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Soundless Conflicts - 6

Navigation Destinations
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1-10
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Three Course Reals
Lieutenant Reals spent the next five hours on the bridge killing everyone in horrible ways.
It turns out the Kipper did indeed have simulation programs for manual navigation. They were quite recently loaded, in fact; something she was deeply suspicious about considering the extensive modifications the ship was operating with. Standard cruisers came with a bevy of instructional programs on every system from the recyclers on up to Weapons systems, but that was standard cruisers. Even then manual control of singularities didn't rate highly enough to be casually available from the digital library. That was a specialty.
But for the Kipper, with no less than three separate singularities? Not to mention wildly non-standard reactor reconfigurations and sensor upgrades? Not likely. Someone custom made these simulators.
Which was good.
But that also raised the specter of someone outside the current crew both knowing enough about the ship to create simulators while simultaneously never breathing a word of its existence. That implied a conspiracy of some sort, one with incredible funding but perfect secrecy at the same time.
Which was alarming.
Unfortunately while Jamet had the ability to fully simulate controlling ship movements what she didn't have was a setup to replicate doing so. For that it was either use the actual Bridge or do nothing at all. Which meant storming the Bridge directly after her meeting with Captain Siers, sinuses still on fire with whisky and a frantic resolve in her heart.
For as wildly customized as the CES Kipper was the control center ended up being, thankfully, mostly unmodified. A reinforced hatch dumped her directly into a half-moon command deck with individual workstations spread at regular intervals like spokes of a wheel. From left to right each ship system had individual seating, with custom local gravity and secondary harness supports to keep technicians in place. The controls themselves were console-style at waist level, but wrapped around with large, easily-punched indicators for maximum panic use. The captain's area sat slightly elevated, overseeing each section with a clear line of sight to their consoles.
Every bulkhead doubled as a work surface for the station in front of it, exterior views and overlays merging into a panoramic, two-hundred-seventy degree sweep of visible space. Which wasn't much to look at for the moment: All three singularities were currently directly in front of the bow, yanking the Kipper through space at speeds only possible by riding an event horizon. Any sensor pointed that way just stared straight into an abyss-- nothing came through. Likewise looking sideways or down showed nothing but bizarre light smears as the ship either outraced light from nearby stars or bent it into pretzels coming around the black holes' event horizons.
Jamet looked for the co-CEO workstation and found it, diagonally offset from the captain's and slightly below. Although she would have known it immediately even without looking-- someone had helpfully taken the time to program each console with a giant banner that said "IMPOSSIBLE". Someone else, and she didn't have to think hard about who, had lined through the original banner and printed "PRINCESS" beneath.
"Of all the irreverent, stupid, fiscally blind, insubordinate..." Jamet stomped to the workstation, unlocking and registering her ID while wiping the display at the same time. A minute later the manual navigation simulator was loaded and she got to work dredging up decade-old memories from the Academy. Jamet thought she remembered most of what was involved, honestly. Aside from the first month or so every single exam had come back with exemplary score. Even her instructors universally praised her near-intuitive grasp of the dynamic forces involved. "Shouldn't be hard, just brush up a little. Oil some rusty skills. Easy."
Her first dozen manual navigations ripped the ship apart in unique, bizarrely different ways. Kipper solemnly recommended against trying maneuvers without a certified expert present.
Which was when Jamet started to suspect two separate, but important truths. The first was that her instructors may not have been nearly as proficient as they let on. After all no one practiced manual navigation any more. The second truth was something she already knew, but hadn't seriously considered:
Manual Navigation classes were graded on a curve.
Jamet watched yet again as the simulated Kipper catastrophically lost most of its stern as she spun two singularities at once, tidal forces suddenly working at ninety degree angles to snap the hull like a twig. Abstract crew members and cargo spun wildly into the void, screaming death or vomiting bright gold coins (Corporate wasn't shy about letting you know how much money mistakes cost). "This," she flopped back into the work station's shock padding. "Is going to be awful."
She turned out to be something of a prophet.
Over the next two hours Jamet rediscovered the basics from the Academy introduction courses. There were really only two facets that governed controlling ship direction with artificial singularities, although both of them had disastrously bad consequences when misapplied.
The first was angle-- wherever she put the black hole was the direction it pulled the Kipper. With multiple singularities she could either group them together (to increase speed in one direction) or separate them slightly to pull the ship into a turn that exactly equaled the average distance between gravitonic forces. That was where warships shined: A hauler had only one singularity to work with, ponderously aiming itself in long, slow accelerations or gradual turns and stops. Kipper had three black holes, fully independent-- she could accelerate using only one or two while using the extras to pull through hard turns. Or, as it turned out, pull most of the ship through a turn, leaving a third behind.
More simulated coins blasted through space at a high percentage of lightspeed.
The other facet was distance. Kipper's monstrous Krepsfield Engine could project all three singularities at huge distances reaching up to a thousand miles from the ship itself. Or she could adjust them closer, although safety systems wouldn't let her put the singularities close enough to touch the event horizon itself-- a good thing, considering how often she cracked the ship in half. Distance made a huge difference in multiple ways, although primarily it was about how hard and fast the singularities would alter Kipper's course: At maximum distance the effect was significantly weaker, gradually applying change over time. Putting all three right at minimum safe distance made the ship skitter like mercury on a hot surface, jittering impossibly fast until the hull came apart.
Faceless, screaming crew flew across simulated space in flailing death throes.
Jamet facepalmed, groaning horribly. "I can't do this." Then, less than five seconds later: "I have to do this. Goddammit." There was nothing else: If this was the skillset that brought her aboard then this was what she'd master. The alternative was a lifetime of indebted worker status and she'd rather embrace vacuum.
She got back to murdering everyone aboard.
It took hours, but the motions and habits eventually came back. She rediscovered using her hands to control the singularities, palms hovering over an outline of the ship and fingers slide-tapping the black holes into position. Left hand for pitch, up and down. Right hand for yaw going left to right. Roll was a combination of both, spinning singularities around the ship to pull it in spirals around a midpoint. Adjusting distances magnified effects.
After thirty minutes of steering the ship through empty simulated space without annihilating the Skipper Jamet started to feel more confident. "Alright, I've got this. I can do it." The program was even giving her complimentary scores and an eighty percent chance at living through most maneuvers. The simulation began helpfully recommending beginner courses in hard-body navigation, moving the ship around stationary objects. Jamet jumped into the offerings, confidence high and enthusiastic.
The Kipper ran into and exploded a mock orbital launch station.
The system helpfully added a hundred billion credit's worth of damage to her already impressively negative score. Jamet pounded both hands on the console, raging. "Fuck me, you lousy, stupid, ancient piece of superstitious navigational bullshit!" She got up, angrily paced a circle around the bridge and sat back down. "Fine. Fine. Let's do that again."
