Encrypted Report, Sentinel Ricky Thompson, Auto-transmit Code 00X06
Recipient ID: Proxy code-name Eagle
Holy shit, that was intense. So, apparently the little Factor blob was emitting all sorts of scent pheromones and four enormous slime juggernauts attacked the base camp. Fortunately Ansel Ness acted quickly, sending some security staff to drag the little blob toward the perimeter under the assumption the monstrosities were zeroing in on its scent. Kitano went toe to toe with one of them, taking a serious acid-burn but driving it off single-handedly with that crazy laser-sword of his. His cultists, along with Ansel and the security, gave the little Factor blob back to another one before driving it off, and it's departure pulled the remaining two away with it. Kvasir and Amber Jin Feng managed to keep one of them from wrecking our half-built fusion jet aircraft, but the resleeving facility took some damage.
Speaking of Amber, she came stumbling through the gate right as the Factor monsters were attacking without her Gatecrashing crew. There wasn't a lot of time in the Factor fight, but once they were driven off, she reported that the Martian side of the gate had come under attack by a concerted military effort. They apparently delivered something that looked an awful lot like a nuke. She picked up some encrypted transmissions that Kvasir managed to decode and, well, let's just say I'm not sure how long you'll be waiting to get this report. It looks like the Ultimates have done a number on the solar system gates, not to mention key extrasolar colony worlds. It looks like we're stuck here for a while.
This led to an expedition-wide debate on what to focus our limited resources on. Sanjay Rhys became the sort of de-facto mouthpiece for those that wanted to focus on gatecrashing, trying to find an indirect route back to the Pandora or Lucifer gates via other, perhaps unexplored worlds, basically re-open our supply lines. Dr. Byers was the staunchest supporter of focusing on our original mission, namely exploring this monstrously huge artificial planet and learning about / claiming its fabulous alien technology. The debate was pretty evenly divided until Ivan Kuro weighed in, supported by the obvious physical intimidation of Kitaro's cult. Kuro made a stirring speech with various salient points and swayed the debate toward the latter option.
So, we poured effort into finishing the jet. The original Team One has been reconstituted into a "Planetary Reconaissance Team" … Sanjay's out and Amber's in. Sanjay is being given some resources for plan one… we do still need to work out supply lines, it's just not our focus. So, the Recon team is going to follow the cold trail of Dr. Gunderson's team toward the city ruins some 300,000 kilometers to the east. They're going to try to set up mesh relay towers so they can stay in touch, but it's going to be a tenuous thread.
Of course, while we waited for the plane to get finished, some members of the Recon team decided to track down the Factors. See, Ansel and I followed them after their attack and found their lair some 50-odd clicks to the north. No sign of high technology, but they were using spiked pit traps, and we weren't going to assume they weren't sapient. Turns out, Kvasir has a mesh-library which included a bunch of known scent-meanings for factors. We fabbed a scent-producing spray can with variable settings and set out to make friends.
It was, as you might expect, a fraught production. Everyone on the "diplomatic" team was a synth except Kitano and me, and the two of us were snug inside sealed, scent-containing outfits designed by Ivan. We found a pit trap and tried to lure the lurking Factor out of the ground with spritzes of friendly scent, a sacrificial animal, and a fabricated statue (we heard factors like artwork). There was a bit of a dance back and forth… the Factor ate the critter, touched the statue, and kept trying to do the same to Kvasir. I was watching through a sniper scope from a tree and… well… suddenly just got a… feeling.
I know there's a reason I'm on this mission while "Alpha Ricky" stayed behind on Venus… I'm the infected one after all. I just got a… sense… that the Factor was confused about the moving statue. It seems it wasn't considering the synth-bodied people to be, well, people. I told Kitano to let them smell him. He did, and the Factor got all sorts of curious. They did a tentative dance, and at my suggestion, they touched.
That's when a bizarre fucking thing happened. Kitano's flesh started to warp, darken, and bulk up. He stopped touching the Factor and he went back to normal. There was a lot of confusion about who did what to whom, but in that moment I got another flash from the Factor of confusion with a touch of fear… and that's when I realized that the Factor was an async too.
As for what Kitano is, that's another question. He apparently is infected with… something… but it's certainly not Watts-MacLeod. He's apparently been living with it for a long time. That's the key takeway here. I may very well be on a gatecrashing mission with a new type of exsurgent. Oh joy.
Fortunately, I'm not on the planetary exploration team. I'll try to glean what I can from their mission, but it may well take them months or years. I'll do what I can from the base camp to keep learning about Olaf, and I'll work with Sanjay (who's a bit of a dick) on trying to get these reports back to you as best I can.