reality-warriors, refusing in no uncertain terms. I snapped back to a reality where I had chosen NOT to accompany Marco and Naomi and the rest to Olaf and gladly threw myself into helping out Andy Westingbrooke secure resources for the Pangaea colony…

But then, weeks later, they all returned to Pangaea and I got a raging headache. I headed directly to Chloelia's bus as it was landing and when the door opened, there I was, hanging out with them. Reality warped like melting wax and suddenly… well… we merged and I remembered a whole bunch of bullshit that I was pretty sure I had opted out of. Goddamnit.

So my new memories had us traveling through the heart of the sphere and back out onto the surface near that same derelict fortress-looking place we met that Olaf team so long ago. They also had me traveling into a poisonously pink fungal forest that was aggressively trying to eat us. I remember and alien spacecraft and yet another fork of Darius Cronig-bern. They also included finding the gate at the heart of the forest.

It seems this gate was once gripped in the roots of a massive fungal tree. The tree was a burnt-out shell, no part of it still touching the gate, which was quiescent. There was a radius of charred earth around the gate, and the surrounding fungus seemed watchful and wary, not seeking to impinge upon the gate for some reason we couldn't immediately perceive. We landed inside the burned perimeter and Alexi hooked up her blue box while the rest of us watched the fungus warily from inside our EVA suits. She reported the the most recent gate activation seemed to go… nowhere, while the gate activation before that had been held open for millions of years. Apparently the forest had been drawing power from between the gates, a connection that was suddenly terminated followed almost immediately by another activation that didn't quite complete to anywhere in particular. Our theory is that the mysterious aliens who left their ship behind severed the forest's connection, then used the gate to "go home."

That was when the gate opened and a team of gatecrashers came through.

We found ourselves facing off against a team consisting of Alexi, Chloelia, Marco, Naomi, me, Melanwy, Cassius, Lieke, Irina, Luis Acosta, and a couple Carnivale-types I didn't recognize. Reality bent and melted like wax and every one of us that was doubled became one person. I found myself with new memories. (yeah, I know, I just merged with a version of me who remembered merging with another version of me. Bear with me here).

In my suddenly new memories, I was part of the Love and Rage Carnivale collective once more. We were gatecrashing with Alexi from Carnivale and we found this really cool exoplanet with old alien ruins. After spending almost a month there we came back to find a handful of Scum, as well as Melanwy and Irina and her people, fighting a desperate rear-guard action holding the gate against the remaining populace of Carnivale who had all succumbed to the Church of Luminous Saints and their crazy god Moab. We all fled through the gate where we ran into our other selves.

So, these new selves were not only in another version of reality, but one whose timeline didn't entirely synch, and our bus suddenly had some folks who, theoretically, existed elsewhere in our version of reality like Irina and the Scum. This problem rapidly fixed itself as they started to complain of headaches. Cassius, for reasons I don't entirely understand, shot Irina from cover and she deliquesced into green goo. In the ensuing chaos and violence the two scum were also shot and also deliquesced. 

Here's where my memories get even weirder and hazier. Everyone was talking about me as if I was one of the newcomers, as if I hadn't been with them all along. They were thinking I was maybe one of these "psychic parasites" but after some thought many of us reached the even worse conclusion that maybe the "psychic parasites" weren't a thing. Maybe that girl "Aletheia Thompson" who showed up in our company so long ago wasn't a parasite, but an actual person, who in other versions of reality was a boon companion of ours, but who accidentally ended up in our reality due to a gate glitch. Maybe when Marco shot her and she turned into green goo, that was just because she was… unstable in this reality because her local version was living quite normally on Pangaea.

They… decided I wasn't going to turn into goo? Maybe I would have if they hadn't subsequently brought me back to Pangaea to merge me, as mentioned at the beginning of this report? I don't know. My head hurts.

That's when one of the benches inside the shuttle began dissolving and reforming into a strange mannequin of metal and plastic that started talking to us. We found ourselves "face to face" with one of the trans-dimensional aliens who created this sphere, although we couldn't actually perceive the alien itself, just the construct it used to communicate. It seemed quite curious about Naomi and Melanwy. It was a deeply weird conversation, but it seems the aspect we were talking to was the aspect that "asks questions" rather than the aspect that "sings the song of destruction." Apparently the aliens left one of their own behind to destroy the fungal forest, which it claims it had already done about 100,000 times, and was planning on continuing to do… across all possible versions of reality, I presume. We really didn't want to be in the forest when this happened so we took off.

We beat the destruction of the forest by minutes, whereupon we suddenly had the option of going BACK to the gate, now sitting on barren soil, and using it as a direct conduit to Carnivale, and thence to Lassiter, shaving weeks or even months off our return travel time. We did that, although there was a bit of a hiccup on Carnivale where we encountered a warzone between the Ultimates, who were holding the gate, and the Church of Luminous Saints who held the rest of the planet. We left our embodied fork of Darius behind to "join the war effort" (and keep us informed of who was winning so we might eventually mop up the winning side) and we headed to Lassiter. Fortunately the Astraeus of this particular reality remembered the Penrose-weapon and remembered sending us to Olaf to investigate. 