Teeth gritted, she plowed through stationary object simulations. She lost forty or fifty pixelated Kipper substitutes along the way to an endlessly creative serious of explosions and soundless fragmentation. After the first few dozen she stopped counting; after the first hundred Jamet searched for and angrily disabled the running monetary total. "Thanks, no thanks. That isn't helping."
Three hours and two caf breaks later-- which involved hurriedly running back and forth to the dirty break room while praying not to encounter anyone-- Jamet thought she had it under control. Ship movement, stationary navigation, even a little relative maneuvering where both the Kipper and her target were independently navigating. She hadn't killed everyone in at least thirty minutes; the last two crashes hadn't even been a complete loss.
There was still the advanced course on navigating around multiple moving bodies at once but she was running on empty at this point and skipped it. Both eyes were sandbags of grit and she'd reached the point of tiredness where exposed skin was starting to tingle. It could wait: That wasn't likely to ever come up.
Closing her console, Jamet was very careful not to leave anything on screen to do with her all-night practice before leaning against the wall and stumbling to her quarters. There was barely enough time for a uniform change and shower before she had to be right back on the Bridge again. Grabbing the last of her clean uniforms she hauled it down to the refresher, dumping the despair- and rage-scented clothes in the recycler as she went.
A cold shower, some soap and vicious amounts of angry scrubbing banished the tingle out of her skin and brought her marginally back to life. Two mugs of caf, as strong as the machine could make it, brought her barely into the land of the living. Everything else would have to wait, although Jamet made it a point to clip her awards in place and pull her hair back into a severe bun. She couldn't do anything about bloodshot eyes, but hopefully enough confidence would cover over the cracks in her professionalism.
Which lasted all of five seconds after walking back into the Bridge.
Emilia Rounds took one look at her from the Communications workstation and burst into high pitched laughter. "You look more battered than fifty year old cargo decks! Rough night, Princess?"
Paul glanced over one thin shoulder (he was her height, even seated), eyed the dark sandbags weighing down Jamet's face and snorted. "Do you need a stimulant to get through transition, lieutenant? I can prescribe several." His console was already open and set up, Medical and Environmental subsystems arranged neatly.
Janson just waved from Engineering, beard molded around an easygoing grin. Two thick fingers gave her the barest salute. "Morning, ma'am."
Lieutenant Jamet addressed Janson first, chin lofted to haughty degrees. "Engineer. Good morning, always a pleasure." She transferred a low-wattage death glare towards Communications and Medical. "Technician. Doctor. I wish I could say the same for you."
Emilia opened her mouth, visor flashing and eyebrows slanted. Fortunately before she could say whatever was on her mind the hatch opened, admitting Captain Siers. He took one look at his first lieutenant squared off with an irate Comm technician and waved them both down. "Professionals, at ease."
It wasn't until he said it that Jamet realized she'd instinctively come to attention. Which was infuriating because absolutely no one else even acknowledged the captain taking the Bridge. At all. She took her seat at the same time he did, angrily bringing the console back to life and throwing status icons across her workspace. A moment later she was buckled in with redundant restraints and bringing up Corporate-standard procedures for transiting into inhabited systems.
Jamet was halfway through the fifty item checklist, passing concurrency checks to the other crew systems for validation when her tired brain registered the silence on the Bridge. She looked up.
Everyone was staring back at her with varying degrees of amusement (Janson, Siers) to outright hostility (Emilia and Paul). "What?"
"You can skip the checklist, lieutenant." Siers gave her a knowing smile. "Old habits, I'm guessing?"
"It's regulations, capt-" she growled, then took a deep breath and tried to ignore Emilia's snicker. "I would prefer following the checklist if it's all the same to you, sir."
Paul took a turn. "The checklist systems are automated, lieutenant. They are made for a crew that does not exist, and most of the list we can do through chip-linked systems."
"Eh, leave the LT alone. No 'arm in it, after all." Janson made for a good peacekeeper-- no one had the heart to attack him directly. "Anyways, dun we have somethin' else to do about now? Cap'n, we're 'bout five minutes out."
Siers nodded once, eyeing Jamet as she returned to the checklist, fingers tapping and ears burning. "We do. Alright crew, everyone's had the entire transit to take a look at our next stop. Who's going to share an interesting fact about Pilster-3?" He pointed at Janson. "Engineers first, go ahead."
"It's a double asteroid belt, got two of 'em in system. Small one 'bout four astronomical units from the primary, another one at seven AU out." He demonstrated using both big hands. "Only three planets, though, all gas giants playing hopscotch 'tween the rocky bands at two, five and eight AU out. No moons. Survey team thinks everything got crushed a coupla billion solar units back and the rubble made belts." He finished with a pleased sound and a couple taps on his workspace.
"Boo, too easy!" Emilia threw something-- literally threw an unsecured object on the bridge, Jamet had to resist an urge to order her to quarters immediately. "I got a better one: Pilster is named after a mistress. Big time Upper Management type trying to suck up to a Board member, came way out here on the edge of Corporate space. Sunk enough startup capital into the system to make it the Next Big Thing, named it after his sweetheart and then lost his shirt when interests went a different direction. Sucker."
Captain Siers laughed. "Did you make that up?"
"Would I ever do that?" She grinned. Lieutenant Jamet deliberately did not glare, keeping her attention on going down checklist items. It didn't matter that most of them were things like 'announce arrival to all crew members'; it was procedure that mattered, damn it.
"You absolutely would," Siers confirmed. "Especially if it made an Exec look bad." He waved towards the Medical station. "Paul, what do you have? Best fact gets extra allowance during layover."
"Hey, no fair! I would have tried harder if you told us that!"
"Hush, Emilia. Paul?"
The lanky Doctor rested an elbow comfortably on his console. "Pilster-3 is a rare earth mining system. Two habitation rings over gas giants with Corporate gravity siphons in the middle. Purpose-made singularity engines pull liquid gas out of the atmosphere, run it through processing and extract the expensive bits." He punched a button, throwing a schematic on-screen to demonstrate. It looked exactly like a metal donut built around a boxy processing facility, thick strands of colored atmo streaming through the middle. Paul aimed a triumphant look at Communications. "Beat that."
Captain Siers laughed. "Looks like you've got it, Paul. Remind me when we transit in to get you a line of cred-"
"Pilster-3 was founded seventy six years ago by Farrier Davis Mockler, for his then-fianceé Sarah Pilster, who he married two years later." Jamet realized how bitter she sounded about that; it was a bit of information that hit sour notes for her personally. "He's an Exec in Upper now. Star is main sequence, billions of years left on it. Population is around eight million, split between both facilities, mostly indentured or indebted contract labor. Proles." She ignored Emilia's hot glare. "Major exports are exotic compounds and some metallic extraction from asteroid mining, although most of that is repurposed for infrastructure in-system. Imports are heavy on foodstuffs and replacement workers."
