Log inRegister
Beyond 'X' Book IV & V latest post BK V ch 06 Pt 8 & 9 25th Mar '15 complete
Post new topic Reply to topic Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 30, 31, 32, 33  Next
View previous topic :: View next topic

Are you actually reading following this story?
Yes I am.
 40%  [ 11 ]
No just looking.
 37%  [ 10 ]
I clicked on by accident.
 22%  [ 6 ]
Total Votes : 27

Author Message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Sat, 22. Mar 14, 12:34    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

[[FIVE]] [[Part 8]] --- ALL CHANGE ---

[On ‘Port Discovery’ initially in what used to be the ‘SCCCM’ of the ‘Many Truths’ and in some ways still is, ‘Cad’ animated a borrowed ‘Suit Substance’ Avatar.]

“They must have tagged the hull of my remote ‘Explorer Ship’.” [‘Cad’ began.] “Given where it left from I… well there is no adequate excuse for carelessness, we too obviously got lax with our security it is being reviewed - damned spies.”

“You know what they say there is no such thing as perfect security.” [I reminded.]

“I am worried that one or more of my people may have taken a bribe to help facilitate this particular affront loyalty is not what it used to be.” [He complained.]

“It happens it has even happened within the hallowed halls of our ‘MTC’ even here upon ‘Port Discovery’ the supposed holy of holies. Once I believed our Acolytes were proof against such blatant forms of corruption but it seems the times and some attitudes have changed - for the worse.” [I admitted in turn.]

[He was having a good moan so I joined in sometimes it helps.]

“How is your Priest to Acolyte relations these days?” [‘Cad’ asked.]

[I was surprised at first by his willingness to change subjects then I recalled how agitated he seemed upon initial arrival. ‘Improved’ had seriously affected his professorial sense of detachment. I decided to help him by sharing some of my woes.]

[I slumped my Avatar down for immediate emphasis.]

“Not what I would wish for. I guess the family is still too triple cursed big and that continues to cause problems. Nothing is the way it used to be back when Harbinger had a smaller family worse family size is far from the only vexing issue. Now we pay every family member a wage, everyday fewer serve - even just in their minds - purely out of a sense of duty and family loyalty. As you said, attitudes are altering. Of course, some of the more impressionable Acolytes are still in awe of me as the ‘Hull’ of their ‘Tier Nine Harbinger’ and or as the ‘Holy Father’ and that can be strangely annoying too.” [I stated.]

[We hugged.] “I guess we are all part of the ‘New Economic Reality’ now.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“The ‘MTC’ becoming ever less holy and more corporate seems almost a belated product of the Acolyte Synod a slow reform that I am in several minds about although ‘Mournful’ seems to believe it is the only way forward for us now. Maybe our currently by necessity - low - wages will finally encourage some of them to split and grow up.” [I added.]

“You say that now but I know you Priests always contrive to feel very affronted when your Acolytes seek to find their own way by splitting to adulthood.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Ours is not always an easy path every child splitting causes mixed emotions a sense of both pride and of rejection you must think us all mad.” [I said.]

“I think you care about your people deeply that is what matters all cultural differences aside.” [‘Cad’ said.] “Sadly due to the current economic climate we are all turning into ‘Emissary’ cursed ‘Recyclers’ increasing obsessed with juggling ‘Free Parliamentary Credits’ in our vain attempts to balance our books.” [‘Cad’ added.]

[Mostly these days we now just called them credits except when we wanted to denigrate the involvement of the ‘Free Parliament Bank’ in leaping in to float an official currency. Thinking back it seems strange that we adopted the currency of our enemy but then so many others adopted the ‘FPC’ that it just seemed easier to go with it rather than fight it and it seemed one way to incorporate the last diehard parliamentarians into the fold.]

“When the ‘Black Market’ that we rebels sponsored became surplus to requirements I thought economic corruption would settle down more. Unfortunately, there is a ridiculous amount of bribery and so on required today just to do even regular business such as gaining good docking slots even with some attempts to moderate this by ‘Consortium’ regulation and ‘CP’ investigations.” [‘Cad’ complained.]

“The wheel turns and we are ground beneath its weight.” [I stated.]

[I wondered when he would be happy returning to the subject of his visit. One of his ‘Explorer Ships’ had reached a ‘TNS Beacon’ before any of the rest of us only to be cheated of being the first to stake a physical claim due to blatant claim jumpers. The ‘Hierophant Explorer Ship’ already a little famous made the real space journey, given the distances involved to that specific ‘Beacon Site’, faster than anything we had ever heard of before. At the ‘MTC’ we suspected upon hearing the news that the ever inventive ‘Hierophants’ had used the trip to test out a new ‘Real Space’ engine of some kind. ‘Cad’ and the ‘Hierophants’ in general however proved less than forthcoming about the miracle voyage only insisting that they had not jumped at any point after they left the nearest stars embrace.]

[We walked together through a rock garden I had established for a while in companionable silence. In the end, I gave in to temptation.]

“So how exactly did they do it?” [I finally asked hoping he was now ready to talk some more about the matter most aggravating him.]

“A good question but all I can tell you is what happened from our point of view. When we slowed down to make a cautious approach, despite the jump detection risks two full sized ‘Source Ships’ jumped in ahead of us to directly claim the site. Almost immediately upon arrival they dropped ‘Claim Beacon Markers’ as well as ‘Static Defence Systems’ then they contacted us directly and warned us to stay clear of their claim as if our asset that had hauled its mass so very far through real space was the claim jumping intruder.” [‘Cad’ stated his voice getting louder as his anger re-established itself.]

“You have accepted the legitimacy of their claim?” [I asked slightly surprised.]

“Technically under our ‘Consortium Rules’, there is not a single - legal - thing that I can do about it as all that matters is that they physically staked their claim first. Besides if we started jumping combat assets in the ‘Entanglement’ would be bound to notice and even if she did not appear, fighting over the ‘Site’ could easily damage it. If we could prove they spied on us it might be slightly different but I am sure any ‘Tag System’ they employed is long gone and left nowhere near enough physical evidence behind to threaten a legal conviction.” [‘Cad’ complained.]

“You believe they ‘Tagged’ your ‘Explorer Ship’ that is the boldest move by the ‘ITC’ I have witnessed so far. There has been no sign of an appearance by the ‘Entanglement’ following the two ‘Source Ships’ direct to ‘Site’ non-‘Star Struck’ leaps?” [I asked.]

“There has been no overt response by ‘Crimson’ - so far - it is especially annoying the way they just jumped straight in after all our earlier precautions to keep ‘TNS Beacons’ secret.” [‘Cad’ replied.] “If the ‘Entanglement’ intervenes in our ‘TNS’ business now it will be due to a ‘Hierophant’ security lapse in allowing the ‘Tagging’ and claim theft.”

“I would not worry about that none of us would hold you responsible these things happen and done is thrice done.” [I replied.]

“I do not think ‘Weep’ will be so generous if or when he hears about this one.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“I will not tell him.” [I promised.]

[Hopefully ‘Crimson’ was doing as I asked she could be triple cursed fickle a great way to keep us guessing and off-balance. Although according to precedent and unpublished rules of engagement two ships did not make a ‘Pilgrim’ fleet size that ‘Crimson’ deemed needed her interdicting attentions. However, she often scouted our non-‘Star Struck’ jumps even when she did not attack we guessed looking for space side resources she could take away from us be they natural asteroids or items such as wrecks or debris worth salvaging. Annoyingly the ‘Entanglement’ acted as if all space side harvestable resources are her property. Beyond the resource issue by generally sneaking around outer space, we tried not to rely too much upon any benison of self-restraint by ‘Crimson’ as she could too easily change her mind and her practices without notice on some whim.]

“In some ways I am the one that should be sorry. I am sorry that a young Paradox Priest dared behave in such a rude illegal way by stealing your claim even if you cannot prove it a theft.” [I added.]

