Eclipse Phase - Uncharted

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.

Return to Olaf
3 XP = Total: 69 XP

ID Code 885xz7, "Carillo Wu"

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.


News of the Second Fall
4 XP = Total 69 XP


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.

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.


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. 

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

Expedition Log Entry 556

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. 

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.

Bastion: Refuge C
5 XP = Total 61 XP

Expedition Log Entry 11
Andy Westingbrooke

Well, we've stumbled into some interesting times, certainly, but dire straights make for strange bedfellows. We were three jumps out of the Discord gate, having made it out right before the Ultimates turned on Fa Jing, when our first-in robot detected an airless moon orbiting a planet with a promising starfield to get us closer to Sol. As we stepped through, though, something went… wrong.

It wasn't a gate-calculation error, it was a gate fluctuation of some sort. I only vaguely recall what seems like an eternity of surreal dreams when suddenly we found ourselves stepping out onto a subtropical beach and into the waiting arms of a reception party. The spokesman greeted me by name, which was the first bit of oddity. Sure, I have a certain fame in certain circles, but he greeted me like he was expecting me to step out. So I'm coming to terms with the idea that maybe we were somehow diverted here when our reception committee dropped the further bomb that the gate we had just stepped out of had been deactivated. Not just "off" but non-functional, and I was introduced to the person who managed to turn it back on, apparently saving us from an eternity in limbo. 

So I'd heard of Alexi Oda before, a relatively new gatecrasher working out of Chat Noir with the Love and Rage Collective. She had a bit more fame than her relatively new entry into the field would otherwise warrant thanks to the fact that she's a Canaanite, one of the recently-resurrected Earthers brought back to life by Danielle Astra on Venus. Apparently she's taken to the gatecrashing lifestyle with aplomb. 

After disposing of some sort of… chameleon parasite that had attached itself to our party with false memories of past camaraderie, we headed across the sea in a transport to check out this colony of Pangaea. As we approached, and I got access to their local mesh, even more unbelievable things became apparent. In reviewing the logs of the colony's flight from the Fissure Gate I saw no fewer than four patently impossible feats of gate-programming by Alexi, not to mention the staggering unlikelihood that she would just happen on a direct, SIX gate sequence to a scientific expedition on a goddamn DYSON sphere. Even Luis Acosta had apparently fallen for the "she's a damn good gatecrasher" narrative… but nobody is that good. It's mathematically improbable. This led me to the conclusion that Alexi has been doing a bunch of off-the-books gatecrashing for interests powerful and rich enough to keep her expeditions off the mesh.

And then I met her. No sooner had we boarded the transport to the colony but the spokesman, Marco, was giving me the hard sell on a mission to a moon full of infectious mutants. I got the distinct impression that not only did he somehow know that my team and I were trapped in that gate, but that they freed us specifically for some extra guns against these "moon spiders." There were just too many mysteries in the air to pass up the challenge, even if the rationale for WHY we were going to some nowhere moon to fight mutants didn't entirely add up. After getting our sign on, Alexi took us through two gate transits to a gate contained in what felt like an orbital station where we met Danielle Astra herself. 

There was always something a bit off about the official explanation for Astra and the 43 million people she just happened to have in storage from the Fall. Now it appears that she has extensive extrasolar interests. Suddenly Alexi's secret knowledge was starting to make sense. Astra has a network of tens of millions of grateful people. That's a hell of a resource.

So we equipped up, got armored vac-suits, some explosives, some weapons upgrades, the usual stuff. We then stepped through onto the advertised airless moon. At Marco's direction, I led my fire team toward a nearby crevasse to confront the mutants when another member of the party who had been fairly quite until then, Naomi called a halt. She said she could hear the "singing" of the mutants, and that there were hundreds of them spread in tunnels over a kilometer of terrain. Suddenly I grokked what was going on. She's an async. We re-evaluated tactics. We needed a choke point where we could hold off superior numbers. Marco suggested a tunnel half a click away. It was clear they were operating on some prior intelligence of the tunnel layout. Marco kept mentioning a "simulation" but in a tone of voice that made it clear he was using that word as a euphemism for the real source of their knowledge. 