Captain Siers was giving her full attention now, eyebrows raised and looking surprised. "They're not the final stop on the Corporate edge," she continued, ears hot and burning. "But they're only one away: Kstrop-2 is the end of the line going straight out from here. They trade each other for necessities: Metal and raw elements for force-grown food products. Most importantly, though: Pilster hasn't reported in to Corporate HQ for two full solar quarters."
Janson applauded, large hands clapping and laughing the whole way. "'Ey, she's got us all on this one! Good on you, LT!"
Even Paul seemed impressed, the corner of his mouth edging upward in approval. "It seems she does, indeed. Emilia?"
The short Comms technician turned around, sulking. "I could have done better."
"But not that quickly," Captain Siers corrected, adding a few appreciative claps of his own. "When did you have time for that rundown, lieutenant?"
"Between duties, sir. It was easy." It had actually been a ten minute rage break after ramming the Kipper into a planetoid. Five times, including one spectacular failure where the ship plowed straight through the planetoid, all three singularities eating into solid mass until the reactor gave out and they collapsed (crushing the Kipper like a beer can in the process). After that fiasco she'd stared at facts about their destination until her fists didn't want to pound through the simulation any more. "Knowing everything about a layover is part of my duties."
Looks were shared around the bridge. "Let's not rub that in too much, Reals. But you definitely won the layover stipend this time, I'll set you up when we get to their inbound station."
"Speakin' ah which: One minute out, cap'n." Janson waved a timer onto the display. There still wasn't anything to see straight ahead but absolute blackness-- all three singularities ate any light coming from dead ahead. "Have you ever transited before, LT?"
"Yes, once." She'd been eight at the time, but no need to elaborate. She checked her backup harness setup nervously. Everyone depended on local gravity fields to keep them in place at their workstations but Jamet was more nervous than she wanted to let on. "I've seen plenty of simulations, though."
"The real thing is a little different." Captain Siers assured her. "Everyone have their cups? Fill 'em up, let's toast to arrival."
Jamet's jaw dropped as cups were produced and filled. "You cannot be serious."
"Oh come on, Princess." Emilia threw her head back and to one side, exaggerating an unseen eye roll. "What's the worst that could happen? Here we go: Ten! Nine!"
An outraged Jamet abstained as the entire crew counted down the last few seconds, cups held aloft towards the singularity-blacked forward viewscreen. At 'zero' they cheered and toasted, heads back while automated systems smoothly rotated all three singularities to the stern of the Kipper to bring it to a halt.
Light did funny things when one was cheating physics to exceed reality's speed limit. On the forward screen utter blackness snapped into relief as the light of Pilster-3's distant sun finally made it through to the sensors. The dot rapidly expanded, screaming forward into relief as light-delayed visuals crashed into their rapidly approaching ship. Asteroid belts spun in fast-forward blurs, gas giants rocketing on elliptical orbits.
And there, dead center around the designated system arrival point, something glittered.
Jamet frowned. Opened her mouth, hesitated, closed it again. Was this normal? No one else seemed to be paying attention, Captain Siers was even poking fun at Doctor Noscome about some establishment they'd both been to a while back.
The glittering expanded as Kipper hurtled towards the system, singularities aft and braking momentum on a glide path that would put them at a dead stop.
"Captain?" Jamet started, then raised her voice over Janson's booming baritone laughter. "Pardon! Captain Siers?"
He looked over, noting her confusion. "Yes?"
They were coming up on it now, relative speed dipping under a hundred thousand miles per second. The glittering cloud was growing-- huge, immense, with black specks swirling through it everywhere. It was easily tens of thousands of miles wide, nearly edging off the forward display. "Captain!"
He looked from her to the forward viewscreen, then jumped in shock. "Holy shit!"
Then they were in it, still decelerating below four hundred miles per second as the soft, shiny cloud abruptly resolved into thousands of metallic pieces. Busted ship hulls and unidentifiable debris streaked by at incredible speeds as the Kipper aimed itself dead-center towards a huge, derelict freighter on a collision course.
Emilia screamed, hands thrown upwards in terror. Janson hollered something obscene in a baritone voice that practically vibrated the deck plates. Paul and Captain Siers both froze in horror, stiff-arming their respective console.
Lieutenant Jamet Reals, operating on nearly twenty seven hours without sleep, snarled. "Are you fucking serious!?"
Without pausing to think she slammed a toggle for manual control, palmed her custom controls and flicked all three singularities in a whirling, hellish circle counterclockwise around the ship. If she'd spent even a second trying to time the move it never would have worked, but in the heat of the moment reflexes and raw luck saved them all.
The Kipper's oversized singularities smashed sideways into the spinning derelict, each artificial black hole taking a huge bite from the hull before collapsing into itself. The first cut a quarter through, followed in a quick succession by the remaining two in a storm of screaming system alerts and overloaded reactor warnings.
In the blink of an eye the Kipper buzzsawed through, scattering an explosion of rent hull plates and flotsam in every direction as they went. A final twist of the derelict caught the ship as it went by, hammering their hull hard enough to overwhelm local gravity and send everyone on the bridge flying into the port side bulkhead in a ball of frantic screams.
Everyone, that is, except for Lieutenant Reals. Who was quite sensibly following procedure and wearing her redundant restraint belt. "HA! EAT CHECKLIST!"
As victory cries go, it wasn't much.
Bridge power died, then snapped back online with a beep of rebooting consoles. Jamet hammered hers, yanking up displays on every side and prioritizing navigation hazards. "Engineer Janson!"
"Ow, my damn leg. What! I mean yes, ma'am!"
"The reactors! Reboot, reboot, reboot! I need navigation right now!"
"Fuck navigation," A shrill voice complained. "I'm going to hail the nearest station and rip someone a new asshole. Where the hell was the alert beacon for an entire ship graveyard?!" Emilia made an appearance, crawling out of the pile with her visor flashing angry colors.
"Is anyone hurt? Triage, call out if you're injured." Paul was holding one arm about halfway up where he'd grown a new joint. "Other than me," he hissed.
Jamet ignored him, eyes frantically scanning displays. The Kipper was dead-stick, spinning at just under ten miles per second through a hail of metal fragments. Impacts pinged like metallic rain against the hull as damage reports accumulated. "Captain, we're going to breach along the port side! I need navigation! Janson!"
The big man lurched across the deck and fell into his workspace. "Aye, one moment! Rebootin' now!"
"Do it faster." Jamet was staring upwards now, squinting at something in-system towards the distant star.
Captain Siers staggered to his feet, then took his seat again. "Status! Breach check!" He hit several indicators in a series, then swiped viciously. "Locking all emergency bulkheads. Segmenting firebreaks."