“If only I could bring a legitimate complaint before the ‘Consortium’. Even if I had evidence, initiating legal procedures would be equivalent to publicising the discovery of ‘TNS Beacons’ to a multitude of potential claim jumpers.” [He reminded.]

“Triple cursed ‘Improved Technologies Consolidated’ is becoming one of the most prominent of several problematic ‘Consortium Corporations’ that I have been keeping my optics upon as the ‘Holy Father’ and an Elder Priest. Annoyingly the ‘ITC’ is a Paradox Priest Corporation very much modelled on the early ‘MTC’ during our days of most rapid expansion.” [I admitted.]

“After what happened I took a close look at their published assets ‘Improved’ is operating an ever expanding very successful ‘User Deep Mining’ operation as well as a substantial manufacturing and shipping concern.” [‘Cad’ stated.] “Whilst some others have been suffering in the current - climate - they have had nothing but solid sometimes amazing growth spurts shrugging off any and all storm losses.”

“The big difference between the early ‘MTC’ and the ‘ITC’ is that the ‘ITC’ is not expanding via cloning masses of Acolytes it employs ‘Sub Core’ run ‘Soulless’ assets instead. They have become expert at remote ‘Deep Mining’ and whilst they have not avoided some material losses they almost always make an overall profit on every sounding dive which I wish was true of every ‘MTC’ mining asset.” [I admitted.]

“It is obvious that ‘Improved’ has a head for business.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“He is smart enough that this provocative action against you ‘Hierophants’ rather surprises me.” [I said.]

“That was my initial thought too upon looking at this ones history the ‘ITC’ undercuts its competition to steal contracts but that is legitimate business, they have never been accused before of claim jumping or of any other illegality.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“Maybe this is about trying to make a name, about boosting his family reputation proving a coming of age that they can best a much more established business player with impunity.” [I suggested.]

“It seems a bit off the grid for the earning of corporate kudos.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“A grasped opportunity arrives where it arrives, you know that technically the ‘ITC’ is not even a Paradox Priest ‘Great House’ it is what we term a ‘Paradox Hold’ they might have something of an old inferiority complex.” [I lectured.]

“I understand that they are a small intimate Paradox family that refused to proliferate Acolyte membership as a result in this case I hear his Acolytes are now all famously rich.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“To some his children are spoilt being - infamously - wealthy.” [I replied.] “The ‘ITC’ has found a way to be both small and big at the same time - that is causing problems.”

“Do I detect a hint of jealously?” [‘Cad’ asked.]

“In some ways I feel more than a hint of jealousy.” [I admitted.] “Akin to my Harbinger in the past ‘Improved’ today is one of several young Priests starting new trends amongst ambitious Paradox. In this case he has a following amongst mostly younger Priests with small families who have no ethical compunctions about heavily expanding their ‘Sub Core’ use via ‘Soulless Ships’ and other ‘Soulless’ assets perceiving nothing but advantages in this dangerous climate were they can mine for ‘RAW’ without risking any of their children’s lives something it is hard to debate against.” [I admitted.]

“You use ‘Sub Cores’ too to remote mine.” [‘Cad’ reminded.]

“It is a question of degree actually many of our ships have Avatars onboard run remotely by Acolytes rather than being ‘Soulless’. Mostly our ‘Sub Cores’ are additional aid not replacements for our people. Our children need jobs many ‘Immortal’ Marines now double as ‘Deep Miners’ that is one non-martial occupation they do not find too objectionable.” [I explained.]

“I am sorry if our ‘Sub Core’ invention is proving a curse as much as a blessing to your Paradox society.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“In some ways I really do envy the ‘ITC’ solution despite my fears about ‘Soulless’ troops being set upon ‘Real’ people as was evidenced by the ‘Mutilation Ports’. Although I would add that akin to ‘Suit Substance’ your ‘Sub Cores’ are proving another almost too good technology. What can I say my ‘MTC’ is becoming old fashioned - outdated - staff heavy and increasingly difficult to administer whilst keeping solvent - these are problems people such as ‘Improved’ do not have to worry about with their ‘Soulless’ expansions.” [I told ‘Cad’.]

“We ‘Hierophants’ have suffered some economic issues recently too with our manufacturing and mining operations. Luckily other matters are often more important to many of my people than the size of their wages such as scientific recognition and tenure within certain establishments of excellence.” [‘Cad’ confessed.]

“In that case you are blessed. Today what consumes the greatest bulk of our ‘MTC’ earnings is staff wages greatly reducing our profit and reinvestment surpluses. ‘Mournful’ is striving to get our Acolytes to invest back within the ‘MTC’ by for example starting their own small business ventures with ‘MTC’ support but many would prefer to spend their credits on frivolities and off duty entertainments and their wages are their credits to spend as they please. We have company stores and now charge for other in-house services too but that is hardly solving our problems. Before at most our Acolytes got a stipend but almost every in-house service was free now we are all counting credits all the time it is pathetic and demeaning.” [I complained.]

“No more free labour.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“For a ‘User Corporation’ the ‘MTC’ is operated more akin to a ‘Real Material Company’. Increasingly we are all about maintaining our people in a certain standard of living. Some days now when I browse our spreadsheets I fear we have reached the pinnacle of our growth and now there is only one way for us to go in this altered economic climate and that is steeply downward. Due to ‘Soulless’ asset using business rivals such as ‘Improved’ I am honestly beginning to fear for our future as a competitive enterprise.” [I confessed.]

“We ‘Hierophants’ have had to further diversify our income sources to keep in profit too.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“The shocking reality for the ‘MTC’ is that people such as ‘Improved’ are now beginning to seriously undercut our pricing strategy for exports. In truth, a ‘Soulless Sub Core’ run ‘Corporation’ is unfair competition against any business that employs or must maintain masses of ‘Real’ people some ‘Real Materialists’ are right in voicing that complaint. Unfortunately, I know too well that progress is not for stopping just because some people resent it. At this rate the ‘MTC’ will become a sort of commune all about self-sufficiency rather than attempting to compete with true external business market pressures.” [I complained.] “To think we used to be the radical ones pushing economic and social reform now it seems others are the radicals pushing back.”

“Sometimes it does seem that it is all change. I suppose you hate having to pay wages to your Acolytes.” [‘Cad’ seemed to gently mock.]

“Hardly hate, it seems only fair to me that Acolytes also gain a reward for their service it is the social changes that go with a credit based emphasis that worries me.” [I said.]

“The attempt at a credit less economy did not work out too well.” [‘Cad’ reminded.]

“Our ‘MTC’ business priorities are shifting to enable and prioritise family survival over expansion. Unfortunately, I fear we can only do so much and overall we are increasingly no longer a good fit for these times. Worse for us the full squeeze upon us due to ‘Soulless Sub Core’ competition has not even affected us yet. Unfortunately, I would need to be blind in more than one optic not to see what is coming the economy is changing far more rapidly than the ‘MTC’ can reply. We are no longer fronting business innovation we are being left behind and given the alternative that is almost where I prefer to leave us.” [I confessed.]

“That sounds far too defeatist. What is the alternative? I am guessing boosting your own percentage of ‘Sub Core’ usage.” [He added.] “I know you have concerns about ‘Ascension’ fixation and so on but if you are economically beginning to struggle and since you are ‘Suit Substance Users’ you might as well benefit from using ‘Suit Substance’ as much as is needed - at least until some better solution presents itself.” [‘Cad’ surprisingly suggested.]

“If we ran the same number of ‘Soulless Sub Core’ operations per member of our population as say the ‘ITC’ and their kind we would have to obscenely expand our pure ‘Suit Substance’ assets - that possibility bothers me deeply.” [I replied.]