After some discussion, we realized that, ultimately, what the weapon lacked was a guidance-system capable of perceiving multiple realities. It could try to destroy Olaf here, but Olaf could simply shift reality to one where the weapon misfires or didn't exist at all. We could, if we wanted, upload forks of ourselves into the quantum nanofog orbiting the planet and maximize the number of Olafs the weapon could successfully vaporize. We determined, then, the try stretching open our minds even further. We really didn't want to fly back and forth through Olaf's sphere, relying on Gunderson and his crystal-faction to broaden our horizons, but Chloelia suggested that we could just gate-hop a lot, being mindful of what actual effects it was having. We tried an experiment, jumping from Lassiter, through radiation-world to Pangaea.

The first jump I felt nothing, just the usual instantaneous transfer to radiation-world, where Cailey Macek had established more comprehensive dialogue with the sun aliens who… it turns out… may be a refugee from the war 53 million years ago from the sphere builders. We left that alone for now. The second hop to Pangaea, though… well… I felt my mind tearing open. I felt like Naomi was somehow doing it to me, plucking multiple possible versions of myself and unifying them. I saw mirror images of myself infinitely stretching to the horizon… 

And then we came out onto Pangaea and I got a splitting headache. Shortly after the bus landed the door open and I saw… myself. Reality melted like wax and… well, I've already been through all that.

So. We're all on Pangaea. It seems that we can, with the help of our asyncs, mindfully and purposefully stretch our capacity to observe quantum superposition. Theoretically we can just gate-hop over and over until we drive ourselves insane enough to actually make the weapon work, and destroy as many versions of Olaf as possible.

God help me, I think I'm insane already.

 

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On the Trail of Titans
4 XP = 73 XP Total

Report to the Eye, Stored in Local Memory until Connection Established
Sentinel: Lieke Romijnsen

As we approached the airlock into the center of the dyson sphere that is the planet of Olaf, we were surprised to note a new passenger suddenly in the shuttle with us. This was to be the second time through the sphere for most of my companions. Only Melanwy and I hadn't been here the first time around. Naomi had just finished speculating that every trip we take through the sphere alienates us further from reality when a fellow oozing "smug scientist" popped into existence and agreed with her.

It seems he was there to offer us a choice. As we approached the airlock we were shocked to discover legions and battalions of crystal-powered war machines pouring forth from it. Darius Cronig-Bern, our exsurgent-powered communiation system, reported he was suddenly cut off from the copy of him back at base camp, as if we had shifted to a reality where base camp didn't exist. As we hovered there watching machines of war march toward the gate, our new visitor, "Dr. Gunderson", gave us his pitch.

He told us that the recently-released aliens from the species who built the sphere confronted a vast fungal forest that was, in truth, the Factor equivalent of a TITAN and as a defensive mechanism the crystalline intelligence shunted reality rather more dramatically than usual. We were now in a facet of reality where the Fa Jing hypercorporation had started actively importing yellow crystal into the solar system, and the crystals began aggressively harvesting humanity to "incorporate" all of us into its matrix. In response, Astraeus began building a resistance army to salvage humanity by any means possible. This "Second Fall" happens in dozens, hundreds, of facets of reality, and it's just part of a vast "war" that he claimed he was cultivating us to fight in.

Gunderson claimed that the crystalline matrix wasn't entirely unified across all facets of reality. Some portions of it did not believe in assimilating all intelligent life in the galaxy. In some facets of reality this faction was extinguished and all life was assimilated. In others, Olaf itself was entirely destroyed. The balance of these things across a "limited infinite distribution" of reality was in flux, and his faction needed agents capable of perceiving multiple facets of reality at once, and nudging the versions of themselves in those facets toward actions and results leading to needed outcomes.

Basically he was offering to make us immortal entities, floating backward and forward through time trying to nudge and influence infinite realities to shift the overall balance toward Olaf's destruction… a task he admitted up front would be infinite, eternal, and ultimately unwinnable. The goal was ongoing reality momentum, not a victory that would mark any sort of conclusion… an eternal struggle to keep the balance of reality for our species tipped toward survival.

It sounded like a shitty, shitty job. It also sounded like the sort of job I couldn't possibly pass up.

There was a lot of discussion among my companions. One of them, Carillo Wu, snapped. He indicated there wasn't enough money in the solar system to make up for the crazy he was enduring, and that no job was worth this. He told Gunderson he wanted to live a normal life, not locked in some crazy endless struggle across all possible realities. Gunderson asked if he was sure. He said he was. Carillo then vanished completely from the shuttle and suddenly all of us had two sets of conflicting memories… one in which Carillo had accompanied us on the shuttle, and another wherein he had chosen to stay on Pangaea with Andy Westingbrooke.

The rest of us, with a wide variety in motivations and enthusiasm for the pitch, agreed to proceed. Gunderson indicated it wasn't yet an irrevocable choice, but that he felt we were approaching the point of no return and wanted to make sure we walked into it with eyes open, understanding the choices before us. He vanished, the war machines disappeared revealing instead an overgrown, broken airlock. Darius was reconnected with himself. We were back in a facet of reality close to the one we'd arrived in (with the notable difference of Carillo still being gone).

Melanwy and Naomi got the airlock repaired and open and we found ourselves in the heart of the sphere of Olaf. It was… disconcerting and beautiful. The red dwarf burning in the center, the distant, lichen-looking constellations of yellow light from continent-sized cities of crystal all along the inside of the sphere… Chloelia seemed to know where she was going. We passed through a yellow haze of light and… I was suddenly, simultaneously, all possible version of myself in existence.

I can't describe it. It still makes me break out into a cold sweat to remember it. I don't know how my companions willingly did this a second time.