Before we made it to the tunnel, the advertised moon spiders attacked. We made a co-ordinated tactical advance to the tunnel, taking no significant damage. The things were biological, but encased in a hard crab-like exoskeleton. It seemed exactly like the sort of thing a group of exhumans would design and sleeve into, which confirmed Naomi's suspicions. Speaking of Naomi, she can apparently kill moon spiders (and presumably people) with a harsh look. I'd best not piss her off.

We set up in the tunnel in a draw-and-cull tactic while my infiltration team, along with theirs (two neo-octopi named Chloelia Octavia and Cassius) headed down-tunnel to find the human leader of these exhumans, a "deacon" in the Church of Luminous Saints. I'd heard of those guys back in the Sol system. I had no idea they were engaged in extrasolar activities, but apparently they're even crazier than I'd been lead to believe.

We made piles of spider-bodies for a bit. A quiet-but-capable member of their team named Melanwy Satrapi (whose name I recognized from Venusian entertainment XP from a few months back) suddenly snapped, dropped her gun, and waded into the mass of moon-spiders, each one five times her mass, and started literally slapping them with a shock glove. I had to focus down my side of the tunnel, but I was momentarily sure she had gone suicidal. When I was able to glance back around, though, she was grace incarnate, and each slap was putting down a spider. I realized that glove had a lot more oomph behind it than I'd guessed. She was a ninja-ballerina. I would have watched more but I had moon-spiders to shoot.

At that point there was a small earthquake and we realized that all or most of the explosives we'd brought had been detonated. I suddenly realized that Alexi had been carrying them all, and that I hadn't seen her since we arrived. Apparently she'd gone with the infiltration team, and has some stealth-tech built into that synth morph of hers. This, and Melanwy's advance, seemed to demoralize the spiders, who retreated. 

We made our way deeper, found the deacon's moon-buggy and supplies, along with Cassius and my two people who indicated that Chloelia was just about to drop on the deacon for a targeted assassination when Alexi set off the explosives. Naomi did her async stuff and thought Chloelia was still alive but in need of assistance. Marco indicated the entrance to the "cathedral" was blocked by rubble. Setting aside how he knew there WAS a cathedral, and which tunnel led to it, I determined we didn't have time to dig it out and we set about finding an alternate entrance. 

I'm not sure what the "cathedral" looked like before a half-dozen cluster-charges went off inside it. When we arrived it was painted with spider bits, and Alexi was excavating a collapsed stairwell-tunnel in the back. We re-established wireless with Chloelia who was apparently holding off moon-spiders by using their deacon as a human shield. We orchestrated a fire-line extraction, killing the deacon and the moon spiders. Cassius, who had been providing eyes on the targets, indicated an "airlock" down there. This caused various members of the other team to get shifty.

Aha, I thought to myself, now we're getting into WHY this mission was so important. There's some hidden facility here that Astra doesn't want the Church of Luminous Saints to find and dig up. Melanwy came clean, and explained that this was a doomsday bunker set up by "a clandestine organization" as insurance against the extinction of transhumanity. The moon was code-named "Bastion" and this was "Refuge C." There were a million egos stored down there. Holy shit. Alexi opened the airlock after Naomi confirmed "moon spider singing" from inside.

Hot damn. The underground facility looks like it was grown using the same nanotech used in Hamilton cylinders, which is not cheap or easy to get. The central "room" was about 4 km across and about 1km in height, vaguely lozenge-shaped, with banks and banks of ego-storage racks and simulspace equipment. A projection flickered to light revealing a matronly woman naming herself Angelica who began almost immediately going into crazy religious convert-mode. Astra's team sighed and muttered about needing to destroy everything. I thought killing a million people over religious ideology a bit… much… and said so. Apparently they too realized they needed a bit more precision here and so Marco began a high-stakes, high-risk bluffing game, pretending to be a new convert and indicating a desire to help.

Angelica seemed to buy it, but insisted we disarm first. Marco gave up his gun to the reaper-class morph that dropped from the ceiling, autofire heavy railgun spun up and all. This was too much for me. My team and I indicated we'd retreat and retain our weapons. Naomi handed me a sweet anti-materiel rifle, and Melanwy gave up her gun too. I note she kept the juiced up shock glove. We moved away to provide heavy-support if needed.