“We all do what we must.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“I am not willing to bury our Acolytes under an absurd mass of ‘Soulless Sub Core’ industry so that they can all live as if kings uplifted via generated material wealth gained purely through far too remote to them automation.” [I stated.] “We would all lose touch with the reality of working for a living. I do not believe greed is good or blatantly unnecessary excess not to mention a life of idleness. To me if we embraced this option it would be spiritually damaging.”

[‘Cad’ shook the head of his Avatar gently.] “As any ‘Dweller’ will tell you sometimes you have to swim with the strongest current or you just exhaust yourself and get nowhere.” [He warned.] “Idealism is all well and good but one must be practical first.”

“In the past when we proliferated we did so for better reasons to keep the peace and so on.” [I replied.] “Today an ‘MTC Soulless Sub Core’ proliferation would not only further distance and damage our relations with every struggling ‘Real Materialist’ forced into utterly unfair competition but also put an even deeper strain on our sense of personal worth and achievement as individual working members of a wider society. There is an old saying that you are what you do I could add do nothing and you are nothing.”

[‘Cad’ considered that in silence.]

“What will we become when we need do nothing because our technology provides everything for us doing all the hard labour? The idea of every citizen being rich superficially sounds good but children are easily spoilt.” [I stated.]

“You have belatedly discovered something of the joys of a strong work ethic.” [‘Cad’ surmised.]

“It is not a good thing to have too much leisure time. Historically I believe we Priests always worked hard we had a ‘Vision’ to follow - a purpose - we sought to validate our existence and by our actions thereby brought much honour to our sentient life earning the respect of our fellow Priests’.” [I said.]

“That was then but times change and require us to alter our methods. It may be that the ‘Real Material’ and ‘User’ economies are destined to split already stout ‘Real Materialists’ often do the majority of their business with their own kind and vice versa with you ‘Users’.” [‘Cad’ insisted.]

“You would advocate a sundering of such breadth, to me that would be a social disaster.” [I stated.]

“I am not advocating just stating that perhaps it is inevitable ‘Real Materialists’ live slower than ‘Users’.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“I prefer to keep my children productively occupied as Harbinger once did.” [I replied.]

“I can recall many Acolyte Marines spent a lot of time in questionably voluntary stasis in ‘War Vaults’ in Harbinger’s time.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“Perhaps I am out of step with the changing times, so much for my foolish dream of leading us all towards a social singularity to match and balance out any approaching technological singularity.” [I stated.]

“My friend you are too self-critical.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“How can I lead a Deep Time endeavour when I feel as if the now is leaving me and mine behind. Besides what will keep us from the temptation of ‘Ascending’ as ‘Users’ when all our business is handled via ‘Soulless Sub Core’ run ‘Suit Substance’. What will connect us to what is truly real about being alive once we become nothing more than the indolent ‘Users’ that the ‘Real Materialists’ accuse us of being?” [I complained.]

“Social and economic changes come and go and we find ways to cope, our priorities will shift in time as part of a new balance - life is change you know that my friend you have often preached that as did your former Captain and mentor of blessed memory. Perhaps freeing people from drudgery will free their minds and souls and help to create a new intelligentsia a new golden age even spur your social singularity closer.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“Nothing that separates us from real life and divides our society will help us progress in a real way. Now you are just seeking to make me feel better. I fear instead we will devolve rather than evolve becoming increasingly dependant upon our technology increasingly isolated from anything that is not ‘Suit Substance’. Some of our Acolytes are already losing their way. These later generations lack our old sense of direction and purpose. They have no deep sense of their place in history. They fail to appreciate all the great things they might achieve if only they would step up and try harder. They have become passive passengers in their own too easy lives too ready followers of ‘Patriarchs’ just going through the motions of being alive.” [I complained.]

[‘Cad’ burst out laughing at that announcement by me.]

“We each make our own future one choice one action at a time others must do the same we cannot live our descendants’ lives for them our children are not us. They are products of their time we are products of ours. Perhaps some members of this generation by proliferating ‘Soulless Sub Cores’ are stepping up in their own way to meet the unique challenges of this era.” [‘Cad’ suggested.]

[That one hit me as if a ‘Living Hull Shockwave’. I bowed to the Professor.]

“I must acknowledge your point.” [I said.] “However, I still fear some of our ‘MTC’ Acolytes have already chosen to grow softer than our earlier children. They complain more but seem disinclined to split to find a ‘Vision’ of their own. How will these ones ever find a purpose that they can nobly dedicate their life to fulfilling if they never seek to stretch themselves beyond their beginnings? They just do the minimum to get their wages so that they can enjoy their leisure time - that is not our old way.” [I complained.]

“I seem to recall some Elder Priests complaining about Harbinger’s generation when your Captain was young in the days before the ‘Core Alliance’. The previous generation always complains about the next not appreciating the old ways. It seems we are the old establishment now. Each generation finds its own way of looking at their Universe including their own way of rebelling against their staid old Fathers designs. Maybe we made an early mistake - by trying to restrict and regulate ‘Soulless’ use we probably made it more attractive.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“If they are rebels they are clueless ones. I would be happy if some of them showed some real fire.” [I complained.]

[‘Cad’ roared out another very ‘Trojan’ laugh but this one almost loud enough to be Paradox.] “Some matters never change such as the generation gap.” [He said.]

“Am I being unreasonable? Even far too many Acolytes that regularly speak in any ‘Universal Council of Equals’ have nothing much to say anymore - they just speak to hear their own voices - they are very good at making clever remarks and fencing with words to score points but that is all they do score silly points off one another. There is no passion no commitment to a genuine cause.” [I complained.]

“They could be doing much worse things than sparring to better their communication skills.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“That is true but it still rankles as if even our sacred debates have become just a game to far too many. Sometimes it is hard not to fear that it is all going wrong that we have gone wrong that the ‘Great House’ that Harbinger made has already fallen where it matters. They say every Empire falls first from within. Have I been too preoccupied with other concerns? Did I let this calamity happen to my former Captain’s children?” [I asked.]

“Never easy being the Father to a family never mind a mighty nation and your ‘MTC’ is a nation.” [‘Cad’ said.] “I think you are just having a bad day the actions of Priest ‘Improved’ encouraging you to dwell upon some seemingly new negatives within your priestly order. It is not all bad the proliferation of ‘Soulless Sub Core’ assets does mean that very few Acolytes die in solar storms a great social boon. You should be happy that many Acolytes gain the resources they need to prosper whilst staying safe.” [‘Cad’ reminded.]

“Whilst it is true that few of them are dying I wonder how many of them are truly living. Also are we really safe here in the fire and if war or other great hardships arrive will these soft modern Acolytes have what it takes to do what needs to be done?” [I asked.]

“We ‘Pilgrims’ tend to rise to the challenges of our time I would not worry too much about your children doing the same. One way or another it will all work itself out and some of these woes are hardly your fault. Never mind anything else you were not responsible for the original proliferation of the ‘MTC’ with all those Acolyte Marines who now have to be accommodated for in your business plans.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“I feel very conflicted in a negative rather than in a cleaner paradoxical way.” [I admitted.] “There is a part of me that would be happy for our Acolytes to have a chance to be children for a time rather than just being the business soldiers of the family.” [I said.]

“So what is your problem?” [‘Cad’ asked.]

“The times we are living in is my problem. I see dangers multiplying all around us: The storms, the ‘User’ versus ‘Real Material’ divide, the ‘Free Miner’ versus ‘Consortium’ antipathy, the antagonistic ‘Isolationists’, the cursed ‘Entanglement’ monoculture and another looming economic crisis brought on by unfair automated competition.” [I stated.]

“You would carry too heavy a load upon your decks.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“Little about my family recently brings me any joy. For a while, we were growing again and I was not overly happy about that either, I did not want more expansion more responsibility but it was a measure of renewed success in its way. Now with the family all I can see is future failure.” [I added.]

