The Mote of Existance (FT Intro, OPEN)
The Immortal Hive
“I maintain nonetheless that yin-yang dualism can be overcome. With sufficient enlightenment we can give substance to any distinction: mind without body, north without south, pleasure without pain. Remember, enlightenment is a function of willpower, not of physical strength....What do I care for your suffering? Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it. Take control of the input and you shall become master of the output.”
Chairman Sheng-ji Yang
"Essays on Mind and Matter"
It is hard to describe what happened. Not even the wisest and eldest of us can make living the awesome tragedy before us.
Some have called it the end of the Universe. Yet, we still remain in flesh, blood, and steel. We still jaunt the transcendent streams of reality. Perhaps one was sacrificed for the other...as our humanity was. Though, I cannot believe that one callous mistake could doom the heavens forever.
Others maintain that we have all truly reached enlightenment. Our flawed husks were cast aside in the ascension to Godhood. That, too, is a lie. Why would the Transcendent lock themselves in their ivory bastilles? Separate themselves from the drones which toil for the Greater Good? Is our flesh but an illusion of the mind? Or, is it as some maintain, and there is another level after enlightenment? Perhaps the Gods do dream of some ascendancy, but I cannot attest such fantasy.
A smaller number of souls...those free from the Empath’s control. Those near-spirits more machine than man whisper of another truth. A darker one. How it was man’s folly to harness the power of the place even light fears to tread. Such a cataclysmic dynamism from so simple a thing; perhaps only a few miles wide.
Of these people, I am one. I am perhaps, the oldest. The wisest. I saw, first-hand, the abominations committed against the universe. I was the first to reach enlightenment; though it was so long ago. I cannot remember if I was the first...the second... Perhaps I was some insignificant tally in the millions converted. *Sigh* It is difficult. To dance in and out of a billion years is to drink from the cup of reality itself; yet I cannot recall the flavor. Years... Decades... Millennia. They all flow seamlessly into each other. Only my earliest memories can be recalled, and only by concentrating on the one word. One single title. A way for those who cannot sing the song of the Universe to know who I am.
I am Yang.
Okay. Yes, it’s obsolete; but it’s still ticking! And, after all, who needed a top-of-the-line probe for this dead system anyway? It’s an ancient exploratory model, that’s for certain; though who had sent it here and why is anyone’s guess. What was certain is that if something moved, breathed; hell, if something farted in just the right way, it would pick it up. It lazily monitored the arrival of small-time pirates about two-hundred years ago. Well...they were too stupid to realize that system SA-11Y-388294 - called “Sally” by some smug cataloger eons ago - was not even remotely near a major trade hub. That, and when a few maverick explorers with way too much free time on their hands and a weapon budget that would have made a Naval officer need a stiff one came through, the rogues found themselves out matched and outgunned. A little looting, a little collecting of a bounty in the name of the law, and the explorers were off to most likely die from some alien disease that make one spout nipples all over one’s body. Not that it mattered to this probe, mind you. SA-11Y-388294 was the same as it always had been. Nothing new. Nothing different. Occassionaly a speeding Space Cruise would travel within its potent sensor range; and once the little datapod’s intel showed a massive warfleet pausing to refuel within the confines of the system. But, other than that, nothing else. Same-ol’-same-ol’. Ho-hum-pass-the-butter.
To anyone in some distant monitoring station still receiving the ancient stream, it would have seemed as though the little automated craft had finally kicked the bucket. A flash of light, then static, then nothing. As though someone were turning on the monitor, it would come up again, to reveal a terrifying - and awe-inspiring change.
The fifth planet from the Sun - located within a hypothetical biosphere - had just grown 2,348 meters in diameter. But what was on the planet was even more astounding.
What had once been a barren rockball was now a planet of lights, sound, and steel. The entire world was industrialized - even the oceans. Energy readings were off the charts - nuclear, quantum, and all-sorts of others. An entire well-established world had just “popped” into existence. Impossible, yes; but there it was.
“Beware, you who seek first and final principles, for you are trampling the garden of an angry God and he awaits you just beyond the last theorem.”
OOC: Okay, here it is folks. My intro post. I’m going to want one FT race - human or humanoid - to send an exploratory vessel. It would be nice if you’re...er... “ethically challenged,” though a goody-goody nation will add more excitement. So, please, come on in. A few requirements, though: don’t have enough weapons to obliterate us, and don’t come in expecting to conquer. That would kill this fun really quick.
EDIT: The system is a K-IV Giant star, with thirteen orbitals. I'll list what occupies the orbitals later, as I'm still designing it.
If spectral analysis won't find your love,
My one true heart'll clear you up...
God, she hated that song. But it didn't matter in this dump. Contrary to popular belief, when you're on one of those frontier-scanning exploratory ships like the Watchtower, you don't really get to see much. People who sign up for duty on one of these things discovered too late after the Academy that they didn't want to die in battle, so they decided to have their service time expire peacefully and (for the most part) uneventfully. Captain K. Jessica Rudder was one of these young and bored kids. She came on this advanced-but-silly vessel six months ago expecting nothing, as did all. And sure enough, nothing came.
The main expectation of Cap'n Rudder she shared with the rest of the crew: the nothingness would continue.
But something came and bit them in the ass.
"Captain Rudder steers the ship," joked Lieutenant Kalfus on the sensory station. It was a common joke, mostly harmless.
"Watch it, kid," Rudder shot back. "You have anything on that gamma burst?"
"Transitory thing, ma'am. I'm patched into that ancient government satellite in the system. It's amazing! Population not fully established but we're looking at billions here. They just, you know...popped into existence."
