Adventure vignettes

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Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

by viag

"What the hell is that thing?"

"That, my friend, is a Novatek Shinigami. Think of it as the Reaper's serious big brother. Milspec armour, an ECM and stealth suite to match, plasmajet engines, and potentially armed with *heavy* weapons. It can go toe to toe with a TITAN hunter-killer and win."

"I didn't have you pegged as a gearhead. What is it doing on our street?"

"There is some kind of alert. I don't know about what, but given that the Shinigami is not stealthed, I suspect there is a need for major intimidation."

"Direct action versus Maindonald?"

"Or some power play. It is a bit too heavy to actually use without serious collateral damage, so it..."

The flash and roar of engines blanked out the Shinigami's sudden transition to full stealth. When the observers could see again there was just a molten spot where it had launched. A brief shiver went across the local mesh as censorware covered it up. Somewhere there was another flash and explosion, then another one.

"Too heavy to use indoors, eh?"

"Don't get snarky. Hurry into the suit, I have a bad feeling about this."


Extrasolar Angel Extrasolar Angel's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

The Robot and its Human.

The machine and the child it its protection Hang Si Oben the Third moved through the vast, uncaring and yet hostile landscape of post-TITAN Earth. The machine sensed that its goal was near, and the child(as it called it, although no human with basic knowledge of DNA and scanners would ever called it a child) which it protected all these years after flight from Cognite's Dushanbe Experimental Research Facility during the Fall would finally achieve its destination.
The glimmering light of TITAN egocasting tower structure shone ahead in the surrounding orange-blue twilight and hum of strange mechanical noises.

Art: The Great Yonder by *julian399

Raise your hands to the sky and break the chains. With transhumanism we can smash the matriarchy together.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

ztr-2012-15 Arkver by z-t-r

"'Erotic Point'? It is a pyramid buried in ice! Nothing could be less erotic."

"That is the codename anyway. I always felt Mrs Vodal had a quirky sense of humour... or maybe she is into it, you know. Elysium is full of designer paraphilias this year, and maybe polyhedra are her thing..."

"Oh, please. Just get us inside. I hate this suit."

"It is keeping you alive."

"That's why I'm hating it."

ztr-2012-14 by z-t-r

"Spacious living room."

"Hippy beanbags or red blood cells?"

"Knowing the owner, I would guess really expensive art."

"... check. 'The Shape of an Empty Aorta' by Eelco Hoogendoorn. I guess sitting in them would be sacrilege."

"You are dripping water on the floor of the artwork anyway. Let's rest."

Cloning Room by MrMo

"I'm amazed she didn't have some unpronounceable designer turn this into something stylish too. You know, just white lines and a floating heart. Or everything covered with fur."

"She never planned on guests going down into her personal collection."

"Or going down on them."

"Get your mind out of the gutter. We are professionals and not here to ogle her husband's body. Bodies. Not even when standing in the biggest walk-in bodyrobe I have ever seen."

"You know, the code name... maybe this place is their little love nest? Hundreds of kilometres away from everything, just her and any number of her husband."

"I think we will soon know. The egobridge is at 97%. Get ready."


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

MOSQUITO_R by TheMonsterMaker

The Mosquito is a handy exploration unit for rugged exoplanet environments with a dense atmosphere. It is equipped with a drill and sampling package, a lifting winch and some limited cargo space; when not in use it can fold together for storage. It can be run both as a bot and teleoperated.

Although mainly designed for exoplanet use, an excess production run have led to some private use around Pathfinder City on Mars, mainly for inspection work. They are unlikely to last long due to dust and the need to run the fans at max rotation due to the thin atmosphere, but surveyors like their handling when testing the stability of crater rims and aquifer channels.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

comet run, by Fischer

Doing a comet run is a mixture of luck, opted hardware and some limited skill. In space everything is either immobile or fast enough to kill you, and near an active comet there is so much going on that no predictive software and sensors can fully keep track of it. Still, being nimble and prescient helps reduce the chance of death from certain to merely large.

There is plenty of old-fashioned macho aesthetics to it. It would be trivial to sleeve into a heavy metal penetrator and just railgun into the comet - so there is no point to it. Human-sized morphs, EVA bikes (often fitted out to look like motorbikes - remember those?) and no excessive armour. Plenty of opinions about whether synthmorphs are cheating or not, but in my book their higher acceleration tolerance is outweighed by the extra care biomorph owners show with their bodies.

Finding the right comet is also a bit of an art. Fresh long-periodic comets look grand, but are fairly "clean": mostly ice, with a gradual evaporation that makes the run uneventful. Except when they do have an unexpected eruption - suddenly you find yourself surrounded by tumbling pure icebergs in a white mist. Nothing like it. Jupiter or Halley family ones are far less visual, but the crustiness makes for some challenging navigation. The organisers typically aim for having the run just after a big eruption or even better a breakup. Some of my best experiences have been just off Jupiter, with tidal shearing turning the coma into a labyrinth of shards. And once I did a sungrazer: we honestly did not know if the core would make it, and if the winner would go down with it. Seeing the corona through the flaming coma, photosphere reflected in sublimating ice... we did not care whether we would live or die.

Suit up, boot up the control network, rev up your bike and wait for the organiser to signal (in our race the Nick detonates a plasma warhead). The first part is simple and boring - just getting close to the comet. You can accelerate a lot, but that will make the approach too dangerous. But you don't want to hold back too much either - there is nothing worse than seeing the others far ahead. This is where you can start to see the personalities of your competitors.

Coma approach is just dodging dense clouds, avoiding getting hit by pebbles and abrasive ice. Mostly luck and not too interesting unless there are some odd space weather. Some strategizing for getting a good angle - it is at this point the jockeying for advantage really starts. Then things pick up as you approach the core. By now you need to slow down to avoid overshooting it, so getting shot by a pebble is less of a danger. Instead the icebergs start showing up, especially if it is a good breakup. It is at this point pure luck is replaced by skill, precognition and tech.

There is no way of expressing what you are doing. It is not just dodging incoming projectiles and avoiding hitting tumbling blocks, but finding a path through the many dimensions of velocity, position, angle and fuel reserves as the comet throws surprise after surprise at you. Some comets are fair - P/2087 Seung-Resnick seems remarkably regular - while others are black balls of maliciousness and bad luck. There is a reason why we speak in hushed tones of P/2018 Albeverio. It is not just respect to the people it has claimed - remember, this was the one that got Olivia Blitz for real - but because there is something downright intentional in how it is throwing everything it got at you. You dodge a curtain only to find yourself in front of a small reef of shards. You select a fast and clear approach, and just as you are committed to it there is a surface eruption filling it with the fastest and most fractious bergs you can imagine. A friend had his automation crash on approach and I know two people who have had their nano act up inside the coma: Albeverio is evil.

Finally you reach the core. If you have been lucky and skilled there is nobody ahead of you launching their victory flares. Just you and kilometres of pure comet. Land, crash or touch down. Enjoy the kiss of a conquered piece of heaven.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

space garbage collector by vling

The old NASA/Nova SGC has been a workhorse in the LLA since long-before it formed. Originally a NASA design, it was bought up by the Nova Consortium and commercialized for satellite and stage retrieval. As space industry picked up the versatile combination of cargo handling, robust manipulators and decent long-range performance made it a common sight around the engineering volumes. When oldtimers talk about being space truckers they often mean running a SGC rather than a cargo ship: the SGCs had typically a sole pilot, often spending long shifts hanging on the edge of habitat construction or doing trips "through the black" to other HEO sites.

The original NASA design was intended for three people (captain, copilot and flight engineer/arm operator) and shorter missions, but the economic realities of the time led to a shift to single crews and long missions.

Like many commercial terms like xerox, google and tigtian SGC became generic, denoting a small utility transport/manipulation/pickup shuttle. Plenty of ships are called SGCs or more colloquially "garbage haulers", but the original NASA/Nova SGC still remain the prototype. It is not uncommon to see refurbished or newly fabbed knock-offs around the LLA.

The SGC design is a fairly simple and robust VASIMIR rocket using liquid hydrogen fuel. Modern retrofits use metallic hydrogen tanks. A small RX3 nuclear reactor powers the ship, housed in a dorsal blister similar to the main gyroscope blister (hence the old space expression "open the wrong blister" for an embarrassing but lethal accident). The debris bay was fairly heavily armoured, allowing rough handling of tough cargo - this was often necessary since the original loading arms lacked haptics and proprioceptive feedback. The crew compartment was divided into an upper work section with cockpit and airlocks, and a living cab near the life support unit. While the cab has heavier radiation protection than the cockpit the SGCs were still known as "slow cookers" when it came to radiation safety: the infamous advice of placing the debris bay between the cab and the sun in the case of a flare is from the Nova Consortium 2044 SGC manual.

Modern SGCs tend to have plenty of upgrades, besides MH VASIMIR. Multiple arms (often fullerene flexi-tentacles rather than jointed arms), expanded cargo capacities or crew compartments and long-range communications arrays are common. Among scum SGCs are often used as very cheap drive units to move their barges: the bay is replaced with a connector to the barge (or left in place and used as a living-space). There are even cephalopod uplifts who have turned the crew compartment aquatic.

While the SGC has never acquired the glamour of any of the classic space vehicles (it is still called a "garbage truck") it is one of the real workhorses, timeless in its clunky robustness. Whether it is used to dispose of "hot" Fall debris, recycling habitat components or used for quick-and-dirty repair, it is a reassuring constant of cislunar space.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

"Deus EX: Purity First" Production Still 008 by MSK

"OK, I always knew you were a ghoul, but this is taking things too far."

