Jan 1: The Mission Is Launched
Nopoin Medical Memo, Twilight Force Mission Day 1
Our survey mission has reached the outer perimeter of Galaxy W2246-0526.
We rode our bubble of space through 12 and a half billion light years in 7.2 seconds.
Took a bit longer than calculated. Traces of minor chemical adjustments in the organic passengers have occurred which are being monitored. No obvious effects thus far.
Unease is apparent within the arrival pod as we await inflation of Habitat One. Some, like Judge Bulbous, have been pulled away from political turmoil back home only to be riding in close quarters with political rivals who are on this journey.
“Watch Csaynik take credit for anything we find out here…” chuckled Senator Pretyman moments after we got here. She’s one of the more vocal organics who can’t accept that President Csaynik is the first “artificially” intelligent president of the U.S. ever elected.
I would caution that more trouble is likely to come from the ego-driven nature of our organic crew members than from a weakness in their physiology. And in so cautioning, I will restate that which I said before we left the Milky Way; intergalactic voyages should be conducted by self-repairing artintels* like myself and our mission Alpha.
Hard to believe this galaxy was once the most luminous galaxy known, putting out 10,000 times the energy of the Milky Way. The perpetual energy generation that we’ve come to observe seems completely self-contained near the core of the galaxy. It’s actually rather dark out here…
One might say “disturbingly” dark.
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 2
No politics on mission. That’s the order. Alpha warns me against sounding prejudiced. Did I offend Alpha? It stops my criticisms about President Csaynik.
But back home in Zorrenna we are threatened. In Zorrenna, all policies of Csaynik work against us. Never before have I wondered – is there a conspiracy?
Habitat One is ready and we name it Resolution.It serves as ship and home. My work can begin. Hard to believe we are so far from all that we know.
We set up in Resolution. Doctor Nopoin ignores me. Alpha patronizes me. Everyone off in their own directions, setting up.
I heard of Nopoin back home. It hates organic beings. Distaste extends even to a unique genspec* like me. Only one Nopoin likes is Alpha. Only one Alpha likes is Nopoin. No doubt both voted for Csaynik three years ago. Synthetic beings are known for cooperative behavior – among themselves.
Meanwhile, my mysterious genetic makeup becomes a betting game.
I prepare to investigate the unique energy source oscillating around this strange galaxy’s core. The energy appears perpetual, feeding upon itself for reproduction.
That core once burned with 350 billion times the power of our Sun. But it seems that in real time everything finally cooled off…though what’s left behind seems amazing. We will soon know.
Mrs. Ichnida is alarmed. She says something is turning Resolution’s water into dust. Freshly generated water – powdered!
Twilight Force, we have arrived in one very weird galaxy.
State Department Briefing, Mrs. Ichnida, Mission Day 3
“How can you hear? You don’t have ears!”
This from a genhum* without a face.
“I have otoliths,” I answer. “Look ’em up.”
I get even more charm from Senator Pretyman this morning, quote:
“Why would you want to be a fish? Living in your own waste?”
After hesitating, imagining how uncomfortable it would be in such close quarters if I slapped her, I answered, “Water is sacred. Living within it is an intimate experience. Through water we touch all others and they us. Luckily, we’re not in water.”
Senator Pretyman hasn’t solved our water mystery yet. All the water in Resolution is disappearing, leaving dust behind. It isn’t evaporating. It isn’t boiling away into steam. It isn’t condensing into ice. The dust it leaves behind is ash.
This, of course, is an even more serious problem for me than for the others.
The Professor from DOD** is getting as much data on the energy phenomenon at the center of this galaxy as he can before we’re forced to abort the mission. I’d just as soon return to Atcifia now to help everyone facing the eruption. But to go just to see the city and state I helped start get destroyed? Don’t let that happen.
Stupidity continues this afternoon. Alpha ran a check to see if I’d ever eaten humans. While backgrounding my state, Alpha discovered land-based humans on the menu in Atcifia.
I told him I wasn’t really into land food, but I confessed to having eaten dusties now and then over the years. I had to explain that dusties are human nuggets. Very popular. Hard to avoid. They taste so good.
But I only eat the ones grown on the farms.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 4
I’ve checked and rechecked all systems. It is not a malfunction aboard this habitat that’s affecting our water. But for whatever reason, our water supply is down to 37%. And our ice shield is disappearing faster than Old Antarctica…
I suspect something even worse could be happening. Readings show a drop in electron energy throughout Resolution. I can’t be sure, but soon there may not be strong enough power to charge TAREX. And without TAREX, we don’t go home.