"Ensign Gerstadt, what do you think? Mass matter transfer?"
Ensign Hans Gerstadt at Sciences responded. "I have never heard of any matter transfer system as powerful as could move a whole system of people. Also, the planet appears to have grown in diameter from the last record."
"Enlarged?" The Captain was skeptical. "What do you think?"
"Perhaps the planet was exchanged with another one? There have been cases of wormholes arbitrarily expanding with no prior warning, and closed with no residue."
"Well, let's skip the discussion here. We're an exploratory ship. Let's explore."
The Watchtower slid forward towards SA-11Y-388294 and began scanning the planet from a safe, unthreatening distance. Preliminary analysis was accompanied by a hail...
OOC: Oooh! Ooh! An Alpha Centauri fan! I'm still playing that game, damn, but it's addictive.
Seeing as we're more than ethically challenged; we attempt to commit genocide on anything living sofar as we can afford to do so whilst continuing to survive, our ethics are very, very challenged. Of course, if this is a little too challenged for you.. well, that's why I'm posting this. So, how about it?
OOC: Yeah, forgot to post our ethical status over here. We aren't too ethically challenged in that sense, but there is very little debate over lives vs. profit. Mostly profit. :)
I love the way you wrote your post. I quote #nationstates" <Vertigo> http://forums.jolt.co.uk/showthread.php?t=494217 <-- Someone who creates a half-decent post in II, good lord the world is ending!" Agreed, agreed.
The Immortal Hive
OOC: Thanks to all the praise I’ve gotten from this post! :D I’ve even received a telegram. As for you, Hyperspatial Travel, I...suppose you can come in. Just, make sure it’s a small force. Literally, I only want limited contact/interaction right now. In part because I want this to thread to move as quickly as possible. So, please, come on in. But, after you, I’m putting a big no-no sign up. The funny thing is, both of your ethics might be too “inhumane” for IH...
Any visitor to the world would have seen a grizzly and terrible sight. There was no life; despite the hum and clatter of a billion machines. Corpses - their bodies grotesquely mangled and burned by the forces endured. Some were so damaged it was hard to tell if they were human; their eyes and organs literally boiled from their body. Others appeared untouched or even better than before, their peaceful forms bereft of even the smallest laceration. Still, they were all the same: dead. To walk upon the surface of the world was like treading in a twisted mausoleum - your body knee-deep with slippery flesh.
Before the Perimeter Defense’s craft arrived near the world - around the same time as they would have received the transmission - something would begin to stir amidst the ruins. Whether or not it was life was the stuff of philosopher’s partiality. After all, it ate, it thought, and it dreamed. It could move faster than any animal, and react to imputed stimuli. It could create copies of itself, and grows every day. And if this thing were threatened, it would respond quickly and efficiently to neutralize whatever irked it.
Ark Program Established
Acquiring Sensory Data - Planetscale
Please Hold...Sensory Data Received
Time Elapsed: 31.208 Seconds
Checking Organic Fibers
Organic Fibers Green
Checking Fiberoptic Fibers
Fiberoptic Fibers Green
Checking HEAVEN Core
HEAVEN Core sustained partial damage
Damage Assessment: Within Clear
Cause: Unknown; Further Inquiry Recommended
Activating HEAVEN Core
HEAVEN Core Activated
Welcome, Ota Kyi
I feel the grips of consciousness once again, to feel the odd pull of the waking world upon my senses. How strange. I cannot remember the last time I slept. Did I sleep? How could I? Sleep is to join the conscious and the unconscious. To complete the Yin and Yang. When a mind has melded to one stream of thought, then slumber is unneeded. No...wait....
The flash, the terrible flash of light. The feeling of my body...or, my consciousness...tossed asunder as though it were a ragdoll. I do remember... Ah, I see now.
I must have died.
How quaint. I finally died, and I don’t even remember how it feels like. A pity. Perhaps I could finally one-up that snide bastard Oori in Council. Oh we-
-+SENSORY DATA ACQUIRED+-
What is this? EARTH, is that you?
-+LIFE! I GIVE MY CREATION, LIFE!+-
Not funny, EARTH.
-+I THOUGHT IT WAS+-
There’s a reason we try to keep you away from the others...
-+YOU ARE ALL JUST JEALOUS OF MY WIT+-
We can’t be je- you know what? Forget it. What is this Sensory Data you’re speaking of?
-+A BIT OF A DOWNER, I AM AFRAID.+-
What do you mean?
-+TAKE A LOOK+-
Look at wh- Oh...oh, no...
Are they all...
You know what must be done, then?
-+WITH ALL DUE RESPECT, HEAVEN, I DO NOT HAVE THE PREROGATIVE+-
I know...I know. *Sigh* This will take much work.
-+BEST WE GET STARTED, I THINK WE ARE BEING WATCHED+-
Watched? By who?
-+I DO NOT KNOW. CALL IT A HUNCH.+-
Well, I trust your hunches, EARTH. Okay...EARTH, launch Protocol Lazarus. I want Nanite cleaners moving all organic mater to the Recycling Tanks immediately. Once you have enough raw material, start to run the Vats. This needs to be clean and efficient. Make sure you have all Braintape data for each individual. If their Staples are still operational, inform the nanites to salvage them. Please relate the raw statistics for me, EARTH.