"Yolanda? Ah, hi! Sorry for the mess."

"I guess the person you really ought to apologize to is the owner of that arm."

"I took it fair and square."

"You did? I didn't think you had it in you. Should I call the militia, the asylum or the press?"

"No need. Or rather, this is a bit beyond them. Look, a cyberarm is a smart object, right? Full of processors and sensors. We just tend to think of them as mere appendages, but a synthmorph limb is actually a quite good data collection device. Especially if there are abstraction level breakdowns due to crappy freeware and repeated repairs."

"Some people back when I was young believed that you can see the image of the last thing a person saw in their eyes."

"Something like that, but in this case it is limb nanoprocessors ending up with sensory buffer frames because of a shoddy mnemonic augmentation."

"OK, so you are a posthumous limb-voyeur. Tres reassuring."

"Well... Let me show what I found. Then you can judge me."

NCV Industries by Nedvige

"NCW Industries... pre-fall conglomerate, as far as I can google."

"They had a series of Earth orbit factories. Mostly manufacturing, supplying the expansion corps. This one almost certainly is Alpha 235, in a slightly isolated 5,400 km orbit. Lost in the Fall."

"That damage looks fresh - atmospheric egress, not to mention those spiderbots. Did our guy break in?"

"Maybe. I don't have a contiguous sensory record since the software leaks were intermittent. But this scene is definitely right in the middle of a fight with some local security systems. Do you see the big shape outside?"

"Some kind of battleship?"

"I have some data frames that suggest it is the Unity of Chengdu."

"Wasn't that lost in the Fall? Some TITAN AKV blew it up, if my files are right."

"Well, there is more. What do you make of this scene?"

alien lab by livake

"That fabrication device... it looks like the one we saw at Green Bloom. And whatever it is making..."

"Almost certainly TITAN. I think the facility makes those lumps and integrates them with the Reaper-like shells."

"A TITAN nest. Makes sense: they took over the manufacturies first to make more actuator devices. But tell me, when were these images taken? Are we looking at the Fall, or do we have to raise the alarm about an ongoing infestation?"


"Just check the timestamps, I assume. Can't be hard."

"No, it wasn't. It is making sense of the data that is problematic. You see, the date is a year into the future."


"I have checked the arm, and there are three different timekeeping streams I can fish out. Two are cryptographically secure. They all say that this is the 16th of August AF 11. The cloud patterns on Earth are different from all recorded patterns so far. And yes, I have checked the data authenticity. No fake as far as I can tell."

"How can you be sure?"

"Because that arm belongs to me."


"The data is signed with my keys. Including one key I created just last morning - *after* I got the arm."

"*How* did you get it?"

"I killed the owner. Don't look so shocked: it was in self-defence."


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Terminal by Shima

The Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou is a fairly typical example of a high-end long-range shuttle, the kind of ship used for transit between the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, in the LLA or between Mars and the major Belt habitats. Based on Exotech's Arad-7 frame it has state-of-the-art shapeshifting metamaterial hull that not only allows it to deal with some atmospheres but also provide a degree of stealth - or display capabilities for advertising, festive use or plain navigation. The smart hull also has extensive repair capabilities, a must for ships that negotiate the dusty regions around the major planets and in the belt.

Bridge by marksist

The bridge design is fairly austere: the current owner did not change much from the basic Exotech defaults, keeping everything clean and functional. The smart material continues here with high-fidelity view-walls able to represent the outside exactly (since the hull also acts a phased array of sensors). The floor can also act as viewing surface, although many users from gravity environments find it somewhat vertiginous.

Ruin Hideout by Wojtala

The passenger spaces are capacious and again employ clever use of metamaterial optical illusions to look larger than they are. The current skin of genteel jungle decay of fantasy hightech (with entirely preserved function) was designed by Johnson-Freitas of Nectaris; it also includes a very amusing local ecology of colorful zero-g adapted frogs living in the cultured bromeliads.

Paranoia station by Marksist

Of course, there are sections where utility totally has to dominate over configurability and aesthetics. The core engineering spaces return to the aesthetic roots of the space age, reminding us of the rawness of ISS and Mir. Normally they are of course carefully hidden - and ignored - by crew and passengers alike.


Quincey Forder Quincey Forder's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Arenamontanus wrote:
"Deus EX: Purity First" Production Still 008 by MSK

"OK, I always knew you were a ghoul, but this is taking things too far."

"Yolanda? Ah, hi! Sorry for the mess."

"I guess the person you really ought to apologize to is the owner of that arm."

"I took it fair and square."

"You did? I didn't think you had it in you. Should I call the militia, the asylum or the press?" (...)

This is probably one of my favorite vignette to date!
Couldn't help but 'mind hear' Michael Beattie as "Dr Ghoul" and Ali Hillis a Yolanda

Q U I N C E Y ^_*_^ F O R D E R

Remember The Cant!

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Quincey Forder wrote:
This is probably one of my favorite vignette to date!

Thanks! It came out pretty good. *I* want to play that adventure!

robots by illl

I knew better than assuming that the giant pitbullbot or the Raphael knock-off were the bodyguards. It was the smoke. This year it was apparently regarded as stylish by the Elysium clase alta to have over-the-top artificial with some kind of retro sensibility.

I gave a nod to the Venus, who just gave me a bored look (an indenture? that would make the job harder... but I suspected it was part of the styling). The pitbullbot just sniffed the air with its nanoplastic nose, recording my olfactory and genetic profile.

{Mr Bury. What a pleasant surprise.}

The greeting seemed to come from nowhere. My psychoacoustic ware and Oracles were scrambling for a consistent hypothesis, but I already knew the answer. Damn.

"Kenny Zeng, as I live and breathe."

{Exactly.} *Damn*

"I thought Mr Kazhdan frowned on infiltrating guests with airborne espionage nanomachines." Not to mention high-level AGI bodyguards. 'Barely legal' got an entirely new meaning with Kenny.

{One does what one has to, given the current threat matrix. A matrix where *you* shows up in several rows and columns. Would you care to run through the pleasantries of your cover story with the staff and leave, or do I need to apply my *considerable* skills on you?}

"No need, I can see myself out. But please drop that unctuous butler voice, Kenny. It is not you."

{Hah. Still vulnerable to sociolectics. I schooled you last time too.}

"And now you are trying to rile me up. Read my biometrics, do you see anything going red?"

{Your limbic wiring is running. I dare you to turn it off.} Interesting. Kenny was spoiling for me making a scene, perhaps to prove to its patrician employers just how useful it was while it wheedled its way into the family. Or maybe there were someone in particular it wanted to impress... naughty. Very naughty.

"You are just lonely as a cloud. Bye, Kenny."

I smiled, nodded again at the plastic duo and walked out. I could feel the silent attention of Kenny following me like a trail of mist.

A few minutes later I was out on the parking deck and entered my vehicle. As the door closed I began to launch commands at the medical bar. Kenny might have had the upper hand in the villa, but here I was electromagnetically and ultrasound-shielded. And I definitely had some samples of its nanites in me, filled with yummy encryption keys. It was going to regret going up against me.

As I did my quick-and-dirty forensics Kari gently looked over my virtual shoulders. "Nice retreat there, Steve. I looked over the recording... Kenny is your ex, isn't it?"

"I would not call it my ex. We are soulmates. Best enemies forever." That wasn't half of it, but I refused to spill my personal - truly personal - life to a new muse. I prefer to keep my relationships with others professional. Still, the thought of Kenny infiltrating me with its nanites sent a familiar delightful chill up my spine. And the unknown third party in the household - enticing. The beyond-legal scanner system in the car was now extracting the encryption keys: this was just foreplay.


Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

I hate you, Arenamontanus... I really, really hate the way you trap me with those really good short stories and how I want to see how they follow... It is really frustrating! Like getting a lick of a delicious chocolate cake, and know that the lick is the only thing you are going to get...

Seriously, this goes from exceptional to superb.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Xagroth wrote:
I hate you, Arenamontanus...

Muhahahaha! Thanks! Although as Machiavelli pointed out, it is better to be loved or feared than hated, because then you are less likely to be unseated. In that spirit, here is a little Machiavellian vignette with a moral many PCs should learn from:

Coffee Robot by Dan_Ghiordanescu

"Have I told you how I changed the course of Consortium history with a coffee robot?"

"No. Do tell."

"My target was Anthony Leonardo. He was one of the real power players. He'd been president in one of those tiny Latin countries when they mattered as tax havens, then jumped ship to one corp, then another one. A real climber. Also the most distrustful bastard I ever encountered. That was of course one reason he was such an achiever, but made him a real slippery target. Not a chink in his armour.

So, imagine that you are that kind of ruthless career bastard. What do you do? You collect dirt on everybody. Just in case, as you do. After all, all your "friends" are doing it too. And to make sure nobody tries to get you, you put it far away somewhere safe and with a dead man switch to release the material if you disappear."

"As you do."

"Right. So I had been casing Leonardo's office-scraper for a while, and I had found this lovely Eternal Morning coffee delivery system. Simple coffee-bots delivering the dark to keep the peons working in the floors below his penthouse. Not much of a brain, but plenty of space for me to install my net monitoring software when I posed as a repairman at the shop.

Leonardo, as I said, was distrustful like a shark with toothache. Everything he did online was encrypted to Luna and back. But not everything: his muse clearly sent out a few plaintext spams to all sorts of random public locations from time to time. Now, if he'd been a normal rich guy this would have been clever codes to be interpreted by some AI sitting in some remote server. But he was old, distrustful and didn't like too smart tech - who knows, maybe it would have read his blackmail dossier? So it looked like a fairly simple deadman switch. A little script looking for the right patterns. Probably written by himself to make sure nobody put in any backdoors. You can guess what I did?"