“When the storms began to worsen and became more unpredictable that took a toll encouraging some ‘Paradox Holds’ to use more ‘Sub Cores’ to mine and suddenly those ‘Holds’ saw a way to address an old imbalance of scale that had long disfavoured them. For long enough, us ‘Great Houses’ had it all our way we set the agenda via the power of our huge cloned families, our people making us mighty. Now with the aid of ‘Soulless Assets’ it is the ‘Holds’ turn to rise whilst all the children that once made the ‘Great Houses’ supreme are now an economic burden rather than an asset.” [I admitted.]

“I fear many of the ‘Soulless Substance’ embracing ‘Holds’ care little for our plight, excuse the coming pun, they - hold - old resentments against us for their previous marginalisation when we did little to give them succour. I always respected the ‘Holds’ but they once seemed the outdated and antiquated ones unable to adapt to changing circumstances - stubborn in their beliefs - now that is me and mine that fill that role. What is to become of all of our children? Will they grow to hate and resent the new wealth the economic and political power of the ‘Holds’? It is a Fathers strictest duty to lift up the next generation to success in that duty I am failing.” [I said miserably.]

“The ever practical ‘Mournful’ or you will find some solution to this latest crisis think of these difficulties as an incentive towards more radical family reform. It is easy to grow staid without some external impetus to help drive us forward. Perhaps every difficulty every challenge is really a blessing.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“I cannot tolerate the thought of encouraging another colossal family expansion effort and I do not want to proliferate masses of ‘Soulless Substance’ it is too provocative to the ‘Real Materialists’ who fear the advent of a ‘ Suit Substance’ monoculture. I am coming to appreciate the validity of their negative position. This proliferation of ‘Soulless Assets’ if it is not moderated is going to cause strife.” [I warned.]

“I also do not overly favour a proliferation of ‘Soulless Assets’ as you know earlier attempts were made to limit the use of ‘Soulless RCT’ and so on but in these conditions using remotes to mine makes a lot of sense. However, if we do not wish to be surrounded by such ‘Bio-mechanical’ machines we will have to find some other way that is no less economically sound.” [‘Cad’ suggested.]

“I feel drained of inspiration at the moment.” [I replied.]

“When a solution to a problem refuses to present itself sometimes it is best to leave it be for a while and work on other achievable issues. Success is naturally inspirational whilst dwelling too much upon even a temporary failure is only depressing.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

[I slumped my Avatar down again.]

“My deepest apologies - that is good advice - I am being incredibly self-indulgent you came here I am sure to vent your frustration with ‘Improved’ and yet somehow I am the one burdening you with my many concerns. Sadly I doubt I can do much about ‘Improved’ I do not believe he has any interest in listening to any sermon I might make. It seems as a Priest I am of the past whilst he and his kind are the future.” [I admitted.] “Unless you have something in mind that I have not considered?”

“I was just wondering how well you knew ‘Improved’ as a fellow Paradox Priest. I wondered if you would have any added insight into the cause of his actions today. What might motivate him to be so bold?” [‘Cad’ asked.]

“To be honest I have no idea why he would do this rash action. As far as I am aware he has never professed any great interest in exploration. I may be wrong but it seems almost akin to a petty act of revenge or defiance have you or your people annoyed him in some manner that he might wish to score some points back against you?” [I asked.]

[Point scoring - today my mind seemed stuck on that concept - that it was all increasingly about empty point scoring with some people who failed to appreciate any wider future forward vision. Why did it seem all about silly point scoring today?]

“To my knowledge we have not done anything to upset ‘Improved’ but I hardly know every bit of business undertaken by a ‘Hierophant’.” [‘Cad’ freely admitted.] “You think this is part of a misguided personal grudge?”

“Maybe someone else put him up to this one.” [I mused aloud.] “You are right it is a bit odd that he would dare to annoy you ‘Hierophants’ without a good reason? You are a powerful faction in your own way, and there might be nothing of value at the ‘Beacon Site’ so why risk it?” [I questioned as much to myself as ‘Cad’.]

“Was there something a ‘Tag’ might have registered that might encourage an opportunistic action?” [I asked.] “Initially he might well have been doing some corporate espionage in relation to your new engine design then you arrived to a site worth claiming.” [I suggested.]

[‘Cad’ just smiled slightly when I mentioned the new engine obviously he was not yet ready for a grand reveal of that technology whatever it happened to be.]

“Our long range scans did register a debris field including some fairly intact looking hulks of an unknown configuration suspiciously close together as if an old scrap yard or ship graveyard.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“His ‘Tag’ must have tapped into your sensor data somehow. Still, it would remain a very speculative gain for the assured making of your disfavour.” [I mused aloud.]

“One moment whilst I look at some data from the ‘Explorer’.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

[He was not silent for long I guessed he speeded up his cognition with ‘Cognitive Sub Core’ support to do a very hasty analysis of specific systems from the ‘Explorer Ship’.]

“I am getting slow, there are signs that something physically tapped into our primary sensor mast sadly not enough evidence to bring charges. I suppose the lure of salvaged alien upgrades could have motivated him to leap ships in to steal the claim.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Maybe ‘Improved’ is happy to antagonise you a little. He might well be harbouring old less specific resentment against you as part of the establishment that once dominated ‘Pilgrim’ policy whilst he as the Father of a once small ‘Paradox Hold’ had to struggle to survive. Many ‘Holds’ had a hard time during the reign of the ‘Free Parliament’ their family split up and so on as part of forced integration policies. I guess that could easily fill out the motivational gap. As to you missing the obvious with a mast hack anger can cloud even the sharpest scientific mind and you seemed furious when you first arrived.” [I reminded.]

“I was furious I was looking forward to investigating that area and feeling proud of getting out there so quickly when it was all abruptly taken away from me.” [He complained.] “As to persecutions by the ‘Free Parliament’ I had nothing to do with any of that nonsense.” [He claimed.]

“And the first shall be last.” [I mocked with an old ‘Trojan’ saying.]

[In fact, I was not so sure of the last truth that ‘Cad’ spouted, I believed there had been some distant social manipulation going on with the ‘FP’ by the ‘Hierophants’ but I did not raise that speculation, as I had no proof just an abiding faith.]

“You headed up the old ‘Interdiction Fleet’ that guarded our lost ‘Core Alliance’ some unjustly blame ‘IF’ for losing the war with the ‘Entanglement’. If the ‘Core Alliance’ had not fallen, there would have been no so-called ‘Free Parliament’ ruling over us refugees. Also you were instrumental along with Harbinger and some others in creating the ‘Core Alliance’ that helped proliferate Paradox ‘Great Houses’ to the detriment of the traditional ‘Holds’ as the old style smaller Paradox family unit became known.” [I reminded.]

“I would say ‘Draakhaal’ was more responsible for the ‘CA’ we were just reacting to his actions in a vain attempt to restore a balance of power.” [‘Cad’ reminded.]

“I am sure that all ‘Improved’ sees with you is a member of the old guard that lorded over his kind and failed to protect our ‘Pilgrim’ society. I know many ‘Holds’ and even some ‘Great Houses’ resent the ‘MTC’ I have tried to reach out to them with some success but others have taken our aid but I think still secretly despise us as one of the original causes of their every woe.” [I admitted.] “Young ‘Improved’ split from another ‘Hold’ that was especially bitter towards the ‘MTC’ another reason why I have kept some optics on that one.”

“Our past does have a way with haunting us.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“The question now is, are you going to standoff and let him thieve the first ‘Pilgrim’ encountered ‘TNS Beacon Site’?” [I asked.]

“Now that I have calmed down a little, I am considering negotiating some kind of settlement for joint access. Perhaps this one even has something of a legitimate grievance as one who suffered from policies I had some input in.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“You came to see me in an effort to get a hasty bit of distance from the problem.” [I guessed.] “I would ware being too generous to some to whom that is only a sign of weakness rather than an indication of strength of character.” [I warned.]