-+DATA IS AS FOLLOWS.+-
-+286.987 BILLION DRONES ARE DEAD OR MISSING AND PRESUMED DEAD.+-
-+BRAINTAPES ARE 94% COMPLETE, 6% MISSING OR PARTIAL+-
-+GENEJAK - LOST+-
-+GENEJAK LACK BRAINTAPES, AND THUS CANNOT BE SALVAGED+-
-+EMPATH GUILD - LOST+-
-+BRAINTAPES ARE 100% COMPLETE, NO COMPLICATIONS+-
-+BROOD PITS - LOST+-
-+EGGS - 87% LOST+-
-+TRANCENDI HOLDING COMPS - MINIMAL DAMAGE+-
-+PLANETARY INDUSTRY - OPERATIONAL+-
-+EARTH - I AM DOING FINE+-
-+HEAVEN - STILL AS PERKY AS EVER+-
-+GOD - TO BE DETERMINED+-
-+SATELLITES - LOST+-
-+TRANSMITTING DATA ON INDIVIDUAL INDUSTRIES NOW+-
Thank you, Earth; though I think jokes are a bit inappropriate right now. Add these to your to-do list: eliminate the partial Level 1 Braintapes. Expunge those individuals from the records. I would rather not tempt disaster and create a race of half-wits. Empath Guild members should be given highest priority; I want them all reconstructed before the first drone stretches, got it? Make sure to begin reconstructing Genejaks. Just give them a neutral personality; it really does not mater with them. I want to make sure we salvage those eggs; so once you have a contingent of twenty Empaths revived, promote them to Brood tending and get them in there. If we’re lucky, we can save them.
-+AND WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING, HEAVEN?+-
What else? Talking to God.
The world was silver, now. The silver, black pools of Nanites began to slither over the fallen. As the sea crashed upon the corpses like the sea on rocks, the dead disappeared. To the Recycling Tanks, and on the double! Flesh was a priceless commodity now; for flesh was needed to revive the Immortal Hive.
Upon the emergence of the Watchdog, the process had already proceeded smoothly. The surfaces were 72% cleared, and the Empaths had been revived without major error. A few hundred-thousand Drones were awake as well, though they were being Stapled to deal with the shock. The Watchdog would have still picked up some remnants of the corpses - if their scanners were powerful enough to see in detail what those long, tenuous oceans between the mind-numbingly tall buildings were.
The hail was missed, for HEAVEN was too busy waking God to care.
OOC: I would love to see where this goes. Oh, and though you got it wrong, Watchdog as a name doesn't sound too bad...I'll keep it.
It had to be this day... Captain Jessica Rudder thought of her anniversary celebration back home. It was to be a great, peaceful day with Ricardo on some distant paradisial colony, with synthetic alcoholic beverages and an excellent (perhaps it is too weak a word) night after the day's festivities. But the dream was shattered with a proximity recall from the Primary at around 0600 hours HWST (HomeWorld Standard Time).
Well, let's get this damned thing over with and get home in time for that "excellent" night, at least...
But it didn't seem like she was going home anytime soon. Already the pieces were in place for a grand entrance/rebirth, and as the Watchdog's sensors began to uncover the vast mystery beneath the ocean of grey, the prospect of going home early seemed less likely - and less appealing.
"Activity, ma'am." The voice of Kalfus, coming far too late, rang out like a shot in the dark, for silence had grasped the crew as the spectacle of grey unfolded.
"That's very obvious, Lieutenant," Rudder observed without taking her eyes off the screen. "What in God's name are those?" Her reference was clearly to the seas of black spreading out from numerous points on the planet.
Gerstadt's voice answered. "High levels of polymeric materials. Ferro- and titanium-polymer. I have also detected high levels of unknown substances. It looks like a party down there, Cap'n."
"We haven't gotten the invitation, Ensign. Dereshev." She motioned to the officer at comms. "How's that hail coming?"
Dereshev responded. "I've sent and resent it five times, sir. No reply, and no indication that anyone received anything..."
"Well, this is just great," Rudder spat. "The Brave New World just has to form on our watch, doesn't it? Ensign Gerstadt, do you have the lifesigns I asked for?"
"Captain, there are no lifesigns. Lieutenant Kalfus was mistaken in his declaration of 'billions' being present. Those were residual traces of carbon-based life, with the scanning signal distorted and echoed by the broken satellites in orbit."
Captain K. Jessica Rudder stood up and caught the attention of her crew. "Let me summarize all that we are seeing here. In the Sally system, a planet formerly empty has grown more than two kilometers in diameter, has suddenly had advanced industrial systems rendered all over its surface, and now a sea of metallic nature is washing over it and apparently constructing something. To top it off, there's not a soul alive on that there rock to oversee any of this activity. Who's with me in believing that we need some goddamn backup here!" A flurry of hands shot up. "Good. 'Cause with backup, we aren't going to be the poor souls left stationed here to watch Mother Anomalous Nature's newest experiment. Dereshev, use the old gov probe to relay a summons for more exploratory ships to arrive at our location."
"Understood." Dereshev swung his seat to his console and went to work. Soon after: "The Eye in the Sky is coming to the rescue."
"Eye in the Sky?" Rudder wondered aloud. "Who keeps that thing?"
"That retired Commodore Irons. He wanted to keep a ship after the fighting, so they gave him a brand-new science ship to play with."
"Good job. Now to make sure we have something to show to them when they get here. I want all scanners maxed out and trained on that planet. If an ant suddenly develops the need to formulate a theory of relativity, I want to be the first to know about it."
The scanners idly swept the geography of the place as Eye in the Sky began its three-day journey to SA-11Y-388294. They saw a little bit through the dense clouds of silver and discovered large buildings, both ruined and relatively undamaged. But still no life.