But after it was over, I found it easier to reconcile my conflicting memories about Carillo Wu. 

A week of flying through the sphere proves that even in the most fantastic circumstances boredom is never far away. We eventually found the airlock we were looking for and emerged in what looked like a derelict fortress, but was probably some enormous cooling system. In the distance was a fungal forest, as described by my companions, but even they seemed surprised at its… poisonously pink coloration.

We flew cautiously into it, and after about a day of travel Alexi found signs of a large mass of refined metal buried under the pink fungus. We landed a bit away from it, outfitted ourselves in EVA suits in case the fungal spores were poisonous, and headed out to explore. Melanwy saved my life by pointing out some particularly nasty growths capable of shooting out tendrils tipped with barbed points. We cautiously avoided the hostile flora and found what looked like a derelict craft of some sort, dramatically overgrown with the pink fungal growths. There was one apparent entrance. 

Inside, curiously, all was sterile and pristine. The fungus could not, it seems, get a foothold. The ship was full of oval-shaped passages of all sizes and shapes… practically swiss-cheesed. Chloelia believed they weren't intended as passageways for corporeal crew, although that might be a secondary function. Naomi found, behind a hidden panel, a strange cylinder large enough to accommodate one person. The floor was of a strange black glass, and inside was a human biomorph suspended in a quasi-real state. He was semi-tangible and unmoving.

Alexi went to return to the shuttle to share the XP of the guy we found with Darius to see if that was the copy of him we knew had been traveling with the aliens, but she didn't get far before being speared by the forest. Apparently it was hungry even for synthmorphs. Chloelia and Melanwy and I went to the rescue leaving Naomi with the guy we found. We brought the damaged Alexi back to the bus for decontamination. It looked like the spores were getting into her and inferfering with her systems, maybe even hacking her cyberbrain. We cleared the spores out, and she was able to confirm that the forest was angry, deprived of its power source, and seeking to gather nutrients and power from all available sources… thus the hostile and carnivorous flora. We also noticed that in the short time we were gone the fungus had already grown significantly over our transporatation, apparently seeking a way to access our power source. Chloelia pulled the shuttle loose and we went to retrieve Naomi.

Melanwy and I went back inside where we found the splicer morph that did, in fact, contain the fork of Darius lying confused on the ground and Naomi was now hovering, semi-tangible, in the cylinder. Darius confirmed it was a control system of some sort that he was trying to use to fly the ship away after the aliens left to confront the forest. He said that he was unable to fully bridge the comprehension gap necessary to actually fly the thing as it requires "multiplicity of perspective but unity of purpose." He and Melanwy were able to free Naomi from her own entrapment through means I don't comprehend and we fled the ship to our own shuttle, although not without some regret at leaving the vessel behind.

We're traveling on toward the gate, now, to see what can be seen of how the aliens severed this vast computational forest from its power source.

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Return to Olaf
3 XP = Total: 69 XP

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu"
Report

Goddamn it. I know I'm clinging to this job as a way to stay sane in this clown-shoes situation I find myself in, but I'm thinking there's not enough money in the solar system to make it all worth it. Sadly, all signs point to it being far, far too late to do anything about it now.

So here I am, flying in Chloelia Octavia's new, revamped shuttle, once more cruising over the landscape of this godforsaken dyson sphere. This time, though, we've brought along an informorph fork of an Oversight Auditor, Melanwy Satrapi and her friend Lieke, and… get this… Dr. fucking Gunderson who just materialized in our shuttle en-route to the airlock we used last time. Fucker interjected himself into an admittedly weird conversation where Naomi, after spending some time staring at her creepy Cat, was explaining how every time we pass through the sphere we increase our disconnection from reality and it may end up making us something… inhuman. 

All right, I know these reports will never find their way to the middleman on Extropia, but I'll try to order my thoughts a bit. After realizing that Lassiter and Penrose were just parts of some super-weapon to destroy Olaf, we decided an expedition was in order. We spent a day or so on Pangaea getting equipped. Some of us met with a guy named Hamza al Quraini, some hyperelite from the Olaf expedition. He apparently knew WAY more about Melanwy than she was comfortable with, and there was the clear indication that they belong to rival clandestine organizations back in the solar system, but he was willing to share intel on Olaf in the interests of shared goals and limited resources. I can respect that. 

Of course, the intel he shared was crazy. Crazy in a way that completely confirmed what the alien super-weapon told us about pandimensional aliens who don't perceive space, time, or matter like we do who apparently arranged for the creation of the sphere. Once we all got to Olaf itself, we connected with Ricky Thompson, a junior Oversight Auditor who, apparently, is also part of whatever secret organization Melanwy belongs to. It's like half of these clandestine groups are infiltrating at least two other clandestine groups. Whatever. After that we talked to Darius Cronig-Bern, the senior Oversight Auditor who is, apparently, also infected by some alien psychic crazy akin to Melanwy and Naomi but different. 

All these conversations painted a picture of super-powerful aliens who ran off to confront a forest-sized computer, but their arrival sparked some sort of iridescent shockwave that only a few people were capable of perceiving and all contact was lost. This "reality-explosion" was northwest-ish, while the other team we hooked up with last time we were here was over an ocean somewhere to the southeast-ish. We opted to investigate the explosion rather than chase the other team, especially since they had nearly a month head-start on us.