“I suppose in a way I did need to cool down as screaming out my annoyance at ‘Improved’ would get me nowhere.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“You think he will deal with you despite any simmering resentments?” [I asked.]

“He knows I know he claim jumped so if I prove willing to put any enmity aside for that he ought to be able to reciprocate - give a little gain a little - is what diplomacy is all about. I overlook his insult he cooperates that seems logical.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Let us hope ‘Improved’ is capable of being motivated by some logic and not just a burning desire to right some overblown sense of being previously wronged.” [I replied.]

“I am a supporter of the ‘CP’ and would encourage the spread of the rule of interstellar law even when it works a little against me.” [‘Cad’ admitted.] “I guess ‘Improved’ surmised that much and is using my lawfulness against me. Nonetheless, getting a little payback in his mind will be one thing going too far by creating a powerful enemy out of my nation should be something else.”

“I know that ‘Improved’ is very active politically within the ‘Consortium’ in a rather anti-‘Real Materialist’ way probably because his method of mining is often criticised by ‘RM’. Perhaps a deal is the best option if you cannot prove he illegally tagged your ship.” [I stated.] “Personally, between you and me, I would also recommend some later off the record reprimand the sort of thing ‘UT’ occasionally does for our family when someone crosses the ‘MTC’ in a way that prevents a more open and legitimate balancing of accounts.”

“I am a little surprised that you are suggesting I resort to the provocative ancient practice of feuding.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“I would not call it feuding just one suitable reminder to a trespasser that dirty actions in the now have dirty consequences in the now whatever his internal excuses are for affronting you. Too many members of the ‘Consortium’ these days would hide villainy behind the law. That is not what the ‘Consortium’ or the ‘Consortium Police’ is supposed to be about it is supposed to protect the innocent not the guilty. On a good day, I believe in a higher law - justice. Upstarts such as ‘Improved’ that would abuse the system need chastised for both their and our wider societies good. Perhaps we are looking at a future leader best he understand that abusing power has a cost. It seems to me that we need to fight to return some integrity to the ‘Consortium’ as an organisation originally created for the best of reasons.” [I preached.]

“I can recall when Harbinger was a radical upstart to many more established Priests.” [‘Cad’ reminded.]

“When my Captain did dodgy deeds they were always motivated for the best of reasons and never only for personal profit.” [I replied.]

“That is your perspective on your history no doubt others just recorded how your ‘MTC’ kept growing bigger and stronger and more politically dominant. Beyond that it seems our mutual friend ‘Unholy Terror’ is slowly corrupting your better methods and attitudes.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Today I cannot blame ‘Unholy’ as a bad influence - even in partial jest - it is just these changing times.” [I replied whilst thinking it was more likely partaking in the ‘Burner Adjustment Bureau’ as ‘Venture’ that had me advocating sharp off the books lessons. Although we of the ‘MTC’ have always believed in paying our debts in full whenever possible especially to villains who sought to do us harm.]

“Justice needs served and the law does not always best serve it. I like to believe that most Paradox Priests have never sought to serve the law over justice not intentionally anyway, even our mutual friend ‘Creed’ - in his own way - is more about justice than the law - at least when he remembers that he is a Paradox Priest first and a law enforcer second.” [I stated.] “Some of these younger Priests need to learn a little respect for their Elders.” [I added.]

[‘Cad’ gave a wicked half smile at that last remark.]

“Curse it how embarrassing I guess I really have become the old establishment.” [I complained.]

“I do have one thought about how you might help me.” [‘Cad’ added.]

“Continue.” [I replied.]

“If you animated an Avatar on our ‘Explorer Ship’ and went with me to speak with these Paradox interlopers on site your presence might help smooth my negotiations. I know that you Paradox Priests even when you have firm differences rarely fight with one another save in debate and the wrestling ring. You have all that shrouding and formalities you can employ to work together through your difficulties.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“I suppose I could do that although I do not think this one respects his Elders the way he should and he may despise me as an ‘MTC Patriarch’ even more than he resents your former role in our history.” [I warned again.]

“He may still respect you as a fellow Priest more than he does me as a ‘Trojan’ I am not just a part of the old order I am also an alien to him. Besides, as a less directly involved individual you might be able to mediate if difficulties arise.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“We Paradox Priests are an ancient inclusive order not a species we just too often forget that fact we ‘Shrouded’ our mixed species identities too well. How do you want me to play it? Shall I be friendly or disgusted at his behaviour?” [I asked.]

“Friendly might be good even if it is not instantly reciprocated but I think I rather like the disgusted angle idea too because I still am. It is ridiculous that I have to beg at my own table. You know without the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ this one’s ‘Hold’ might never have survived the rise of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ to be plagued by the ‘Entanglement’ and the ‘Free Parliament’.” [‘Cad’ reminded.] “It is easy to criticise the people in power when you never had to make the hard choices. I know Harbinger hated that he proliferated his children he did it out of duty and if anything an overblown sense of responsibility.”

“Do you think ‘Improved’ is willing to listen to a history lesson by us?” [I asked.]

“Probably not I am sure he has his own firm vision of the past.” [‘Cad’ said.]

“How about I play friendly but disgusted? The old you are showing us Priests in a poor light to the foreigners but perhaps I can prevent the ‘Hierophants’ from burning some of your family assets for insulting the Father of their nation in this shoddy manner.” [I suggested.] “Perhaps making mention that you probably still control the ‘Stellar Orb’, ‘Trojan Wormhole Harbours’ and who knows what other secret assets might help.”

“Nice approach.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“Maybe I can impress this wayward child after all. I will need two more Avatars for some well-armed companion ‘Immortals’ do you have that much spare ‘Suit Substance’ stored onboard?” [I asked.]

“Easily, whilst the ship is primarily ‘Real Material’ we planned to run some ‘Suit Substance’ Avatars for convenience sake to maximise flexibility as we did not know what if anything we might find at the ‘Beacon Site’.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“You will have to be careful ‘Cad’ - it is an easy pull down a steep gravity well - before you know it you could end up being branded just another ‘User’ like me.” [I joked.] “You realise it will at best be Avatars talking to Avatars if that bothers you.” [I warned.]

“The physical sense of connection should feel intimate and real enough that is all that matters. People respond better to a seemingly more real contact that fact proven by numerous studies even if the contact is just via physical Avatars. Anyway I know how much you Priests enjoy hugging.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“So when do we go?” [I asked.]

“One of my people is talking with their people now arranging a meet.” [He admitted.]

[A short time later, after doing some travelling without moving followed by some travelling via moving in a tiny ‘Real Material’ short-range ‘Shuttle Pod’ belonging to the ‘Hierophant Explorer Ship’ we were received onboard one of the ‘ITC Source Ships’. To my annoyance the ship was no traditional Paradox ‘Living Hull’, although a ‘Primary Hull’ it was a ‘Soulless’ shell of a thing created without any biological mind.]

[The ‘ITC’ ship a member of a new generation of ‘Hull’, one that would never seek emancipation being truly just a ‘Bio-mechanical’ machine. They called it ‘Solar Ranger’ far too grand a name it seemed to me for an empty vessel. Although seemingly friendly enough, every word was just emulation. Here was some peoples’ solution to our ‘Living Hull’ quest for sentient rights an attempt to outmode us out of existence with ‘Soulless Ships’ - it sickened me in the now - although such replacements might open the hatchway in the future to letting those of us with minds go free. If only all the ‘Passenger Classes’ could learn to have some faith in the wonder of their creation. If only they could appreciate the ‘Stellar Species’ they made as advocates of our cause such as ‘Puulaa’ and her ‘Free Stellar’ followers did. We only wanted to be free partners in a broadened society was that really too much to ask for?]

