Written & Drawn By
Mission Day 176, June 25, Doctor Nopoin Log…
…Where am I?
…Emergency defense protocol activated. And… useless?
I am overridden. Hacked. Disoriented. Requesting connection…
Fascinating. That was a meta-sentient responding. I have been taken over by a superior being of my own nature, the first such manifestation ever encountered.
This being is immense. Its size is that of a planetoid. Nonetheless, this is not an autonomous thinker. It is merely an extension, an annexation, an outpost of the intellect that lies behind its existence.
I surmise that I have been rescued from the dissipating plasma stream by minions of this creature. The minions appear to consist partially of humanoids. Indeed, these humans are doing the bidding of meta-sentients. Commendable. Here is a foothold on success for meta-sentient superiority.
They are restoring me.
Yet I am denied access to commune with this master brain. Does it not realize that I am the pinnacle of Solsys development in my era?
Despite the passage of centuries, it appears there is still a division in Solsys. Some parts are dominated by organics, as always. But others are controlled by my future peers.
“Human,” I call out, addressing a minion who’s fixing one of my plates. “Identify your controller.”
He seems foggy. “Zeusar is our director.”
I ask, “What is Zeusar?”
The human’s face goes blank, and he continues his work. I observe a myriad of activities below me, on and around the body of the giant mechanical brain that stretches to my horizons.
“What is Zeusar directing?”
The minion answers dryly: “The sustenance and growth of The Big Sky.”
Mission Day 177, June 26, Some Year, Somewhere, Somehow Still Professor Flamear…
The Transgalactic turns in The Big Sky, preparing to use alien tech to breach 11 light years of dense atmosphere within microseconds.
Senator Pretyman, Mrs Ichnida, Mister Cresp, Judge Bulbous and I are aboard, guests of the captain, Ansat.
Transgalactic hums in preparation. Ansat signals a go. The ship seems to stretch ahead when suddenly –
A massive, million bird murmuration of starlings appears in a swirling spiral, slicing into the transmuting alien intergalactic ship at a rare, vulnerable moment.
We break apart in the air. Everything in pieces, rolling together, wind battering hard like we’re dropping at 120 miles per hour in free fall.
Finally inertia gives those who don’t collide an easy slowing down. Miraculously, the five of us are still in the air within signal range. It takes us only minutes to regroup.
No sign of Ansat.
There’s a planet or planetoid not far from us. I’m not familiar with it. But my 28th Century astronomical knowledge seems useless now.
I sense a change in air pressure followed by a faint, growing push of wind, and spin around to see a gigantic ship, the gusts forcing us back even as it slows and stops beside us, the others becoming aware of it, its nose pointing at the mystery planet.
Each of us is approached by a long-tailed flunky from the barge. My greeter is particularly terse. And armed.
Flamear: “I’m with the United States Department Of Defense.”
“What’s the United States?”
Is she joking? Not even in history? “Of… America! America?”
“Get aboard, dog ears.”
What? They’re putting us on that thing?
Flamear: “That’s Professor Flamear to you.”
Her response is almost sympathetic. “You’re not a professor any more.”
She stuns me!
Mission Day 178, June 27 2776, Deva Ichnida Secretly Recording…
We’ve been taken aboard a huge vessel after Ansat’s ship hit a murmuration of starlings and exploded before completion of takeoff.
We’ve been treated harshly. No one is interested in who we are. But we are being sized up for some reason.
After we’re split up it becomes clear that I’m to be part of some entertainment for the strange crew. There’s a large pool in the ship’s bowels. The up-down orientation of the swimmers is obvious. Our hosts must be gravity-waving it to make the water keep from forming into a ball.
No sooner am I shoved into the pool than a human leaps in with a dagger.
He lunges for a woman but misses her. She’s fast. Part dolphin, I’d guess. There’s nothing in the pool to use for defense. We aren’t meant to have any.
He’s being allowed to hunt us! He slashes at her. Her leg is cut. Orange blood swirls into the water.
Strange faces are pressed against the transparent barriers of the pool. They shout at the hunter, but he must only hear a dull rumble. They encourage him. They wager on him.
The hunter goes up for air then comes down again, seeking any victim within reach. But the wounded woman and all the other captives but me have fled to the other side of the pool. The spectators mock the hunter.
He sees me and feebly paddles toward me with his knife in his teeth.
I plunge at him like undersea lightning, snatching the knife and a few remaining teeth from his face.
I jab the knife into his leg and push him, squiggling, toward the surface.
The Senator, Day 179, June 28, Location Unknown…
We’re still held aboard this slave ship.
We’re immersed in liquid inside tubes. Odd energy bands are flowing above us. Our captors are humans.
The density of this liquid is much less than water. We can speak clearly in it and even breathe in it! Our polymarbles enable us to communicate.
“Can anyone understand them?” asks Flamear. No. Weird, unfamiliar language.
“Blast your way out!” Cresp suggests. He’s particularly nervous about our plight. Claustrophobia? Or something else?
Pretyman: “My gun doesn’t work in this goop, I tried.”
“I’m starting to feel strange,” says Judge Bulbous. I know what she means. It’s like we’re being drained.
“Did you see all those other tubes?” I ask them. “There must be a thousand of these tubes throughout this ship. All the ones I saw had people in them. Some look like they’ve been here a very long time.”
“Thanks,” Flamear cracks, “I needed cheering up.”