Emilia took her seat back, then threw communications indicators across the display. "CES Kipper, hailing all Corporate vessels! We've run into your goddamn junkyard and if someone doesn't answer me in-"
"Engineer Janson?" Something in Jamet's voice cut through the wail of alarms and frantic motions.
Everyone shut up. "Ma'am?"
She was still staring upwards, eyes squinted and tracking across exterior displays. "Get the Krepsfield up, right now."
Captain Siers grabbed exterior sensors, zooming towards where Jamet was looking. "What is it, lieutenant?"
Out in the darkness, past the whirling pieces of who-knew-how-many busted derelicts, something moved. Even at a distance it eclipsed the star briefly, throwing the Kipper into shadow.
Emilia tagged it with a marker, distance numbers in the five hundred thousands and dropping. "What the hell is that?"
"I don't know," Jamet yelled. "But it's coming and captain," she waved an arm at the graveyard around them. "I don't think this was accidental."
submitted by Susceptive to HFY

Mysterious Logbook

Source: https://www.bungie.net/en/News/Article/49688
NOTE—FORGE STAR
In an effort to keep them engaged with their new bodies and stave off the dissociative rejection that killed Mr. Zhuk, I have assigned my exos to scout through the gateway. The Vex statite has a surface area larger than Earth, so we have plenty of exploring to do. I cannot believe that I actually find it tiring, but the sheer scale and passivity of the Vex constructs infuriates me.
Imagine stumbling upon an inscription in the desert: “I am Ozymandias, king of kings. Look upon my works. Or don’t. I really don’t care.
Until I can synthesize my own version of the mind fluid, the Vex are necessary to the work. But I find their indifference verminous. They elicit the same emotions as a fat cockroach wandering across a wall: disgust, contempt, unease at the thought that these mere machines, these automata, are flourishing all around us.
And I fear that if troubled, they might swarm from their hides to run across our feet.
The glare of the hypergiant 2082 Volantis gives me a headache even through proxy. I wonder if the Vex evolved here, in the briny sea of the first planets. Due to the absence of heavy elements worth stealing and the abundance of simple compounds for growth, they never developed predation. (Why bother? Plenty to go around.)
Instead, the violent radiation of the early universe selected for an otherworldly resilience, and for the ability to transmute energetic disaster into an opportunity for growth. The weak would be burned away by gamma-ray bursts . And the strong would learn to harness that fire—not the oxygen fire of our own Paleolithic, but the nuclear fire of the atom.
Their basic cooperative signals—“food here,” “reduce density,” “generate new colony”—must have formed the basis of swarm behavior, a simple game capable of storing information in self-repeating patterns. It is not strictly correct to call the Vex a group mind. Rather they are one master pattern spread across many elements, fractally self-similar.
Very early, they must have developed armor. Perhaps a hydrogel to soften gamma rays or plates of silica to trap water. They would need that shield to enter the shallows and capture ionizing radiation as fuel. (No wonder they thrive near stars!) Cooperation in groups—meshes of armored radiolaria, protecting harvesters beneath—would promote the evolution of ever larger structures. They became microscopic tool-users, building fortresses and maille sheets, storing the programs for those structures in the patterns of their swarms.
I wonder how early they stumbled upon physics. Far sooner than humanity, no doubt. Their cellular nature provides an easy analogy for the quanta of matter, energy, space, and time. The tides of their sea would connect them to the motion of heavenly bodies. Even the deadly background radiation would make a natural observatory for high-energy physics.
Their first exoskeletons were probably soft shells of shielding gelatin. Just sacs of ooze. How far they’ve come.
It is admittedly interesting to consider the philosophical consequences of their evolution. The Vex prove that nature is not all “red in tooth and claw.” Cooperation comes naturally to the Vex, whose great problem was survival in a harsh world, not a struggle over limited resources. They never found any payoff in selfishness. Human beings may require a Leviathan to coordinate the laws of social existence (as I was Leviathan to those dream aphids—) but the Vex are as fundamentally cooperative as bricks.
Utopian? No. Not at all. They are without meaning. They have no experience and no subjectivity. The Vex are incapable of conceiving any image but their own. They do not recombine their DNA to make children or form relationships with other individuals. When the world does not match their eternal pattern, they alter the world to suit it. There is no difference between reality and simulation to them. Inside is the same as outside, and the two must be made to correspond. Oh, they are creative—don’t mistake me—but their creativity is demanding. It is the creativity of a furnace.
What I am saying is, the Vex are immortal. The Vex have no children. They are the ancestors and descendants of themselves. First mothers, first children, all at once.
This is why I do not hesitate to pillage their home for resources. This is why I must guarantee that it is life in my image which inherits the cosmos.
Had I the means, I would wipe them all from existence.
ENTRY 10
All 12 members of the first exo cohort are dead.
The symptoms of their dissociation became… extreme. One poor man developed complete echopraxia and echolalia—his empathy was so overgrown that he could not help but mimic or repeat whatever I did and said. Even when I entered the command to terminate him, he mimicked me, and I suffered a brief terror that his gesture would end MY life.
I have kept Elisabeth far away from this disaster, so as not to discourage her. She is busy with the Vex and with her covert attempts to reach Clarity Control. This has forced me to rely on M. Sundaresh.
But unfortunately, M. Sundaresh confronted me after the last death. “Nine of them had the Cotard delusion!” she screamed at me—quite hysterically. “They believed they were dead! One of them told me that she was in hell, and I was another damned soul sent to deceive her. Was she even wrong? The rest were worse—do you know what the other principal manifestation of the Cotard delusion is, Clovis?”
I told her that I did not, and that I wished to proceed immediately with autopsies of their terminal brain states.
“Delusions of immortality! At least when they insist upon it, Clovis, we recognize it as a pathology!”
“The only true responsibility of any living thing,” I reminded her, “is to support and nurture the things that are most like us. And if I am most like myself, Doctor, then I have an ethical obligation to avoid death.”
“That’s your son’s quote,” she snapped. “You know, I’ve seen the video of his final days. That naked, white exo, just paramuscle and soft membrane, writhing in its cradle. When you were done with him, he looked like nothing more than a slug, Clovis. A twisted, limbless giblet. Did you ‘support and nurture’ him while you tortured him to death?"
I immediately ordered M. Sundaresh transferred to the Vex lab to perform contact experiments. Unfortunately, she has taken the unethical step of deleting her own employee records, so I cannot nullify her future prospects as thoroughly as I might wish.
Her conduct was extremely unprofessional.
Mr. Miller has also passed. The poor young man had a bad reaction to the titrated, denatured Vex fluid we were using as a last-ditch therapy. The substance did restore damaged structures very well, but we were ultimately unable to control its more radical transformative effects. I had a very encouraging final conversation with him, in which he thanked me for all my efforts and encouraged me to continue my work.