The Immortal Hive
“In the event of utter cascade catastrophe on a planet-sized scale, not all hope is lost. The last function of the OrganiComp systems was to learn one final protocol. Lazarus, as it was dubbed by my college, Professor Nakamura, holds our greatest hope and our darkest consternation. The sole crisis which warrants Lazarus is no less than the Apocalypse. Hard-wired into the central EARTH computer, only when all contact has been lost from HEAVEN and GOD will the basic command-line interpreter rule Protocol Lazarus to be in effect. Let us hope such a tragedy never befalls us.”
Hive Core Systems Report
To fly again was an exuberance in itself, as Ota Kyi danced among the endless dimensions that dwelled within the Hive OrganiComps. It is hard to describe exactly how it felt. The thrill and excitement of a Hawk’s Dive, coupled with the constant pressure like sinking in the ocean. Comfort and discomfort; but all bearably so. Ota Kyi wasted no time in awakening other Trancendi; mingling her consciousness with their own so as to relate the epoch shrewdly and efficiently. Each woken greeted the others by their Trancendent names; far too rich with ripe ideas and meanings to spell with our words. Soon, six-dozen dreamers had snapped awake; all but four of which were sent to rouse the remaining brethren.
The remaining four, with Ota Kyi in the lead, circled around that aphotic sphere in the center of the Trancendi’s domain. The law stated that no one could enter the globe without being wiped from existence - mind and all. Yet, the mores were such that no consciousness would even dare to touch the Core. The GOD Core System - the Heart of the Hive. Ota Kyi’s “eyes” cast their gaze to her chosen few, their icy pools glancing warily back. They knew it had to be done...but, to interfere with something so taboo.
“Will there be punitive measures, HEAVEN?” thought one of the ghosts, as he moved his mind as close to the Core as he dared.
“Of course not,” Ota Kyi thought, projecting reassuring emotions to keep all at ease, “if we are to revive the Hive, we must awaken him. We must awaken Go-“
“Do not call him that, HEAVEN,” came the gruff thought-stream of another specter, “Religion is the Poison of Society. To call him a divinity, even out of respect, is to force that potion down his throat and ours as well. Call him his proper name. He is,” and what followed was the most elaborate name yet. So clamorous and glorious was the praise that it seemed no greater a force existed in the universe.
Ota Kyi was silent, a secure portion of her brain reliving the thousand ways she would like to snuff out that one curmudgeon. Perhaps GOD did not wish to have such a title...but he was no longer a conscious mind drifting through living circuitry. He was a force.
“Extensive damage to the Core system,” thought one of the Trancendi, resulting in a chorus of affirmative mind-pings. They could feel it: parts of GOD had been lost. His mind was not yet complete. Hence the Lazarus protocol.
“We will have to tap Blackbox Alpha to recover what is missing,” Ota announced, as the familiar mind-pings rebounded back to her, “Two of you search it out. The rest will stay here with me and assess any further damage. EARTH is taking care of his job, so do not worry about corporeal troubles. Now, we sh-“
Playful chortling echoed through Ota’s mind. That familiar, warm and never-helpful laughter. On a private thought-frequency, Ota shouted at the top of her mind:
EARTH, WHAT DO YOU WANT?
-+I KNOW SOMETHING YOU DO NOT KNOW, HEAVEN.+-
EARTH, I am about to send a level TWO negative burst if you don’t get to the point! What is it?! No games!
-+WE WERE BEING WATCHED. LOOK SKYWARD, HEAVEN, AND SEE WHAT I HAVE SEEN.+-
Still communicating orders to her fellows, another partition of Ota’s mind looked to the Observatory Telemetry from one of the Hive’s numerous watchtowers.
Something was out there. Something alien.
-+I THINK NOT. THEY ARE ATTEMPTING COMMUNICATION WITH A TYPE THREE WAVELENGTH+-
What? That primitive?
-+I AM AFRAID TO SAY, YES. PROGENITORS WOULD HAVE SENT A PSY-BEACON. I THINK THIS IS WHY YOU DID NOT TRACK IT+-
I have been busy, EARTH.
-+I AM QUITE AWARE, HEAVEN.+-
Well, then. Please, carry on.
-+WHAT SHALL I DO WITH THEM? THEY ARE WITHIN RANGE OF CONVENTIONAL MISSILES. SHALL WE OPEN FIRE?+-
In this state? Are you crazy, EARTH? We barely have enough raw material to reach a stagnant level of civilization, much less fight a war against a well-equipped intra-system race! Handle it yourself, EARTH, but do not provoke hostilities.
There would be a tumultuous cry from the planet. Matching the methods used by the Watchdog to hail the planet, EARTH would send as simplistic and easy-to-decode message as possible. Unfortunately, EARTH was not familiar with the systems of the Watchdog. The strength of the message was quite potent, powered as it was by the Borehole mines on the Northern Peninsula. It would reveal a three-dimensional map of the planet, colorless and faceless except for a single red circle located approximately 41 degrees North from the equator. Though the map showed not but the red circle, if the Watchdog turned its gaze to the rendevous position, it would notice the six-mile long stretch of hard steel atop a large, recently de-forested plateau.
An invitation, or a deathtrap?
OOC: A little detail about the planet: you will notice four rather large sources of heat on a peninsula in the Northern hemisphere. The average temperature around this location would be close to 95 degrees Centigrade; as the Borehole Pressure Mines exist in that region. There would be no green life - all desert. Most of the terrain has been encroached upon by buildings ranging from flat-house to kilometer tall size. Life signals will start to arise in steadily increasing numbers throughout the surface - though it would be difficult for even high-powered scanners to see half a mile beneath the surface. You’ll find out why soon enough...
