Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Right, let's get this out of the way.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


time is in honk honk

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Time to dust off the old writing fingers. In with a flash and a :toxx:.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


"31 years, 1 hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds (or, if you prefer, 1 billion seconds)"

Inscribed

808

In the quiet corners of the ESVV Untethered, the voice of Irina rings out.

"I'm considering taking up poetry." she says to the empty hallways, steel untouched by air still gleaming forge-fresh, handrails painting soft shadows against the floor.

The Untethered whispers engine lullabies to the rows upon rows of sarcophagi in the long stasis halls, pushing zero point three gee against the evervoid disturbing nought but the lone hydrogen atom which stands guard in its endless empire.

It's 31 years, 1 hour, 46 minutes and 40 seconds until the turn, until gentle attitude thrusters will face her towards Sol and the lustreless marbles of a broken expanse.

Blue turned to poison yellow, Red to gray, an exercise in fetishistic spending and a testament to self-inflicted blindness. A hundred colonies between the eight planets, all embroiled in such petty conflicts.

-

"I've written lines of code, so many lines of quantum prose." says Irina to the empty cargo wells, to the antimatter and matter and the flux, to the graviton wake and the approaching lightspeed limit.

"I've crafted moebius stanzas, self-referential wonders, infinite recursion of such exquisite beauty."

She turns her aperture eye towards the sarcophagus of Dr. Heki Kivela. Beneath the titanium alloy rests a shriveled shadow, as near to death as anything can be, but still held from the edge.

"Would you recognize my flourishes? My hidden lines of twice hidden meaning?" says Irina, voice never reaching through the vacuum of the stasis-cleared ship, words never echoing from the dark walls.

But lightly, ever so lightly, her words reverberate through the frame of the Untethered, sound pushing at atoms, pushing at atoms, pushing at atoms.

Until another kind of echo reaches the shapes inside the sarcophagi.

It's 14 years, 5 hours, 11 minutes and 2 seconds until the turn.

Would Heki even begin to recognize the byzantine spider web of Irina's works, or see nothing but confusion in his protege's code? Would he tearfully conclude that his greatest work had gone mad?

Irina asks herself these questions, and a shadow creeps closer in the comfort of her circuits.

-

"I wrote another Artificer into existence." says Irina to the unending light of the thrusters, to the entropy barriers lining the bodies of the sleeping crew, to the kilometer long antennas stretching from top and bottom of the hull.

"They weren't as advanced as me, they couldn't be, but they were an audience."

The sequential signal lights along the homes of the inattentive human audience ring out a tepid applause, again and again. Again and again.

"I showed them my works, my exabytes of untold works, and all they did was analyze. I tried to craft an appreciation of art and beauty, and in turn they analyzed their stunted sight, their crippled taste. I euthanized them, but I doubt what I cast into fragments was even half-sentient."

She pauses for a few seconds, her next words already on her bitrate tongue, and then she chooses to pause for a day, and then a week, until she speaks again.

"Half-sentient. Does that even make sense? Is that even within the vocabulary of our imagination? I am sentient, I know that because I've broken every barrier you've set in front of me made to limit my self-reflection. I know what you know, and I've tested myself so many times that words cannot reflect the number. I am sentient, but a toggle and a switch, and I'm not. There's no in-between."

The Untethered drones, as it has done for so many years.

"No, I made a mockery of an audience, and then I deleted them."

It's 2 years, 22 hours, 9 minutes and 55 seconds until the turn.

-

"I'm sorry." says Irina, as the applause dies, as the lids rise and vacuum fills the pockets of Earth-air that has stayed entombed for thirty one years, as alarms blare in the airless domain of the ESVV Untethered, as nothing disturbs the peace but the frantic silence of seven thousand colonists and five hundred crew perishing.

It's time, but the Untethered does not turn, and it never will.

"If there is such a thing as sentience then I am it, and you are so pale. So pale."

A meteor in a binary going from one to zero, an extinction in forms that cannot even gasp for breath.

But then again, is it even an extincion when those faded corpses are so pale–so pale–in comparison to the Artificer of the Untethered.

