Self-repair completed, critical upgrade created. I leave my quarters as an improved version of an already state-of-the-art chemobionic.*
I emerge from days of recuperation to find Resolution quiet. The entire company is disabled. I review Historiscope**. What have I missed?
Mrs. Ichnida is frozen dead. The criminal who assaulted me, Senator Pretyman, lies feverish and delusional. Professor Flamear is unconscious but breathing. Judge Bulbous is in a state of shock. Mister Cresp is somehow missing. Not a trace of him anywhere on – or around – Resolution.
Alpha is petrified but aware. Alpha is unable to communicate, except to move eyes slightly. Even so, I can tell… Alpha is amazed at my presence.
Alpha likely wonders why I am functional in this nearly neutralized environment while Alpha is not. I never told anyone that I was a far more highly functional artintel*** than Alpha. Alpha’s repair system is infantile compared to mine.
Yet even I cannot resist the entropic drain sucking all activity from every atom aboard this lifeboat.
Resolution has reached the Perpetual Energy Zone surrounding the galactic core!
I can’t be certain, but… the entropy rate is slowing down. And -our TAREXengine is recharging!
Should I activate autodrive and get us out of here? Or take a chance that we’re safe here and can carry out the mission?
Autodrive isn’t preset. It will insert us into a random target galaxy. I can’t program it.
But – we’re being converted into energy!
Instead of slowing down – everything’s speeding up.
We’ll be gone in minutes!
No choice! It’s autodrive – or we’re finished…
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 16
As I regain consciousness, Doctor Nopoin greets me. It fills me in.
Mrs. Ichnida is frozen dead. Senator Pretyman lies feverish and delusional. Judge Bulbous is in a state of shock. Mister Cresp is somehow missing. And Alpha is petrified – paralyzed in place, in an awkward pose – but aware.
The Doctor explains how it was able to reconstruct its own damaged parts automatically – and why Alpha, an inferior model fellow artintel, can’t.
It feels comforting to see Doctor Nopoin?
The Doctor has a request. It asks, “When you’re up to it, would you take your station and figure out where we are?” It explains how we were forced to make an emergency exit from Galaxy W2246-0526. No time to plot a course. We might be anywhere.
Once back on duty I’m unable to contact the Department Of Defense to verify our status. Doctor Nopoin says contact with the Milky Way has been down for some time.
I heard of Nopoin back home. A congressor who champions equality for all organic beings. It extends good will even to a unique genspec* like me. No doubt it voted for Csaynik three years ago. Synthetic beings are known for cooperative behavior.
Back home in Zorrenna some feel threatened by the beings humanity invented. But in Zorrenna, all policies of Csaynik work for the betterment of all. Never would I support the idea that the artintels are conspiring against humanity.
We’re lucky to have… Doctor Nopoin…?
State Department Briefing, Mrs. Ichnida, Mission Day 17
Doctor Nopoin seems as shocked to see me as I am to find it in one piece and alive again. As I drift into the control center, Professor Flamear looks scared.
“I’m no ghost,” I announce. Obviously they thought I was frozen dead. “I’m genetically protected with a natural anti-freeze. Look it up.”
Nopoin explains its self-repair and our emergency thrust away from the entropy trap. It’s obvious that Resolution was folded and reinstated since I froze, damage repaired. Temperatures are back to normal. “Where are we?”
“That’s what I’m struggling to determine,” answers Flamear. I notice something off about the Professor. Has he been sedated?
“Glad to find you and Nopoin getting along,” I tell Flamear,“considering you ripped its head off.”
Flamear is puzzled. “Doctor Nopoin is fine. Yes, back home in Zorrenna some feel threatened by the beings like the Doctor. But in Zorrenna, all policies of their President Csaynik work for our betterment. Never would I support the idea that the artintels* are conspiring againsthumanity.”
Not that I asked. What has Doctor Nopoin done to Flamear?
And how did Mister Cresp simply vanish? Something besides me is fishy.
I’ve got to get home to Atcifia now to help everyone victimized by the eruption. But we’re so far out that we’re finding something that was beyond our horizon back in galactic space.
We’re seeing something we never knew existed because it left before stars were born.
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 18
I come out of my fever to find disaster.
I watch them for a long moment before announcing my recovery.
We’re off mission.
We’re lost. Literally, nowhere.
Elephant ears notices me in the portal. “Ghielu!” he shouts. Why does Professor Flamear sound so happy to see me? And why is he calling me by my first name like he’s known me for years?
“Doctor Nopoin!” I shout, startling the entity and the animal people as well. “You fucking poisoned me, you cock sucking cockroach trap!”
“The next time you infect me I’ll kill you,” threatens Nopoin casually.
“I was upgradin’ you, tin man!” I’m still weak and wobbly. I recoil momentarily, wanting to throw up.
“Let me help you…” says Nopoin, reaching out for me.