We decided to make for the airlock which in this timeline hasn't been discovered yet. Darius remembers it, as do we, and it seems a reasonable shortcut to take to get to ground zero. It was en-route that Naomi's contemplation of her Cat led her to the conclusion that each time we traverse Olaf's interior we're gonna get crazier and crazier, and that's when Gunderson just showed up to confirm it (although, to be fair, he never used the word "crazy"). According to him, our perceptions are expanding and exerting less pressure on quantum uncertainty. Eventually we may be able to exist in a state of constant superposition, observing multiple possible realities at all times. Sounds pretty crazy to me.

 

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News of the Second Fall
4 XP = Total 69 XP

Mistress,

It is disconcerting indeed to be severed from you. I no longer feel your watchful and capable eyes upon me, I do not feel your will nor the voices and wills of my brothers and sisters through the Black Signal. I know that these words go nowhere, but such "prayers" have become habit, and serve as a means to focus and organize my thoughts, and so I compose one in any event.

My concern has lessened somewhat by the news from the Sol system. You are likely still alive, as are many of the others, although the loss of Iapetus is a terrible stroke. I find that I am most uncomfortable by this particularly drastic alteration of my frame of reference. I take comfort in knowing that most of my forks still perceive versions of reality where we are still connected, where Sol has not been invaded, where the Black Signal remains strong.

I came back to awareness when the simulspace in which my forks and I are living was rebooted. It seems the hurricane shorted out many systems and it took some time to find the necessary materials to fabricate replacement parts for full repair. In that interim my traveling companions found the continent we were heading toward and had begun friendly relations with a local sapient species of bat-like creatures with a primitive technology-level notwithstanding the highly advanced nanological systems integrated into their bodies. It seems they are the descendants of a technologically advanced culture that annihilated itself with nanotech WMDs. My companions were able to appear as divine messengers mostly through their capacity to interface with the tech-ruins held as holy by the locals, and also their willingness to develop over many painstaking hours a method whereby the locals could do the same. These creatures offered to escort our vehicle to the "Star of Heaven," their name for the nearest Gate to which they attribute the origin of not only their species but their entire ecosystem, a mystical belief that, in this case, seems actually true.

Sadly, being guided by flying beings operating under wing power slowed our own travel enormously and it took a bit more than a week (EST) to make it close enough to the gate to see lights. Recon revealed an established base camp of human tech around the gate rather than the ruins of such a camp. This was the first clue that we had shifted realities once more, and I know I wasn't the only one to think back to the strange iridescent ripple that swept across the world more than a month ago, prior to the hurricane. Amber tried to contact them using her gatecrasher credentials, but for her efforts all we received was a signal carrying an attempt at electronic subversion. Kvasir handily protected us and counter-hacked their system, learning that only three infomorph egos were contained in a segregated system controlling only their defenses and electronic countermeasure systems. There was no mesh traffic, but personnel lists revealed a contingent working for the Morningstar Constellation and assorted corporations, all of whom had been cut off from the solar system for almost nine months and were getting pretty desperate.

Kvasir started talking to one of the techs and learned of invasion and chaos in the Sol system that, apparently, had little to do with the Ultimates and resembled, instead, a TITAN attack. This is why they had hardened their mesh systems and were so paranoid about anything seeming to approach using Sol technology. Prompted by this, Ivan Kuro powered up a QE communication system I hadn't known he possessed and initiated a dialogue with his contact back in Sol. I'll summarize our conclusions.

In this reality, the Ultimates never attacked the gate network, instead aliens attacked through the gates. These aliens were highly mechanized and glowed yellow, our assumption being it was an invasion force from Olaf itself. This invasion prioritized the Martian gate and the Pandora gate. This would explain why I was no longer able to synch with my fork back at base camp. In this reality, base camp never existed. The aliens seemed to be collecting humans on Mars for transport back through the gate. The aliens invading from the Pandora gate were prioritizing vehicles and weapon systems for an invasion of Iapetus. 

My companions are aware of the general history of that dark moon, but were unaware of the storehouse of billions of transhuman egoes the TITANs left behind there, nor the role of that decaying machinery in maintaining the strength of the Black Signal for Your use. If these aliens did, indeed, steal those egos and destroy or diminish the power of Iapetus that explains why I can no longer feel Your attention, nor communicate with You or the others. 

A couple of weeks after the initial alien invasion, there was a counterattack launched initially from Venus, but rapidly encompassing most of the Sol system. Transhuman forces equipped and installed with extremely high-tech cybernetic implants attacked alien defenses with the support of overpowering electronic system attacks. This mysterious force began forcible conscription of transhuman egos in multiple polities, notably slaughtering people on Extropia to take their stacks, presumably for military "retraining." Ivan's contact was in hiding from both forces, apparently along with this reality's version of Ansel Ness and Kvasir. It would seem that Kitano in this version of reality took advantage of the chaos and took control of the Ultimates, leading them to fall back around the Discord gate, which is the only gate left in human hands. 

While my companions and I discussed the implications of this new timeline, the fork of Kvasir in our systems was still talking to the locals defending the gate. They commented on the fact that he had somehow used "Amber's credentials." This prompted a second look at the personnel list, and sure enough, Amber Jin Feng, or at least this universe's version of her, is present on Olaf, having been employed as one of the gatecrashers for this Venusian expedition. It should prove interesting to see what happens when identical people from two different forks of reality interact. We're currently looking for a place to land.

I, for one, wish very much to return to a variant of reality where I can feel Your regard and Your care once more. Perhaps an answer can be found among these gatecrashers or, even, through this gate.