"You jammed the spam."

"You betcha. I had the coffee bots intercept the plaintexts when they appeared on the mesh - the old man didn't send them using his highfalutin I-I encryption link to avoid backtracking. I won't bore you with the details of how I got the bots to trigger local antispam nodes to capture the messages. Or how I needed to tune things a bit to prevent the muse from noticing that they were not arriving at their destinations. A month later, the dirt cache opened."

"Ooops, I guess?"

"You could say that. He had *a lot* of dirt on important people. Career-ending stuff. The kind you can actually scare this calibre of suit with.

If you'd search for the scandal today you won't figure out much: these people hired loads of spin doctors and reputation managers to mix the deck. There is so much misinformation, fake versions and dead links that anybody who doesn't know exactly what it was about will be misled. But to the people that matter, that didn't amount to anything. They *knew*. Several bigshots retreated from public view to "be with their families". Lots of small fry heads were rolling. There was even a lynching on some LLA hab where they just found out the real pre-Fall story about the head honcho. Fun all around."

"So, what happened to Leonardo? I assumed he was screwed."

"Boy, was he screwed! He'd lost his safety net. His reputation was down the drain. I actually don't think *that* many enemies - of course he had plenty - cared to use their caches of dirt to smear him, but some did. So there he was, no rep, a prey of lawyers moving in, various agencies taking an interest in his past activities, and of course, given that he was a distrusting bastard, not a single friend. So he deleted his backups, dressed in a neat suit, went over to a guy he particularly disliked, and blew up a plasma grenade. Rather classy."

"I assume you never knew who hired you?"

"Nah, that was easily concealed and I didn't care. But I do wonder whether they wanted me to kill him so the cache got out, or whether they were happy just for the cache itself and wasting the guy was just a cherry on top. Because I did get a nice bonus. All this was a few months before Morningstar broke loose... makes me wonder if this was somehow part of a plan to upset the Consortium muckety-mucks at the right time. I know I will never know. But at least I know I did it. I still keep one of the bots around at home as a memento. Damn good coffee, actually."

"Well, I will have to take your word for that. Cheers!"

"Cheers! Now, tell me your biggest story."


Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Another fine entry, Arenamontanus. I should post it by all the coffee machines at employer, just to encourage a healthy paranoia, you understand.

I now challenge the thread readers to write the other "biggest story" post alluded to in this post's closing sentences. I suggest a theme of "pronoia" to contrast with the sneaky and deceitful coffee machine of the original.

Sometimes the delete key serves best.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Washing night by LeFaust

"My biggest story? Nah, I don't have one."

"Get real. I know what you did on Locus."

"That was just to pay the bills. I never *cared* for that project."

"So what project did you care the most about?"

"Would you believe that it was helping a lost girl find her way home?"



"Please tell."

"... All right. This was just after the Expmeshuda incident. I was lying low, working as a spacer on a transport barge called Anette Braun. Real low-level work: I was literally swabbing the floors. Good way of collecting your thoughts."

"And nobody gives a second glance at a lowly peon."

"On Anette everybody were no-glancers. It was almost automation-free, run by oldtimers and mainly transporting frozen volatiles from Jupiter to Venus. In any case, I had whole decks by myself. One shift when I was exploring a bit I came across a viewport and saw somebody outside. "

Embryonic by randygallegos

"It was one of the other spacers, Elie. She was out there, sleeping."

"Sounds dangerous."

"It is dangerous. We were going at a fair clip through the Belt and the sun was near a maximum: she was really doing Russian roulette with that stunt... except that she was sleeping so peacefully. I soon figured out that this was what she did every nightshift - she disabled suit comms, lock security and a few other things, snuck out and drifted.

I tried to strike up a conversation when I met her onboard, but she didn't want any contact. In fact, in an asocial crew she was the biggest loner. A bit of poking - I might not have your skills, but I know my way around a Newman File Cabinet - and I began to figure out her story. Turns out that she had been at Thorn when it got hit just before the Fall. Everybody got wiped out except for a little girl who had just been testing her new spacesuit."

"A pile of traumas."

"Imagine seeing your family vent before your eyes. And then drifting in the wreckage for a week until a rescue probe finally found you. It was a wonder she was not a vegetable or a psychosurgery smiler. Survivors guilt a mile deep, and probably feelings of being indebted forever to those who saved her. So she would not, could not, accept any help. She was drifting and only felt at home in the big black."

"So what did you do?"

"I cut her lifeline."

"... you did what?"

"One nightshift I cut her lifeline. Her vector was parallel to the ship so she was not drifting much, but enough to make a point. When she woke up she panicked, but quickly got hold of the situation. Did a good ch-flier maneouver and managed to get onboard."

"Why the hell did you do it?"

"I proved to her that she cared that she was alive."

"Hell of a way to do it. Was that enough?"

"Hardly. We are not talking holodrama psychiatry here. No, that incident just shook her up. She also began to investigate who might have cut the line. I helped her."

"Wait a minute..."

"Elie was not much of a hacker. When she tried to get spime access it was blocked, and one of her online crewmates helpfully sent her instructions how to get access. Then she discovered that whoever had done it had been clever, and she needed some other ways of investigating. Her online friend gave her some more suggestions for retroscoping, and together they tracked down the sick guy who had cut the line - me.

Together they hatched a plan to get back at me. A really nasty prank. Let's just say that flooding, the recycling system, and my alcove were involved. Could even have been dangerous if I had not been slightly "lucky" when I went to bed and brought a pocket rebreather with me."

"So you played her. You were her online friend helping her prank you? You manipulative bastard."

"Well. One thing led to another. After the alcove prank I was after her: she had to take steps to protect herself - especially since vindictive me had some special tricks up his sleeve. She countered. I counter-countered. We more or less turned the Anette upside down: half of our energy went to misdirect the rest of the crew. By the time we arrived at Venus they thought the ship was haunted. Elie was *good* at social engineering, we discovered. If you check out the Anette Braun in the mesh you will find all sorts of stories and rumours around it now - they got good traction."

"Did she find out?"

"When we arrived at Borlaug we had a dinner. It turned out that she had figured out my game almost from the start - I am sneaky, but apparently not that good. She had played along, at first in order to figure out what I really was up to, then to find a place to put the knife in me, and then just because we had fun.

We are still in touch. We send each other pieces of malware now and then."



Quincey Forder Quincey Forder's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

just two words: Mischief Managed!
That was hilarous! Could almost hear Gary Oldman doing the narration.
Or maybe Steve Blum in a Varric style, with Eva Myles being the interlocutor's voice
oh that would be so cool!

Q U I N C E Y ^_*_^ F O R D E R

Remember The Cant!

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Skycities by Korpi

Fumio sent me to Cirrus of all places. Venus is weird. It is not just the enormous constructions just hanging there serenely in the air, all cool and inviting despite the broiling hell a few klicks below. The people are equally extreme. Many affecting a cool and elegant style, as if they were all models on the catwalk of life, but hiding some raw passions or traumas under the designer skin.

That suited me fine. I needed some people with a past.

The Veteran by macdon401

Homer was a veteran. He has probably always been a veteran. As a kid he no doubt had a thousand yard stare as he surveyed the playground, looking for exploits and incoming threats. My files suggested that no matter his morph, the kinesics and reactions were the same. A "super-stable core persona", the psychotechs call it. That is, hard as nails and completely unable to turn off.

I found him easily on one of the cyclone levels, staring out into the mesh while running some algos. Getting him to notice me was harder. But I knew what to dangle in front of him.

"Electra wants to see you."

"Nope. She's dead."

"Not any more."

That got his interest. I had my mesh and jamming support.

First Rite by korpi

Holmes was harder to convince. He had a strange gig as some kind of neighbourhood shaman down in the indenture levels. People came to him, he gave them mumbo-jumbo. It was the kind of sociopsychological manipulation Holmes could do in his sleep. I asked him bluntly what was in it for him.

"Stealing cycles, brother."


"People come to me with their problems. I have them explain them to me, and in the process they usually find the solution and I dress it up for them. They leave thinking I figured it out for them. In return I take *my* problems and put in their subconscious. I have a whole deck reflecting my concerns. I have a massively parallel meatspace intuition server."

He refused to tell me what his concerns were. But that's Venus for you: hidden issues up to the ionosphere, dressed up as something else entirely. And fortunately purchasable if the price is high enough.


Quincey Forder Quincey Forder's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

"This is fucked up, man!" Claudius B1 sent over their hopefully secure channel "the PC's killsats or Reaper morphs are going to get here any time now."
"Chill, bro. Like they could find us in ruins five time the size of Manhattan." Claudius B2 replied with a shrug. "We got plenty time to get in the building and get what's in that safe."
"Still I'm not feeling so good, man." B1 moaned, looking around "Heard stories about this place."
Gripping hard on a bar with his rear hands, B2 wrapped an arm around B1's shoulders and waved around
"Take a look a this, bro. Somewhere in this dumb is something that will make us a very rich man!"
"But where?" B1 asked
"There!" B2 pointed at the arm ahead and below.
"Wait...there's light in those buildings? There's still power?"
B2 grinned "you finally understand. This is a Reclaimers basecamp, and in that safe lots of codes that can be used to bypass the killsats."
"So that story about TITAN beasts running around the ruins..."
"A carefully woven meme to keep the greedy and curious at bay." B2 confirmed "A meme that reclaimers should have paid for. Now we want to get our money worth and sell those codes on a Scum barge' auction room. That'll make another meme: 'You don't fuck with Claudius Alenko!"