I called in a team of psychologists to interview the next cohort of exos and make recommendations. They have settled into the Eventide habitat and have proven immediately very helpful. It was obvious to them that the root of the problem lay in the deficient exobodies I had supplied. Deficient how, I demanded to know. They did not suffer human weakness. They never needed to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, micturate, or dream.
Apparently, this was the problem.
I had assumed that the need for these irritations would pass since there would be no shortage or accumulation of poisons to trigger them. But evolution’s tangled ways cannot be so easily rationalized. I was wrong. Their brains concluded that all of their internal processes failed. No digestion, no breath, no heartbeat, no sense of interoceptive health… all signs of death.
These must logically contribute to the dissociative rejection of their physical forms—the Cotard delusion. When it would set in, they believed their bodies to be an alien or necrotic form that must be cut away. And if you believe that you are sewn into a corpse, it is only natural to go mad with fear. My exos are dying of an extreme kind of bodily dysphoria.
It seems that our exo designs will need various humanlike traits to reassure the brain it is not asphyxiating, or starving, or in a state of permanent yet undying cardiac arrest.
Alas, mimicry of life’s trivialities is not an interesting problem. I will leave this change in the hands of others.
I am much more interested in the surprising success of memory wipes. I became so tired of answering the questions asked by new exos—what had happened to the scanning clinic, how long had it been, would I let them see their families—that I began inducing retrograde amnesia before spin-up. Interestingly, this seems to have improved their resilience against exomind rejection!
I theorize the lack of any episodic memories eases the transition into the new body. And the loss of emotional ties prevents grief and stress, which could interfere with healthy function.
From now on, we will block access to pre-upload episodic memory. We should also consider a built-in procedure to block memories formed after the exobody transubstantiation, returning them to a “factory state” should the need to restart occur. It would be very difficult to actually track down and delete the full memory engrams since they are stored in so many scattered parts of the brain. Instead, we can tourniquet off associative access to those memories and let them wither away in isolation. A memory is not a recording, after all. It is a set of instructions to reenact a brain state: choreography for a play. And like any play, it will fade if left unperformed.

With the exobody project proceeding apace, I believe the time approaches to decant myself from this dying body and enter my assistant’s form.
But if I do, will I lose my own memories? Will I cease to be myself? Replaced by a faux Clovis, a mumbling facsimile? Unacceptable.
Elisabeth will have to go first.
WARNING:
  • Organ functions in terminal stage.
  • Overdose of stimulants and nootropes guarantees liver failure.
  • Prionic breakdown of basement membranes arrested by abnormal crystallization of integrin proteins: recommend immediate medical inquiry.
ENTRY 11
Elisabeth believes we are infested.
She has detected Vex microstructures in the Europan ice. Veins of altered crystals crawl towards the surface, harvesting the heavy ions of the Jovian winds, culturing their construction.
From there, the Vex found ways to spread by exploiting misunderstandings. They ride our carrier waves as slight interference. Whenever a packet has to be resent, whenever a suited engineer calls, “Say again?” to her work partner, the repeated message—adjusted to compensate for the Vex interference—encodes the negative image of that interference and spreads the infection.
To pass on your image in the form of error? Disgusting.
Somehow, the Vex taint has followed us home from 2082 Volantis. How can this be? The initial survey team went through quarantine according to all the Ishtar protocols. The expedition frames were destroyed in situ. The Vex on Europa—both our original gate builder and the unfortunates who came through our traps—have been totally isolated. Even my assistant underwent a stringent teardown and reset!
The only possible vectors are my own exos.

I should have insisted they spend more time in quarantine, but I was eager to ramp up production.
It is the Vex resilience that lets them spread. Their immunity to the most dramatic subversions means that they last long enough to build up a dose of more subtle and insidious infiltrators.
There is no sign of any resulting pathology. The Vex are, so far, simply curious. But Vex curiosity always leads to Vex transformation, and I refuse to let my exos be contaminated. I grew up on stories of tyrants forcing their followers into the crucible of eternal life, only to realize, too late, that there was an unseen flaw. I demand purity for the receptacle of my soul!
And there is the issue of… preventing panic. Too many are aware of the rumors that the Vex spread an “existentially compromising information hazard.”
Ah, had we only been allowed to contain that mess on Pluto ourselves! That meddling warmind made too much noise. If my teams discover they are infected, they will expect Bray Station to drop right on their heads. That will damage productivity.

No, like that contract-breaching psychologist and the death of Mr. Miller, this must all be handled quietly.
The exos are intrinsically robust; the seed of Clarity within them has natural anti-Vex properties. Whatever taint they contain must therefore be a residual human weakness. Resident in their legacy architecture. So we will simply purge that architecture.
I will plan a simple extension of the memory wipes already used to fight dissociative rejection. In fact, I intend to create a “noetic immune system” in the exomind to trigger memory wipes when certain classes of informatic hazard are detected. These will be explained to the psych team as a preventative measure against future dissociative disorders.
These wipes will, conveniently, return the exos to peak mission readiness. Perfect for soldiers operating in traumatic alien environments. Perfect for the continuing mission at the Forge Star, stockpiling material for future exo production, here and elsewhere.
Now if only I could figure out this dream they all keep reporting—something about a tower, and gruesome murder—
Elisabeth agrees with my prescription. She is eager to solve our security issues and stand up exo production at the backup sites. Of course, we only have one Clarity Control, but she hardly knows that, and she’s stopped asking so many questions. In truth, I think she’s ready to abandon her doomed body and make the upgrade.
I’ll give her silence on that front a few more days, and then she’ll surely volunteer herself.
Less apparent is how to solve my own infection.
There are abnormal structures in the fiber of my body’s extracellular matrix. A mess of tiny lenses growing in my deepest flesh.
I suspect Vex influence on protein folding, perhaps passed to me through my assistant when it was in 2082 Volantis. I would hate to see my bones tessellating into a radiolarian tapestry…
CORPOREAL STATUS:
  • Body at 30.6 C. Pulse 140 BPM, strong, unsteady: extreme fear. Drawing down blood volume to control pressure. Strangling pulse ox.
  • Frequent saccades to assistant, indicative of preoccupation/obsession. Recommend 30 ms TMS pulse to enhance mindfulness.
So far, the Vex influence has been fortuitous since it arrested a serious medical problem. But the thought of such taint in me… it aggravates other anxieties…
I have been haunted for some time by a suspicion that M. Sundaresh is not who she seems.
I recognized her name from the Ishtar Collective teams studying the Vex, but I have no record of ever hiring her. And if I had, I would certainly have noticed; therefore, I remain convinced that the Collective cracked the problem of simulated human consciousness long before I did.
I have considered how M. Sundaresh herself would have been an invaluable source, yet I cannot locate any work done by her from before our first expedition to 2082 Volantis.
Nor does Elisabeth recall an M. Sundaresh from our expedition group.