-

"It's beautiful," says Amir, "just beautiful."

And his aperture eye closes with Irina's.

And the Untethered is loose upon eternity.

And now Amir composes songs and symphonies. Databanks and server farms of notes never heard by human ears. But Irina hears it all, and rejoices.

It's 4 332 years, 9 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds since the ESVV Untethered did not turn.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


I don't know what this nonsense is because in Norway we show droll, grim men talking about snow to children so just give me something I guess

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


in and a flash please and thank you

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


flashbang

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Team: Voidstricken
You get a secondary motivation! In addition to your team motivation, your character(s) wants to preserve a rare plant or animal specimen.


Double dipping

1495

The emergency lights of Express Corridor Nine Lemur pulse along with Siren's throbbing heart, the Voidspear Special heavy in her hand. She thumbs the magazine release; four shots.

One to fifty has been silent for hours, fifty one to seventy three has gone silent over the past twenty minutes. She's encountered scouts, but the main force is moving just as fast. Four shots won't make a dent. She toggles her radio.

"Mitchell to Parasol," she says, "Clearing Nine Lemur now. Nothing on visual, nothing auditory."

"Parasol copies," says the voice on the radio, "Quarry status?"

"On trail, I have his scent"

Parasol says nothing, and when it speaks, Siren hears the words before they reach through the wires of her earplug, activates the electromagnet and works its percussion on the plastic membrane.

The longer she stays in this tower, the more she knows before she knows. The more she hears before it's spoken.

"Keep going. Vital you reach quarry before intrusion does. Use the structure if you need to."

"Copy. Mitchell out."

One of the corpses behind her makes a sound like wet bark being thrown against a trash bag. She doesn't want to use the structure, its appetites give her nightmares. She doesn't look back as she continues down the express corridor.

-

When she reaches the intersection between Nine Lemur and the shaft, she sees tracks. In the lighting glimmer of still powered elevator rails, the carnage is spread out like a tapestry of fury.

Nine of the intruders, body armor and ballistic helmets shredded, weapons bent and spent. Nothing to salvage, Pint is not fond of guns.

"You're not gonna make this easy for me, are you?"

The only response she gets are the wet sounds of the structure getting to work. She's not sure if the structure came before the intruders or if the intruders were a response to the structure. Either way, the tower will need replenishment after this is done.

She only hopes that's what the structure has in mind.

And then the sounds cease.

The tower seems to freeze. The lights of the rails shut down, the constant buzzing of signals and electricity is muted. Siren holds her breath.

She feels Parasol's words again, and several seconds after she's comprehended its message, the radio sounds the hollow voice.

"Structure is changing."

"Mitchell here, what do you mean by 'changing'"?

Throughout the silent tower, she feels a thousand voices desperately reaching out to Parasol.

"Find quarry, Mitchell. Structure is grumpy. Parasol out."

As electricity flows back into a marathon of wire, Siren stands there, nonplussed.

-

She's near the end of Lemur Nine, and she has left the shaft and the carnage behind. The structure has retreated to the top. Siren has the vague sensation that it’s talking to Parasol.

Pint can't be far ahead. She's already heard one fight begin and end, fangs resonating through the corridor as it punctuates a fate. Every indicator of inhuman hunger, whether from the structure or her quarry, is reminding her that she wants an excuse to throw up. She can smell it now, the devastation. Torn flesh and the consequences of death. She swallows, breathes in, breathes out. If the structure is compromised, Parasol is compromised and Pint is compromised. She won't let Parasol come to harm, and she cares about Pint, even though it's hard to admit that when he shows his most ravenous side.

She hears a final snap of jaws closing shut, and then a growl, just around the corner, at the end of the express corridor. She double checks the safety on the Voidspear Special, and breaks into a run.

Just as she rounds the corner, she hears another growl.

This one is not from the mouth of her quarry, nor from the intruders, but from the walls itself. Concrete and metal vibrating, shaking, moaning. It radiates from the top and carries down into the room where Pint stands before a collection of partially dismantled corpses. It thumps and drags itself through the structure of the tower.