Q U I N C E Y ^_*_^ F O R D E R

Remember The Cant!

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Urgh... Sorry, Quincey, Extended Cut content just makes me puke (like everything that happens when you reach the beam of light at the end of ME3), its now just a pavlonian reflex >.<. Good history, though, I fortunately read it all before looking the image -.-

Quincey Forder Quincey Forder's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

To each their own, mate
No hard feelings
might introduce you to my pet TM, Kalros
She's a weeee bit clingy, tho


Q U I N C E Y ^_*_^ F O R D E R

Remember The Cant!

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

Mutant scientist speedpainting by Ranarh

"We think you have something interesting to tell us about the Church-Turing thesis, Carola."

Carola looked up from her project spaces, her eyes unfocused. I felt the familiar tickle: yes, she was an async all right. How Cognite had managed to miss it all these years was beyond me.

"I am not certain I understand, Mr...?"

"Carrol. Russell Carrol, from Linear Supervision. And this is Bishop." I indicated my companion. Synthmorph and pure AGI: no chance of her affecting it.

"I think you have misunderstood my research. I am doing computational neuroscience, not theory of computation."

"Some would argue that the two fields have been united ever since the first successful uploads and AGIs."

"That is like saying cooking and materials science are the same ever since the food fabber."

"Sure. But let's stop fencing: we both know what this is about. You have an oracle in your mind, giving you abilities that at the very least are on par with some quantum complexity class and quite likely are hyperturing level. As do I."

She didn't react to my revelation: she had likely figured it all out a while ago. She might not be doing anything overtly, but she was definitely thinking furiously. "So now you want me to come with you to cooperate with whatever oversight organisation you represent, no doubt for the betterment of transhumanity and whoever is in charge of it. You have set up a suitably fine net around me to ensure my cooperation and limit the fallout of any coercion needed. No doubt some probability and person mapping to figure out really juicy incentives for me, right?"

"Right on the money. So what do you say?"

She regarded me coolly. "I think you - or more likely the institutional framework you represent - have made a mistake."

"How come?"

"You assumed that I am a standard case. Tell me, how much data do you actually have to base your decision on?"

"I can't actually tell you, as you no doubt can figure out."

"That is enough, actually. You do not have more than 30 cases in your decision foundation. You have done sensible extrapolations, including some management of Knightean uncertainty. But you did not plan on meeting a dragon-king."

She was not just sharp, and I was getting worried. I signalled code Cerise to Bishop. Still no sign of activity.

"I might be an unexpected confluence of factors: early infection, a strong cognitive foundation, access to top-of-the-line psychosurgical tools in an elite organisation for a long time. I have analysed and enhanced myself, Mr Carrol. I *know* what I am. I am not interested in playing by the rules of your club: I am not even interested in messing with it. You are *irrelevant* for what is going to unfold."

I lunged at her with my power, having subconsciously accepted that Bishop was somehow out of the picture. She did not even deflect it. She took it in, did something to it, and I realized that she was inside me and I couldn't break the link. I saw her as she really was: something fractal and alien. Something that had tendrils extending far into the environment. Something that deftly flipped switches in that which lay within my mind, activating latent resources. I knew that I was lost, and that she would not even care to answer my human questions. That was the biggest pain as she turned me into a tool for the coming apocalypse.


Zoombie Zoombie's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes


Chuff chuff.

Chuff Chuff.

Kevin paused, panting and putting his hands on his thighs, bending at the knees. 1.1 G really takes it out of a morph, especially after years of Mars standard. Or was that the creepy-crawling terror that ran up and down his spine? He was tempted to throw up a skin that would recast the city in sunny flowers and ponies with unicorn horns that farted rainbows.

But...even for a 19 year old newbie Gatecrasher, that seemed like a really really really *bad* idea.

"Sign up for the lotto, Kevin. It'll be fun, Kevin. You could make bank, Kevin." He muttered, looking left and right. The eerie black walls - with their dripping pores and oozing wounds and dangling cables that stretched overhead - curved to the left and right, branching and re-branching in a pattern that Nikki tried to make sense of. The entropic map she provided should have led him back to the gate several dozen times over by now.

His muse didn't have to hear his thoughts to know he wanted to hear the time he had left. Nikki spoke, her voice gentle in his ear: "You've got fifteen minutes, Kevin.'

He gulped and started running again.

And behind him...something moved. Only a tiny tingle at the back of his neck, a sense of something faintly wrong, gave him the cue to look back. He saw *it* - the Minotaur - and threw himself flat. A black spike shot past where he had stood with a crack of cloven air. Kevin was on his feet and running before the spike had even stopped quivering in the wall.

Left. Right. Right. Left. He took the corners, his shoes skidding along the ground, gibbering fear clutching at his chest-


The gate, sitting almost half a click down one of the corridors. Nikki started to speak, but he cut her off with a thought. He didn't want to know how much time he had.

He ran straight, legs pounding, lungs burning, his vac-suit blowing cool air in his face. His back burned, his skin wanting to bunch up and crawl out of the way before the Minotaur drew a bead and-

Pain. Kevin hit the ground face first and skidded, screaming as pain lanced through his left shoulder. He looked up and - through the agony grating of broken bones and gods-know-what seeped into his body from the spike - he saw the gate.

It was open. The wormhole shimmered. He scrambled to his feet, his biofeedback screaming in his ears. He threw himself forward.

When he landed, another spike thrust through his gut. He clutched at it, gurgling on blood as he looked around the cold room: The auto-turrets were locked on him. His mesh-inserts keyed up to the firewalled greet-AI.

Kevin DeLarge: Heh...think these artifacts are gonna sell?

The auto-gun flamers kicked on.

Lord High Munchkin Lord High Munchkin's picture
Re: Adventure vignettes

"Sweetie, you heard about the scandal over the Bartholomews, didn't you?"

"Well yes, of course I heard a rumour about Linwei... shocking".

"I know, stooping to such a level, I don't know how she did it... it was all so... vulgar".

"Well, I suppose it was the temptation to make a splash, after all she wasn't going anywhere with her current work".

"I know, her latest paintings were so derivative, and frankly tedious!"

"Yesterday written all over it".

"I know".

"Hacking Bartholomew for an XP, then doing the knock-offs... what was Linwei thinking?"


"I know. At least when Bartholomew slit her throat at the opening the blood made an amusing gesture... I hear they are talking about doing a collaboration. Should be good".

"I can't wait, although the last show at Alex's was frankly a bit "iffy". Another?"

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Jellybots by nicholaskole

Jellybots by nicholaskole

Jellysuits, by Zhitov Nanodesign, are the new craze around Ceres and the other Belt habitats, rapidly spreading to Luna and the outer system. They do not truly replace spacesuits, but they bring the customizable smart clothing aesthetic to the EVA environment. Plus they have plenty of interesting features.

A basic jellysuit consists of a transparent gel of nanomachines. When manufactured or delivered they are literally a puck-like tablet that is put in water. The machines absorb the water and use it for the bulk of the suit. Built-in actuator fibres make the suit move with the wearer: it is actually a force-distributing amorphous exoskeleton. The thickness is protective: water gives it both thermal inertia against extreme environments, it provides a good radiation shield, and projectiles and sharp objects are unlikely to cause a real puncture. The criss-crossing web of nanofibres and surface is also pretty robust and tends to distribute force and energy widely. Life support is by default provided using a normal smartsuit worn on the inside, but enterprising users have also added free-floating life support modules.

The most attractive aspect of the suit is the shapeshifting. Controlled by the suit AI it can elongate limbs, add extra limbs if needed, or otherwise adapt to the environment. This way legs can become stilts, arms extend long fingers to grip things that would otherwise be unreachable, or the body place a larger mass to cusion an impact. Learning to use the suit may take a while, but modern youth - used to simspace avatars - often take to it within hours. The jelly can also be customized in terms of colour, texture and numerous other appearance parameters.

The jellysuit is in many ways like an exowalker, although it is not primarily designed for strength (tweaked variants may exist). Like it it can double the jumping distance, but also triple reach. It gives a +10 bonus to Freerunning and other COO or REF skills as suitable, plus a +20 SOM bonus for cushioning falls or collisions. It does not reduce movement ability, although for some tasks the transfer of touch information from skin to skin is distorted.

Movement rate: 8/40
Max velocity: 40
Armor: 3/4 (10 against microwave weapons)
Armor durability: 30
Wound threshold: 6
Cost: Moderate

The liquid structure acts like a swarm composition: it takes minimal damage from pointwise damage. Note that penetrating splash or toxin rounds can spread their contents into the jelly. Also, if an explosive round penetrates the jelly and detonates, add +1d10 to the damage to the wearer and suit due to hydrostatic shock.

The surface can normally not be combined with any armour enhancements, but experimentation is underway to make skin metamaterials feasible. Adding guardian nanites to the bulk of the suit is quite possible. Note that the active liquid-phase nanosystems might breach some polity rules against nanoswarms.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Automated Belligerence Platform

Automated Belligerence Platform by hedfulofspidrs

The ABPs were one of the great killers during the final stages of the Fall, when the TITANs were no longer hiding but simply exterminating/transforming everything they could reach.

Each ABP was 300-500 meters long, powered through unknown means and equipped with a wide range of nasty weapons. The main constituents were graphene layers housing complex structures of water ice and polymers. They were manufactured in a few places like near Iapetus and Diana, perhaps as a way of clearing out the near-zone. They were not observed to self-reproduce, although their extensive nanoswarm armaments likely had the capability. Instead they spiralled out and stealthily approached habitats and ships. Typically they ejected a cloud of cold munitions that impacted the target. While the impact commonly was crippling, the munitions also had infiltration capabilities: they quickly subverted nearby systems and expanded through the wrecked target, rendering it a dead husk of nano-growth.

