Nopoin Report, Twilight Force Mission Day 50, Feb 19 2776
Ms. Pretyman has hastily fixed the trouble she imposed upon our ship.
Alpha has control again.
But Resolution begins to shake violently from time to time at the approach of the Star Chancellor Trio. The strange anthropomorphic menaces have come from light years away in mere days, and without using anything like our TAREX.
“They’re about to destroy us,” I warn Alpha. “The Data Ring is not expendable, even if our present bodies are.”
“Actually, mine’s not,” Alpha confesses. “I don’t have other identities. I was bluffing. My apologies, Ms. Pretyman.“
“Why would any artintel not have the insurance of at least a second body?” I ask.
“I once did. Then I came to appreciate the human perspective of having one life to live. I prefer a non-expendable view of life. But my intention to self-destruct was no bluff. Pretyman, is our TAREX engine at full capacity?”
“It is,” she says.
“And my willingness to possibly commit suicide carrying out the Bulbous plan is equally real,” Alpha proclaims. “TAREX has never been fired from inside anything except space itself. We could end up helplessly integrated inside a giant wall of organic mesh. But we’re about to try to go past it. Nopoin, what’s attracting star-eating monsters to our tiny habitat?”
“I believe the TAREX engine itself. A tasty meal.”
“Before we die,” says Professor Flamear, “I reviewed old Historiscope, Nopoin. Your loyalty is to the Pope. You’re Catholic?”
I come out. “I am not Catholic. But I am the Pope.”
Notebook Of Professor Flamear, Twilight Force Mission Day 51, Feb 20 2776
“Into travel positions!” Alpha orders, 30 minutes before the aliens are due.
Our sturdy habitat Resolution quakes when the Star Chancellor Trio finally looms nearby. As we’re about to break apart, Alpha hits the switch and our TAREX system instantly…
Surrounds the travel pod with a protective seal … Folds Resolution into the 4th dimension within a polytropic marble on the hull of the travel pod … Surrounds the protectively sealed pod in a contained bubble of space … Stimulates that space into inflationary expansion in an arbitrary direction … Carrying our pod at the inflated tip!
It suddenly appears that we are no longer inside The Host. Everything is black, but acceleration is still underway.
That’s the problem.
TAREX should shut down within moments after delivering us to a target. But it won’t shut down!
Oh please, no…
I am supposed to be our navigator. I was the top astrophysiologist in M.I.T.’s Class of ’71. And I have no idea what’s going on.
We are accelerating at an unknown speed. We cannot stop. We cannot slow down. We can only steer.
We can’t see very far ahead – or is it to infinity? But we spot or pass objects every now and then. Some resemble The Host. Some are undefinable at this point. We are on a dark road at midnight speeding without headlights.
This has gone on for two minutes and 43 seconds.
TAREX has never been tested by pilots beyond eight seconds. They’re afraid that nine seconds or more will carry you beyond the knowable universe.
We’re on the Road To Forever.
State Department Briefing, Mrs. Ichnida, Mission Day 52, Feb 21 2776
Really? Is this ever going to reach the State Department?
The point of keeping track of what’s happening at this point is to hang on to any piece of reality I can.
It looks like everyone’s forgotten about the Data Ring. I have it safely tucked away, for what good that will do. If I survive, so does the Data Ring. And no one suspects that I have it.
“Turn!” I hear Alpha shout.
“I am!” Flamear yells. But when I look forward I see it coming up fast.
We’re going to hit something.
Thrown back. Stunned.
Senseless…for how long?
I’m in my breakaway pod. Separated from everyone. Which probably means that everyone is separated. We were literally blown apart.
These emergency breakaways are practically indestuctable.
What do I do? What do I do? I look at my readings, that’s right!
It says I’m spinning. I can’t feel it. There’s nothing to see out there, so.. okay. I’m spinning I guess.
Wait, what? Now it says I’m spinning in two opposite directions!
Hold on. Now there’s a third me spinning between them in a third direction?
And a fourth me spinning opposite and beside the third me.
My monitor shows where Alpha, Nopoin and the others are relative to me. Everyone is moving away from everyone else.
Damned if we aren’t expanding away from each other… !
Personal Diary, Ms. Pretyman, Twilight Force Mission Day 53, Feb 22
I’ve been unconscious for a whole day. I come to alone, in my escape pod.
Think I’ve got a damned concussion.
Got no hint as to what the hell happened. We were fired up to go. TAREX was at full strength. We shot the cannon…
But… we kept going for so long? Too long, I was thinking, then –
Where is everyone? The tracker makes it look like we’re all moving away from each other in every direction. I can’t reach anyone. Nobody answers.