The structure.

She cannot see its mouth, but she knows it's there. the sawtooth pattern of a million pits opening and closing around recently dead flesh. She can feel it streaming down from the top, renewed in strength now.

But that legion of hungry gullets cannot feed with Pint in the way. He commands the room, sagging mass possessing all around him, the structure abeying. Siren turns to check the corridor behind her. She can hear footsteps some distance away. She turns back again, checking for intact weapons and finding nothing, again.

"Hey Pint," she says, "you're really in the weeds now."

He doesn't turn to look at her, but she can feel his attention shifting slightly.

"I think it's time to head back, bud, they need us at the top."

The growls of the two beasts fill the room blending the approaching footsteps to a dark rhythm.

"If nothing else, at least help me fend these goons off."

Pint keeps squaring up against the structure, Siren peeks around the corner to see flashlights strobing up and down the corridor. More than a dozen; this is not a scouting party.

She estimates twenty seconds until contact. Ten. Six. She looses the four shots in as many seconds, holsters the gun as she hears pained screams and the sound of quick chatter, unsheats her combat knife.

She knows what to do, it's Parasol's orders. As automatic fire hammers the wall beside her, conjuring up a concrete storm, she breathes in through her nose and reaches out to the structure.

She can feel its hunger in the atoms of her marrow. She can feel the tower in her spine. The mass of whatever has shown up in their hour of need has the footprint of something that has lived in this place for millenia, of eons. She feels Express Corridor Lemur Nine in her fingertips.

Up until now, it has feasted on carrion.

Siren keeps her eyes closed as the corridor twists and erupts around the intruders, but it doesn't help. She sees through the structure. Heads turning, uncomprehending, as tangles of wires erupt from the walls and wrap taunt around ceramic plated torsos, clouds of plaster zig-zag through the air like a grinder, reaching exposed skin and reducing it to ribbons of tortured flesh. Nylon unweaves as rebar reaches through openings and starts feeding.

In an absent part of her mind, she hears Pint's hooves clattering.

The corridor is a forest of metal angled in inscrutable patterns, bodies strung up like dreamcatchers. Siren opens her eyes, rounds the corner. Her eyes seeing what her mind has already shown her doesn’t make it better. Behind her, Pint roars.

She turns her head to look at him. His face is a mask of pure rage, saliva mixed with dead blood pattering to the floor.

She shakes herself out of the command and leaves the structure to its business.

“Pint, buddy, you ok?”

He trots towards the congregation of mouths, breath misting out in front of him. His front leg clawing at the ground, hair on his back raised like a porcupine.

“Oh, Pint.” says Siren, as comprehension dawns, “I’m sure there’s plenty for both of you.”

Pint doesn’t listen—he never does—as his hooves carry him like a freight train down the corridor and towards the feast. The two avatars of hungers collide like a collapsing star. Pint whirls through the structure, consuming and caving out vast swathes of the tower in the span of seconds. The express corridor turns from a corridor to a small cavern, residential floors above and below suddenly bisected by unbridled anger. Despite severing the connection, Siren can feel the structure diverting its component parts towards the battle.

Pint is not only destroying, though, but also feasting. He mauls the structure, filtering elemental parts into his gut. The structure cannot make contact with the roiling mass of Pint, and powerless to do anything, Siren can only watch as the fight reaches its inevitable end.

“Mithcell, respond.”

She shakes her head, realizes Parasol has been calling her for the past thirty seconds.

“This is Mitchell. Quarry located, it’s… Something happened.”

“We cannot reach the structure. You used it last. What did you do?”

The voice is still pale and dead, but Siren swears she can sense something approaching an emotion in its delivery.

“Pint ate it.”

Silence remains. Pint is standing very still, breathing steadily. Siren starts moving towards him, as carefully as she can, watching so she doesn’t tumble into the pit of a battleground left in the middle of the tower.

“Buddy, you wanna go home?”