Apparently the plan went mostly ok. Marco got his people into place so they could fry the simulspaces hosting the awakened and converted egos (about 30 people). Sadly, one convert was sleeved in that reaper, and we had to come in guns blazing. I wasn't quick enough to save Marco's leg, sadly. He, Naomi, and Melanwy got shot up pretty badly. And THEN the hidden moon spiders attacked. A short, brutal fight later, we were left standing, Marco's wounds were stabilized and all damaged suits were repaired. While Marco got transported to the escape-buggy, I had Sanjay look through the local systems to ensure no viruses or malware or other surprises for the sleeping inhabitants and to shut the facility down.

The stuff he found was… disturbing. Apparently the facility included full technology templates for all known human technology, four cornucopia machines, and regularly-updated archives of all human knowledge even down to the gossip XP out of Mars. Apparently there's a system for updating this place despite it having no physical accesses, and someone does so regularly.

But it was the people Sanjay was most disturbed by. They're a random selection of infugees who couldn't find a hab to take them, or bought in cheap bulk off the Martian indenture exchanges, along with hundreds of thousands of people from… every conceivable walk of life. I have no idea how this "clandestine organization" trafficked so many people.

And then I started to put together some things. Astra had 43 million in storage. They were all supposedly infugees from the Fall, but do we really know that? She clearly knew this facility was here and sent her personal team to secure it. Who is Danielle Astra? Why is she trafficking in transhuman egos on a staggering, industrial scale? I mean, this place would put Nine Lives to shame back at their height.

I'm going to keep my mouth shut for now. My team and I are more or less at the mercy of Astra and her people, who seem to be integral in establishing Pangaea and keeping this little outpost of humanity alive. But I'm going to need answers sooner or later. 


Singing Backward and Forward
2 XP = Total: 52 XP


I believe I have reached the limit of what I can decide without your intervention. A potentially powerful but incredibly dangerous opportunity lies before me and I beseech you to lend me your wisdom and your strength.

You have already been made aware of the strange bifurcation of my perceptions, and the reasons I've been given by my companions on this expedition for why this likely occurred. Since arriving at the derelict alien craft (or, from a certain point of view, re-arriving) that difficulty has passed and I am one with myself again. I threw myselves into studying the mathematical scrawl left by Dr. Gunderson as well as the actual technology of the craft with the aim of using it's abilities to find the phase-shifted satellites launched by the expedition to get a global map of Olaf for further exploration. While doing so, however, my companions discovered, somewhat far afield, a mysterious black cube which was, apparently, the escape pod for the crashed vehicle, a device that was, moreover capable of storing its contents outside of conventional spacetime. 

Unsurprisingly, my traveling companions opened the box releasing the residents. This coincided with strange signals and alarms coming to life in the derelict ship which was able, mostly through blind intuition, to silence. They retreated while the box's contents… colonized the local soil, growing metallic roots into the ground. We all watched through the surveillance they left behind as the box itself dissolved or phase-shifted, its material repurposed to some function we did not comprehend. Then a metallic swarm congealed into the form of Ivan Kuro, then shifted to Kitano, and so on, switching appearances every three seconds or so. Apparently the spare-morph it appropriated from Kvasir still had a running instance of his ego in its cyberbrain and the entity was mining data from it stretching all the way back to Kvasir's creation.

Ultimate it settled on Ivan's form, and began speaking to entities we could not perceive. Eventually, however, it turned to the camera and stared expectantly. We took a number of precautions to prevent hacking or data corruption, mostly by removing communication equipment from the plane and tight-beaming to the surveillance node our message of greetings. It seemed capable of receiving and understanding the message, although it at first believed that we were beings consisting of electromagnetic energy. We explained that we were physical beings using electromagnetic energy to communicate. It asked if it could speak in person and my companions opted to take the risk.

For security reasons their excursion and direct communication with this entity was kept isolated from our systems. Eventually, however, Amber Jin Feng returned in advance of the rest and reported the contents of this very unusual First Contact situation.