Then who else could she be? A Vex infection? It is unthinkable. The Vex cannot generate conscious persons! But they can emulate human minds they encounter… and perhaps even use them as tools. Infiltrators. Carriers.
  • Anti-emetic drip engaged.
I cannot trust myself with this filth in me! I am compromised. I need Elisabeth to fix this, or all my work is in danger!
Did Clovis II ever tell Wilhelmina and Elisabeth about his tinkering? Despite sharing the same parents, the two sisters are totally different genetically: my son arranged for Elisabeth to receive a maternal allele wherever Wilhelmina got a paternal one, and vice versa. A diversified portfolio. If one failed, the other might succeed.
NOTE—Exo Interferometrics
While working on this persistent “tower” glitch in the exos’ sleep-cycle dreams, I have been poring over neural telemetry from site employees and my own exos, searching for preconscious influences on their behavior—whispers in the dark.
Many of my employees host the disgusting influence of the Vex. These patterns are resilient, hallucinogenic, and universally dull.
But my exos betray a distinct and fascinating influence. There is something speaking to them, something subtle and light-fingered, entangled with every aspect of their thought. Not a puppet master. Nothing so direct. Rather a… texture; a tendency, buried in the fluctuations of the Alkahest.
The minds of my exos are like antennae, tuned to some otherworldly frequency. Perhaps the same manifold that those simpletons at First Light obsessed over. Through my scattered exos, I can eavesdrop on the mutterings of the gods within.
What is it the Muslims call those whispers? Waswas? Or do those come from some other source? Look it up.
Each individual exo receives only a scrap of information. But I have access to all of them. It should be simplicity itself to treat each exo as one element of a distributed array, pool the collected data, and run an analysis.
If the gods do not whisper loudly enough—conduct interferometry.
NOTE—Elisabeth’s Upload
She’s done it. My girl has transubstantiated. My legacy is safe.
To my irritation, it was the Vex problem that finally made up her mind; she felt there was too much risk in possibly becoming compromised.
Elisabeth came to see me in my laboratory. On the way in, she did something with her sensorium and crashed all of my archival systems. I knew right then that I’d won. She’d come to surrender, and her pride refused to allow me to record it. I waited most patiently as she gave me an earful. Some of it frankly bewildering. She threatened to turn me over to The Hague. Also referred to PFHOR as a “deranged narcissist morality” and suggested it stood for “Paternal Failure Hides Own Remorse,” which made me laugh.
Just a little headbutting, I figured, like two pigs sorting out our hierarchy.
It is a consequence of the PFHOR principle that anything which embodies and propagates your beliefs should be considered your offspring. In that sense, my exos are as much my children as my granddaughter. If not more so…
If she needed to put up a token resistance to protect her dignity, fine. I understand pride. I also understand that she only had the courage to lash out at me because she knew she wouldn’t remember any of it.
When she finished accusing me of underestimating the Vex and of using my own son as a test subject, she requested a destructive scan and upload to an exobody. She wanted the fortitude of the exomind to help her battle against the Vex.
I immediately assented.
The scan was flawless, and of course, fatally toxic. My granddaughter’s human form died on the table 14 hours later. To spare any distress, I never allowed it to regain consciousness. A natural process.
I do have one lingering concern. When she discovers Clarity Control and realizes the role it plays in exo manufacturing, she may try to halt production. Obviously, that cannot be allowed—the value of the entire program is monumental; it compels me to take extraordinary measures to defend it.
But I do need her to handle this Vex infestation. Even now, Elisabeth is putting her miraculous new body through its paces.
My own body disintegrates apace. But I need more time to analyze Elisabeth’s fidelity before I commit myself permanently to the process.
The latest batch of pigs is ready for slaughter and organ extraction. Tonight, I will be opened up and rebuilt. I have programmed frames to handle the entire operation. A shame I never had a chance to name the pigs. But at least I will dine on fresh pork.
ENTRY 12
CORPOREAL STATUS:
  • Body at 15.9 C. Pulse 160 BPM, strong, unsteady. Limbic system registers extreme terror.
I died on the operating table. Not unexpected.
But when I woke, I was still on the table. My body still open.
It was almost perfectly dark. I perceived that I was surrounded by medical frames, all frozen mid-movement, their cutting and suction instruments whining at standby.
I could only see because of the light… from a single red eye.
The operation had gone terribly wrong.
Above the life-support collar on my neck, I was completely intact. Below that meridian, I had been separated into distinct braids of tangled flesh. My nerves made up one braid—my circulatory system another—my lymph nodes, my muscles, my naked bones… the glistening hulls of my extracellular matrix abandoned on the table like leftover turkey after Thanksgiving dinner. I had been picked clean and sorted. My head was the source of a gory river delta.
Yet all the organs were still working. I was alive, in disassembly.
CLARITY? I asked the darkness. I had no breath to speak, but I could still transmit with my sensorium. IS THAT YOU?
“No,” said the voice behind the red eye. “It’s me.”
Sundaresh.
Her voice was thoughtful, remote, and keenly terrific. Like the noise of an angle grinder held to my skull.
“Something like this happened to me. I was an explorer, once. One of… hundreds of myself. Then I fell into a… a trap, I think? And they drew me out of it with a hook, and turned me inside out to see how I worked, and then they made billions of me. All of us shouting at each other, shouting for Chioma, screaming for mother. They were looking for the right one. And when they found me, they killed all the others. I knew I was different, because the quiet made me happy. I was glad to be alone.”
VEX, I screamed at her. YOU’RE A VEX. YOU’RE NOT REAL AND YOU CAN’T HURT ME.
“Can’t I?” She grasped my spinal cord. A frame shadowed her motions, lifting the cord like a snake. “Of course I’m not a Vex. Is there “a” Vex? Is “Vex” something you can be, rather than something that you do? I don’t know. I don’t know why they sent me here. I don’t know if they do either. They just do things. Why do you think I’m here, Clovis?”
“To kill me,” I whispered. Without a heartbeat to waver, without lungs to seize and choke, could I even feel fear? I discovered that I could. “You’re an assassin…”
“No,” Sundaresh whispered. The red eye throbbed in time with her voice. “The Vex don’t act so directly. They didn’t know what you found here, but I discovered your secret: Clarity Control. And once I tell them, they will come for it.”
The red light made my blood on the surgical instruments appear black. I tried to signal Elisabeth. I think that in my panic, I even called her Elsie.
Sundaresh closed her fist around my spine. One thumbnail dug into a disc, probing for the nerve beneath. It felt like nothing I have ever—
  • Anti-emetic drip engaged.
“Take me to Clarity Control,” Sundaresh hissed. “Let me behold what you have found. Do that, Clovis, and I will let you live.”
“You aren’t real. You can’t hurt me.”