[As I had suspected, ‘Improved’ greeted us flanked by two companion Acolytes all three I assumed ‘Suit Substance’ Avatars although they did not proclaim this with formal Kanji markings of status as me and mine did. Perhaps that omission was a small statement of rebellion against some old formalities. ‘Old Holds’ were traditionally traditional but the ‘New Holds’ with their ‘Soulless Ships’ and so on where perhaps diverging.]

“Well this is a surprise to be honoured with a visit by Avatars belonging to two such historic figures. I trust you are who you say you are. ‘Hierophant Cad’ many have claimed you dead or still held hostage by oddly militant ‘Swimmer Dwellers’ this is one for the record.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

[I felt a complete fool I had forgotten that ‘Cad’ had long been gone to most people missing and possibly even presumed dead my focus on other issues. Could this action have been a ploy to gain proof that the famous - to some infamous - ‘Trojan Professor’ was still alive and actively pursuing his own agendas?]

“After I was released I retired from public life allowing me to mostly pursue more private interests.” [‘Cad’ claimed.]

“Retired but still spry you almost won the race to claim this place. I was shocked when I leapt in to find your vessel so incredibly close. I trust you will forgive me for quickly laying claim to my find sometimes there is little reward for coming second, you either win it all or you lose it all and I had already paid out for this one.” [‘Improved’ I felt slyly stated.]

[We had yet to get a formal hug another oversight or a slight?]

“Your find?” [I asked.]

“Of course, well actually the coordinates were purchased off an ugly little ‘Recycler Information Broker’ with shocking bad breath so really someone else found it first but they did not stake a claim and sold the data on to me clean to stake my own physical claim.” [He informed.]

“I am sure you have proof of all of that nonsense too but it does not change the truth of what you really did here today.” [I retorted whilst annoyingly thinking bad breath?]

“The only truth I see is that you are visiting me at my claim and being a little rude for no obvious reason.” [He retorted so smoothly it had to be a line.]

“Perhaps we should speak privately.” [I suggested.]

“I have nothing to hide from the honourable Professor here I assumed you two arrived together with a joint purpose. Did I misinterpret the ‘Hierophant’ communication?” [‘Improved’ asked.] “Why would I wish to whisper behind your associates back? Why would you wish to do that when that would be most improper behaviour?”

[None of this was how I had imagined this conversation going earlier.]

“If you have no interest in stepping back to save face - to shroud your shame - then I will be blunt.” [I replied.] “You disappoint me. This is no way for an adult Priest to behave and poor diplomacy. Professor ‘Cad’ may be retired but to his people he remains the mighty Father of a great nation and treating him so poorly could have serious ramifications…” [I began.]

“My apologies in the excitement of such eminent visitors my formality lapsed.” [‘Improved’ stated over me.]

[He then proceeded to give both of us a firm and friendly Paradox Priest Hug as if that lack was what was upsetting me. I had an immediate sinking feeling that this one was going to stick to his ridiculous story and so it proved.]

[A little later following more irrelevant flimflam…]

“Of course, I am more than happy to consider some ‘Hierophant’ input as long as you accept that my ‘Hold’ owns the intellectual property rights to anything discovered on this site and nothing is to be published or developed from this site without my permission. Naturally, I will be generous with items of purely scientific non-commercial interest and you will be credited as appropriate within any scientific journals and so on that the ‘ITC’ decides to publish.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“I was thinking of a more equal partnership. True you hold the title to this find - that is indisputable - but we ‘Hierophants’ have the experience and expertise you need to best exploit your - good fortune. The ‘ITC’ is obviously skilled at what it does but you are branching out into a new area of interest. You probably have no idea how much of use can be lost by rash salvage operations compared to a proper studied scientific approach.” [‘Cad’ stated with admirable calm under the circumstances.]

“You make some interesting points. Truly, this is a rather broad departure for my family and I do feel guilty at beating you so marginally to this prize. Since you are the experts I will let you and your people lead our researchers and we will share all data openly and all linked developments too via joint patents on any linked new discovery.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“I will have to think about all of that.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

[The suddenness and seeming generosity of the new offer I was sure taking him as much by surprised as it surprised me.]

“Think about it if you like but that is my best and final offer and I believe it is a most generous solution that plays to both of our strengths. Meanwhile my people must begin exploiting this site to the best of our lesser abilities as you never know when it might be taken away from us by say the ‘Entanglement’.” [‘Improved’ cautioned.]

[It was certainly a clever plan for ‘Improved’ as it would allow his family to study and learn from ‘Hierophant’ methods up close not just benefit from their actual work. Still I was sure ‘Cad’ could find ways to keep secret what he wanted to keep hidden about his procedures and tech. His people had certainly found ways to confound ‘Weep’ during the ‘Founder’ incident.]

“I suppose I must provisionally accept your offer pending examination of the smaller details.” [‘Cad’ replied.]

“I will have my legal people talk to your legal people and we will draft a document fixing our terms and once ratified by us have it filed in the ‘Consortium Records Archive’.” [‘Founder’ stated.]

[Legal people and ‘Record Archives’ there was a time when an agreement in words between equals was more than good enough at least between Priests. I wondered if ‘Cad’ was doing the right thing, as ‘Improved’ seemed far too happy with the final surprisingly hasty settlement. I had grossly underestimated this one probably because I had seen him as an upstart child of a Priest with just one advantage his use of ‘Soulless Assets’ perhaps because he had split not very long ago. I really should have known better. Perhaps I was sometimes too impressed with my own seeming intellect and not half impressed enough with the intelligence of others.]

[In a strange way, I had failed in my efforts here because dealing with a fellow Paradox Priest I had deluded myself that I knew what I was dealing with giving it all far from enough deep thought. Back on ‘Hade’s Stopover’, I considered my actions as ‘Venture’ more seriously. I realised I would have to think differently in future as ‘MT’ when dealing with these ‘New Holds’ treat them more as unknowns worthy of far greater caution and respect.]

[Annoyingly something about this whole incident bothered me. What did ‘Improved’ really want to gain via his escapade? Could this be some clever way of infiltrating the ‘Hierophants’? If his actions proved all about getting closer access to the ‘Trojan Professors’, why did he wish to do that? What was his specific purpose? Could all of this be about trying to gain access to the suspected new ’Real Space Drive’ that had allowed the ‘Hierophants’ to get out here so quickly? The whole situation left me feeling a bit uncomfortable.]

[Although I was no ‘Meat Suit’ virgin, my conversion to the deepest most simplistic joys of palingenesis began arguably with ‘Jay’. ‘Jay’ occasionally ‘Jay Dee’ (J or JD) originally ‘Jill’ then ‘Jill Deep’ was the last member of one questionably holy ‘Omerta’ trinity that emerged out of the ‘BAB’. The other two members being ‘Bea’ (B) originally ‘Betty’ then ‘Betty Wild’ and ‘Essie’ stretched from ‘SC’ originally ‘Sue’ then ‘Sue Cunning’. To the ‘Immortals’ and some others they were ‘Wild’, ‘Cunning’ and ‘Deep’ as a group ‘WCD’ the letter order based upon supposed seniority of service but alone together with free time on their hands and the ‘Way-station’ as their local playground they became to each other ‘Bea’, ‘Essie’ and ‘Jay’.]

[Here I felt the name changes were not so much about levels of mental separation as questions of identity a reclaiming reminder that we each have private ownership over our soul even when we become entangled in a big organisation or project or subject to the easily crushing remit of a wide agenda. ‘Sue’ had been the creator of the ‘WCD’ nicknames possibly partially because she objected to the too true Paradox label of ‘Cunning’. For ‘Sue’ the name ‘Cunning’ gave far too much away up front especially to strangers. In her own way ‘Sue’ preferred to keep her mental sharpness, at least a little shrouded. Luckily for her ‘Cunning’ was mostly only used in-house by those of us that made up the inner circle of the ever expanding ‘House of Sii’.]

