Eclipse Phase - Anarres
We went through the gate to Hoth and came out in this big garagey motherfucker. Outside it’s chilly, winter on Neptune, don’t need to but I’m kicking up the thermal. Captain Koski, this Abominable Snowman dude, tells us to jump in the Crasher truck for the trip to the Anarres gate. Okay, I signed up for this, a Greyhound ride on Hoth.
There’s a mesh node in the truck and once we leave we spend awhile just staring at the dataspace. I decide to just go sit next to Trimurti and talk to him so shit doesn’t get weird. He’s chilly, standoffy, but we basically agree that we’re not going to make trouble for each other. After that peeps start actually talking, and someone mentions the ruins they found on Annares. Apparently they don’t look like TITAN, Factor or Ikatomi stuff, weiirrrd, cool!
When we get to the gate, we pretty much just drive right through, no wait-a-minute, don’t-wanna. And there we are on Annares, driving toward the main colony through a plain of scrubland. Big bright sun, hot, whipping fast wind. I dial down my gamma. I’m about to grep around on the mesh, looking for a party, when we get a message from this Berg guy, tense dude, making sure we arrived okay. I do a motion-detect filter and wow yeah there’s nonsentient bios outside, whadyacallem, animals,. Scuttly stompy fuckers moving between the scrub-ferny things, cool little jelly-blimpy fuckers in the air. Shit, no parties until tomorrow, and I’m going to lose rep if I don’t show up to this security briefing thing. Fine. I guess it’s dumb to lose a body because I’m ignorant.
The colony is a bunch of glassy bubbles surrounded by vehicles and tech crap, on a beach under a cliff — the cliff protects it from that badass wind. Gotta see if I can go surfing. There’s a sweet jet transport parked there, love to take that for a spin, and shit son gun turrets dropped in (Trimurti voice) “tactical positions”. Then it hits me, this really isn’t space or some rock, space doesn’t want to eat you.
Mechy looking guy, Isaak Oserov, looks like he and Trimurti would get along, meets us and gives us the tour. He’s the cat-herder, and he asks me if I want to take on the quartermaster slot, he’s low on slack from too many jobs. What the fuck let’s start doing the gig, make some rep, tinker with some cool shit, so I say yeah. Oserov makes sure everyone’s got suits, got guns. This is a place where they want you strapped, and I get another twinge, like, alien world is alien. Trimurti is aready wanting me to print an arsenal for him. You want them in pink rite?
We all get our little spam-can rooms, and I drop my bag and set the walls to loop some psyky abstracts and some sylph porn. Everyone scatters, going where they’re going, yes sir we gatecrashers are all on the job.
I follow Oserov to the biggest building and he shows me the CM, nice gear! He tells me that we’ve got enough resources to get by but that I gotta keep people from going cray-cray with running down the feedstock. Feedstock is my problem too, mine and Sumner, the science guy’s — there’s some mining rigs up and running but we gonna need more pretty soon. People be getting huffy if I tell them they can’t have fleets of Winnebagos and a plasma rifle in every pot.
I’m a little jelly cause I know birdface, Treek is getting to check out that jet right now, but I get to work and it’s always great watching the prints come out all slick and new and perfect. After I QC a test page of beans-and-bullets I do some quick aesthetic mods on Trimurti’s arsenal, programming the guns’ active camo to have a Disco Mode that makes them light up like a mergehead’s brain. That keeps me snickering while I clear most of the print-queue and send a nicey-nice mesh note to somebody wants to run me out of xenons. I’m about to ping Sumner when Pax calls up and asks for a bolter, a bunch of meds and a yottarave worth of zixy recpharms. Yeah I’m gonna have to assay that personally, I gotta deliver a quality product…
I’m about to ping Sumner for the second time when there’s a wideband call asking everyone to show up for Trimurti’s how-not-to-die lecture. There’s some new folks there — Fluke, an orca biped, Othello, a fuzzy mustelid, Spark, an infomorph, Berg, another security type in a fem Fury, a few more, and ten unlucky exdents in real stock synths.