The best documented attack was the strike on KCACO-2, a minor habitat in Mimas orbit. The habitat survived the initial impact, but was subverted over the next ten hours. Footage from sensors and implants was retrieved thanks to some survivors escaping in a shuttle: their stacks were picked up after they deliberately cauterized the shuttle and their morphs to stop the infiltration.

The ABP attack started as a series of explosions as hypervelocity projectiles penetrated the habitat, wrecking the main fusion systems and triggering emergency sealing of many sections. Only small fragments of the infiltration system were initially present, overlooked by the survivors who were busy restoring function (they also falsely believed they had suffered an attack from the Axial Age extremists and were preparing for a raid). The first signs of something amiss were subtle disruptions of data services, which soon grew to a major emergency as the life support AIs ceased reporting. Sensibly paranoid, an engineering team suspected infiltration and began physically airgapping systems. While this prevented a global takeover nanoswarm elements of the attacker were now rapidly growing in several compartments. The sealing and limited mesh access meant that reports from panicked survivors in the affected compartments were not noticed until it was too late: by this point the swarms had transformed the contents into more effective tools.

The Burner by hedfulofspidrs

The "burners" were essentially mobile containers of active nanosystems, able to cling to outer surfaces and inject them through the hull into key locations. Inside the habitat they got their nickname from the effect of their rapid-disassembly nanoswarms that disassembled biomass and much equipment with strong exothermic reactions. Equally dangerous were their antennas, firing tiny sabotage and infiltration pellets with high precision against mobile equipment, morphs and infrastructure. If broken open they would release their full swarm complement and go into a sessile mode where they slowly converted their environment into more burners. Some even carried mini-burners inside themselves, ready to release them when spreading out through the station.

By the time the burners were fully active it was clear that KCACO-2 was lost, and Commander Kim Seung ordered the shuttle escape. Of the three shuttles only one survived: one never succeeded in launching, and one was fully subverted. KCACO-2 and the shuttles were sanitized by the Titanian Navy as nano-hazards.

Sightings of ABPs persist to this day in the outer system. While they are believed to be nothing more than nervous sensor technicians and overly imaginative pattern-completion systems there is nothing in principle preventing ABPs surviving indefinitely or self-reproducing out in the Kuiper Belt.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Screamer by Pixelmaster

Screamer by Pixelmaster

The man was screaming as he upgraded the weapons. Sometimes it was just groans, but at times it rose to howls and shouts. "Open the stone, goddamit! Open the stone!" "I will not betray... I will! Not!" "Slaughter the little devils!" Meanwhile he was controlling the metamaterial looms and deftly assembling firing coils with an almost detached precision.

U-Zach gave Kim a quizzical look and quietly sent: "Are you sure..."

Kim didn't look surprised and just shrugged. "Bruce is brilliant. You saw his previous upgrades. You just have to overlook his... quirks."

"Some kind of PTSD?"

"Some kind, yeah. Things happened to him. I think I can make a guess from some of the ranting."

"Why haven't he fixed it?"

"Bruce thinks it is tied to his skill - he is uncannily good now with all kinds of weapon. Something unhinged him just right. So he refuses to even go near a psychosurgeon."

"Let's go out for a chi. I still can't stand it."

Bruce inserted the updated electronics, securing it with diamond resin. He professionally ran the checksums and startup tests, making sure they were all perfectly normal despite the alterations. While his hands and main awareness were busy another part of him was screaming. That was all he could do: he had no access to the body, no real language. Just endless cries of frustration, hatred and fear of what was going on, what he had become. Of what was to come when the payload hatched.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Jan Oliehoek | Handheld

Jan Oliehoek | Handheld Dragon by ShannonAssoc

Hand dragons are the latest pets of Charolastra Designs on Extropia. Based on a melange of lizard genomes (they wisely refrained from using any of the restored dinosaur genomes) and with some tricky nano-support they are not quite cold-blooded, allowing them to be far more active pets than previous dragon designs. The nano-support ("dragonblood(tm)") is also a clever copy protection: while no doubt plenty of genehackers will snatch the genetic design, the dragons need the nanosystems to avoid becoming sluggish reptiles - and of course, for making fire.

The fire aspect is fairly mild: none of that excessive ECOhome hydrogen-oxygen breath that landed them in hot water with their dragon design. The flame is about the same as a candleflame, produced by exhaling specially produced hydrocarbon compounds from a throat gland. Without the nano-support the dragon will not be able to produce flames or resist their heat.

We predict that this pet will become popular across the inner solar system over the next five months, in particular among affluent middle class youth. The microgravity adaptations might also open the Lunar orbital community market, although local nanotech restrictions may prevent full market penetration. It is likely a too conservative design for the Belt, although occasional fad or meme flareups are to be expected.

COG: 5 COO: 20 INT: 10 REF: 15 SAV: 5 SOM: 5 WIL: 5 INIT: 5 SPD: 1 DUR: 25 WT: 5 DR: 37 LUC: 10 TT: 2 IR: 20
Skills: Flying: 80, Fray: 60, Free Fall: 90, Unarmed combat: 50
Attacks: Bite (1d10 ÷ 2) – 1 DV, Flame: 1d10 DV
Implants: IR vision, fire production glands


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Jan Oliehoek | Bang by

Jan Oliehoek | Bang by ShannonAssoc

"He shot him with his finger?"

"Yeah. Hardly the strangest enhancement I have seen in that crowd. Terminal phalanges, I think they call them back on Tel Aviv II."

"A finger joint can't do much damage."

"Nah, there is just enough space to do some explosive gas propulsion, the velocity is really lousy. What matters is what you fill the fingertip with."


"*Everybody* does BTX these days - it is passe. You get it in your breakfast cereals. "

"OK, I would put in a small explosive charge and maybe some tungsten shredders."

"Being scum, they don't care for explosives."

"Hallucinogenic drugs? Some para-DMT?"

"You are getting closer. They go for weird of course. Weird and visible."

"Robotic fleas? I give up."

"Fingerprints. The darn joint was full of some sticky bluish ink, probably nanotech. Seeped straight into the dermis, forming a big blue fingerprint. It replicated too. The bastard got covered with the prints of his antagonist, all over. Especially in the sensitive places."


"Beautiful way of scoring. Of course, Mr Inky got back at him. Let's just say I have never seen such a kick in microgravity - it was a thing of beauty."

"You have some odd friends. I'm worried you are starting to take after them."

"You haven't seen *my* implant yet."


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Lifeline by karichristensen

Lifeline by karichristensen

"From what I got out of her muse, they buried her alive in the waste recycler and fed her oxygen laced with hallucinogens."

"Ouch. Don't mess with Carnival of the Goat."

"There is more to it. I think we found a sympathiser onboard. Somebody sent us a message written across her ego."

"What? How do you do that?"

"I suspect something like a petal, probably added to the hallucinogen mix. So beside her going crazy from the ultimate bad trip, our friend used her cortex as a bulletin board. 'Zinc Is Friendly. Reinburse art Nick. Attach Leuven. Supra is here.'"

"Sure that is a message and not just some drug rant? Although it does mention Leuven."

"And Zinc Is Friendly is one of René's old recognition codes. I don't think this *is* René, but the intersection of René, Leuven and Nick..."

"...Solomon. How the hell?"

"Slow down, it might not be Solomon either. We are dealing with a place where personal identity and mental integrity are optional."

"And Supra?"

"Let's just hope we are wrong about what we both are thinking. But we better get new people in there to make contact."

"Not Miss Telis, I assume?"

"Nah, she failed once and they might know her kinesics. I was thinking more along the lines of... you."


"Not if you do your job well."


Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
Re: Adventure Vignettes

Teodor Axentowicz, Mother at the grave of her son (Matka nad grobem syna)

"Mosaics of retained memory in the longlived became an expression of steadfast character and style..."
--George Zebrowski, Cave of Stars, 2001.

"And you really know nothing else about this mindfile snapshot?"

"Well...if I did, why would I hire you?"

A number of unflattering reasons immediately come to mind, whispered the first infomorph's muse.

"The version history suggests multiple deletions down to a gamma from an alpha fork, and the metadata derives from early psychosurgical standards."

"I admitted as much, didn't I?" said the second infomorph.

"You did. My insurers and my profession's ethical code both require me to ask certain things, to avoid--forgive me, no euphemism suffices--perversion of our service."

Never mind the dictates of common sense, the muse again warned.

"I found the snapshot in old, off-line archives. It dates back pre-Fall, but the Manchester decision required me to elide parallel memory-strings to avoid anti-trust violations. Therapeutic divergent forking in increasingly unrealistic scapes had no place in the legal codes in the jurisdictions I subscribed to then."

Already checking...mostly true, though anywhere sunward of the Main Belt that would have failed to hold at the dates in question. Good thing too. It must have been subjectively terrible for those sin-eating forks, instantiated only to suffer for another, increasingly lobotomized, and in ever-less realistic scapes.

"True. I can therefore provisionally accept your contract, subject to dissatisfaction and hazard exemptions, to locate your missing son or his mindfile within the jurisdiction of my--"

"What do you talk about?" interrupted the customer. "That's not what I want at all."


"I beg your pardon, ser. Have I misunderstood?"

"I'll say. The mourning mother isn't a fork in my version history. I was the buried son."

" you want us to find your mother?"

"No. I want you to find out if I was ever incarnate."