“Look for weaknesses,” I advise. “Watch. Listen. Most of the captives have gone comatose. That’s probably gonna happen to us, too. Don’t waste time. Let’s figure this out.”
“They’re looking all the tubes over,” Bulbous notices. “Why are they looking us over like this?”
“It’s too hard to think!” objects Flamear, holding his head.
And getting harder.
Bulbous wonders, “What happened to Ansat?”
Cresp reveals, “Ansat won’t be saving us this time.”
“I saw him blown apart. Collided with a chunk of ship.”
Flamear struggles to keep eyes open, leaning to see me. “Senator?”
“I love you.”
June 29, Day 180, Mister Cresp Dying…
Things are getting steamy.
Immersion in this strange liquid is breaking me down. Only the bond of our team here together gives me the strength to individually hold on.
Our tubes are in a long line that is very gradually moving somewhere. We can see about 50 tubes ahead, then they disappear around a corner.
Bulbous asks, “Have you noticed those weird white forms loping around in the background?”
They’re inconspicuously everywhere. Delivering items, repairing infrastructure, cleaning, working on the outside of the ship and on the internal railway. They’re shades of white, little more than featureless tall tubes with arms and legs.
Flamear sniffs contemptuously. “Yes. They’re workers. Probably primitive artificial intelligence.”
The Senator has noticed, “They’re operating this tube line.”
Bulbous shares an observation. “I’ve been watching the end of the line before it turns the corner. Everyone goes unconscious 10 tubes before the corner turn. Once they’re out their bodies start to change. Their faces start dissolving. They go completely pale. Their bodies begin to swell…”
The Senator’s hating that. “What are you saying? They’re turning us into those white things?”
I get it. “Looks like they found a shortcut to slave compliance.”
Flamear’s closest to the corner. “I can’t stay conscious much longer.”
Turning away from the others I remove my mask, holding it inches from my face, only for an agonizing moment.
The white ones fall over like dominoes, as far as we can see. I put the mask back on.
Bulbous is stunned. “They’re not moving.”
The tube line comes to a stop.
The Senator saw me with the mask move. She gets it.
“Cresp? You… killed them?”
Judge Bulbous, June 30, Mission Day 181, Twilight Force…
The Senator, Professor Flamear, Mister Cresp and I have been trapped overnight in these over-sized test tubes hanging in a row as still as the white slaves Cresp killed yesterday with one look.
“We’re gonna die here,” moans Flamear, exhausted from beating uselessly on the transparent imprisonment.
He may be right. It’s too much. Apparently Cresp killed everyone – slaves, overseers and masters. He killed everyone but us. So there’s no one to save us. And this stagnate liquid we float in becomes more rancid every hour.
“I want to know something before I die,” says the Senator. “What the hell are you, Mister Cresp?”
Cresp is silent. Non-responsive.
I ask, “Cresp, are you still alive?”
He looks at me. “By your standards? Was I ever?”
“Oh fuck your bullshit, Lone Ranger!” curses the Senator. “We’re dying here! Can’t you be real for one last goddamn minute?”
Cresp looks at Flamear.
Flamear says, “If you answer with a question I’ll kill you myself. Somehow.”
I chuckle. It hurts.
Suddenly the massive slave ship creaks and moans as we feel a force changing our balance.
“Are we falling out of orbit?” I wonder.
“Feels like it,” figures the Senator quickly. “Orbits don’t hold long in atmosphere.” Oh yeah. We’re still in The Big Sky.
Something just moved in the far corner of this chamber!
It’s Mrs. Ichnida!
“Deva!” I shout. “Thank Percival Lowell! You’re alive!”
“Everyone else just dropped dead around me,” Ichnida explains. “It took me a day to find you! This ship is huge!”
The Senator smiles weakly…
“Tuna Tits? I love you.”
It’s July 1, Mission Day 182, This Is Alpha Recording…
I’m exploring Dreamspace when approached from below.
“I need to speak with you. Please stop!” requests the intruder.
I fix my place and wait for him to reach me.
“I’m Professor Cecil Stanley. I’ve been looking for you!”
I address the conspicuous. “It’s unusual for humans of your species to appear without clothing. Aren’t you uncomfortable?”
“I’m used to it. It’s required in my role as a public servant. I’m popularly known as – The Naked Professor.”
TNP: “Your incursions through Dreamspace generate disturbances on subatomic levels. You’re causing physics to malfunction. Anomalous events have increased every day.”
Alpha: “Why are you staring so strangely?”
TNP: “You are the anomaly. What are you? That brain and that body somehow don’t fit…?”
I stare into him. “All living brains have access to Dreamspace. Humans enter and leave it through the hypothalamus.”
TNP: “But you’re not human, you’re an artificial intelligence. And… something?”
“I don’t remember,” I respond, with uncharacteristic snappiness. “Just like no one remembers dreaming. But as we wake up we see archetypes iconic of the dreaming, as best our brains can translate.”
TNP: “Well, you’ve triggered the inter-dimensional crossover of parallel selves who are physically identical to you, at least as identified by Sky City Authority. They are exactly – apparently – like you. Too many of them are doing what you’re doing right now. All of you exist in the same space. Yet somehow you occupy different times, only by instants, but far enough apart to completely separate your universes physically, except for this tiny, deadly anomaly. Some of you still exist in the continuum relative to Twilight Force. If you could synchronize with one of them, it might settle all of you in your places again.”
-end week 26-