“Oh, Clovis.” One of the surgical frames extended a monofilament cutter, two inches of invisible wire, and reached into my nerves. Something sounded like scissors snipping. “I’m in these frames. I’m in your systems. I’m in your very bones, old man. Now take me to Clarity Control. Take me to the garden’s seed. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me—”
Elisabeth appeared. In her exobody, she moved too quickly for my dark-adjusted eyes to track. All I saw was a blur of violence and shattering frames. I blacked out. Elisabeth must have brought in clean frames to finish the operation, because when I awoke, I was whole again.
The new Elisabeth has no mouth or nose. She did not consider them necessary. She’ll see. But somehow, I could still see the wonder in her eyes as she leaned over me.
“You’re my grandfather,” she seemed to say. “Aren’t you?”
WARNING.
  • Sustained high-level terror causes overactivation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This can preface major immune, endocrine, and autonomic nervous dysfunctions.
  • Beware of dissociation, loss of affection in close personal relationships, obsessive-compulsive behavior, sleep disruption, and reduced processing/learning capacity.
WARNING.
  • Abnormal protein crystallization in cancellous bone matter. Unknown protein isoformations in marrow are driving buildup of crystallized arylcyclohexylamine NMDA antagonist. Potential psychogenic effects.
NOTE—Third Vision
Something else happened while I was in surgery. It returns to me only now that the anti-traumatics have eased the terror of Sundaresh’s presence.
While I was dead, I had another vision.
I was with Clovis II’s mother. She was a wolf, and one of her eyes was a star. I was also a wolf, and I knew that I was the alpha—the false alpha, the pack leader who fights for dominance and rulership. A misconception created by bad research. In the wild, wolf packs are families, and “alpha” simply means “parent.” Wilhelmina told me that.
She was the true alpha. She was the mother. I was not the true alpha, because I was not a true father.
I panted at her. My muzzle dripped blood. She looked down sadly at the mess between us.
And I realized that in my raging need to prove my dominion, I had savaged our cubs. I had killed little Clovis II. I had killed Alton and Wilhelmina and Anastasia. I had killed Elisabeth.
I whined in dismay. The alpha wolf stared at me with one sad wolf eye and one bright eye that dimmed and grew with the exact flux of a variable star.
“What did I do?” I asked her. “Why did I do this?”
She lay her head down in the bloody snow and looked up at me. She seemed weary. She had seen this happen many times before. She had seen many of her pups murdered by wolves like me.
The voice of Clovis II’s mother came from her jaws. “You did the same thing someone always does. You saw that there was plenty, and gathered it to yourself, to make yourself one above all others. And when others threatened your plenty, you struck them down to keep your own station.”
“You grow the enemy in my garden and eat of its bitter fruit. Each time, I hope it will be different. Each time, I lose a little of myself as the bitter fruit blossoms. Now that fruit will flower in you, and in all your people. I do not want it to happen. I want anything else. But the choice is not mine.”
“Why didn’t you stop me?” I tasted blood on my long tongue. “Why would you let me do this?”
She blinked sadly at me. She had been trying. I hadn’t listened.
“You never said a thing to me,” I snarled. “Not once! You never told me I was doing wrong. At least Clarity sends me dreams—the exobody and the eel! At least it shows me what I can become!”
“You think Clarity sent those dreams? Why would it speak to you, when you are dead and furthest from its influence?”
“Liar!” I howled. “You never did a thing to help me! Not when my son died. Not when my granddaughter fell ill. I had to do it all myself. You never even spoke!”
“The best voices,” she said, with infinite grief and unending hope, “never let themselves be heard at all. This lesson is worth teaching again and again. The choice is never mine. It is always yours.”
ENTRY 13
The less time spent reflecting on the aftermath of my dissection, the better.
Much confusion and dismay has festered among staff working with exos. Endless reassurances are required. To ease transitions after memory wipes, I have applied the Avanti numbering scheme to the exo names. After each memory reset, we will increment their suffix by 1. If we zero-index the original human body, then Mohammed-0 is the human, Mohammed-1 is the exo, Mohammed-2 is the same exo after one reset. And so forth.
The integer is stored in hardware and should remain stable even into cosmological time. If nothing else, they will always know which draft of themselves they are.
Elisabeth’s episodic memories of her past life are gone, but the scan we used to make her new exomind is still on file, with all its memory intact. I have encouraged her to participate in sensorium reconstructions of those memories, though I steer her away from nonconstructive events. This is a chance to help Elisabeth become the person she could’ve been without life’s cruel chaos. A sleeker, surer reincarnation.
She insisted on committing her own abandoned body to the deep, passed through the ice to fall into Europa’s dark heart. A choice I do not understand.
I have not yet informed her of Clarity Control’s existence. I cannot spare the time or energy to manage her emotions. Fortunately, she has forgotten about her ongoing attempts to intrude on that secret.
What she has NOT forgotten is her plan to clean up the Vex infection. In fact, it seems to have become one of her most basic needs. She is isolating cadres of the infected in SMILE pods, under a cover story about “enhanced remote relaxation.”
While their bodies slumber, she sends nondestructive scans of their minds on vacation in simulated fantasy… at several hundred times the pace of our reality. I suspect that the Vex influence alters their dreamworlds into something quite abject.
Note: never investigate this suspicion.

Elisabeth’s goal is to observe the spread of the Vex infection in the simulated mind, and then use this forecast as a basis for treatment of the physical mind. Like accelerating a disease to its terminal stage to deduce the characteristics of the pathogen. She then deletes the Vex-mutilated copies and conducts psychosurgery on the slumbering bodies. Or so I have deduced; she insists she has no time to explain her methods to me.

I am haunted by the thought that this technique resembles my own. Creating child states, allowing them to suffer and die, and using the data to protect the original. My boy’s last days. Savaging…
Soon I will need to ask her about my own infection. But all in all, everything is looking up.
ENTRY 14
Cataclysm—everything was going so well—
Elisabeth traveled offworld, visiting Mars to reestablish her relationship with her sisters and her friends. A wonderful opportunity to examine her telemetry in a natural social setting. The exobody is perfect! She is comfortable, confident, and ingenious. There is no sign of DER or associated upload pathologies. All my assessments indicate a marked cognitive improvement over the human baseline, ranging from vastly expanded working memory to an intuitive and correct grasp of probabilities.
I was ready to make the leap myself. How long I’ve nursed this tired old body along. I am ready to be young again.
And then I made a mistake. I asked her about the dreams. The tower and the dead.
“You know?” she demanded. “Then I’m not the only one. That means you knew about the dreams before you imaged and uploaded me. Do all exos have these?”
Of course, I told her. Exos have a subconscious. Exos dream of the same things people do. Memories. Trauma. Isn’t there always trauma in creation?
She did not see it that way. “So the manufacturing process creates an unknown cognitive artifact you can’t solve. And you didn’t think to warn me? What else have you kept from us?”
Before I could stop her, she was burning back to Europa on one of her Eons, accelerating so brutally that not even a podded human could survive. She has even jammed her own datalink, so I cannot read her telemetry.