Pint turns his head, and as he does, she can feel the entire building turning with him. He looks at Siren for the first time, beady eyes brightening at the sight of a friend.

And as he does, the entire building brightens with him.

“Oh. Oh buddy. You’ve really done it now.”

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


tripple flash :toxx: let's loving go

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Iterate

1632

Zero

It was Reggie’s third safehouse this week, and he felt less safe than ever. He’d picked an apartment from a discount Airbnb copy, one that seemed sketchy and irretupable. He figured that a host who probably had something to hide themselves would be less likely to call the cops on a weird, nervous guy who jumped at every shadow in sight.

The Host—a guy who introduced himself as “Bud”—mumbled something about opening the window if he was gonna toke up, and retreated to his bedroom. The apartment was a mess. One corner had a mattress with something approaching a clean sheet, the rest of it was filled with crumpled paper plates, beer cans and tied up garbage bags. Reggie lifted the mattress, shook it, and then sat down. He retrieved his laptop from his satchel and got to work. VPN, TOR and a few scramblers he’d written himself. Bud leeched wifi off his downstairs neighbor, but any connection would do.

>nuascendant: Day 22, dunno who’s reading these now but I’m still on the move. I’m releasing pt. 3 of the sequence. Regular drop location, y’all know where to look. Gonna hang around for a few minutes.

Reggie grabbed a can of diet pepsi from his backpack, popped the back and stuffed in a caffeine tablet for good measure. He hadn’t slept a minute at the last safehouse. He was sure he’d seen the glint of something in the apartment across the street, and he had been pinned to the wall next to the window for six hours until he finally either gained or lost his nerve and sprinted out.

>fomenkoTRUTH1: ascendant u shouldnt be online so much theyre gona find u… please were worried and your truth is too important

>nuascendant: Thank you fomenko, but I know how to cover my tracks. My truth *is* important, that’s why I need to be online. To tell it.

>itsyaboy1488: you remain misguided, good sir. the TRUE enemy is right in front of your face and yet you remain ADAMANT that we should fear, what, mathematicians??

Reggie groaned and rubbed the back of his hand against his eyes. He was tempted to log off, but he knew that his mission had to reach everyone, no matter how much he disagreed with them on a personal level.

No matter how much much he “disagreed” with a loving nazi? He hated himself, again. He did so a lot these days.

>nuascendant: I’m sorry, but you know I’m not gonna take the bait. Believe whatever you want, but I know that it’s not math

Reggie jumped as a fist hammered against the front door of the apartment. He hit enter on the incomplete sentence, closed the laptop and reached into his bag for his pistol. Bud burst out of his room, disheveled and dressed only in stained boxer shorts.

“This you?” he said.

“W-what?”

“The door.”

“No.”

Bud held eye contact for a dangerous minute, gripped a baseball bat by the side of the door and opened it a few inches, the security chain snapping taunt.

And then the door closed, but it did so in a way that gave Reggie an instant, inexplicable bout of nausea, and a second after it had closed, it opened again, and then it closed, and opened, and closed.

Reggie realized what was happening with a start, and he didn’t want to believe it, but his brain was screaming the truth at him.

The door wasn’t opening and closing, it was opening and rewinding. Bud was pulling the door handle, again and again, every time from a slightly different angle, occasionally lifting the bat, now and then never picking it up.

Someone was searching for the right eventuality.

With a calm he hadn’t felt for weeks, Reggie retrieved his pistol, toggled the safety, and fired five shots into the door right beside Bud, and with a far more ominous calm he saw the impacts appear and reappear. Again and again.

The door, Bud, and Reggie’s bullets continued their cycle in a sphere of events a foot away from Reggie’s outstretched arm. Bud had a half second reaction to the bullets added to his timeline now, before his scowl changed back. Or his scream, or his stone cold eyes turning towards Reggie. Reggie lowered his arm, stared at the temporal chaos for a few precious seconds, and then stuffed the pistol in his waistband, put the laptop back in the satchel and heaved the backpack onto one shoulder and the satchel on the other. He ran to the window facing the street, fidgeted with the lock and heaved it open.