As for the plateau, it is near a flat bed where most of the farming takes place on the Hive world. Of course, it’s all dead now - but evidence of farming would still exist.
Oh, and I didn't have the energy to change the font/color of the text. Please forgive me.
OOC: Info about the Watchdog. It's not technically a science ship, but an improvised science platform; it's a medium-sized cruiser stripped of half its weapons and equipped with scanners, probes, etc. A fairly big ship for something of its new purpose, but hey - it's old.
The mirror, that simple, yet enlightening tool, showed all. Every tired wrinkle on the twentysomething woman staring at it, every little crease on her pair of eyebags, and every little grimace that manifested whenever a thought of the strange world 1000 miles under her feet came to mind. Captain K. Jessica Rudder had been wide awake and working nonstop since the prox-recall nearly thirty hours ago. Many of these features had been brought about by her natural psychosomatic allergy to "Great Discoveries" (pretty ironic for a captain of a science vessel), but were exaggerated by the fact that it all seemed so interesting now.
Let us rewind time one hour in the direction opposing normalcy, and review the events that passed, for it should be known that at 3400 hours HWST (for on that planet the day lasted 38 hours), the action began again.
Through Lieutenant Dereshev, the first nail onto the coffin of the crew's freedom from this anomaly was hammered. "Captain, I've hit an offset carrier. Someone - or something - down there is trying to send a signal along an emergency-type channel." Emergency-type channels were the simplest forms of communication. They were designed in such a way that even a race new to space exploration would receive them and be able to understand them. "It's not in audio or video. I'm trying to figure- there! It's a data stream; quite nonstandard but I can quickly interpret it."
"Gerstadt," Rudder asked. "Did you just get a lifesign?"
"No, Captain. That does not say much about our sensors, however. Our last refit was three months ago, and no recalibrations since then."
"So you're saying that someone could be down there?"
"That is affirmative. They would still need to be pretty deep down, though, if we are to miss them."
"Got it. Dereshev, what is the nature of that data stream?"
"I've patched it to an isolated machine. It's a map of the planet, monochromatic, mostly featureless, but it indicates with great precision a location on an area forty-one degrees North from exactly the equatorial region."
"Captain," Gerstadt said immediately after Dereshev. "I was just about to mention something on that same location. I have processed new sensor data from Lieutenant Kalfus and discovered that that area has recently been modified since our last sweep seven hours ago. The ruins of old foliage had been cleared out to reveal a large section of steel proximately (exactly, not approximately) 6.2831852 miles long."
The Captain was thinking. "Why does that number seem familiar? Kalfus, what is pi to the seventh decimal?"
Kalfus tried to remember. "Uh, 3.1415926. What for?"
"Our little hunk of steel has an exact length of two-pi, at excellent precision at that. Come on, someone here who'll save us all, tell us that is natural."
"That ain't natural, Cap'n," Kalfus offered. "No way in hell."
We now come back to 3530 hours HWST, where our young lady sits before her mirror, contemplating the caricature of her face that presents itself willingly and almost mockingly to her. The discretion of reality when its realization is needed most has never failed to irritate this woman, especially when reality thrusts itself upon her when she least desires it, or when the worst of the problem has passed which it could have solved. Again reality came to her, in a raging river of frustrating intensity - that she neither needed nor wanted this job.
But we must return to the narrative. Four heat signatures were detected along an area near the steel strip, and the ambient temperature in that region was an isolated ninety-two degrees Celsius. Now the crew has decided to send an away team to the surface to check the place out, much to Jessica Rudder's irritation - as it is the protocol, not to mention tradition, of captains to be sent in the away team along with the "expendables" (however gruesome and cruel that term is, it is most appropriate). It was decided that the descent would take place in...oh no, fifteen minutes left.
Rudder felt like she'd been punched in the stomach.
Lieutenants Dereshev and Kalfus, Ensign Gerstadt, three particle cannon- and psionic-enhancer-armed Marines and Captain K. Jessica Rudder herself were on the shuttle that visited the surface at 3600 hours. There was some delay thanks to bad positioning on the part of the fresh transferee helmsman, but they got down in the end.
A communications beacon was established here, along with several matter-compression/transfer arrays for supplies and weaponry. Small sensory stations quickly dotted the landscape to enhance the abilities of the ship floating above.
Captain Rudder surveyed the geography. Looks like old farmland, she thought. Where're the farmers? True enough, there was not a corpse on the desert land, but ancient buildings of various make and material were interspersed with empty plains and sand dunes. "Captain to ship. Doctor del Rosario, any change on those heat sigs since our departure?"
Doctor Vivencio del Rosario was the doc at the infirmary, who had some detection experience back in the old days in the Fleet and as such took over for Kalfus whenever needed. "Hindi, no, Captain. No change since the last marker we put on them."
"That's good. Keep me informed. As I said, I want to be the first to know of any sudden changes. The Rudder is out." She snickered a bit as she used the little joke, and discarded the thought. There was much work to be done, and the captain's duty wasn't just to command in her case. In the Research Fleet, ship captains had to be experienced in at least 50% of the fields which their ships were equipped to deal with, and Jessica Rudder was a genius in pretty much everything. She'd graduated salutatorian of the batch in the academics sector (although her work in the military sector offset this in ways that should not be described), and could situate herself on any primary station on the bridge. To pass the time for now, she stood by a sensory station and kept watch on the readings on the little display, hard to read in the bright daylight but still leg-
Something moved. Was it the heat signature? No...she'd have been paged by del Rosario by now - he was quick to respond to his duty - and the ship was linked to these stations, after all. She checked the logs. Yes, that was it, transient just a few seconds ago. Duration: 0.09 seconds. Amazing that she caught it! Class: Lifesign.