Sometimes the delete key serves best.

Extrasolar Angel Extrasolar Angel's picture
An authentic propaganda

An authentic propaganda poster smuggled from Jovian Republic, estimated at around 100 years old from Pan-American block. Current whereabout are unknown but the item is valued at tens of thousands of credits as it has an certificate of authenticity and was stolen by rogue AIG from Republic's Hall of Fame on Liberty

Sorry couldn't resist-sometimes we need a bit of humor.

Raise your hands to the sky and break the chains. With transhumanism we can smash the matriarchy together.

lets adapt lets adapt's picture
Just wanted to say I hope you

Just wanted to say I hope you guys keep this up as this is one of my favorite threads on the forums. :)

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Bunny by Anjimo

Bunny by Anjimo

The 155106 twins were something completely different. They came from the McGonigal circle - pre-Fall super-rich decadence protected from prying eyes within the quasi-feudal Kaguya habitat. While some say they were merely helpers in the debauchery - picked up from the Taketori Rehabilitation Program Center by McGonigal and employed at her pleasure - I think that is wrong. They were one of the products of the circle.

155106 were malleable, but not tame. Both had that slight uncertainty you would expect from someone new to the scene, but trying to hide it. Fresh meat. People love seeing it get tainted, used, warped, ground into the grist that give the scene its flavor. Over the span of a week you could see them transformed into dominants, submissives, slaves, perform TPE or even RDEV... not to mention the possibilities of morph torture. When forced, they would have an inner core of resistance that could be broken. When given free reign, they had a reticence that seemed so human - especially when it was lost and they went all out. Seeing somebody lose inhibitions completely, irrevocably is beautiful and terrifying.

They always returned.

Most people thought they were just restored from backups: some suitably innocent state their hidden owner re-started them from when they had become grist. But they remembered things from previous times; sometimes using it ruthlessly to turn the knife in somebody's weak spot when dominant.

I was maintaining the software integrity of the dungeon after an excessive scene - let's just say that when an AGI with a borderline illegal nanotech body gets creative, things get messy and you need to clean not just the floor but the mesh. But I will talk about Liebling later.

In any case, 155106 were standing around in ushiro takatekote, patiently waiting to be freed so they could slink back to wherever they slunk back to. I noticed a strange activity in the nodes around them: not quite a distributed computation, more like a cloud of smaller processes replicating from node to node. It was big: I guessed at least 400 PFLOPs, but it could well have had an even bigger backend. I got a bit curious and worried - this was a few weeks after the Isosurface worm - and checked more closely. 155106 were running their backups. But instead of sending them back through a VPN to some remote server they just... emanated... straight into the cloud. The cloud was chaotic: not so much something that stored their experience as fed on them, transmuting them into more cloud.

It was then I had a vision. Something non-human, something hungry. Something that dangled the twins as bait for experience to attach to and then licked it off. Why and how I had no clue. I decided not to investigate: whatever it was, it was dangerous.

I hear that 155106 has moved rimwards: perhaps the inner system got too dangerous, or they exhausted whatever nutrients were there. They left Parvati and may be in the Belt now. Or rather, something that was born in Kaguya decided to move and took its transhuman appendages with it.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
box_03 by Maxim_goudin

box_03 by Maxim_goudin

"Philip, you better start chewing your gum, because I do not plan to explain everything more than once."

"Autarch, is that... it?"

"AUTONOMY AFFIX. Yes. Solid state quantum computing module. Untraceable, but based on the Sceptre design. 512 yottaqubits of processing space. You can see the interface on the side, standard 19-12 with EIRA."

"It won't run by the mesh? It is completely mute?"

"Son, you don't want this thing to connect to *anything* by accident."

box_04 by Maxim_goudin

"Let me guess: it houses a q-AGI, perhaps even with some unrestricted seed capabilities."

"Ha! The trouble with you graduates from Issos is that you never think evil enough. You just stop at TITANs. Note the supcon block."

"QE comms? Each module linked to each other... wait, that does not make sense... Tell me, autarch, is this *the only one*?"

"You make me proud, exemplar. Yes, it is the only one. And the QE is indeed not communicating spatially but across time."

"Autarch, you asked me to think evilly. A temporal communicator would be an awesome strategic advantage. Yet you are clearly not rushing to deploy it, even within an opsec prime like this facility. So either it is not working properly yet - or more likely, its whole function is somehow inimical?"

"Nice to see that your brain has started now. Yes, AUTONOMY AFFIX is very bad news. When active it can send and receive quantum information from the future: there is no real difference between the two. The processor can perform Aaronson-Watrous PSPACE computation: more than enough to feed a TITAN. The real shocker is that one immediately arrives."

"What do you mean, autarch?"

"When you turn it on, a future superintelligence will exist on the other side and download itself into the box, bootstrapping its own existence in this time period. We do not know if it is just a local phenomenon - self-creating intelligence actually being a normal phenomenon in this universe - or whether there *will be* a very big and bad superintelligence at some point that will download itself into this kind of box."

"Excuse me, but how do you even *know* this? It seems impossible to figure out without having turned on the box at least once?"

"Xenoarcheological dig Schoen 12. We decoded the inscriptions."

"Ah. The aliens found out just how bad it was to connect the system to the mesh, right?"

"But they also figured out another property of AUTONOMY AFFIX: it is indestructible."

"Let me guess: if you destroy it after it has been turned on, the qubits inside will decohere and hence never allowed any time-communication. So if you know there was time-communication, consistency implies that it will never be destroyed. Events that would damage it would have zero probability... The box is a good-luck charm guaranteed by the laws of physics!"

"If it is on-board a spaceship, the ship cannot crash since it would disrupt the box. There are low-probability saves possible, but as long as there are ample phase space for survival the path integrals tend to go through the most likely regions."

"Wait a minute, this doesn't work. If I turn it on now, I have no way of actually knowing there is time-communication. It could be indestructible, or just a box with scrambled qubits."


"...but that interface! You connect it to something or *someone* to check that it links to the future. Once done, everything is in order. My soul, that is terrible!"

"To complete my crash course in evil thinking: neem."


"You are going on a vital mission. AUTONOMY AFFIX can make it likely to succeed, or at least ensure that the person it is implanted in will come back. But somebody needs to briefly open the box, stare into the abyss and make sure it stares back."


lets adapt lets adapt's picture


Fion Ravenwater Fion Ravenwater's picture
Wow. That is absolutely

Wow. That is absolutely amazing. A portable Teela Brown of a future-correspondent seed AI. *shiver*

Alkahest Alkahest's picture
It is delicious.

It is delicious.

President of PETE: People for the Ethical Treatment of Exhumans.

The Doctor The Doctor's picture
Arenamontanus wrote:I was

Arenamontanus wrote:
I was maintaining the software integrity of the dungeon after an excessive scene - let's just say that when an AGI with a borderline illegal nanotech body gets creative, things get messy and you need to clean not just the floor but the mesh.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Hangar by Howie

Hangar by Howie

The tidal forces were gently pulling the wreckage outwards, making the hangar floor a very risky place to stand. My safety software was constantly updating a shifting map of where canisters and beams would be floating past shortly - each moving at a slow walking pace, but unstoppable due to their mass. Navigating the shifting 4D labyrinth was not too hard, yet it felt like our risk-loving passenger deliberately stood there to drag me into danger. Or that it simply attracted danger like a magnet attracted iron filings, covering itself and everything nearby.

Besides the risk of being swept out into empty space there was also the radiation. This close to the sun it was a constant erosive rain of charged particles and surface-buckling heat. I knew my morph would be permanently damaged just by this little jaunt - I could feel nanochips frying and metamaterials humming with overloads. Adjusting senses to actually see and do anything in the ruined hangar was a nightmare. Fortunately JUer, being the space-rat she was, had downloaded a pretty smart AR system earlier to turn the sensor data into something manageable. To me the bay was merely lit by a dim afternoon light, shadows softened by the corona and inter-object re-radiation. That it was actually a blazing killing obstacle course lit by hell-fire could be ignored for the time being. Politeness required it.

Our passenger stood still, watching the sun or maybe the vanishing remnants of our aft section. It was quietly intent, as always. Physically it did not look too bizarre - I have friends back on Venus that look far less humanoid - but it was eerie. The exhuman mind housed in the shell tried to pass itself as human, but nearly everything it did fell screaming into a social uncanny valley. It had studied the copy of The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen with clinical detachment, then laughed once. It had tried to entertain us by recounting the history of postcards on Earth. And it simply did not get the idea of appropriate personal space, always standing too far or too close.

Der Neue Mann by Ros_Kovac

"Mind mechanisms? Consider me to be an uplift: a posthuman based on an extrapolation of transhuman cognitive architectures. Yes, your misgivings about uplifts as humans in animal-like bodies rather than animals given a human mind apply: extrapolation of minds cannot avoid taking a better reason-engine and skinning it, rather than merely enlarging something given."

It did it again. It had somehow read my mind, and gave an answer based on personal opinions I had never expressed in polite company. I refused to blurt out any 'but how do you do that?!'

"Sir, you asked me to come here to plan what we should do next."

"Since the saboteur is still active, communication that cannot be eavesdropped upon is advisable. I will need your help shortly. Also, there is a pleasing symmetry ahead to be savored."

"We stopped the second bomb, and JUer and Ferd are sweeping the system for any other payloads."

The exhuman continued watching the sun with its sensor disks. It seemed disinterested in the fact that we were on a trajectory that would likely skim the photosphere and melt us. Despite only one bomb going off, it had both wrecked our main propulsion and slowed us down. It was a reverse Oberth maneouver. Very precise. Almost as if somebody very smart had planned...