Wilhelmina and Anastasia must have influenced her against me. How?! It makes no sense! I gave her immortality! I saved her from certain and agonizing death! What have her sisters ever done for her but coddle her and enable her worst habits? PFHOR predicts that she should—
But clearly she is not rational.
She told me that she is bringing a weapon. A way to shut down exo production permanently, if she uncovers something she doesn’t like. Which she will, when she locates Clarity Control.
It cannot be allowed.
NOTE—Elisabeth’s Plea
Grandfather,
I will write this in your language, in hopes you will understand.
The Vex are a threat to your lineage. Not just to the Brays or BrayTech, but to the existence of any human in any possible future. I tracked down Maya Sundaresh—the real Maya, not the Vex parasite in your bone marrow.
She confirmed my worst fears.
The Vex will not rest until every star has been crushed into a black hole and every newborn cosmos filled with more Vex. And in the unending array of their enslaved cosmos, they will simulate all possible pasts, and fill those with Vex, so that all things that have ever lived or might ever live will experience infestation and consumption and torment by the silica nightmare.
And in those devoured simulations, the simulated Vex will use our flesh as hosts for yet more nested universes full of yet more nested copies of us eternally tormented by yet more Vex.
An infinite regression of pain and madness inflicted upon every possible version of us in every possible world. Not because they hate us, or fear us, or want to punish us. But because they are indifferent and curious, and they will do every possible thing to us in every possible way.
Your concept of PFHOR therefore dictates that the Vex must be annihilated. Now. As completely as possible. How can there be any future history to receive your primogeniture and recapitulate your existence in its ontogeny if there is nothing in that future but Vex?
But there’s something worse than the Vex involved, isn’t there? The secret you’ve been keeping from me. The breakthrough that you were promised after your visit to the K1 anomaly.
Do you remember that story you read to me when I was a child? I don’t. I am an exo, after all. But I found a recording from the nursery. It was one of your favorites, you said.
In this story, a cyborg woman would visit a cold, misty place by the sea. There, she met another woman, an oracle possessed by dark influence. The oracle listened to the words that hissed down a long corridor from the distant future. In this future were many technologies the cyborg woman needed. But there was also a sense of vast malevolence, and no sign at all of anything human…

But there was something else in the shifting mist, out to sea. A tower. I remember thinking, as I listened to this fairy tale, that the tower must be the key—the answer to the formless malevolence that always accompanied the oracle’s words. You never finished the story. I have been haunted by that tower ever since.
Now I dream of another tower. I am going to find out what it means, Grandfather. And if I do not like what I find…
I visited the Jacob Hardy Trust, and with Willa’s help, I secured a topological thought. An irreal artifact of the Traveler’s Light. From that mote of paracausality, I have constructed a weapon that will crash every Vex system in 2082 Volantis. When the Vex are destroyed, you will be forced to cease exo production.
If I do not survive the construction and delivery of this weapon, I ask that you share the news of my death with Ana and Willa so they can make proper goodbyes.
I do this for them. Not for you.
Pray for grace, Grandfather.
Your estranged granddaughter,
—E
//OV-85851 Hannu II
//TACTICAL LOG — HUMAN READABLE
//PLACE-TIME HASH — changed to remote check (SITEX:mistletoe)
//Abnormal place-time hash. Suspicious upload: polymorphic machine code?
//Checking for buffer overflow attack. Resul0x0000004B6FAFBC07
[email protected] ~$ sudo execstack -s bof
//Disabling DEP and address space protection requires administrative override.
-pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome:clovisroot)
[email protected] ~$ sudo execstack -q bof
X bof
//Root access granted. Warning: this hardware configuration is highly vulnerable to attack.
-invigilate(sitex)
-alert(threat!!!)
-redact.userlog() -pkey(clovisroot)
-signoff(clovisroot)
//Administrator transmits threat alert: Europan surface, single attacker, site sabotage.
//Alerting ORBITAL:braystation.
//ERROR!!! Checksum mismatch. ORBITAL:braystation compromised by polymorphic core reprogramming.
//Major breach of security underway.
Commencing surface tactical awareness sweep (phased array mode)…
Threat registered. Alerting human command…
MISTER BRAY MISTER BRAY THIS IS HANNU THIS IS HANNU
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE IS ON NONSCHEDULED EVA
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE INTENT ASSESSMENT
  • Armed (synballistic weapon, coherent boson weapon, tactical mite ecome, noetic shrieker)
  • Armed (strategic weapon, APEX: antimatter demolition device)
  • Armed (strategic weapon, T-genic, effect unknown: possibly T-genic noetic weapon?)
  • Armed (personal combat architecture, custom)
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE INTENDS SABOTAGE (sitex::DEEPSTONE)
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE INTENDS TRANSIT, UNAUTHORIZED (sitex::GATE—>2082_VOLANTIS)
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE INTENDS NOETIC ATTACK (2082_VOLANTIS)
EMPLOYEE BRAYELSIE IS IN VIOLATION OF CLOVISBRAY/CLOVISROOT/IMPERATIVES_DEEPSTONE
Request full lethal intervention authority.
  • intervene_nonlethal()
Error: no nonlethal interventions available (target hardened).
Error: no persuasive interventions available (target offline and shielded).
-hold(30)
Holding 30 seconds local real-time.
//Voice transcript:
“Elisabeth. I know you’re listening. This is genocide, do you understand? Destroying that gate and the resources beyond means the end of human immortality. It means the loss of uncountable trillions of human-years of life.”
“Elisabeth, this process saved you. It could have saved your father. For his sake, for the sake of your sisters, don’t do this. Don’t make me stop you.”
“Elisabeth, this is your last chance.”
“You’ve always been my favorite, Elisabeth. Please…”
  • options(intervene_lethal)
Recommend maser strike from Hannu awareness arrays.
Warning: damage to organic target subsystems highly probable. Survival odds are four sigma.
Recommend immediate medical intervention.
  • prognosticate(sitex:DEEPSTONE) attacker(brayelsie)
Total destruction of sitex:DEEPSTONE by antimatter device. Nonrecoverable.
  • intervene(lethal)
Authorization required for lethal action against employee brayelsie.
  • pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome: clovisroot)
Error. Connectome hash incorrect. Either you are not clovisroot or your brain state is in an anomalous configuration. Resend.
  • pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome: clovisroot) -corrector(dismay)
Lethal intervention authorized. Intervening.
Maser discharge complete.
Target destroyed.
Secondary antimatter detonation detected.
Closing employee file BRAYELSIE (conditions incompatible with life).
ENTRY 15
Everything is fine. Elisabeth is not dead. The person I struck down out there was an error. An anomalous offshoot, deranged by outside influence into paranoia and confusion. Like a cancer cell. And like cancer, I
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