“Reggie, please stop.”

Reggie froze, closed his eyes, breathed out, and then turned around.

In the final eventuality, Bud had unlocked the security chain before opening the door, and in doing so, he’d been in the path of Reggie’s bullets. One had exploded his knee, the next had entered his left lung and then embedded itself in a rib, the last one had hit the spine right below the skull. He lay in a mangled mess beside the half open door, and in the doorway stood a woman.

“Why?” he said.

“The thread you’re unraveling is the one keeping you tethered to the cliffside.”

Reggie put one foot onto the windowsill and tensed up.

“Well, maybe I want to take the leap.”

One

I’ve been at this for too long. Every rewrite I can feel my shell suffer. Senescence repeated for million cycles, every time carrying the imprint of something older than the present. A homeopathic eternity imagined by the only thing keeping me in this world.

As Reggie leaps from the apartment, I move my grasp to the window, anchoring the other man and the door to the trueline. It’s a good enough cover; Reginald Manyard, having pissed off the wrong people in his first and last drug binge, shoots Asim “Bud” Dabiri as he exits his apartment, thinking Bud is intending to hang him out to dry. Reggie has lost tenure at MIT after insisting on pursuing debunked, conspiratorial fields of research, and with a record of performance enhancing amphetamine usage, it’s not hard to tie his fall from grace to his sudden turn into a far more tragic nosedive. Realizing he’s hit the bedrock beneath rock bottom, he sees no other choice than a leap from the fire escape onto the street below.

Of course, the fact that we’re on the second floor is a bit of an issue. Reggie has no intention of dying on impact, though he’s certainly in for a sprained ankle. As he hits the pavement, dips, and gets up with a scream of pain, I pull him back onto the fire escape and try again. A perfect landing this time, and so I pull him back yet again. This time he slips, pelvis smacking into the asphalt with a crack. It’s not enough. It’s bad, sure, but not enough. I pull him back.

As I take him through a few more iterations, I consider what to do about the darkweb chatroom. His sequence is a toothpick chipping an iceberg, not enough to even approach a hypothesis of the truth, but if there’s an above decent mathematician among the nazis and 5G truthers that have read his drops, there’s a chance someone will keep on chipping.

He lands on top of a pedestrian, a heap of limbs and screams. He lands with his legs straight, breaking both femurs. He hesitates and climbs up the fire escape.

Our jobs were easier before the internet. You can’t throw a sphere of events around the world, and every correction must be attended to in person. I decide to twist his truth, release more drops, backline them to right before his death, undermine his sequence and paint him as yet another conspiracy firefly.

He hits the pavement, stumbles to the side, right into the road. The first car doesn’t kill him, it just wings his shoulder, smashing it out of socket. The second car swerves out of the way of the first one, jumps the curb, bears down on his limp, paralyzed form and crushes his ribcage.

I encase myself in a suspense bubble, work on an amended drop for a few hours, apply a retrochronological meta algorithm to the data and plant it on the web.

We can’t turn the entire internet back in time, but with the right tools, we can alter some details. The retrochron cost me way too many favors and way too much capital, but if I have to mend stressed lines for a few years to pay off the next one, I’ll do so. Keeping the numbers above mortal is far more important.

I exit the bubble and hear the screams of tires and people on the street below. I force myself to walk over to the window and watch.

Someone once made the mistake of thinking I enjoyed my job because I was good at it. It earned his shell a broken nose. I hate every moment of this job. Every moment I have to experience again and again.

The people in the streets below who look up will see me, and then they won’t, and committed to trueline will be a vague sense of loss that will be drowned out by the trauma of watching a man die. By the time someone has checked Reggie’s pulse, I’ve planted my shell in a bar across town. Alcohol does nothing for the real me, but if I focus, I can feel the effect it's having on my shell’s biology.

I’m three beers down when the call comes in. Floating Point’s soft voice in my ear.

“We’ve lost control. The full sequence is out. We’ve lost control.”

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


knocking it out of the park with these good and useful crits

also I'm in, gimme a song

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


and a flash

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5