Lifesign? Location (relative to landing zone) X:-0.0001 Y:0.0031 Z:-1500. The Z-axis detector saw it deep underground. Very deep.
What the hell was this place?
"Uh, Captain?" Sergeant Anders, one of the marines, was speaking. "My psi-enhancer appears to be malfunctioning. I'm 'hearing' voices, and they don't belong to any of us."
"It's not malfunctioning, Anders," came the reply. "This whole damned place is."
The Immortal Hive
Ten minutes had expired by the time the downloaded sections of Black Box Alpha were delivered safely to the Core. Such a transaction would have come quicker, if the innumerous safety guards and protections had not protected these precious kernels of information. Regardless, the Trancendent surrounded the Core, forming a larger sphere of souls which threatened to engulf the lesser. All were silent, and then...
What about the Humans?
-+WE HAVE HUMAN CONTACT!+-
What?! How could there be more hu-
-+DEFIANTLY HUMAN! LOOK AT THESE GENOME CHARTS! THEY ARE WITHIN ACCEPTABLE PARAMETERS! HUMANS!+-
More now joined the inner throng, throwing their incorporeal hands and harmonized a nurturing song. The Core unit was slowly beginning to re-construct itself, thanks in part to the quick pace of HEAVEN’s messengers. Each member of the immaculate chorus directed the ebon tendrils to reconstruct the tiniest conscious motes. For one or two Trancendi, it would have been quite a challenge. No doubt, their chords would have cracked under such strain. But for the hundreds of Trancendi that radiated those glorious cries, it was no trifle. On the contrary, it was sublime. So strong were their notes that to those who were psionically sensitive, it would have been...
-+BEAUTIFUL, HEAVEN. IT SOUNDS BEAUTIFUL+-
Thank you, EARTH, but how did you get their Genomes? Did you - Oh, no...they are not here, are they?
-+CHECK THE FEEDS AROUND THE LIVING MESA+-
Oh, EARTH! I meant keep them away until we had revived the Core system! Oh, now we have to deal with both! Wonderful!
-+WE HAVE ENOUGH DRONES TO GREET THEM. SHALL I WELCOME THEM?+-
No, EARTH, you won’t welcome them. WE will welcome them. Have them directed to...Mesa Decontamination Hall. Make sure to line the dummy walls with crack Empaths - at least Level Three. Make sure we have a full Impact Garrison ready as well; I don’t want to find out we’ve invited armed hooligans into a vulnerable position.
-+AS YOU WISH. IF THEY ACCEPT QUICKLY, THEN THEY SHOULD ARRIVE IN APPROXIMATELY THREE TO FIVE MINUTES.+-
I thought as much.
-+YOU CHOSE THE LONG HALL ON PURPOSE, I SUPPOSE?+-
Oh, no EARTH! Why would I ever do something like that?
-+AND I THOUGHT YOU NEVER HAD FUN.+-
EARTH knew what he was doing. As soon as the brief chat with HEAVEN ended, twenty members of the Empath Guild - each Level Three Initiates - were told (or, rather thought) to take leave of the Lazarus program, and join in greeting their new “guests.”
Shouting, flying, candescent cheering broke out as the Core continued to wrought its new mantle. Weaving best described the process - meticulously making sure each thread of conciousness was layered atop of each other in just the right way.
It was nearing completion!
As Drone after Drone gasped their first breath of life from the Vats, the sleek, dark Nerve Staple was placed just above the Brain Stem. Once inserted, the entirety of the Telepathic Matrix was opened to them - for they were now under its spell.
The orders came. A garrison of the Strongest was needed. One-hundred Men Strong. The Armories had survived the exodus; which meant that no sooner had the order arisen that it was carried through. One-hundred genetically altered soldiers - some with the mucus-like gel of the Vats still clung to their faces - were issued Silksteel Battle vestments and a Particle Impact Rifle. They knew how to use them; and if not they were taught immediately.
The pad which held the Watchdog’s shuttle would begin to sink beneath the surface. A claxon wailed far above the heights of the buildings nearby. A sign of warning. A sign to follow. The landing strip was large for a reason - it was the primary loading and unloading station for the massive Supply Convoys which transported the fruits of Sunny Mesa’s nitrogen-rich fields. Now it served a different purpose.
The pad stopped moving one meter down, making sure to leave enough room for the crew to follow - if they tread too far from the shuttle’s landing sight.
OOC: A bit on the bad side, but I’m a bit preoccupied today! Have my first day of work tomorrow.
A few changes have been made to the system. It is not a K-IV as I had originally announced. Instead, it is an F-V Main-Sequence Star with Thirteen Orbitals. This planet lies 2.4 AU’s from “Sally.” It is approximately 12,288 Miles in diameter, with a density of 4.6 (unusually thin for a High-Iron world). The gravity is 1.3 G’s, meaning it would be a little more difficult to walk than Earth Normal. The atmosphere is denser than normal - meaning that pressure is about 18.2 pounds per square inch. Four pounds more might not seem like much - but you can feel it. Atmospheric composition is 20.3% Oxygen, 79% Nitrogen, 0.4% Argon, 0.3% Hydrogen, 1% Other. Surface water is approximately 61% of the surface. Day length - 47 Hours.