It would seem that there is a civilization that lives in the space between the gates… a place where matter, space, and time have no conventional meaning, and are, in fact, greatly confusing. These being live in a state of "singing backward and forward to each other"… a metaphor reflecting a state in which they experience all time and existince as unitary. It spoke of "bright windows" or "stars" appearing in their existence and luminous beings moving between them. It seemed to indicate that all the stars appeared at once, yet they grew greater in number over time, a paradox it could not quite explain. By observing these luminous beings it became clear to the entities in that place that the beings could not perceive them, and in fact could not even perceive that there was a place between the windows they were traveling through.

The "windows" were clearly the Pandora Gates, and the beings were the various species who begain using the ever-expanding gate network over the billions of years it has existed. Our alien contact explained that its people became very curious about these windows and the beings that came from the other side and they began to create the means by which they could exit the windows into our reality and discover what was there. It quite casually described their disappointment at being unable to find the luminous beings, and all the civilizations, planets, and suns they took apart in the course of looking for them before realizing that, on this side of the windows, the luminous beings were contained in crude matter and trapped in linear time. They had, apparently, accidentally destroyed an unknown number of species and civilizations because they didn't understand the concept of physicality.

Indeed, basic communication with this being was constantly running afoul of its inability to clearly understand sequential time and individuation. The being itself seemed to have a dozen or more "names" which were, perhaps, entire identities or personality functions that it switched between based on the conversation topic. Ivan seems to think this entire species exists in a state of pure art, where culture and intellect and dominance are keyed to arising aesthetic expressions of personality and individualization… as if this species doesn't really consist of "individuals" naturally, but is like an ebbing and flowing sea of aesthetic and social pleasure. 

The big reveal, though, came when the being discussed what its people did once they discovered they had accidentally destroyed the very people they were seeking. The started a vast construction project centered around seven gates in a binary star system… they are the true builders of the Olaf dyson sphere. They constructed the yellow crystalline intelligence as the "AI" for the sphere, intended as an interface between them and the species of our reality, a computational system that could bridge the gap of understanding between beings that perceived their worlds so fundamentally differently. The crystals "rebelled" and took the sphere for their own purpose, although the alien intimated that it was simply performing its intended function TOO well, seeking out and "unifying" various species.

This explains why the various ruined structures of Olaf all appear to be constructed to a design aesthetic different than "yellow crystals." Extradimensional aliens made it to, essentially, tear an enormous hole in space and time to permit their people and the people of our reality to interact and exchange ideas and culture. It sounds all very idealistic, but Ivan, who seems to have a connection with the crystals, seems to think the alien plan would have been catastrophic and the crystals did our reality a favor by rebelling and preventing it.

Whatever the case, by the time they brought the alien back here to the ship it became clear they were not actually interacting with the alien at all. The Ivan-simulacrum was an interface construct. The alien (actually five or six of them) were essentially undetectable to our senses. Occasionally sensors would see a blur or a distortion, and sometimes I could feel the nearby presence of one through our shared gifts, but they existed on a level of reality we could not perceive even as they began quite visible repairs to their former vessel. They would also speak to us through their construct in ways that made it clear they could see all "versions" of us as a unitary entity. It would reference, for instance, Ansel Ness as a being that was simultaneously present and also present in a solar system 73 thousand light years "that way" (i.e. presumably the Sol system). It once even apologized for accidentally killing Kitano, who was quite alive, standing outside the ship as they conducted their dangerous repairs.

Despite the dangers of consorting with aliens that have a very… loose understanding of mortality, time, space, and physical matter, our diplomatic approach proved profitable as they were able to finish the project I started. Olaf's near-orbit is apparently full of space junk, satellites from countless species (and multiple versions of each of them) launching things into space only to have them phase out. Eventually we found a human one, managed to link it to the alien ship and download data. We now have a full orbital scan of Olaf. There appear to be 7 gates, as promised, clustered on four different supercontinents. There are many ruins of city-sized machines such as the one my companions tracked Gunderson to in a different timeline. They also found remnants of a human expedition on an entirely different continent, presumably the one Hamza al Quraini referenced at the beginning of the expedition.