Trimurti opens by telling us he’s not a cop, that he’s mostly about the local wildlife and external exthreats, and then does his best to scare the shit out of us. I try not to let him and maybe kinda succeed? Dude works up a hardass line about how his main deal isn’t to get us all back safe through the gate, it’s to keep a subverted sentient from getting back to old Sol. He mentions some sciguy already disappeared at a research site and nobody knows how or why.
They have a video feed of the scientist, Sarin, who did the disappearing act. He was way up the ass of this gnarly alien base, and there was a lot of static in the feed. The last few seconds are just trashed with interference, Sarin’s facing a wall, and then the feed cuts out — and the bots they sent in to find him didn’t find a thing, no scientist, no blood, nothing, Nobody’s sure why the cam went dead — maybe the tech in the base did something? Maybe just a gear failure, those happen. This was all a few weeks back. Alien tech is alien. I’m not shaking in my synth but I’m not going down there until I have an exa good reason.
I get to be Sainty Nick and hand out all the swank fuckin loot. Everybody gets all the gear they need to go out there and learn shit, woo. Don’t ask if any of this gear would have saved Sarin.
We get on the jet to fly out to the research outpost at the alien base. Gotta admit Treek can fly, you’d almost fig we were on an OTV. There’s a little group of bunkery cretey cribs and two peeps there to meet us — Lindburg and Sumner, they’ve been here alone since Sarin walked off. Again they give us the tour. Lindburg ain’t seem to think much of Sarin, almost pissed that he’s made them watch their step.
We get some rundown on the alien facility — saying they’ve sent drones maybe 3 klicks into it, and that there’s probably at least that much more. Base is full of repair and maintenance bots, all shapes, sizes and colors, and they sometimes get us and our tech mixed up with dirt or obstacles. It ain’t so much like they hate us, just don’t like us there. The big ones can be dangerous. Exploring the base is real hard, especially with all the weird electronic shit around, pumping out random interference — or maybe not so random? Anyway, it scrambles mesh nets, so Lindburg and Sumner have been building a wired network. Shades of 1900, baby. Somebody wonders if the bots would react differently to a suited bio instead of a synth or a bot, but Lindburg doesn’t look hot for being a guinea pig. WTF, I say, let’s just put a hundred kilos of pork roast in a hardsuit? That idea seems to go over pretty well.
I go off with Sumner to talk about getting our atoms on.
Sion and Yi Tau start planning a hacking/combat archaeology expedition into the alien base with Lindburg, wanting to probe at its systems, and Trimurti is all “Like hell you’re going down there without me” because he has like five asses and they’re all harder than carbide. They go off on this extended rap about the metallurgy in the base, its networks — it’s clearly networked, there’s way too much smart machinery down there, and yet the little drones are always rubbing their little electrical contacts against each other and bits of the walls. Anyway, they get into some telepresence and they look like they’re running some random voltages and bits down in there, and huh, they find some kind of alien simulspace. It seems the guys who built the base were yotta nonanthro, sluggy slime-moldy sentients. The simulspace vidfeed just looks like a barcode scanner’s wetdream to me, but Sion and Yi’re straight up absorbed in this shit.
Sticking my head up an alien IT department ain’t really my specialty, so I up and execute on Project Porkdrone and put a bunch of meat in a spare suit. I hand that party favor off to Arlond and he walks it into the base like it’s selling encyclopedias. Sumner, Arlond and I all watch the remoted feed while we read some backlogged survey data, looking for whatever’s tasty under the scrub. Arlond looks like he’s got better skillz at reading a planet than I do, so I mostly work with Treek to get some mining bots shipped out and set up in primo locations.