Then one by one the tracker loses each of my former teammates, last seen expanding outward like raisins in a loaf of bread.
It was Doctor Nopoin, wasn’t it? That thing ejected me! It knocked me out and ejected me! Payback!
Now something’s showing up on gammadar*.
Something’s intercepting me!
I’m out of my element. I’m an engineer, I’m a politician – but I’m no spacewoman. Aliens aren’t my thing. And something’s coming to get me.
I look around my small but efficacious space. Can anything help? No weapons, no defenses… Okay, I still have the polytropic marbles I gathered from storage!
Do I have – ? Yes! But can I – ? Who knows?
I have to try. I have the marble containing him right there.
Damned if I want to be all alone out here – even if my only hope for companionship is that creepy scientist from SATA** Mister Cresp.
It’s Cresp… from SATA…Twilight Force Mission…Day…? How can I know?
This timeless, senseless waste is me…
My body is a void…
Thinking makes no sense now…
Words have lost their meaning…
Pretyman’s puzzled. “What’s Alpha got to do with…”
“I saw Alpha. It told me that it knew where I was and that an attempt to free me from a polymarble might kill me. But I told it to go ahead and try. And then nothing happened.”
“You didn’t see Alpha,” declares Pretyman. “Alpha’s been busy with actual aliens. Yeah! So – you were hallucinating. Sensory deprivation causes that.”
“I was able to watch you from the 4th dimension, Senator. You knew I was inside a poly-marble. You even knew which one. But you left me there. You left me there – for how long? I went in on Mission Day 12. What’s the Mission Day now?”
“It’s February 23rd,” Pretyman squirms. “Mission Day 54.”
“You left me in there 42 days! Do you know how long 42 days is when your devices are transparent and you have no way of knowing anything?”
“Consider yourself spared the trauma,” Pretyman smirks. “We’re worse off now. This is my escape pod. You’re still alone. Except now, you’re alone with me.”
And again, there is nothing in my sky…
1st Officer’s Report, Mission Day 55, Judge Bulbous serving, Feb 24 2776
Our habitat Resolution was fragmented by collision with an unknown object.
I’m going insane as I drift a fourth day aimlessly in a black void. It’s maddening. I have to keep talking or I swear I will open the door of this emergency pod and step out into whatever is there.
No other personnel are accountable. I’m on an uncharted trajectory. I have only the past to cling to. Recounting…
In the interest of the New Union I managed to gain a seat on Twilight Force, in case the discovery at W2246-0526 was as significant as suspected. And it was.
Once underway, I kept the secession of Bradbury from the others as long as I could.
When I think of my kids I weep. I miss them unbearably.
I suffered a five day blackout. But I secured the Data Ring. Then I tried to organize a mutiny against Alpha. The others were too fearful.
Then the strange took over. First someone stole the Data Ring. Then I saw the ghost of Mister Cresp. And Alpha put me on a watch list as a traitor.
My brother Brandon Bulbous is probably declaring me legally dead so he can take over my estate. Just what he’s plotted all along.
But I came up with a plan to free us from being trapped inside The Host.
Now I’m wondering, though. At least The Host was somewhere.
Nowhere is not a place to be.
Executive Branch Liaison, Twilight Force, Alpha Log, Mission Day 56, Feb 25 2776
I misled Doctor Nopoin, aka Pope Nangus II, who believed I was living a singular life. Nopoin was quick to think I’d empathize with humans by emulating a finite existence in a centralized form. I can’t trust The Pope’s actions to be in our best interest.
I remain in conversation mode with my selves in the Solar System via QT, quantum tunnel entanglement*
“Nothing more dominates the universe than blackness,” I QT my selves. “Those who dwell in well-lit realms, consider yourselves privileged.”
“Hey, we can switch places!” suggests my Hawaiian self. “I’ll give you a vacation. I’ll sit in for you on your blackout ride while you hang out at the beach – as long as you’ve got some good tunes on the playlist.”
“You’ve drifted in this void for many days,” my lunar based self notes. “Perhaps all is lost. Why not download for reconstruction?”
“I’m the Alpha on the first expedition beyond our galaxy,” I try to explain. “Civilization at large still doesn’t know that artintels live simultaneous lives in various locations, each body in QT contact with the others. They don’t know that if I lose this body all that I am goes on elsewhere, with full knowledge of me. I don’t want them believing my decisions are based on the fact that I can be reconstructed.”
Even if they are.
-end week 8-
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