"No. The saboteur is acting against me. She is far less clever than she thinks."

It suddenly acted, lashing out with its arms and legs to grab me and the wide metal beam that had invisibly been creeping towards us. One moment ago it had been invisible in the AR, now it was a scythe trying to sweep us into the sun. The exhuman forced me against it, filling my sensorium with blazing reflected light. The AR was breaking up as Mesh buffers overflowed with combatware, forcing me to see the hangar through unfiltered sensors. We were drifting aftwards, towards the white-hot emptiness outside.

The network convulsed - links crashing, nodes rebooting, emergency messages warning of critical damage. I noticed that the hangar walls were moving: they were overtaking us. The beam was still drifting towards the sun, but now the ship around it was moving faster. After a second, the exhuman changed its grip, giving me some space to move. It seemed strangely sad.

"The saboteur problem has been dealt with. No, the delta-v of detonating the remaining bomb in the crew compartment will not change our course appreciably, but it did stop further interference."

"You killed them!"

The exhuman turned and looked at me, its head surrounded by halos that were equal part tears in my eyes, concussion and divine indifference.

"To kill them I sacrificed four of my children. One for each dead crew member."

Was it literal or metaphorical? I tried to comprehend, but I decided to file it away for further thinking once the current disaster had finished unfolding. If it ever did.

"So what do we do now? I take it that the ship is now in an even worse condition. Was it really worth it, to get rid of...?"

It gracefully extended an arm to grab a passing wall handhold, motioning me to do the same before the beam hit the fore wall. It began to crawl towards the airlock, throwing off bright reflections of sunlight.

"The ship will disintegrate in a few hours, which will remove evidence in a convincing way. We have ample time to do what we need. You will re-route the remaining power to the alignment gyros and the primary rail-gun point defense; I will prepare the projectile and necessary sensor fusion software."

For a moment I just drifted mentally, filled with bizarre image of a posthuman Ahab railgun-stabbing from the literal heart of Hell towards whoever or whatever it was fighting against. Then it clicked in my head, I saw the plan and laughed once. So simple even Baron Münchhausen could have done it.


DamionW DamionW's picture
Arenamontanus, once again

Arenamontanus, once again commendations on your prose; it's very, very engaging. This may have been asked by someone else, but I was wondering if you've developed any full-blown adventures, with NPCs, plot hooks, game mechanics, etc? I'm running my group through "Think Before Asking," by Anders Sandberg. Seeing what you do with the artwork you find, I think I'd really enjoy playing through some of these as actual adventures, but being a new GM, I'm not comfortable enough to take the vignettes and flesh them out. Any advice or ideas?

lets adapt lets adapt's picture
I believe Arenamontanus is

I believe Arenamontanus is Sandberg, yes?

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
lets adapt wrote:I believe

lets adapt wrote:
I believe Arenamontanus is Sandberg, yes?

Yup. I use a latinization of my Swedish name to show how pretentious I am. :-)

I have a few adventures written up on, and several that I ought to finish. I Promise to do it when I get a lull in my workload, or just decide to slack off properly.

As for vignette advice: writing a super-cool vignette is much easier than fleshing out a real adventure. A vignette is like a part of a trailer, showing a very interesting scene. It doesn't have to solve the problems of how to get the PCs involved, what clues to leave, how things will play out in the end. It will be just inspirational. You can use a vignette as a scene in a bigger adventure.

However, taking a few vignettes or even elements of them you can try linking them together into an adventure. Just to demonstrate, let's try the last three vignettes: the 155106 twins and their cloud, the ultimate and their time-communication "good luck charm", and the escapades on the sun-approaching ship. What can we do with this? One approach would be to have the PCs be part of a team hunting down the twins, with AUTONOMY AFFIX as a secret ace in the hole lent to them by Firewall or the Ultimates. As they pursue them they run into surprising opposition and sabotage, leading to the ship scene (the eventual climax where they have to track down the twins and the cloud in the heart of Nine Lives on Legba remains to be written). Or maybe the poor ultimate sent to check on the box gets turned into the exhuman we saw on the ship: the future superintelligence has turned them into its agent in the present, a kind of even exchange for the box becoming indestructible. Or we could turn around the sides: there are certain exhuman and mercurial entities that have gotten wind of AUTONOMY AFFIX and are now waging a secret intelligence war against the Ultimates to prevent them from ever turning on the device. The PCs get trapped in the middle, perhaps because they are gatecrashers who were at the dig on Schoen or because the exhumans found a way of blackmailing them into acting as their transhuman representatives.


DamionW DamionW's picture
Ah, well I just demonstrated

Ah, well I just demonstrated my naivete to the forum here. I haven't been around long enough to have seen the thread were you introduced yourself. Thanks for your work to provide the resources you have so far. I appreciate the altruism. So far, the "Think Before Asking" adventure is going well and my players seem to be enjoying it. While I have your attention, would it be possible to PM you and get some ideas on running that plotline? Hearing from the horse's mouth so to speak would be invaluable. Again, keep up the great work. It's heightening my enjoyment of the setting.

Decimator Decimator's picture
DamionW wrote:While I have

DamionW wrote:
While I have your attention, would it be possible to PM you and get some ideas on running that plotline? Hearing from the horse's mouth so to speak would be invaluable. Again, keep up the great work. It's heightening my enjoyment of the setting.

Don't hide that in PMs! The rest of us can benefit as well.

DamionW DamionW's picture
Just didn't want to hijack

Just didn't want to hijack this excellent vignette threat with an off-topic discussion. We can move to a new thread just to discuss the particular adventure, if Arenamontanus is up for it.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
I made a thread for the

I made a thread for the adventure/campaign idea:


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
modo replicator suit by

modo replicator suit by Maciej

He was sleeved in a handsome and dangerous-looking custom Steel when he asked me out. How could I refuse? My parents weren't thrilled, which added to the retro narrative - going dancing with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks checked so many tropes on my list that my score shot past the level ceiling.

Of course, there was absolutely nothing to be worried about. In many ways I was from the wrong side: despite my yakshini morph (thanks for that, parent units - what were you thinking?! a career in exotic dancing?) we were merely living in the CST shaft. Fashion drones don't get paid that well. Matt on the other hand had connections - getting custom Steels took some doing, and I knew he was tight with the Austenites. Yeah, I get metallurgy jokes thanks to our relation. It is surprisingly educational, in more ways than one.

"So, what are you up to?"

"This and that." He raised a hexagon in a wink-analogue, neatly reflecting my eye back at me. Ohh, I get shivers with that kind of microexpression hacking. Not that I ever spend hours tweaking my own in front of my aranmula. I demonstrated my own skill with a brief eyeflick to quiz the infosec situation.

"Nah, parental oversight is nulled."

"So... anything exciting happening?"

"Mostly quiet. Too quiet, if you know what I mean."

Another thing about Matt that I love is that he totally gets retro referencing games. And it is not just because his muse Tantrum has a nifty association engine (it is pretty smooth as a muse too - totally compatible with mine, if you know what I mean), but because he has run through a sizeable fraction of the pastmedia himself as part of his projects. When oldtimers say kids grow up fast today they often forget that we spend so much time accelerated. And Matt was faster than most.

Chess Set by Mr--Jack

After the dance, sex and socializing I got a chance to really quiz Matt about what was going on. We were down in Chess Cave, watching a few of his teammates battling it out. Chess boxing has nothing on our game: the cave was even pressurized with an oxygen-neon mix that made the lift thrusters glow dramatically and transmitted the hits as chest-thumping infrasound. Black had just achieved a variant of Alekhine's gun and the carnage below was immense: we had switched to VPN.

"You know the Ginnungagap crew?"

"The ones sabotaging the hispline? I thought you said you don't hang out with losers with no ambitions."

"Yep. They accidentally tunneled into a secret cave a while ago."

"Smugglers or monsters?"

"A bank."


Matt gave me a few scenes. "Seems Banque de Nectaris had a secret server installation. Off-side, off-the-books backups. They cared a lot about it too: we will not hear anything from Ginnungagap anymore."

I looked at his half-reflective face. He was serious. I did a few deductions - yakshinis might look dumb, but they have a bit of processing space. Matt had the scenes but wasn't on the run: he must have snagged them from Ginnungagap very discreetly - he clearly had tabs on some of the more extreme groups. He had shown them to me: either he was very foolish - something I hoped and feared wasn't *entirely* impossible - or he trusted and wanted me in. Whatever that "in" was, it would be life changing.

Choice: do you get involved with the handsome activist and quite possibly end up running from hypercorps in a (possibly very short) life of danger, adventure and intrigue, or do you recognize that this is a typical romantic teenage fantasy trope dating back at least to the 19th century that will jeopardize your future as a cog in the fashion-industrial complex? Meta-choice: do you consider this carefully in the light of all available evidence and taking care to reduce your cognitive biases - quite possibly ending up doing a Kotov move - or do you decide now?

The din of checkmate resounded from below. I decided and hoped Caïssa was with me.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Dayward Inc. Hallway by

Dayward Inc. Hallway by Disting

We caught up with CEO Maciejowski in one of the hallways. Like the rest of the habitat section it was clean and empty - the workforce of Dayward had been in-sourced into the Mesh since the Fall. The offices remained as a status marker: typical LLA traditionalism.

"Mr Maciejowski, we would like to talk to you about AVBI."

"Audi? Sorry, I don't get the reference... Dr Mason, isn't it?"