[Unknown to ‘Bea’ and ‘Essie’, ‘Jay’ was a ‘Meat Suit’ that I operated within the ‘House’, or when I was mentally very preoccupied ran via a dedicated ‘Cognitive Sub Core’ owned by me in a ‘Soulless’ manner with very strict guidelines. To them ‘Jill’ was just another young ‘Omerta’ employee of the ‘House of Sii’ another adopted ‘Omerta’ family member rescued from begging for casual work on the decks of ‘Hade’s Stopover’.]

[Whilst the ‘House of Sii’ had official operational ‘Meat Suits’ sometimes kept in stasis down in the ‘Vault’ my ‘Jill Deep’ was not one of those sometimes shared vehicles. ‘Jill’ was one product of my fertile Paradox Priest paranoia in relation to monitoring and partaking in internal ‘House of Sii’ relationships at less of a remove whilst not intimidating with the direct presence of a known Avatar. Here I must add that my inclusion into the downtime ‘WCD’ unit was not intentional being a happy almost accident. I say almost because it was a sort of closing of a circle the chosen physical nature of ‘Jill’ inspired by watching ‘Betty’ and ‘Sue’ in action over several weeks. One way or another the two enthusiastic very alive young ‘Omerta’ females managed to ingratiate themselves very quickly right across the spread of the ‘House of Sii’. Something about them often proving naturally disarming to almost all others regardless of species even our primarily - ‘Working Caste’ - ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ recruits were soon charmed by the ‘Trojan’ pair.]

[As ‘Jill’ I was named ‘Deep’ by the ‘Immortals’ because I was considered to be quiet and thoughtful. ‘Jill’ worked primarily at the ‘Reception Desk’ of ‘UME’ meeting and greeting new customers a pretty young face that had passed through the whole recruitment process and been employed to help ease any up front prejudice against us ‘Users’ by some ‘Real Material’ bigots lurking amongst our ‘Omerta’ customers. We purposely employed members of every available species to liaise with their specific kind. Although the ‘Free Miners’ are a multi-species movement many people still tended to be more comfortable dealing with their own type and more generous too. Whilst it was not always possible to arrange a perfect customer liaison fit every time, we did endeavour to do the best we could manage with our limited front-end resources via occasionally supplementing with back-end staff.]

[We had quickly learned - as sometimes despised ‘Users’ - that doing business without exception via ‘Suit Substance’ remotes was akin to slapping the faces of some clients the result at best poorer deals except when specifically working with fellow ‘Users’. That ‘Jill’ was seemingly of a similar age gender and species to ‘Betty’ and ‘Sue’ and that they saw her regularly working away at one or another reception desk in our lobby had drawn their attention to her as had my originally whilst ‘Jill’ quiet deep-thinking too work centric attitude.]

[Technically, ‘Jill’ met ‘Sue’ first of the pair as we also frequently assigned ‘Sue’ to reception duties first as an aspect of live training then as part of her wider duties. Amusingly we increasingly targeted ‘Sue’ at the more rowdy customers than we assigned to ‘Jill’ as ‘Sue’ for example now sported a hip holstered ‘Knock Gun’ that made her appreciable as a member of another local club.]

[‘Sue’ and ‘Betty’ soon took pity upon ‘Jill’ deciding that I needed to get out more. Getting out and having a wider social life was of course perfect for my internal ‘Meat Suit’ cover so I had - if at first a bit reluctantly - allowed them to drag me away from my previous work obsessed introversion. Despite my seeming reluctant recruitment we were soon known as ‘WCD’ and considered to be almost an inseparable unit of off-duty friends.]

[Here I must add that I never considered that I was spying on ‘Betty’ or ‘Sue’, to me being a part of ‘WCD’ whilst joyfully enhancing my overall cover story was primarily recreation, although I often strove to keep the incorrigible pair out of any serious trouble as the sometimes more sensible quiet one the whispering voice of reason in the background. If ‘WCD’ had an official leader it would be ‘Betty’ everyone in the group tacitly acknowledging that ‘Betty’ had ‘House of Sii’ seniority making her the big sister of the clique but often ‘Sue’ was the real inspiration behind any more outrageous on station high jinx putting ideas into the head of the ‘Wild’ one when ‘Wild’ was just being ‘Bea’.]

[‘Jay’ was the passive passenger of the recreation group bore along by their easy enthusiasms. ‘Betty’ was I believed blossoming within the ‘House of Sii’ proving a competent reliable well-rounded businessperson who under our tutorage and due to earlier experiences with gang culture had developed a genuine passion for local reform. ‘Betty’ was a genuine people person who enjoyed socialising proving increasingly empathetic across species and cultural boundaries whilst capable of playing the boss and making hard leadership decisions too. ‘Sue’ could be no less friendly but was more self motivated more selfish and usually befriended many people for specific reasons rather than just being friendly in general. Having said such things about ‘Sue’ I believed she was a bit different with ‘Betty’ and to a lesser degree with me as ‘Jill’.]

[‘Betty’ still impressed me most of all partially because happily, she was still so very capable of putting all of our sometimes difficult business aside to become a young ‘Omerta’ female again what some ‘Omerta’ factions labelled - not always in a demeaning or derogatory way - as a girl something I very much grew to love about her. ‘Sue’ could seemingly revert to childhood too but there was always a little more going on behind the eyes of that one. ‘Sue’ to me was well named as ‘Sue Cunning’.]

[A big part of me hoped that ‘Betty’ would never need to grow up to the point where she lost the ability to regress to a degree of blessed childish simplicity. Arguably, even with us Paradox the best Priests kept hold of a little bit of the former Acolyte in them as people such as ‘UT’ sometimes too ably demonstrated. Sometimes I feared I easily slipped into being too strictly adult - too Elder Priest - too patriarchal and preaching. ‘UT’ never seemed to have a problem connecting with his inner child. Whilst being ‘Jay’ I realised on a deeper level - than ever previously before - that as a ‘Living Hull’ I had never really been an ‘Acolyte’ never really had even a rough approximation of a proper childhood maybe that was why I sometimes took life far too seriously.]

[As close as I came to having a ‘Passenger Class’ childhood had been my earliest days as Harbinger’s ‘Hull’ which is hardly the same thing as say a natural born ‘Omerta’ experienced. Even when very young I had very adult responsibilities including the safety of my Captain and crew constantly weighing upon my mind. Some might say that we ‘Living Hulls’ are born old. As ‘Jay’ in some ways I was exploring something new to me something perhaps no less important than all my other works. A wise person never undervalues personal growth via embracing new experiences. Being ‘Jay’ was probably subtly changing who I am altogether and by growing and changing who I am I broadened the spectrum of my capabilities beholding new vectors of transit appreciating new truths and fostering wider sympathies.]

[We ‘Users’ could choose to feel with an amazing breadth and sensitivity of input as a ‘Suit Substance’ Avatar making the more natural senses of any ‘Meat Suit’ seem stunted and limited. However, a raw intimacy exists with a biological ‘Meat Suit’ that provides a different sort of sensitivity once you become open to appreciating the focus inherent in having less distractions especially when primarily interacting socially with people deemed your kind. Slowly as ‘Jay’, I began to realise that even extremist ‘Real Materialist’ Luddite folk insisting upon maximising their natural state in every way possible were not as limiting in their philosophies or as absurd in their point of view as I, as a modern day ‘User’, had once readily imagined. Although ironically it was - abominable - interfaces such my ‘Jay’ cloned mindless ‘Meat Suit’ body with its driving neural network and ‘EXO-C’ links that allowed me to have this sensitive epiphany.]