One of the drones tries to open up the canned pork with something like an arc welder, but just walks away when it can’t cut the suit’s armor. General, the littler drones treat the meat about like they do the metal, no big learn there. Finally the meatbot finds one of the big static drones, what Lindburg called a D type, and starts poking at it with its stupid sausage fingers, all does-this-bug-ya. Sion and Yi are all “huh” as something seems to happen in their simulspace about the same time we try this stupid trick, but really the drone ain’t visibly stoked. I decide I like Arlond as that glitchy mother opens the meatbot’s faceplate and throws sausage at the drone. Now that brings the noise! D drone neutralizes that biohazard with a directed energy weapon. Just like anybody else, D drone doesn’t like unsolicited meat in the face. This ain’t exactly quantum rocket science us cream of the Sol system are doing here.
Yi and Sion pop out all hyped up like they just torrented next year’s biggest hit… the simulspace they found is a messaging client. They’ve got the shape if not the color and texture of the alien language, woot, and everyone who’s a xenosomething expert pricks up their ears. We rap a little about what happened on the alien net when Arlond flung meat at the drone. Not as much stinkeye from the real scientists as I expect, they just seem to chuckle. Sion gives Arlond a tennis ball and suggests tossing it all soft and underhand at Big D. Holy shit anarchist science is so hardcore white-lab-coat I can’t even stand it.
One thing the xenoscience types seem to have picked up on is that the D drones seem to do a lot of talking and the other drones do a lot of scuttling around doing the work, whatever “the work” is. Are they sentient supervisors, or just big network nodes? Anyway, they’ve got about 100 words of alientalk, but lots of dupes. People start working up a message to send to something or someone in the alien base systems, something like “Hi we are friendlyish alien sentiences, sorry for the sausage, please don’t eat us”. Sure hoping that works out!
When the meatdrone gets back to the D for the next round of Super Srs Science, the sausage is gone. The D drone isn’t playing, a tossed ball just bounces off. We leave the drone just standing there, meat staring at metal.
Ain’t any of this fun nonsense found us Sarin or any piece of him, so Trimurti floats the idea of searching his quarters. When he and Yi poke their heads in, the place looks like it’s been messed with, and Lindburg cops to having gone in there to find some of Sarin’s hardcopy notes. The search doesn’t seem to turn up anything interesting except a quantum computer, maybe the only one on the planet — Sarin brought it himself for xenolingo and other big-iron analysis jobs. Property is theft and theft is proper, so the hackaeology and language people grab the thing. Now we have a quantum compy, but we still don’t have Sarin or a clue’s corrupted xox where he went, and that leaves a little chilly feel on the day as we head back to the main base.
Yi Tau gives Rex Razor the infodump on what we found, the Stupor Srs Scienz and the real data archaeology. Razor is fairly convinced Sarin is dead or abducted, and hoping for dead. Life of the party, this crasher.
I leave them talking and go by this Doc Faraday’s place, it’s the place to spend your nights if you read the local mesh. Past time to get a little fucked up. Arlond and, surprise, Trimurti come along. It’s pretty industrial, back of the garage, not too unlike some barges I’ve been on. I let Faraday mix me whatever he wants basically and get pretty fuzzed out. I do hear that there’s a real actual party happening tomorrow night at one of the other colonies. I also pick up that there’s a real commercial mining corp round, some Extropians leasing mineral rights from FGTF, and I should see how that’s working out for them…
So we’re kitting up to go do this party, I’ve rezzed up some party clothes and some basic supplies to bring along, ain’t hardly right to show up empty handed. We jump in a couple of trucks and roar out towards Luminous Allure. Yi surprises me by offering to slap some warpaint on my chassis and that’s how we spend about an hour of rolling over brush and plains. Hells yes, I got me some extra glowy Iktomi racing stripes. PROJECT GET LAID TONIGHT IS ALL SYSTEMS GO.