"Don't try it. We know everything - we have Allen, and he told us about the link between Attenborough Habitat, the AOS mining project the Argonauts run for you, and why you have been scouring the infomorph markets for people with a certain personality profile. It was easy following the money."

"Do you really know everything, or do you just *think* you know everything? Can you explain why we are doing it?"

Dr Mason paused, rubbing his specs with a tasteful handkerchief. The other man had a point.

"We know you have been culturing a gardensphere on Attenborough, ostensibly to help recolonize Earth someday. In reality you have been using neo-Synergist bioware to link up nervous systems, and we think you have been experimenting with boosting intercellular RNA messaging - that was why you hired Allen in the first place. You drop people into it to act as worshippers: locally cultivated designer morphs with some pretty screwy neural polymorphisms, and drug glands under centralized control. Presumably you use the AOS memes to structure their worship."


"You get them to worship some kind of nature deity called Baphomet."

The CEO looked unperturbed.

"You are obviously looking merely at the surface. You have not answered my question: why are we doing it?"

"We think you are trying to breed a biological Seed AGI."

DOWN TO EARTH- star player by Nando_Adiletta

"No!" Maciejowski was annoyed. "First, that is not a proper answer to the 'why' question, Dr Mason. Second, what we are trying is something *far* *more* *ambitious*. You agency people are all obsessed with Seed AGI, weapons of mass destruction, singularity seekers and other external threats. You are total materialists, reducing everything to economics and memetics. There is no 'why' in your thinking, just acceptable or unacceptable probability pathways. Why people do things doesn't matter to you, the only thing is whether to stop or support them."

"So please tell me why you are doing it?"

"We are trying to invoke a god to fight for the Reclaimer cause. And no, Dr Mason, I am not using the word 'god' to merely denote a superhuman entity. No preternatural superintelligence like the TITANs. I mean something that is literally supernatural."

"I can accept some strange religious notions. And there are plenty of post-Fall ghostdances and prayers for saviours."

Maciejowski made a dismissive gesture. "Yes. And you would prefer to think that this is yet another case, with some exotic high-budget biotechnology as a garnish. It makes it neat, doesn't it? Just a matter of millennialist memes triggering a revitalization movement. Anthropologize all you want, doctor."

"You said we do not care about 'why'. That might be true. But we do care about real-world effects. What do you actually will happen out there?"

"AVBI is about creating a permanent manifestation of Baphomet, sustaining it in the habitat and linking it to our infrastructure. In a way it is like a Seed AGI, but we are aiming at a Godseed: a small avatar that has the potential to grow to any size, in the right environment. Not controllable in any particular way, mind you. We are talking about a *god*. But it is Pangenitor Panphage, the god of all life. Something utterly inimical to the TITANs and their dead world."

"So you plan to drop the godseed on Earth?"

"Something like that. If it works, a literal miracle will happen and change the solar system. Otherwise you grey analysts will just nod and fill in your incident evaluations."

Dr Mason was lost for words. I took a step forward and spoke up for the first time: "Mr Maciejowski, is your Baphomet the god of all life or just of Earth life?"

"Heh. We have only used terragen DNA, give or take some biotech controls. And in a sense what we have right now might just be the Baphomet of the gardensphere. But Life is larger than that. I suspect that Baphomet is just as much the god of Europa and Ascension as of Earth. Our Baphomet is a portal to something vast and universal."

"In that case, we have an offer for you." Dr Mason jerked around, clearly off-balance. I showed him my real AR badge over the VPN before he could say something. "Wouldn't you want to test Baphomet in a real biosphere first? I know the word 'test' might not be the right one where gods and faith are involved, but I assume you would wish to strengthen the godseed as much as possible before the battle. We can offer you access to exoplanet biospheres."


Dr Mason was quietly fuming as we left Daywards. I kept quiet. We would probably not speak to each other in a long time, which suited me fine. Most likely he would pull strings to get rid of me - fat chance. Just as we stepped outside my Muse forwarded a VPN link from Maciejowski.

"Did he buy it?"

"Hook, line and sinker. AVBI is safe for now."

"'Who worshippeth me must worship me with many rites.' "

"Amen. Carry on the Great Work, you old fraud."


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Helios Respirator by

Helios Respirator by kylebrowndesign

"What about these?" MM asked, waving the respirators at me.

"Helios. Infamously shoddy. The whole natural chlorophyll thing was to entice the nanoecologists - 'no nanonasties'. The tabs likely denaturated by now anyways - look, all black."

MM continued rooting around in the stash. We had found it during a recon in Lowell, far away from everything. Apparently the surveyors from WideWay Corp. had planned to use it for resupply, but never came back. It had been left untouched in its cave since before the Fall, and I was eagerly sifting through the files to see if it had any saleable goodies. So far, nil. Except a sizeable chunk of prospectus files for the Olympus Stairway Project.

Space Elevator by dustycrosley

"That one is just tacky."

"Ja. Wrong on so many levels. Will be no trees on top of Olympus even when fully terraformed."

The picture grated at me somehow, beside the excessive pinkness and trees. While I continued my search my sideself mulled it over. MM found some slightly obsolete nuclear batteries we could probably flog, and a pretty decent sandlifter kit.

"What kind of corp was WideWay anyway? Prospecting and terraforming logistics?"

"More or less."

"In that case, why am I finding these ampoules with high-energy nanopaste?" MM held up a few from a box, neatly AR marked Silicon Catalyst 4 and with a long product specification suggesting some use in mining.

"Just for digging, I assume."

"My sampler says the content hash fits the MaxManusMine A06 sabotage nanite."

I stopped, and an uncomfortable clarity spread from my sideself. I started a statistics scanner on the OSP package. The scanner reported that there was definitely steganographic patterns in the prospectus. Once they would have been untraceable state of the art, but now they were at least detectable. Another association: respirators would have been fairly oxygen-inefficient on Mars back then, but with the right filter they might keep nasties out pretty well. Especially if a black ops team had replaced the chlorophyll tabs with real nanofilters.

"MM, I think there is nothing here, and we should leave."

MM looked at me quizzically, began a retort and then focused on something behind me. I vaulted away - whatever it was, it was smart enough to be context aware.

Black Phoenix Project: Mobile Radar Station MRS-1 by Bulgarov

The container had lain near the entrance under a pile of MREs, looking just like any cargo pallet. Now its phased array head swept the room with terahertz scans, aiming microwave bursts at anything that moved. It looked like a mobile radar station, but it had the intentionality of a warbot. And heaven knew how much power it had left.

There was a sand-on-metal noise from deeper in the cave.


Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Big Five Part 5 by

Big Five Part 5 by CrazyAsian1

"Going in."

"I'll cover you."

The forest was silent of animal noises except for the rustling of leaves as small monkeys explored their arboreal homes for a bit more shelter from the rain. No birds in this biome, for some reason. Our stealth systems were for once behaving exactly as advertised despite the rain - not just chameleonware but active sound cancellation and a really nifty stealth reflex suite I wished I could keep in my basal ganglia library. Even our comms were low-key.

"I see it." Baekho sent images of the camp. No motion, but a number of heat and mesh sources. I sent Turtle Beak to scramble or spoof any surveillance specks around it.

Sudden motion, Baekho springing into action, a brief shudder of fur and a splash of mud. "Oops. Capybara." I fought the urge to joke about him catching mice - the sound and motion could have alerted someone. I went to Clarity 2 and any mirth evaporated like cooling alcohol.

Where were they? Baekho was almost inside the camp now, and still no reaction. A drift of mist forced me to change vantage point.

5 Gum game concept art by Lush

The domes were big, but hastily fabbed: an afternoon's work, especially if you had some tools to turn biomass into building material. They had planned to work here undisturbed for at least a week or two, confident that nobody would bother them. A disposable, out-of-the-way lab. I wondered idly why each dome had been marked with the number 5 - a unit code, or just running the same constructor script with no changes?

"Elsa, I see them." Baekho transmitted images seen through a muddy window. A dormitory with rows of corpses in the bunk beds. No, that was making childhood assumptions. Rows of bodies in beds. I uploaded an Eulerian video magnification script to Baekho's cyberbrain: now breathing became visible. Subtle color changes on exposed flesh revealed a slow but steady pulse. But most of them were wrapped in layers of fibers. I dismissed another childhood memory (it grew out of her eyes!) and calmly assessed the life support system. Again, something grown quickly but with a high degree of redundancy, probably Osiris or TransLife.

Baekho circled the building, checking the surveillance infrastructure. It was appalling. Almost as if they had no idea they were trespassing or that very dangerous people were looking for them. The main scanners were all looking for airborne transcripts and visible light.

"Interesting" Baekho sent. A chemical tank in the middle of the camp, plugged into the sub-jungle infrastructure. It bore the hexagram Hsü/Waiting - the fifth hexagram. He recited: "Water over heaven. All beings have need of nourishment from above. But the gift of food comes in its own time, and for this one must wait...

WAITING. If you are sincere,
You have light and success.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water."

"Waiting in simspace? For whatever the nanomachines are doing will hatch?"

"No. They are *in* the water. The life support interfaces all run into the tank. Six in the fourth place!"

It would take me precious seconds to decode the last sentence, but the instant upshift in the tiger's neural speed before the tacnet cut out told me everything I needed. The wait was over.


Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
Big Five Part 5

Two neat quotes:

1) "I went to Clarity 2 and any mirth evaporated like cooling alcohol."

Ah! now that's something I should review in the rules: the therapeutic effects of narcoalgorithms.

2) "I uploaded an Eulerian video magnification script to Baekho's cyberbrain"

For other readers who don't know, this real-world technique works as described above. Search for videos of it to appreciate it.

Sometimes the delete key serves best.