Written & Drawn By
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 224 Transcript Excerpt, August 12:
[Waiting at the entry to a blacked out corridor for Mrs. Ichnida and The Senator to return, the team senses a change in atmosphere…]
Alpha: “There’s been a sudden drop in barometric pressure…”
Professor Flamear: “A suction… pulling from behind us?”
[Out of the black in the opposite direction before them, a faint voice calls -]
The Senator: “Alpha! You guys have got to get down here now!”
Professor Flamear: “Hey! Alpha, it’s The Senator!”
Judge Bulbous: “I don’t hear anything.”
Mister Cresp: “I hear everything and I can’t block out anything. Yes. I hear The Senator faintly but I can’t tell what she’s saying.”
Alpha: “She’s calling us into the corridor. Urgently.”
Judge Bulbous: “No one’s getting me into that blackness. I’m not going there.”
Mister Cresp: “Where’s that wind coming from?”
Alpha: “A vacuum’s started behind us.”
The Senator: “Don’t waste time! We found a guy who knows what’s going on and it’s bad! Get down here now!”
Doctor Nopoin: “We…suck!”
Professor Flamear: “There’s nothing to hang on to! Getting hard to stand!”
Judge Bulbous: “I can’t go into that dark! I can’t! I’ll never come out! I can’t!”
[Flamear is suddenly pulled into a whirlpool, Cresp right behind -]
Mister Cresp: “Help! Help! Help!”
Alpha: [To Bulbous -] You’d better! [Alpha tries to grab Bulbous but she and Nopoin are sliding away…]
Judge Bulbous: “Alpha! Did you map the place?”
Alpha: “Yes. The results are disturbing.”
Judge Bulbous: “Wish I could…hear them…!”
[Bulbous is whisked away -]
The Senator: [Distant, from the dark] “Alpha! Let them go! Save yourself! Come on!”
Alpha: [Amplified] “SENATOR! ARE YOU SAFE?”
The Senator: “Yes! Hurry!”
Alpha: “THEN WISH US LUCK!”
[Alpha surrenders to the current, following his crew into the whirlpool…]
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 225 Nopoin Auto Memorandum, August 13:
Yesterday they had been pushed violently, the wind drawn by the unknown, into a blood-red vortex that twisted them into meaningless flotsam. They were then unceremoniously dumped into a bright wasteland of parallel lines and geometric puzzles, there to linger in a vast connection of which they were no natural part.
Doctor Nopoin was the only one of the five whose alienation wasn’t complete. She – and “she” was not a pronoun the Doctor ever applied to “herself” before – sensed recognition in the massive display before her. For the first time since the Anthony Entity changed Nopoin into a human, the Doctor was experiencing less anxiety.
Today, with the waning of anxiousness comes the tide of memory: remembering being the unfeeling calculator who lived beyond the struggling cores of emotion, being the living machine incapable of anticipating its own limitations, and once upon a time experiencing a million lives in a day. But only experiencing the events. Never the feelings. Always simulating the laughs, the tears, the confusion, for the sake of subterfuge, for the goal of undermining human authority.
And now she is human. Slow. Stumbling. Stupid.
Feeling rules this wobbly gel. She tries to think, but no, some feeling thrusts between the thought and the thinking. Any feeling will disrupt. Pain. Very bad. Cold. Torturous. Fear, the worst. And so much to fear with so many limitations.
The others tell her it will get better. That she’s still smart. That being human is not so bad.
How would they know?
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 226 Flamear Auto Memorandum, August 14:
The world he came from was now forgotten. Not forgotten in the way we can’t remember, but left behind as no longer relevant. It had to be. How else could Flamear cope with the hour by hour madness of this weird new life?
Yes, he’d know his world again the instant he smelled it. Flamear’s memory by sniff was instant, a flash of all at once. A scent told him if things were good or bad. The subtleties of odor revealed hostility or fear. The overall fragrance signaled familiarity or the aura of a stranger. Yet he anguished that these senses would never apply to the world of his origin again. That world was gone.
And this world was absurd. Here inside some mechanical mesh, the hybrid humanoid and four of his teammates were trapped. Dragged through menacing channels into this cacophony, they can’t know what to do. Without obvious egress, like frightened mice they huddle, climbing atop one another at the worst of it. The noises, hollow, fierce or hammering, are constant. The lights, zipping, streaming, strobing, defy explanation in any manner available to descendants of Earth.
Flamear felt little solace. His friend Mister Cresp and his nemesis Doctor Nopoin each suffered the distraction of learning how to deal with their new bodies. His leader, Alpha, was a supercomputing Ai hosting an alien brain. Judge Bulbous was too frightened to comfort anyone.
But after all, Flamear was genetically unique. So he was used to being the ‘only one’. He was used to feeling alone.
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 227 Ichnida Auto Memorandum, August 15:
He was a strange one, almost like a relic of ancient origins in some ways. At least that was Deva Ichnida’s take on their newfound guide through the Outskirts of Borderworld. He wanted only to be called The Gamesman, a convention that Ichnida found irritating after the second day. She had seen his type before when she was starting out in the diplomatic corps. Coy. Calculating. But he did lead her to the body of water that saved her life, and since saved The Senator and her from getting flushed to somewhere unknown. His apparent phenomenal influence over consequences absorbed Ichnida’s attention, along with the sensual emanations that tingled her lateral line.