We start passing through more foresty terrain, big stands of sessile lifeforms looming overhead as we trundle along. When we get to the LA colony, it’s a little rougher, little less capital-intensive than our home base — lotta stuff strewn around under the sky, open air workshops and like. There’s some really freaky-arty synthfolk and a bunch of Goat bios wandering around, getting high, dancing, posing, fucking.
We unass the vehicles and move into the ionized gas cloud of party, happily stoned people bouncing off us. Half the structures are made of tentacles that are part of the colony organism; they make a purring noise and they like to wrap around you. After a couple hits of synKlar and a couple of other things, I just have to start petting them as I wander by, mingling in the tasty chaos. Peeps are sporting about the freakiest morphology I’ve seen, even further out than the party barge we docked with four or five years ago.
I catch Yi deep in conversation with some sweet looking antlery zude, Panic, definitely the Goat rep, looks like they’re doodling on a cocktail napkin dataspace. Wimmic, the synth counterpart with LA, comes over wearing a taur morph; I get tired of being social with something that’s doing hundreds of things at once, make polite excuses and drift into the flow of their conversation just in time to hear Wimmic ask about an attack on the base a few weeks back, some kind of animal incursion or what have you. I offer to print them some sentry systems and he takes me up on it, so I add that stuff to the askqueue via satnet.
Yi is embroiled in a mess of engineering diagrams for newer shinier genitalia or something, and I weave off to hang out with the LA crowd. Nobody seems hot to expose ports with me, but it’s a buzzy good time, we have some laughs and generally shoot the shit.
Some indeterminable period later, I get a message from the Kestrel transport that it’s landing here? Are we out past curfew? No, Trimurti is on his way to the ARC base to go investigate some freaky signal they’re getting, and I’m torn between hanging around at the party and checking out the awesome tasty machines they’re using there. In the end, I give some synths and some tentacles a final drug-smeared hug and kiss and head into the jet. If I had to put my hand on my main battery, I have to say that I’m partly coming along to annoy Trimurti, who seems like he wanted to John Wayne this gig on his lonesome.
The flight goes on for hours. I bounce around the Kestrel giggling, staring out the windows and messing with Treek, who’s gotten catatonic fucked up and thinks he’s flying the plane while he rolls around on the deck flapping his wings around. I’m steeling myself to push the big SOBER UP button when it looks like we’re about to land.
The mining colony ain’t that different from our base, the usual big central dome, a lot more mining gear scattered around, on a much rockier and mountainier patch of terrain. Their motor pool looks sweeter than ours, there’s a couple few jets scattered around the big-ass landing pad, and some people come out to meet us, including gog help me some sarariman in an actual suit, Grigor Quint. He looks as happy to see our freak asses as we are to see him, and he and Trimurti go off together to debrief each other or whatever. One of the other corp types offers us, real polite, a tour of their mines and processing plant, and looks surprised when I say yes hell yes.
Gotta be said, this place is a mine and a factory, it’s a place people work before a place people live, and it’s crowded and a little nasty — there’s crime and alienated labor and most people aren’t here because they think it’s cool. Everything that has to work is working, well maintained and high end, but there’s graffiti and broken machines. But the machines that work are amazing, serious gear running nice and smooth, chewing those atoms out of the planet. I take lots of porny video of the gear — the drills, the belts, the giant comb sorters. It’s more tourism than training, really, I pick up a tip here and there, but they’re doing my job on a whole different scale. My party rags get really dirty.
From chatter on the mesh there’s a lot going on right now. Trimurti is mixed up in corp intrigue with the ARC admin, probably getting ready to break a strike for them or some kilp. Yi and Sion are investigating some mysterious laser signals that hit the base from one of the moons. Once I’ve got done drooling over the nice machines, there’s really fuck all to do in this grim little industrial monoculture, so I decide to go off into the wilderness with the research team — they’re flying out to where the laser signals were actually pointed. We all troop into the Kestrel, except for Trimurti who’s probably breaking orphan skulls for the greater glory of the bottom line — just kidding buddy.