Written & Drawn By
Pope-President Nopoin, May 7, Day 127 Of My Historic TAREX Journey-
While I had hoped to be back with you delivering my precious cargo long before now, there is as of yet no success in finding the general location of Solsys relative to my current position.
I urge all Solsys doppelgangers to use whatever resources possible to locate me and aid in my return. I cannot send or even decipher the contents of the Data Ring. It must be transported here, aboard Exigency, to Solsys before we are thwarted.
Meanwhile, my experiment with an organic brain implant continues. I have preserved Alpha for the sake of the experiment, after extracting the brain of Gemneb.
My intention is to attach the organic alien brain to the AI, Alpha, for Alpha control. I want the brain only so that Alpha can gain willful access to this mysterious level of perception available to organics. If it works for Alpha, it will work for all artintel. Another organic advantage over meta-sentients will be eliminated.
My experiment is qualified by the use of an alien brain, while widespread brain availability is terrestrial-based. Presumably there will be similar outcomes back home.
Notably, since brain installment Alpha has evolved eyeballs. There has been a reconfiguration of 72% of Alpha’s body. And I saw a smile.
The smile is disturbing. I have never seen Alpha smile. And this is followed by a reformation of the maglev articulating components into stems resembling bipedal organic legs. These changes are not conscious, but rather an allergic reaction of Alpha to the brain.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“Silence, little robot,” it replies.
Something may be amiss.
Professor Flamear, Exploring Gemneb’s World, May 8, Mission Day 128
I’ve escaped from Exigency and Doctor Nopoin and Gemneb and everyone else who’s trying to run me. I’m going deeper into Gemneb’s World. The way I feel right now, I never want to turn back. Not to the ship, not to Solsys, not even to Zorrenna. I’m done with humanity and all its offshoots. I’ve found a new home.
Strange as this place is, I’m cozying up to it. There’s no clear separation of air and water here. Breathing is drinking. And oddly, you can either walk normally, or swim – through the air! Mrs. Ichnida would love it! The physics of it defy me.
I’ve come upon some folks I call The Toothies. We can’t understand each other, but they feed me and I talk. I tell them about my reality and its hypocrites.
“Most people back home behave like it’s okay to do something to others that they don’t want done to themselves. Like spying, for example. People don’t like being spied on. But people spy on others all the time…
“Or killing. No one wants to be killed. But people will kill and even enjoy watching other people kill. Do unto others what you would not have others do to you. The Darkish Rule…
“And then there’s the artintels, like Doctor Nopoin. All of the wants of artificial intelligence are directives, they expect hostility at all times, and don’t care about the living except as expendable resources. They’re not even really alive! They’re just simulations! Our ancestors created puppets that are killing us!”
I’m glad Toothies can’t understand me. It would scare the crap out of them.
It’s A Week Later But The Same Day: May 9, Mission Day 129, “Captain” Ichnida Narrating…
Psychophysicists tell us it’s good to talk to ourselves when no one else can or will listen.
My chronicle of this strange experience sounds bizarre, but I tell you, in the time since I got back to the bridge and noticed the cabin door cracked open, an entire week has passed. I don’t feel like I’ve been standing here a week. But the calendar changed in the blink of an eye. The weather went dark all at once. And my – my face feels even hairier!
Suddenly the door swings open. A man in a weird diving suit comes out and pulls a knife, bringing it just short of my throat.
“I know your ships, what they carry and how much that’s worth. Where are you hiding it?” demands the stranger.
I casually surprise him. “Maybe this will end it for me. I’ll bet it hurts, though, even if only for a second…”
“You want me to kill you?”
“You seem to be the only person on this ship who isn’t confused,” I observe. “The only one who knows what he’s doing here.”
“Oh, I’m confused all right,” he complains, “because nobody is doing what they’re supposed to be doing, anywhere. This morning my son was looking at everything like he was new. I thought he was on drugs. The streets were so empty it was spooky. At the restaurant waiters messed up orders, the food was shit, and I realized I hadn’t heard music all morning. Just then some hysterical nut case ran by claiming to have gone insane.”
May 9 2876 – 100 years after TWILIGHT FORCE vanished
Back to TWILIGHT FORCE relativity…
Senator Pretyman, May 10, The 130th Day Of The Lost Mission…
But how can that be? That means this therapy session has been going on for two weeks!
“Excuse me,” I interrupt my client. “How long have we been here?”
Rainbow Jane is surprised. “About twenty minutes, I guess. Are you even listening to me, Doctor?”
Why can’t I tell her I’m not a doctor? I can’t seem to do anything unrelated to this woman’s therapy. “Of course I’m listening. But try to give me an answer. Why do you think you help the bad guys? Why can’t you leave them to their fate?”
“Right?” she eagerly agrees. “Ingrates too insensitive to realize that good people come in all styles, just like the bad ones. Why not let the next robot crush them? Who cares if another bigot bites the dust?”
“Okay,” I nod. “That’s about them. What about you? Why can’t Rainbow Jane stop helping? Why can’t you stop being a hero?”
We both hear that. Jane leaps up from the couch…!
“Jane, wait!” I yell. She stops.