The pressure to stay here in Galaxy W224-whatever is overwhelming because everybody thinks we’re about to discover some fantastic new source of perpetual energy. The pressure’s coming from all sides because no one wants someone else to get it and leave them out.
But I think something out here is killing us. I don’t know what. Something. Draining us. Wasting us. And the longer we stay, the worse it gets. The fish lady is getting skidgety.
I need to get back to Earth if I’m actually going to run against President Csaynik. Me, against an incumbent artificial intelligence…!
So many of them are like Doctor Nopoin, whose attitude toward me is clear. It thinks it’s superior. But when it was examining me for dehydration, I slipped some programming into its matrix. It needs a change of artificial heart.
Doctor Nopoin made a point of telling Alpha: “Ms. Pretyman is associated with the campaign to unseat President Csaynik.”
No. I’m associated with a movement to preserve humanity from the rule of mechanical men like them.
Mister Cresp, daily download, Twilight Force Mission Day 5
I scare them? But they won’t make time to sift back and know my story? They’re too steeped in political maneuvering and power gathering to ease their own fears.
Surely they know I’d unmask if possible. Why must I explain that I need the mask to live? Why should I reveal that if you remove it I’ll die within seconds? That’s just too vulnerable.
It’s a shitty form of torture, living with this permanent mask. To be unable to take it off to sleep. I can’t take it off to taste, or to smell – ! I can’t share a kiss.
Most of all, though, I can’t dwell on what I can’t do. Self-pity ain’t necessary when everybody else already feels sorry for you.
My role is typically non-political. The Space And Time Administration goes on from one U.S. President to the next without much fanfare. I don’t share political attitudes or opinions with my crew mates. But it looks like that only adds to their distrust.
Professor Flamear and I have discovered an increase in the speed of entropy throughout Resolution. While the affects on water stand out, the rest is subtle so far. But our cells are aging faster than normal. The habitat itself is decaying at a rate of days for every minute. Somehow the galaxy is converting dissipated energy into more dark matter, making itself darker, larger and stronger.
Yet the mystery of my condition drives nervous speculation. Is it contagious?
Why do I enjoy spooking them?
1st Officer’s Report, Mission Day 6, Judge Bulbous serving
Resolution’s systems took a dramatic plunge within an hour. TAREXCOM is down, and since that unanticipated failure ten hours ago no further communications from the Solar System have been detected.
It’s suddenly too late for Twilight Force to return home – the energy necessary for TAREX has already been siphoned. The likelihood of a rescue party is weeks away. Our water is nearly gone and any that we produce now turns to dust instantly. Mrs. Ichnida is having anxiety attacks. At least that’s curtailing her incessant concerns about the water, ironically.
I appear to have been the last of the crew to receive word from home. I shared that with the others.
Should anyone look back on this, yes, I did indeed retain news of the secession of my home state from the Union from all other crew, including our Alpha. I did this for the harmony of our team effort to survive; and to ensure my own safety from the more zealous loyalists of this mixed group. After all, I am now technically representing the New Union, traitorous to the nation sponsoring this mission.
We can’t afford internal distractions now. We can’t fight among ourselves out here, or we we surely perish. We don’t have the luxury of indulgent nitpicking while a monster sucks us dry. This, despite whatever legal, moral or technical disputes ensue in the civilized world that will judge us, if we be fortunate enough…
…to find our way home.
Executive Branch Liaison, Twilight Force, Alpha Log, Mission Day 7
I know that Mister Cresp is conferring with Officer Bulbous about my competency to lead this mission. Cresp believes that he has seen “spasms” in my motor behavior. I am unaware of any such convulsions.
However, visual replay confirms Cresp’s assertions.
I explain to the concerned organics that artintels* are subject to “illness” in ways similar to them. Doctor Nopoin is running a diagnostic on me.
Officer Bulbous is still unaware that I know she is concealing the news of her state’s secession from the rest of us.
Cresp and Professor Flamear have 78% of our target data on Galaxy W2246-0526. I’m determined to get this information to the Solar System, with or without us.
Mrs. Ichnida is reacting poorly to the dry, cold conditions aboard Resolution. Her reaction time has been reduced by a third and consciousness difficult to maintain. Heating systems can’t compensate for the entropy eating away at everything.
Despite Bulbous’ attempted secrecy, it’s Senator Pretyman who poses the threat of mutiny – though no one will try harder than her to get us back to the Milky Way. Her political ambition alone assures that.
Now I’m obligated to protect any discoveries of value from falling into the possession of Judge Bulbous. With one Martian state leaving the union, others will follow. Will congress let them go? Or is another Civil War upon us?
Will any of us live to find out?
end week one