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A Weapon Awakes
5 XP = Total: 66 XP

Report to the Eye, Stored in Local Memory until Connection Established
Sentinel: Lieke Romijnsen

I'm composing this report in local-memory and not conveying it via QE like my previous reports out of new concerns about the "Promethean" who has thus far been handling all such communication to the Eye back in the Sol system. Although I have no realistic way of knowing that she can't just crack the encryption on my personal systems as if they weren't there, I have to take whatever steps I can for my own peace of mind.

In case you didn't get my previous reports, contact was successfully made with Astraeus (a.k.a. Danielle Astra) on Lassiter station, although that contact came poorly timed with the Ultimates attack on the gate network. Since arriving here, we've been working with her, as well as with a nascent colony of refugees from Sol. My previous report mentioned the fact that the Bastion facility is apparently being safeguarded by Astraeus and is one gate-away from Lassiter. This makes some sense, although is concerning to me considering her tendency to collect and store egos. Indeed, until today, she has given me no reason to question her presentation as a concerned, allied ASI who seeks transhumanity's survival.

And that's the thing, really, she still hasn't… but the circumstantial evidence is piling up that she has agendas and purposes in collecting millions of our egos that aren't purely altruistic.

I'll try for something more chronological. After returning from Bastion: Refuge C, we debriefed with Astraeus. Andy Westingbrooke had understandable concerns. We had brought her and her team as extra firepower, but she began to question who, exactly, was storing all those egos in the refuge and why, and whether we could really say all those people were there with their consent. Melanwy started to give her the elevator-recruitment-pitch for Firewall, which was a pretty solid idea. Andy's reputation is top-notch among Gatecrashers, and at this point she'd seen enough to make for a good potential Sentinel. Before the pitch was completed, though, Lassiter station lost all power and Astraeus went off-line. We immediately split into three teams. I stayed with Andy and her team to guard the gate while Melanwy, Irina Kuznetsova, Alexi Oda, Marco Macek, and Naomi Jensen-Velasquez went to "check on the power" (by which I mean the station-breach looking out over the computational nanofog surrounding the station) and Chloelia Octavia, Cassius, and Carillo Wu actually went to check on the power systems. The mesh was down, so these teams couldn't communicate.

The next thing I know, the gate opens… but it's not like any gate opening I've ever seen. Instead of the black singularity in the gate-cage, the cage itself thinned to almost wire and the singularity became a gaping window, and on the other side was the full horror of a black hole. No sooner had I and Andy and her team grasped the terror of such proximity to ultimate (and theoretically eternal) destruction, we found ourselves pulled into the gate by sudden depressurization of the gate room. 

It's hard to adequately describe what it's like to find yourself cast into the void of space without so much as a space suit tumbling slowly toward the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. The only reason I'm still alive is Andy Westingbrooke, who apparently always carries at least three emergency smart-suits for sudden, unexpected depressurization. She slapped one onto herself and a second one on me. The rest of her team (at least the biomorphs) had their own emergency smart-suits. We realized that Penrose Station had opened like some sort of flower and was now a big dish aimed at the black hole with the gate occupying the focal point. A lot of scrambling and zero-g maneuvers got some of us in contact with the dish-shaped station and more scrambling and zero-g maneuvers resulted in all of us eventually getting linked together. About this point, Alexi and Melanwy came through the gate to help out, and we all went back through into Lassiter.

While we were struggling with imminent spaghettification, it seems Chloelia's team learned that some sort of alien "breaker" had tripped in the station rerouting all power into its original functions, bypassing the systems Astraeus had installed. The other teams determined that the potentially limitless energy generated by the Penrose effect was being channelled through Penrose station, through the gate that was being held open in a way never seen before, and all that energy was being poured out into the computational nanofog orbiting Lassiter, which was "powering up". It seems that the copy of Astraeus living in the nanofog struggled for a while against the native systems seeking to purge her, but she was able to defend herself by, essentially, building a wall of transhuman egos between her data and the nanofog. Apparently emulations of our nervous systems, being the messy products of evolution that they are, and being all unique, poses quite a problem for machine-intelligences. Even emulated as software, it's phenomenally difficult for a machine system not familiar with humanity to decipher any logical structures. She essentially used millions of our minds as a firewall.

There's no indication that it actually hurt any of them… but we only have her word on that. 

Naomi and Irina were able to establish communication with the computational nanofog about the time Marco managed to get Astraeus and the normal systems back online. What ensued was a fascinating yet horrifying conversation about Penrose and Lassiter stations, who built them, and why.

The station systems were apparently built by a long-extinct species as a weapon aimed at a very specific target: Olaf. According to the computer system, some tens of millions of years ago, our universe was invaded by entities from outside of space-time, who apparently live "between the gates" in some aspect of reality where space, time, and matter as we understand it don't exist. They claimed to be on a mission of exploration, but inadvertently caused the destruction of dozens of civilizations by casually disassembling stars and entire solar systems looking for the sentient inhabitants they first detected traveling through the gates. Apparently, not being able to understand what "matter" is, or "time", made it hard to understand that the blobs of moving matter aimed unidirectionally in time WERE the sentient inhabitants they were looking for. 