And here we come to my decision dilemma. My companions informed the alien of the Factor bio-TITAN and how it seemed to be holding open a gate connection to its homeworld and siphoning power from trans-dimensional space. This concerned the alien, who wondered if this was somehow harming its home. It has begun the large-scale molecular re-assembly of the derelict spacecraft to a terrestrial transport with the intention of traveling there and investigating. The unspoken side effects of this investigation is destructive conflict with a continent-sized biological computer. I have fragmentary quasi-real memories of doing battle with this bio-TITAN using our gifts. I may be able to travel with the alien, learning more about it and its transdimensional technology. I may even be of some use in helping it against the bio-TITAN. But it puts all of our resources here in one risky gamble.

I beseech your guidance and your wisdom. Please fill me with your light and show me the path to take.

Your servant,

Darius Cronig-Bern


The More Things Change...
2 XP = Total 56 XP

Journal of Cassius

The worst part about all this dimensional / timeline / whatever bullshit is having to do the same shit over again. Like, didn't we already clear out that wrecked TITAN war factory? And now we have some newbie wandering off into it and we have to rush off to save her ass, and re-kill those headhunter drones, and tell her NOT to open the crazy vault full of the TITAN nanoswarm…

And of course, just like last time, the clumsy humans with their rigid skeletons break bones and get hurt by collapses. Ah well. Chloelia and I had to save their asses as usual (mostly me, but she helped). And the others weren't entirely useless. The newbie, Lieke, was actually pretty badass with an assault rifle. I guess whatever clandestine organization she and Melanwy belong to trains their agents well. 

So we took out the headhunters (again) and left the horrible nanoswarm alone (again) and took all the awesome metallic fabricator feedstock in the factory stores (again) to give to Astraeus (again) so she could build a modular spaceship (again) so we could go into orbit and talk to the wacky sun-aliens and teach them Octopus (again) so we could ask them not to throw an asteroid at us (again), this time because Lieke convinced us that we should actually do something about that nanoswarm before some other chucklehead unleashes it and gets us asteroided.

Although this time the weird sun aliens remembered us from last time. They still spoke Octopus. That was a bit weird. They called Melanwy "poisonous" just like they did for Naomi last time, so I guess that confirms she's an async. Melanwy, however, isn't "untethered" like we are. I'm not entirely sure what the aliens meant by that, but it's clear that those of us who went through the whole Olaf time-warp are… still affected by it in a way certain entities can see. I don't want to think too hard about that.

So yeah, we played nice with the aliens. Astraeus is going to give us the means to turn off the nanoswarm. We'll get around to it eventually. 

Fortunately not everything's the same. There was a pretty chill drinking session on Pangaea after Naomi and Melanwy had a really disturbing conversation with Marja de Winter. I think I'm going to stay away from her. I don't think the others really get my sense of humor, at least judging by all the threats of killing me. Whatever. Cailey gets me. Oh, also, Carillo Wu finally admitted to Naomi what his assignment was. Apparently he was hired by some OTHER shadowy organization to prevent her from returning to the sol system to keep her out of the hands of the shadowy organization that she used to work for and that hired Marco to find her and bring her back, which he's not actually doing. So… talk about a weird triangle.

Oh, they told Astraeus about the radioactive water world, she's started siphoning isotopes and whatever. Also, apparently, whatever aliens species built Penrose station also built Lassiter station leading to questions about what's going on with that nanofog outside… whatever. That's for the eggheads. 

We arranged for Astraeus to make more guns and defenses for the Pangaea gate… there's some concern that the Direct Action thugs in the colony might try a hostile takeover, so arming the Love and Rage contingent seemed a wise plan.

Lots of make-work errands to try to keep things running and / or get them back to the way we remember them. We saved the hardest shit for last. Rael Duvalier and moon-spider moon. This time, though, Astraeus kinda dropped a hint that maybe there's something buried on moon-spider world that the moon-spiders are trying to dig up and that we should probably stop it like we did last time. Sigh. Hopefully this time we can actually FIND the buried treasure.

It's like treading water, but with JUST enough that's different to completely blindside me. Whose idea was this again? Stupid Olaf.


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