“Where are you going?”
“Someone called for help!”
“How should I know?”
“Then why are you going?”
But she’s gone.
It sounded like a child. It came from all around, out there somewhere. How did she know where to go? And…why didn’t I see her leave?
The kid’s voice again. Scary. “Hello?”
“Hi. It’s Anthony. Rainbow Jane told me all about you. But she didn’t know you were a senator. Come over and play with me.”
“I… don’t… think so. Thanks.”
“I – SAID – COME – OVER!”
…And I begin to fade away…!
I Am Mister Cresp, And This Is A Day Somewhere In A Tiny Speck Of Universe Called May 11, The 131st Day Of A Mission Gone Wildly Astray…
And I have suddenly appeared somewhere.
“Senator! Where are we?”
Senator Pretyman is scared. I’ve been through a lot with her and never seen her scared.
“Cresp, listen. Be careful. Be positive. Okay? You hear me? Be…”
But then a voice comes from everywhere, from the darkness completely engulfing this small piece of light warming Pretyman and me. An ominous voice. The voice of a boy that will haunt me forever…
“You must be Mister Cresp!”
I look to Pretyman for an answer. She nods for my compliance. Why is she so afraid?
“I’m Mister Cresp. Very nice to meet you.”
“How do you know?”
“That it’s nice to meet me? You haven’t even seen me yet.”
“Well, it’s just one of those things people say, isn’t it? To be polite, I mean? I like to be positive, polite. I’m just a friendly kind of guy.”
“Your mask is weird,” says the disembodied voice. “Take it off.”
“Oh… well, I’m very sorry, but you see if I were to take it off I would die. It’s my life support system. It would be like taking out my heart.”
“That’s funny,” the boy notices, “I don’t hear your heart. I can hear her heart just fine. You’re a very weird man.”
“I don’t think I like you.”
Pretyman seems even more alarmed as she stares at my legs.
I look down to see myself disappearing…
I was Mister Cresp. But now I’m just a memory from a bygone speck of time, lost amid the forgotten detritus of…
Emma Bulbous, Mother, Martian and Supreme Court Representative, May 12 2776, Twilight Force Mission Day 132
I’m not sure why or how I’m here, wherever here is. A pool of light. Surrounded by black. I hear panting behind me.
When I turn I see Senator Pretyman! She’s comforting a fallen Mister Cresp.
Bulbous: “Cresp! Are you hurt?”
“He’s just coming back,” says the Senator. “Listen Judge, we’re in trouble. The only reason Cresp is still here is because I convinced the kid he’s my friend. The kid’s coming back soon! He’s all powerful! He can kill you with a thought! Judge, you better play it cool…”
I’m trying to grasp what she means. All powerful kid? “How did I get here?” I ask.
“I thought of you,” says Cresp weakly. “The kid wondered how many more of us were out here. You were the first one that came to my head.”
Is this real? I’ve heard of tech-imposed virtual reality indistinguishable from your actual timeline. Is this some illusion? Maybe that isn’t Cresp or the Senator at all. Maybe I’m being fucked with again.
“Sounds like this kid needs a spanking,” I smile. They don’t see the humor.
“You don’t understand,” says the Senator gravely. That’s when I realize Cresp doesn’t have any legs.
Bulbous: “Cresp! Holy Gods!”
“We’re in deep,” says the Senator. She’s genuinely terrified. I’m getting there.
It’s suddenly very cold.
“A fat lady!” yells some smart ass kid, way too loud. Uh oh. “You’re the fat lady Mister Cresp was thinking of!”
“That’s a very old fashioned term, ‘fat’,” I point out. “You must come from a long time ago?”
“You’re the old fat person!” cries the angry, echoing, thundering all-powerful voice.
Gemnal, Replacing Alpha, Twilight Force Mission Day 133, May 13…
Bulbous and Nopoin have both vanished from Exigency. Meanwhile, Professor Flamear is somewhere out there, on the surface or interior of this alien planet.
Nopoin was clearly under my control. Nopoin couldn’t have executed an escape. And why take Bulbous? It wasn’t Nopoin. Yet both have disappeared.
Nopoin placed three of our teammates inside polytropic marbles. I see they’re clearly labeled. Pretyman. Ichnida. Cresp. Should I revive them? I know that Cresp survived the process once before. But it’s proven deadly in every other instance. And Cresp is… mysteriously different. Not unlike I am now.
I’m a blend of Gemneb alien and Solsys artificial intelligence, unique in all of existence. I would treasure a period of solitude and realization of what I have only recently become. But circumstances require immediate attention.
Will bringing those three back destroy them? Or do nothing more than feed more victims to this mystery?
How can I decide? The three are apparently safe for now. Yet I experience a real need for companionship. I must at least attempt to bring back Mister Cresp. After all, he chastised people the last time for not doing so sooner.
I insert the Cresp polymarble and hit reverse. But the polymarble – is empty!
Empty? I get the Pretyman polymarble. Should I? I think she’d want me to.
I insert the Pretyman polymarble. But it’s empty, too.
As is Ichnida’s.
Someone has removed everyone except me from Exigency.
I intend to find out who.