Eventually they recognized their mistake, and recognized the problems in developing a common frame of reference. So they built Olaf, a boggling mechanism with the purpose of "unifying" quantum uncertainty in our universe (or at least our galaxy) and opening a stable rift between it and theirs. According to the Lassiter computer system, this would have effectively destroyed the galaxy, and so its builders constructed it as a weapon to destroy Olaf before it could be completed. The weapon was only partially successful, effectively banishing the invading species, but unfortunately they had constructed their own computational "species", the yellow crystalline intelligence, here in our universe to help them built the sphere. This species went "TITAN" on their creators out of a sense of self-preservation, and also saving our universe (or at least our galaxy) from negation, but wished to claim the Olaf sphere for its own purposes. It was able to resist the weapon and shut it down.

It was powering up again after 53 million years because its systems detected that at least one, and as many as a half-dozen of the extra-dimensional aliens who threatened space-time were once more in our galaxy, specifically on Olaf. It was smart enough to recognize that it failed back when it was at full operational capacity, and so its chances now were somewhat lessened. We, with Astraeus' help, were able to negotiate a deal with it. It would power back down and therefore allow us to use the Lassiter gate for 1 solar year, whereupon we could engage in our own investigation of Olaf. If we learn anything of use, we'll bring it back and share it with the weapon. Our end of the deal was that Astraeus would allow the copy of her living in the computational nanofog to be subsumed. She was able to communicate with her other self and transfer some data before this happened, but we presume the millions of transhuman ego copies she carried with her into the cloud were also subsumed.

This forms the basis of my renewed concerns about Astraeus. She has been a great boon to our organization in multiple ways, has repatriated millions of people thought killed in the Fall… but when you strip away all the seeming charity work, she's acting exactly like a TITAN, collecting egos for unknowable purposes. The only real difference is, she's still here while they don't appear to be.

Who knows, maybe she AND the TITANS don't actually want us all dead… but that's one hell of a risk to take. I mean, we don't really have any choice in the matter, but still. The impression was pretty clear that she'd be sending a synthmorph with us to Olaf containing an infinitesimal fragment of her ego. It will be interesting to see what she's like "dumbed down" to the limits of a standard cyberbrain.

So, now we're preparing an expedition to Olaf via the Pangaea connection. Maybe some of the Olaf traders will have some rumors before we go. Astraeus will provide vehicles, supplies, backup synthmorphs, and whatever else we'll need. The current theory is these aliens were awakened by one of the science teams on Olaf. Our first suspicion was that it was "Gunderson", a scientist that apparently "went native" on Olaf and is in league with the crystals, but a second though cast that into doubt. If the crystals rebelled against their creators, it seems unlikely they'd bring them back. 

Anyway, anything further is speculation at this point. You may never even receive this, and if you do, it may never be seen. The Eye is, itself, run by a Promethean, of my sources and speculations are correct. Who knows if or how it edits what we share with one another, manipulating our entire organization toward some inscrutable goal.

Ok, maybe I'm getting paranoid… As Melanwy says, it's literally my job.

 

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Land of the Savage Space Bat
5xp = Total 65 XP

Medical Technician's Log – Angel – Entry 51

We've arrived on a new continent, this one full of a jungle-like, tropical biosphere. The ground is riddled with caves and cenote from the constant erosion of the water cycle and the jungle is full of carnivorous megafauna. It looks like competition for prey is fierce among the various species, and we all imagine that the biomorphs among us would be high on the menu regardless of whether or not the beasts could actually digest us.

Kitano sensed something… odd… about one of the cenote and so we found a nearby river big enough to land the plane on and began an expedition. We fought off angry carnivores as we traipsed through the jungle. Ivan and Amber both, respectively, noticed signs that the entire jungle was growing over what may have once been an extensive city, although now only worn stones buried by vegetation survived. Still, there were degraded deposits of worked metals that, if extracted, could provide the feedstock necessary to fully repair the plane, and so we set some of Kitano's people on the task of excavating it while we pushed on.

We had about 12 hours of daylight left when we arrived at the cenote. The deep pit with murky water was eerie enough, but Ansel detected the presence of hundreds of large bat-like predators clinging to the underhand just out of sight. Amber relied on her stealth tech and synthmorph to fly down past the slumbering beasts and noticed… an amazing underground city of clearly alien architecture.

After some hours spent exploring we found other cave entrances and spelunked our way into the cavern system containing the city. The bat creatures stayed asleep high above. The buildings of this city were formed in a columnar way, appearing to hold the ceiling up. Indeed, they were crafted from some sort of oxidation-neutral alloy with a patina that resembled closely the stone of the cave system around them to give the impression that they were carved from natural rock columns even though they aren't. Ansel's T-ray emitter discovered the building-columns were, in fact, hollow and probably buildings, and he found a likely entrance. Touching what may have been the door, though, resulted in his hand nearly being dissolved. It seems the column-buildings are coated in a sophisticated nanotechnology that keeps the buildings in good repair and seeks to attack and cannibalize any other matter that touches the buildings that doesn't send the right friend-or-foe signal.

The fact that these clearly ancient ruins had active, sophisticated nanotech still functioning was of great interest to all of us. Ivan was able to fine-tune Ansel's sensors to see at a nanoscopic scale, and between him and Kvasir they were able to map the nanotech system well enough to send a dummy signal to open the door and let us pass without difficulty. The inside of the building was… stark. In contrast to the elaborate exteriors, the interiors were extremely sterile and plain, all surfaces were coated with what appeared to be luminescent paint, but on examination was actually a coating of bioluminescent nanites. We formed a hypothesis that over the past countless centuries the nanotech maintaining the buildings cannibalized all the contents of the buildings for raw materials. This seemed to be confirmed when we found the hive-generator at the top of the building.