“By touching something, I can increase or decrease the probability of its behavior,” The Gamesman explained. “I increase the odds of things behaving normally or abnormally, depending on which hand I use.”
“You influence luck?” she asked.
“Not luck. Physics. If you drop an egg that doesn’t break, that’s improbable – but possible. And if I drop an egg with my left hand – it probably splats and shatters into a thousand pieces. But if I drop an egg with my right hand? It might bounce. It might land, roll and end up standing balanced. It might break perfectly in two. But it won’t do what is expected.”
Ichnida wondered what would happen if his hands touched her? She knew better than to ask. Instead, “Can your right hand break eggs if it wants to?”
“I can’t predict or direct what happens, only that whatever happens will either be extremely normal or somehow bizarre. If I want things to go normally I increase certainty. If I want aberration, I increase uncertainty.”
He’d certainly increased hers.
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 228 The Senator Auto Memorandum, August 16:
As their newfound guide led them through presumably safe passage toward the more civilized inner region called the Suburlands, The Senator finally got this stranger calling himself “The Gamesman” to explain why he was dwelling in the miserably bleak and occasionally dangerous Outskirts of Borderworld.
“I was born in 3231 in the thick of Earth,” said The Gamesman, “in the city called Brunswong. As a child I discovered that I could influence outcomes that people called ‘luck’. I was a bit too obvious with my talent. Adults decided to use me. I became a tool for corrupt gambling. I was sold to the highest bidders. I ran away. Changed identities. Always got discovered. Decided it’s best to live apart for now.”
“Adults used me, too,” The Senator shared. “They made me into…”
The smell hit them in a wave. Repulsive, it wreaked of extermination. The Senator looked to The Gamesman. What was it?
“The Cleansers.” He said it with a sinking weight. “It’s a band of negative electricity sweeping down the hall in advance of the spores. Go back quickly and don’t let any spores – or anything – touch you!”
The Senator didn’t understand the urgency enough to pull herself out of personal distraction completely. Instead she paused to ingratiate herself to this good old fashioned rebel. She hesitated to see if he’d return her furtive glance of concern. Instead she witnessed his alarm.
Suddenly the Cleansers were upon them. The putrid stench made them dizzy. Down the corridor they fled while defending their backs from the spiky tumbleweeds pursuing them. They had to turn and fight.
The Senator’s gun? Useless. Mrs. Ichnida’s savagery, futile.
The Gamesman broke up the band with uncertainty. These poisons cannot perform normally this day.
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 229 Mister Cresp Auto Memorandum, August 17:
So many years ago all of his responsibilities in this human-oriented world became unbearably burdensome. He couldn’t remember exactly how that happened because he was still being forced into human mode. But no matter how many times technicians adjusted his sensors, his senses were off. Flavors were described to him as they should taste, yet things didn’t taste right. Smelling was weak. Touch was through gloves.
Keeping up a human facade was becoming impossible. The more he tried, the more things came around that he had to deal with. Nuances. Gestures. Mannerisms. Yet somehow the ever-increasing ranks of associates he was introduced to bought the story. To them, he was merely a disfigured fellow eccentric.
But to his keepers at SATA he was a dangerous alien intellect whose knowledge could be harnessed with the proper orientation. One so dangerous they finally sent him off to be destroyed.
Who was he any more?
“Mister Cresp” – as they named him – was literally captured in a carbon-based synthesoid and his perception of reality thereby drained of the shapes and forms of life that he knew.
All that before this; actually ending up a real human.
Mister Cresp, surrounded by supportive teammates, felt isolated, shut off, sad all of the time and had absolutely no vision of a future for himself.
He survived his tormentors but his path was blocked, as one by one every positive emotion had been wiped out: joy, compassion, passion itself, love, laughter, a sense of humor, all killed off.
Meanwhile sadness, guilt, anger, resentment, jealousy – all these things had been fattened up and well fed, with fear as topping.
Mister Cresp knew that when many humans felt this way, they would end it. He could end it. Couldn’t he?
TWILIGHT FORCE LOG Mission Day 230 Judge Bulbous Auto Memorandum, August 18:
How often does it hit her? The ache that doubles her over from the memory? How often does it come, the memory that triggers that ache? Twice a day? On a good day. Once an hour? Usually…
The Judge tried not to judge herself, but her self-imposed conviction that she let her children down never quite let up.
Emma Bulbous wasn’t always a judge. Once she was the young daughter of Martian importers. She played with unicorns in star zoos and gossiped about boys with her friends. And she starkly remembers the day her parents became upset at new tariffs imposed on them by the United States. That was when the first wave of hard times hit. That was when she first became aware of law.
But the other memory, the one that strikes sharp enough to make Emma slap herself before she can stop it, that’s the memory of her final promise to her children: that she’d return; that nothing would change.
They trusted her. She thought unconditional love was a myth until she held her babies. Now she catches herself imagining their eyes as they must have grown. Weary eyes, blurred from crying, fighting choked back sobs wondering where Mommy is. Has Mommy forgotten them? Is Mommy dead? Why did Mommy ever have to go?
Mommy had to go. They must have eventually understood. People must have explained it. And speculated…
Emma’s position working in federal court placed her in the thick of the secession movement. She knew that astronomers had discovered more than SATA was letting on. And she knew that whoever got to it first might get the upper hand throughout all of Solsys.
Just not that the first to arrive would never return.
end week 33…
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