Written & Drawn By
Nopoin Medical Memo, Twilight Force Mission Day 22
One week after my historic rescue of Twilight Force from the Entropic Galaxy, we face another crisis.
Unlike then, on this occasion the rest of the crew is conscious – and bothersome.
I regained functionality in that nearly neutralized environment while Alpha could not. I am a far higher performing artintel than Alpha, an improved version of an already state-of-the-art chemobionic. Can’t everyone tell? I should be strategizing our escape. Alpha is comparatively weak. Outdated.
Senator Pretyman is afraid. By this time tomorrow we’ll either be inflated through that monster or smashed like a bug right on it. These organics face mortality with sadness. They expect to exist forever despite all contrary evidence. I will outlive everyone on this mission, whatever happens. Especially that bug Pretyman.
We’re going straight ahead at this unknown entity, full power. Probably a suicide move. However, I’ll trust Alpha to save us. For as that happens I’ll take the Data Ring off that pompous Judge Bulbous.
The Ring is everything. The Ring holds the power over the next generation, if not the next millennium. We artintels must control the knowledge within it.
I represent New York, but my greatest loyalty is to the Supreme Pontiff Of The Universal… the Primate… the Metropolitan… the Sovereign, the Servant, the Artintel Apostle.And that Ring shall belong to no other than the most advanced of our kind – American or not.
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 23
Alpha has given the order.
We are launching at the object in 122 seconds.
Thoughts jump wildly. No one at DOD will know what happened to us. Can’t say goodbye to loved ones in Lagrange. Is this artintel Alpha just getting us killed?
In Zorrenna, like throughout Lagrange, the artintel policies of President Csaynik work against us. I know there’s a conspiracy. A genocide plan against genspecs.
Even now no one trusts an amalgamated animal like me. Except…
Doctor Nopoin… ?
“You’ve been turned into Nopoin’s bitch,” Mrs. Ichnida whispers. “What did that thing do to you? You better sift back and look see.”
Inflation thrust ignited, 60 seconds to launch.
No time for Historiscoping… unless… huh. There it is.
Nopoin injected Ms. Pretyman with an immunity weakener. It enraged me. How could I forget this?
I found Nopoin, grabbed it by the throat and bore down on its neck with one arm while I popped off its head with the other. It emitted a strange sound. The body froze and fell over. The head kept objecting. I stomped on it. The mouth was crushed. The head fell silent.
And much later after we’re out of the Entropy Zone Nopoin chemically altered my brain.
Thirty seconds to launch.
“Hey, Doctor Nopoin!” I shout across the sphere. It ignores me. “Congressor!” It looks at me. “If we live through this, I’ll rip your head off again – and it won’t grow back!“
All goes quiet.
Next, either we die instantly, or…
State Department Briefing, Mrs. Ichnida, Mission Day 24
Damned if I know the technical details but Professor Flamear is trying to determine where it is we’re going.
We ended up inside a mammoth labyrinth laced with arches that could encompass the whole Milky Way. And even though we arrived by TAREX, we can’t activate it again from inside whatever this is. To start up TAREX in here would be to kill ourselves for certain.
I have almost no chance of making it home to Atcifia.
Doctor Nopoin says, “We may be trapped in here for the rest of your lives and my existence. In terms superstitious organics can relate to – we aren’t Jonah swallowed by a whale. We’re a speck on the back of a flea on the arm of Jonah being swallowed by the whale. Only smaller.”
Professor Flamear doesn’t like the Doctor. “One more insult out of you, Jeeves, and I’ll crush you into a can of condensed crap!”
I look out the portal at a nightmare.
How far into this behemoth have we drilled? What outlandish craziness might we have to contend with in here – for eternity?
My reflection frightens me. At least in a nightmare, the terror is inside of you. This nightmare surrounds me.
Do I have to die with these strangers while my family and friends face their own devastation without me?
Do I have to die here?
Why does this horrible place exist?
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 25
Doctor Nopoin is contemptuous of me. It doesn’t trust me one little bit. It shouldn’t. I aim to preserve humanity from the rule of robots like it and Alpha.
Word is out, Bulbous has all the treasure we came out here for inside that ring.
No way I let that Martian misfit get that advantage over me. I want to be the one to bring the prize home and be the new hero of the USA. Best way to win an election. I need to get back to Earth if I’m really going to run against President Csaynik.
I pray Texas doesn’t pull out of the Union. There was heavy talk of secession just before the mission got underway. I don’t even know right now if Csaynikand me are on the same side.
Mrs. “Ichy-fish” can’t seem to drum up any noise on TAREXCOM. I’ve never been in such close quarters for so long with any animal-folk like her and Professor “Flame-ears” before.
I took a hard look-see at Historiscope and found out what happened to that weird Mister Cresp from SATA. Damned fool is hidin’ out in one a’those polytropic marbles. Hell, we don’t even put cattle in those things. They were meant to store materials, tools, buildings, food, furniture…but not life.