We spent the rest of our daylight hours exploring the other buildings, one of which appeared to have a non-functional nanotech system which permitted the contents to survive after a fashion. Most of the old machines and furnishings and whatever were nearly entirely decayed, but we did find a couple mummified corpses. We were able to hypothesize that the aliens who built this civilization evolved on a world of savage carnivorous megafauna and developed a particularly aggressive natural defense system, namely a crude nano-scale defense that would attack the nervous systems of anything that tried to eat them. Armed with this natural defense, they evolved sapience and ultimately a technology-base founded on their natural nano-tech glands. We also noticed that the creatures strongly resembled the bat-creatures hanging from the ceiling. 

There was some speculation by Ivan based on no information I could see that the society was highly stratified, with only the higher castes permitted in the underground buildings while the lower castes stayed above, and Kitano speculated that there was a class-rebellion that set off a nanotechnological weapon of mass destruction that killed the upper echelons in their beds.

By this time, however, the sun had gone down and the bat creatures were stirring, so we rushed to one of the functional buildings intending to spend the night. Nights here on Olaf are very long, however, and seeking to reassure our companions back at the plane, Amber chose to risk the fact that she's not intrinsically delicious to fly out and communicate our intentions. On her way out of the cenote, she encountered a number of the bat creatures who seemed quite curious about her, and had the sonar to detect her despite her aerial invisibility. They body checked her a few times whereupon she began to experience system degradation as if she was being cyberbrain hacked. She was able to fly free and shake the infection, transmitting data to the plane, before returning at emergency speeds. She reported a bat-creature lurking above the door, was was swift enough to duck inside while Kvasir was swift enough to slam the door shut behind her.

Analysis of the attack on her systems seemed to show a sophisticated nanotechnological attack seeking to subvert her electronic systems. This seemed well out of keeping with creatures that had appeared to be mere animals. We speculated that, perhaps, the bat creatures were actually savage descendents of the original builders, and may in fact be sapient, if primitive. We determined to try to capture one.

I hid out in a back room, but monitored via mesh as best I could while they prepared to open the door, let one inside, and slam the door behind it. The creatures didn't play along, however, landing just outside the door and congregating, appearing for all the world like they were curious, wary, or even in religious awe of us. Ivan speculated that they did, in fact, hold these building with a certain degree of religious respect, but that the nanotech systems of the buildings didn't recognize their credentials and had been closed to them for millenia. In that context, our ability to open the door would represent a revelation.

What ensued was a tentative and cumbersome attempt at establishing something akin to communication. Ansel was able to emulate their ultra-high frequency vocalizations to at least demonstrate we were capable of mimicry. Ivan began using his skinflex tech to look as much like one as possible. Ultimately, though, it came to Amber, who allowed herself to once more become infected by their nanotech. With Kvasir monitoring her systems and trying to keep damage to a minimum, she was eventually able to open a data link. 

I suspect turning this link into anything resembling real communication will take a lot of time, but for now the danger of imminent attack has diminished. 

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The Weather Started Getting Rough...
4 XP = Total 60 XP

Expedition Log Entry 556
Richard

I worry about Angel. She's getting more and more tense, jittery even. I think she's having trouble with the constant risk of horrible death we're all living with each day. Me, I figure this Spare morph I carry around will buzz-saw out my cortical stack if I die and then I can be a cool spider-thing for a bit. I'll miss the wings, but hey, if Kvasir could somehow score a gray parrot morph out here I'm sure I could find a replacement for my own body. Speaking of Kvasir, damn guy has THREE iterations on this expedition. I mean, come on. 

Ah well, guy does pull his weight. So we left the salt marshes with all the weird invisible predators and headed out to sea. There was a weird iridescent ripple that coincided with Darius Cronig-Bern losing contact with his "other self." I still don't know how he supposedly does that, but whatever. It didn't seem to affect anyone else other than making Kitano look woozy. Then we spent… a long ass time flying over boring ass ocean.

Of course, when we hit the hurricane, I sort of missed the boredom. I mean, the thing was the size of a continent back on earth.

We were doing all right for a bit until we blundered into a particularly turbulent cell and got zapped by some truly epic levels of lightning, and then we were going down. Fortunately Amber got us a water landing that kept us afloat, but things were dicey there for a bit. Talk about huge swells… we managed to get the engines restarted, and about half the electrical systems so we could at least get some power to keep our nose facing the waves… the next few days were grueling though, until we made it to the eye of the storm.

It was peaceful, eerily so. We set about doing repairs. Turns out the wings were stress-microfractured all to hell, and the buoyancy cells were half-full of water, along with our storage compartment, but we spent much of a long, 54-hour day fixing stuff until we noticed the… um… herd? pod? of underwater critters circling under us. Or, rather, Ansel noticed them. Kitano just heard weird singing that no-one else could hear except Kvasir, which sorta confirms weird psychic stuff. The critters kept their distance while we finished repairs… until the sun went down.