OOC: Left out on the carbon dioxide now, did we? Sa bagay... no plants to let out the CO2 anyway...
There it was - the pathway to God knows what.
It was an unfortunate turn of events that a science vessel would come to survery this place; although this crew was a feisty, irritable lot when it came down to these little goings-on, it was a prerequisite of science vessel duty that one was curious. Indeed, the quantum encephalograph test displayed more than brain structure; it showed the workings of the mind of the subject involved, and saw little details that even the best psychoanalyst, Freudian or Songist, would find incredibly difficult to detect.
Now, the stage was set for the Great Discovery, and the source of Rudder's greatest allergy reared its ugly, expeditionist head. Ah, yes - the temptation to move forward was far too great now.
"Now what?" Rudder thought aloud. The steel pad had begun its descent into the ground, slowly and steadily enough to dispel suspicions of a trap. The shuttle seemed to groan as the tremulous, massive platform buried itself into the ground. Something like one meter down and the steel plate ceased its movement. There was revealed the aforementioned pathway to wherever, and indeed it was difficult to suppress the curiosity - wait, nullify that! For suppression had failed many times before, and it did so again; the Shipmaster and company stuck to the shuttle for a quick getaway if needed, but quickly pulled away and thence started down the new road.
Behold the spectacle of life. Shimmering in broad, angular yet somehow organic surfaces. Glistening with vestiges of previous existence, and now being replenished by the glory of a world burning to ashes for the rise of the Phoenix. It is not as bright as the Earth by daylight, yet in the eyes of an unaccustomed mind it shines like a thousand suns.
Behold the spectacle of life. It is a sight to leave you in awe. Take care, however! The spectacle of life includes the rush of the predator chasing its prey, and the invasion of microbes in a large host, destroying it slowly from within. The spectacle of life is aesthetically beautiful because it is a perfect, pristine cycle - it is, however, a cycle of life and death.
Captain Rudder and her away team beheld the spectacle of life with questioning minds and inquisitive looks. Let not surface beauty keep you from seeing the hidden portholes for high-caliber rifles!
"Personal shields up, team," the Marine sergeant Anders said. Each one of the men activated their high-intensity conversion/refraction/absorption energy coats, and Rudder herself switched on an even higher-strength defensive matrix. The marines held their particle cannons high, while the four scientists swept the room with handheld scanners and...well, Kyrios shock guns, miniaturized forms of the absurdly powerful vehicle-mounted distance-percussion weapons. You could never take any chances, especially when it came to witnessing the spectacle of life.
"The voices, ma'am. They're straight ahead." Anders's voice was still and held no fear, just as was the case with his other marines - 0but everyone else seemed scared shitless. Anders reported something like twenty contacts up ahead, and they were only seven in the team. Nothing to be said either about the technological level of the place; so far, they seemed to be fairly advanced at this point. It's best not to test the militaristic prowess of any nation, especially under the conditions our heroes were facing.
"They're here." The voice came from Corporal Davis, another marine. Sure enough, twenty figures loomed ahead, only shadows at this point owing to a blinding light behind them. "Contacts. Twenty- wait, twenty-one. Someone's moving into the formation."
"Hello?" Rudder called out. She whispered back to her team. "Shit, weapons down. Those guys are psionic." She put her attention back to the group ahead. "We...uh, come in peace. I'm Captain Jessica Rudder of the research ship Watchdog. This is the rest of my away team. We're here on peaceful scientific purposes only."
The Immortal Hive
OOC: Sorry I’m late in responding. Let’s just put it this way: A) I had a bad day at work yesterday. B) I’m in Retail. Enough said.
Also, one thing, PD. Please be careful about what has and has not been RPed. I did not, for example, say that the landing party had been lowered on the lift-thing yet. Nor did I say the Empaths had actually assembled ahead of the party. I admit, I was not very clear - but now the original idea I had for where your characters were needs to change. It’s my fault as well, and it’s really nothing big. I’ll just work around it.
The lift had descended without any complications - though Rudder and her team might not have noted the subtle clues on this aged device that pointed to extraordinary technological achievements. This pad - normally powered by GS Packs (Gravimetric Synchronisation Packs) - was lowered by the emergency “pulley” system. Four cables made of high-tensity metal haul hundreds of megatons of weight; yet each was no thicker than a strand of human hair. Supposing some poor soul leaned against these cords, they would soon notice so insignificant a thing. The tension and trifling size of the strands, combined with weight of the load would cause the twine to slit through human flesh, bone, and marrow without meeting resistance.
Downward the lift would fall - darker and darker. The entrance was a hand-held rectangle high above their heads. Any scanning equipment the scientists had might discover that the soil even this far deep was rich with nitrates - if they were even calibrated to monitor such details. Perfect farming conditions. Too perfect.
One kilometer. Two kilometers. Three kilometers.
Soon they would have trouble with most forms of transmission - unless the team possessed technology capable of sending a transmission through almost two miles of solid earth. Bedrock would have long-been passed. If this planet had any parallels to earth, they were half-way through the crust. To dig these tunnels would have been monumental, even for an advanced race. But, here they were.
Four kilometers. Five kilometers.
The base of the landing pad would have been pitch-black. The entrance was little more than a star now - a single pinhole in the black ceiling. One minute of silence. Two minutes of silence. Silence and darkness. Always silence and darkness.
Then, in one cathartic moment, a burst of pale, foreboding lights would cleave through the shade - illuminating a long, ominous corridor. If anyone in the party noticed, there were thousands of seemingly superfluous lights flickering along the ceilings, walls, and ceiling. They fluctuated on and off at unpredictable intervals. Many moved - some even bounced - across the solid slabs of metal and articulated plastics. Were they...watching the company? Perhaps. Watching was too weak a word.