I saw a cow go in and out of one of those things. Well, I saw a cow go in, anyway.
Not sure what that was that came out.
Mister Cresp, daily download, Twilight Force Mission Day 26
I’ve escaped my sensory-deprived fantasies and found a way to observe my environment. My “real” environment…
Senator Pretyman knows where I am. She doesn’t care to release me. Isn’t that interesting?
I’m among them – but they can’t tell. I speak but they can’t hear.
We’ve been inside this monstrous puzzle for three days. We are too far from the walls of its interior to get sensor feedback within our lifetime.
Bulbous is petrified. Pretyman is agitated. Ichnida is annoyed. Flamear is angry.
But Alpha and Nopoin are – intrigued?
The artintels are seeing things outside the habitat that organics aren’t.
“We’ll be lost forever,” moans Judge Bulbous. “All we’ve found in the end is that everything we know is surrounded by nothing.”
“You’ve made some bad decisions, Alpha and Doctor Nopoin,” says Mrs. Ichnida. “It was risky enough moving us across intergalactic space with carefully calibrated targeting. But to randomly shoot us at inflationary rates…”
“To preserve our existence,” Doctor Nopoin inserts.
“…And then,” Ichnida goes on, “to plunge us into this unknown…whatever this is…”
We’re so far from everything else now,” laments Bulbous, “nothing else can even be seen. We’ve discovered that ‘Nowhere’ exists. And we’re in the middle of it.”
“This is a far greater discovery than the perpetual energy source,” Alpha calmly explains.
“Really?” Pretyman challenges. “How so?”
“There is no way to make you understand,” insists Doctor Nopoin.
“Maybe you need motivation to try harder,” threatens Professor Flamear.
“No hurry,” says Nopoin. “We’re not going anywhere.”
1st Officer’s Report, Mission Day 27, Judge Bulbous serving
Tensions are high. Some have started suspecting that the artintels among us are on to something and keeping it from us.
“We have a right to know what you’re seeing!” I confront Alpha.
“Why?” Alpha responds with that emotionless stare.
“Why? Well – because, obviously we’re part of this mission and our lives are at stake!”
“You aren’t entitled to know what I know,” Doctor Nopoin points out.
“What are you saying?” I plead.
“The concept of ‘rights’ that humanoids retain as entitlements for existing is aconvention,” Nopoin elaborates. “No one has ‘rights’ in nature. ‘Rights’ are an organic convention.”
“And we’re functioning under an organic convention called ‘the law’!” I growl. I am want to growl when aggressive. “The law defines rights. Rights exist. And I…”
And the other bastard interrupts me.
“Then you will share your special knowledge as well?” asks Alpha, a small smile twisting one corner of its mouth.
The jig is up. I’ve still got the ring holding the secrets discovered at Galaxy W2246-0526. There are no copies.
“Discoveries made from this expedition belong to the New Union,” I try to say without fear. I’ve just declared myself a traitor. Oh my…
“Yours is the only state we know to have seceded,” says Alpha. “Rebellion has likely been shut down by now.”
“Alpha, grant their ‘right’ to the truth,” teases Nopoin. “Explain why we don’t really want to leave this place at all…
“…Not within their brief lifetimes, anyway.”
Executive Branch Liaison, Twilight Force, Alpha Log, Mission Day 28
“What have you found out there?” Mrs. Ichnida demands.
“If you hold us inside this thing,” trembles Bulbous, “if you kidnap us without effort to get home, I’ll be forced to…”
“Have a tantrum?” Doctor Nopoin quips. “You’re inadequate for the task at hand, understood. Perhaps you should join your Mister Cresp in polytropic stasis.”
Pretyman doesn’t like that. “Our Mister Cresp? You mean poor little ‘organics’ like us? You really don’t like real people much, do you now?”
“They sabotaged Historiscope,” accuses Flamear, pointing at me and Doctor Nopoin. “They can plot against us safely now. At least until I dismantle the Doctor again.”
“I know you aren’t acting on the President’s orders,” Ichnida advises. “State would have to be informed.”
“As would Defense,” adds Flamear.
“What do you see out there?” asks Nopoin, gazing out a portal.
“I only see Hell out there,” says Senator Pretyman. “Kind of a darker, lumpier version than I expected, but… What’s the temperature reading outside, anyway?”
“I see darkness and death,” whimpers Bulbous.
But Nopoin and I see something more…
The body is pulsing, ebbing, throbbing at incalculable speeds across immeasurable distances. We are inside a form of life.
None aboard this mission can any longer use Historiscope in real time. Our nanobots are exhausted and have vanished. Our stored history stops two days ago.
It is disadvantageous to be unable to observe every move of those around me. It’s a blindness none of us are accustomed to.
Suspicion and hostility are escalating.
end week 4
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