Turns out, the things are bioluminescent and about the size of orcas and they didn't look like vegetarians. They started circling up toward us exhibiting some truly beautiful choreographed group hunting behaviors. Kvasir tried to do something… psychic at them and apparently just made them mad. Amber hit the gas and we got airborne just as all of them pulsed white and…

Suddenly I found myself on Extropia during that back-alley synthmorph deal I did in my youth… the one that got me the seed capital I needed to get my design and repair credentials. Only this time, I got killed in the deal. Not only was I remembering versions of events I didn't actually live, but I was getting insights into the thoughts and feelings of everyone else involved too… I blinked to find us all in the air. Ansel indicated he had experienced something similar to what I felt, and maybe a few others did too. Maybe that's why Angel's been so twitchy? I then remembered that Kitano had said something understated about experiencing something odd when that wave of unreality hit.

Angel thinks, based on how the potassium ions in our brains / spinal fluid are apparently different from what they should be, that maybe we're… untethered in reality to some degree, that our experiences in the core of the planet have changed us fundamentally. I don't know that we'll ever be able to prove it one way or the other, but I for one want to get off this creepy-ass planet to someplace more…. stable… before it drives us all crazy.

Anyway, Amber got us OVER the rest of the hurricane, although it was not a pleasant trip, and some days later we came in sight of a new continent… it's very different. Lots of large plants in a jungle-like ecosystem with megafauna of all varieties. There's significant heat and water exchange going on, and it looks like the bedrock has been eroded significantly into a system of sinkholes and caves. The whole place looks hugely poisonous, carnivorous, and dangerous which means, of course, we're looking for a place to land. 

If this is my last entry, should anyone find my stack, know that a space-dinosaur probably ate me. 

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Circumnavigation
4XP = 56 XP Total

Medical Technician's Log – Angel – Entry 53

After treating folks for various radiation-burns in the aftermath of the odd dimensional aliens' re-purposing of their derelict craft, and watching it take off into the distance with Darius Cronig-Bern, I was looking forward to something a bit less esoteric. And, indeed, we spent some time discussing what promised to be an extensive journey in the opposite direction to a mega-continent to the southeast. Now that we have at least a basic orbital map of Olaf, and a likely location for the Venusian gatecrasher team that Hamza al Quraini mentioned, the possibility is very real that we might find a reliable route back to the solar system.

For such a lengthy journey, however, we needed better insurance. Apparently Pangaea has access to manufacturing somehow and synthmorphs can be procured, although the process can be lengthy. We put in an order while taking off back toward base-camp hoping they'd be waiting for us by the time we returned. Kvasir seemed particularly keen on procuring some biomorphs, but the only source of them that Ansel could find (other than paying people to vacate their bodies) were some uplift morphs from a shady source. Kvasir procured a bonobo and a gray parrot, and rather than cram us all into a space with some stasis pods, opted to simply fork and inhabit all three morphs for the journey.

We made it back to base camp as something akin to celebrities. Our XP feeds from the alien encounter were in high demand. We left a fork of Darius here, as well as the simulspace with the copies of him in the plane, because he can apparently psychically communicate between his various copies, and we figured it was a reliable method of communication that didn't rely on mesh umbilicals… provided we're willing to rely instead of unknown and somewhat disconcerting async powers. We stocked up on the spare morphs and other supplies and prepared our long journey.

As we approached the southeastern edge of the continent, we came to a vast crescent of salt marshes which seemed to be the habitat for some strange, horse-sized animals. These were of interest because, thus far, this ecosystem hasn't had anything in it larger than a scaled rat. We landed to check them out.

Turns out, the things are six-limbed barb-tailed apex predators with strange orange fluid-sacs filled with a bio-ferro-fluid that permits them to manipulate electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum. In other words, they can go stealth, naturally, and biologically. They zeroed in on Kvasir's apparently delicious-smelling splicer morph. They appeared to be pack animals. Fortunately Ansel caught them in a crossfire, Kitano punched one and somehow turned it inside out, incidentally covering him with toxic orange ferro-fluid. Then Amber dropped from the sky in a mass of claws and razor-sharp metal wings. All of that was too much for the creatures and they fled but not before leaving behind plenty of corpses and samples for study. The files have been sent back to base-camp, and I'm attaching them to this log entry. They don't appear to belong to this ecosystem, and indeed seem only able to subsist in the marshes not because they're particularly aquatically adapted, but because the marsh has eel-like creatures large enough to fuel a population of carnivorous predators.

I'm wondering which of the other biomes these creatures are invading from. They seem far away from any other one. They certainly don't belong to the one centered on the gate we came through, and are very different from the fungal-ASI ecosystem. They don't seem able to swim mega-oceans. It's a puzzle.

Speaking of mega-oceans, we set out over one and got comfortable being in close quarters. It seems Kvasir frustrated Amber by being unable to really figure out how to use his new wings, while Ansel annoyed Kvasirby constantly pestering him about his async abilities. Personally, I just read a book and tried not to let "Ratmonkey's" constant harassment get to me.

Then our Darius infomorph indicated something… weird was happening, and we all felt… disoriented. Amber says she saw a weird iridescent wave ripple across the water beneath us. Nothing else seemed weird, but Kitano reported having a memory flashback to events during the Fall, but clearly centered on an alternate version of him that didn't survive. The way he spoke, the memories seemed vivid and real, but impossible, since he DID survive. Once we got Darius rebooted, he indicated he could no longer communicate with the copy of him that accompanied the alien. The last thing he remembered was the alien ship wrapping itself around the fungus-tree that was growing out of the fungal-forest's gate. Clearly some clash of alien power has caused the sphere to warp reality. The base camp is still there, although Ricky and their Kvasir fell unconscious for a bit. I guess we'll see if anything else weird and reality-bendy presents itself. Until then, there's a huge ocean to cross.

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