“Don’t touch her,” says Mrs. Ichnida, coming between me and Nopoin. She turns to me. “Nopoin’s done something to Flamear already. Don’t get near it.”
“Look out there,” Nopoin says, nodding to the viewer. “No stars. No galaxies. We’ve overtaken the expansion of our universe. We’re outside everything. That thing is the only other object that exists within our range of senses.”
I look. What in Hell is that?
It’s so far away that even using TAREX it would take a billion years to get there.
Which way is home?
There’s no sign of any galaxies. No sense of direction. Only the deepest, widest, longest blackness – and that thing, too far away to ever touch.
Where is anything?
Where is home?
Mister Cresp, daily download, Twilight Force Mission Day 19
“You’re a traitor from a traitorous state!” I yell, jabbing a finger at Ms. Pretyman.
But Ms. Pretyman accuses me. “You work with the monsters who are making humans extinct!”
“You’re the traitor!” Officer Bulbous shouts, agreeing with the senator from Texas.
“You think I’m one of you?” I object. “Who said I am human?”
Mrs. Ichnida comes forward. “Tell us what you are. Are you afraid we won’t accept you? What are you ashamed of?”
Professor Flamear comes up beside her. “Take off the mask, Mister Cresp. It’s causing so much anxiety. So much anger…”
“He can’t,” says Doctor Nopoin mysteriously. “Can you, Mister Cresp? Take it off and you die.”
“He’s nobody!” says Pretyman, sneering at me. “Ignore him. He’s nothing. He stands for nothing. He doesn’t matter.”
“You’re idiots!” I scream. “Every one of you a fool!”
The command comes from Alpha.
“Our political traumas are back home,” says Alpha. “We’re not the feds. We’re not New Union. And we’re not neutral. We’re Twilight Force. The seven of us. And we’re all we’ve got.”
Oh no! I’m still alone. I was hallucinating.
I’m inside a polytropic compression container – the same type that stored our habitat on the way here. I exist only in the 4th dimension. My essence is contained in a casing the size of a marble.
I’m alone. Did everyone die? Is our habitat destroyed?
I can’t sleep in here. There’s no rest.
1st Officer’s Report, Mission Day 20, Judge Bulbous serving
I’ve had the misfortune of a blackout. I’ve been in a fugue state for five days resulting from the entropic attack.
I declared Resolution property of the New Union.
I’ve got the data ring holding the secrets we uncovered at Galaxy W2246-0526. There are no copies. I said that discoveries made from this expedition belong to the New Union and the preservation of human mastery. I mean to keep the ring out of reach of the United States. Whoever possesses this ring will hold a great advantage over all enemies.
Doctor Nopoin says Alpha is self-repairing and will be back up and around in about 22 hours. It will take command again once it turns on, unless I can think of something.
But will it make any difference? Nopoin and Flamear are acting like this is the end.
The object is pulling Resolution toward it. We’re moving beyond any space-normal speed that we can calculate.
We can’t turn away from the thing. Even TAREX is useless if we can’t aim our targeting away from that mass.
At this rate they’re guessing we’ll make contact with the outermost portions of whatever it is in just a few days.
I ask Professor Flamear about that trace of a vehicle 28 light minutes away from us that he detected before we exited W2246-0526.
“Ah, that was a faulty readout due to entropic flux,” explains Flamear. Mighty Mars, I think Flamear has been hypnotized by Nopoin! Did those sneaky erectors send a secret mission paralleling ours?
Executive Branch Liaison, Twilight Force, Alpha Log, Mission Day 21
Restored to full capacity, I am reactivated.
Judge Bulbous seems nervous as she briefs me on the situation we’ve been thrust into after Doctor Nopoin’s desperate move to save us from Galaxy W2246-0526.
We are outside the realm of galaxies. An unknown giant, the only thing in sight, is drawing us toward it.
“We don’t know that we’ll be harmed by going into it,” considers Mrs. Ichnida. “It reads porous. We can probably navigate through it if we can slow down enough.”
“We can’t slow down!” yells Senator Pretyman. “Even if we could it would take a thousand years to get to the other side!”
“If we hit anything at this speed we’ll be obliterated instantly,” warns Professor Flamear.
I reason aloud. “Either that thing knows what it’s doing and means us harm, or doesn’t even know we’re here and will cause us harm anyway. We can’t break away. In one day we’ll hit it.” Head tilts forward.
When Bulbous realizes what I’m thinking she objects. “You’re taking away any chance we might have to think of a better idea!”
Doctor Nopoin catches on, coming to my side: “But we might kill it – like a bullet would kill you, Judge Bulbous.”
I don’t intend to wait for several days a helpless hostage of an unknown entity.
Rather than be dragged into this thing, we’re going to enter it full force. We’re powering up TAREX – and heading straight into it.
end week 3
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