They were observing Rudder’s team. They were learning.
When Ruder turned on her brilliant lights, the smaller orbs would dart and scurry away - frightened, perhaps, by their more luminous brother? Who knows. What we do know is the present, when Rudder and her crew met face-to-face with the battle-ready Espers of the Empath Guild.
Standing side-by-side in two rows of ten, they appeared as solid as the walls around them. None were bare-skinned - for who knew what terrible diseases these offworlders had brought? Pale-green suits of chitinous armor bedecked each soldier. They seemed to have been woven together, rather than forged or molded like most materials. Joints were sealed tightly with a rubbery, dark-blue substance that shaped itself to the body’s form. Slim gloves that reached up to their unprotected shoulders were of that same, azure material. Their heads were blanketed with an ultramarine mesh would look like a stereotypical ninja’s hood; if not for the seemingly bug-eyed visors and complex breathing units which rested upon their masks.
Each Empath would have taken a unique stance - their fingers and hands positioned in an array of poses and expressions. It would have been comical; if not for the austere atmosphere of the place. Some were wild and eccentric, almost contorting their bodies as they stared icily forwards. Others were more modest, their erect postures supplemented by simple hand compilations.
No one spoke. Silent. Staring. Evaluating the threat before them.
Why such ridiculous poses?
It was, as one man said years ago, “Symbols are the key to telepathy. The mind wraps its secrets in symbols; when we discover the symbols that shape our enemy's thought, we can penetrate the vault of his mind.”
These bizarre motions and gestures were as dangerous as the barrel of a Partical Impact Rifle. Perhaps more so; for no armor could protect the mind from intrusion.
When Ruder spoke, the Empaths seemed unphased. They danced complex thoughts amongst themselves through secure “channels.”
“What is she saying?”
“I have no idea. Perhaps she is giving the order to open fire?”
“Would they be so mad?”
“I do not think so: even if we outnumber them, they are miles beneath the surface of this earth. They are at our mercy either way.”
“Agreed...but I do not like tha-“
“They are lowering their weapons?”
“Diplomats, do you think?”
“Hardly. A diplomat would not wander into the belly of the beast with a carving knife in hand.”
“I concur. But, they seem peaceful enough.”
“So long as we do not find a planet-buster tucked in one of their stomachs, I can think of nothing wrong with them.”
“Shall we lead them on?”
“Mmm...I suppose so. Vote now. Yay or nay. No abstaining.”
“Twenty For, Zero Against. Alright.”
“Let us go, then.”
To Ruder’s crew, it would appear quite strange. Such violent and powerful poses suddenly cut asunder. But, dissolved they were. The Empaths seemed more at ease - even casual - as they relaxed their muscles and their minds. The wall of men would continue to move down the path, pausing only to have the mass of them - in perfect unison - beckon for the away team to follow with a casual gesture.
OOC: We’re not at the end of the passage yet. Next post of mine will describe the room.
OOC: Yeah, sorry about that. I didn't have any info to work with because there was no future descriptor. I myself was confused as to how I was going to proceed, but I took a risk and pushed the action ahead. I'll wait for your next post before I go.
The Immortal Hive
OOC: I just got home and it's 2:00 AM here. No way I'm posting something today. Either do a mini-post about following the Empaths, or expect one tomorrow.
The room will give off white light, if that helps...
"What's going on? What're they doing?"
"I don't know. Aggression?"
"Picking up some heavy psionic traffic over there. Secure communications."
"Planning our deaths?"
"You can imagine as much."
"Well, we are intruding on what appears to be-"
"Shut up. We don't know anything right now. What's the plan, Captain?"
They waited - and after that wait they conversed again, but this time they chose to switch to their psi-enhancers for communication. None of them except Anders being skilled with the contraption, they stuck to nonsecure modes for their dialogue.
Their bodies - relaxed. All at the same time!--
Must be the cheerleader welcoming committee. What the hell kind of place is this?
Screw the place. Look at the people!
What's that? What did they just do?
Follow them? Is that right?
They're walking. Should we go?
We've gone this far.
Should we keep going? - that's the question.
It's your call, Cap'n.
I say we go through with it. We'd probably offend them if we didn't.
Well, that's the end of that. Let's move.
Telepathic transactions are so much faster and more efficient than oral exchanges. This longer conversation occurred in objective time 1.2 seconds, still limited by the users' inexperience with their enhancers.
The party followed the twenty down the path. A long walk it was...the minutes passed without incident, however, so the duration of this section of the excursion failed to posit its relevance. There was an air of uneasy silence on the part of the away team, but the humanoids (they could not yet tell their nature) ahead were as calm as walking ice statues.
Five, then ten, then fifteen, and then it seemed as though Kalfus skipped in his counting of the minutes, for at that point he suddenly cognized the passage of forty-five minutes. Ahead was the end of the hall - and how bright it was! It was thought that the illumination of this hallway was already the pinnacle of luminary production, but the light ahead proved the idea totally and unforgivably wrong. Like a star gone nova, abruptly before an uncalibrated viewsceen, the light just shone before them, filling senses outside of sight! They could almost feel the photons bathing them with electromagnetic energy. Even filtered through the thin skin of eyelids, the light remained as blinding as ever.
The party, dazed a little by the intense glow of the next room, worked their visors and toned down ambient lighting to help them see as they followed these strange people into the world of white.