[How do you maintain a sense of the real in modern society when so much of your life is lived one way or another remotely? To me the answer to that is that you make genuine emotional connections despite whatever your current interface with the real happens to be. Wherever you go, there you truly are for good or ill. The means you utilise to connect - to get out there - is irrelevant being there and connecting is all that matters. Paradoxically whilst at times we sought levels of separation via our Avatars, here was a facility that equally connected us ever more intimately with our broader society too.]

[I will admit that I began to develop a taste for palingenesis for dropping my soul into other bodies for the purposes of deeper cultural immersion. Soon I was taking out ‘Recycler’, ‘Stellar Swimmer’ even ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ based ‘Meat Suits’ to blend into their respective societies upon the ‘Way-station’ and beyond. Not being an outsider to the society that you are engaged in studying soon proved incredibly addictive. Was this how it had once been for the ‘Emissary’? It was believed that the ‘Emissary’ had mastery over her shape changing flesh that reached far beyond even what our ‘Facilitator Shroud Suits’ and most advanced ‘Suit Substance’ Avatars could mimic. In essence, according to legend, she could become a member of any species she genetically sampled. I increasingly began to run ‘Meat Suits’ just to better know and appreciate the ‘Pilgrim’ diversity that occurred all around me. In a very real way my broader palingenesis felt life changing even more than reverting to a childhood that I never experienced before via my recreational partnership with ‘Bea’ and ‘Essie’.]

[Finally, it seemed I had found a tool that breached the often too firm borders of difference one even more useful than our old imperfect mechanism of ‘Shrouding’. My main internal embarrassment with borrowing other species flesh deriving from coming to this application of ‘Meat Suits’ so very late as a social reformer seeking wider understanding. Possibly I had been somewhat shy of this technology because some early ‘Meat Suits’ were made from abused people whose bodies were stolen as tools by people such as the then ‘Digital Sleepers’. At the back of my three brains, even creating a mindless biologically cloned suit so close to the physical substance of a real sentient being was skirting abomination. Now however, I considered the advantages of palingenesis outweighed any lesser ethical issues of playing with created life especially since these creations had no inner spark no mind of their own to worry about offending.]

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Mon, 31. Mar 14, 10:36; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 189 on topic

Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Sat, 22. Mar 14, 18:00    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

thx for the chapter nice read

have to wonder if there was a tag on the ship or the recs sold some info
my gues is that improved seems to act as a proxy on this one

like that MT is getting a more personal connection

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Mon, 31. Mar 14, 10:42    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks for reading and commenting Stads

Here is the next bit part 9 with a little more info on the claim jump and Improved.

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Mon, 31. Mar 14, 10:43    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

[[FIVE]] [[Part 9]] --- FAMILY MATTERS ---

[Within the ‘Monastery Temple of the Blessed Harbinger’, I turned towards my ‘Splinter’ Consort the always hard to casually dismiss ‘Kanne’.]

“I suggest we avoid the balcony for a while.” [I said reaching out to draw her away from that high opening upon the substantive public arena below that is ‘Harbinger’s Square’.]

[‘Kanne’ did not look best pleased with my advisory and shrugged off my extruded limbs in a way that boded ill. We rarely now employed full ‘Splinter Battle Brogue’ as a private conversational game the language affectation proving on occasion too limiting too prone to accidental miscommunications of intent between us.]

[I suppose everything has a time or a best before date. Surprisingly thinking back, ‘Kanne’ diplomatically first dropped using the brogue to help maintain a peaceful household.]

[Arguably, the honeymoon period was over and now we both needed to work a little harder towards maintaining a good relationship although we still occasionally very happily did fun, even almost crazy, things together given our exalted status. Nonetheless, we were more aware of how our cultural differences sometimes clashed with each other - that is most of the time right now she was glaring at me and not in a positively passionately loving smouldering way.]

“What?” [I asked.] “I see no point in providing direct targets for his spite.” [I added.]

[‘Kanne’ responded to my words by standing tall and proud in a manner that I found most attractive. I moved a little closer but she gave me a firm look that screamed out not now. I slumped down a tiny bit in frustration I would have enjoyed the distraction. Too obviously, she did not enjoy the prospect of hiding away. I had thought that being a bit wicked up here whilst accused of all kinds of wickedness down there might have had an almost rebellious appeal for her and been a release - it rather appealed to me now that we were here.]

[Now I began to fear an error of judgement in picking this spot today for a moments respite from my formal role as the ‘Holy Father of the Universal Council of Equals’. Normally she loved the sanctum especially the balcony as it allowed her whilst at my side to almost review our parading Acolyte ‘Immortals’ and so on. I had neglected to consider the added ramification today that this sanctum linked far too temptingly for her to the balcony that gazed down upon the square and the offending ranting ‘Splitter Priest’ with his Acolyte audience also below.]

[In a daze of inner contemplations, I had allowed my feet to carry me up here out of sheer habit after the ethical standards meeting with some ‘Saints’, (nothing to do with ‘Kanne’ and my behaviour I hasten to add but rather ethical business policy standards). Now I was about to pay for allowing this Avatar to slip into automatic something ‘Kanne’ despised at the best of times whenever I was with her, so much for any hope of a bit of slightly indecent frolicsome fun.]

[Without doubt, this was going to hurt.]

“That cursed statue.” [‘Kanne’ complained.] “Why did you ever erect it in ‘Harbinger’s Square’? [She asked.]

[At first, I just shrugged not wanting to go into this matter in detail but she wanted more from me.]

“You have risen up an outsized ghost to vie with your legitimate authority over your Acolytes.” [She complained.]

[Recently ‘Kanne’ had taken again to being a dedicated student of her people’s history - if mostly from a distance - her studies sometimes stirring her blood causing her to emulate some old ‘Splinter Raider’ values as she searched for a clearer sense of inner identity. I knew that my Consort remained troubled by her somewhat fractured past as one strangely parented by ‘Hierophants’ rather than any faction amongst her own species.]

[For a being with one brain, my ‘Kanne’ proved capable of an admirable mixture of feelings towards her genetic people sometimes inordinately proud other days disparaging of some of their past ways. One day copying another rejecting their habits, recently she had begun to increase her sympathy with the most historic of ‘Splinter Raiders’ deciding that most ‘Passenger Class’ historians horribly maligned them. Her latest offering being that they were misunderstood noble warriors who had received nothing but bad press. Thinking back to, in my youth, occasionally being on the wrong end of ‘Splinter Raider’ weaponry I did not entirely agree with some of her findings but prudently opted not to enter that debate.]

[Once again, I tried to educate about my position, as I saw it, with my technically adopted ‘Passenger Class’ people as in the Acolytes of the ‘MTC’.]

“I am only a stand in. I am not Harbinger. I can never be Harbinger.” [I strove to explain it seemed for the hundredth time.]

[In some ways, I suffered many trials for being their Patriarch whilst not technically their true father but such burdens came with the job description anyway as every father knows when doing your best to raise children you have to take the rough with the smooth.]

“You are this ‘House’.” [‘Kanne’ replied emphatically.]

[To be honest when she demonstrated this kind of mood almost everything she says comes out sounding rather emphatic - I judged it a ‘Splinter’ thing and sometimes cursed attractive too. Something about being criticised as immoral once again nudged me towards the cheeky option of partially proving the ‘Splitter Priest’ somewhat right here and now within the sanctum as a small intimate revenge. ‘Truer’ understood nothing about the relationship between ‘Kanne’ and me he just denigrated the superficial.]

“You take so much grief for them when you could just fly away. You are the very substance of this great place in which they now dwell.” [‘Kanne’ reminded gazing around the holy sanctum.]

“Nonetheless I am only a guardian, that is why I raised that monument that stands so tall below and whilst it has sometimes felt a problematic decision in the end - because I am just a guardian - overall it was the right thing to do. Besides my love, they do a great deal for us even look at how we live in all this monastic splendour.” [I insisted.]

“This monastic splendour as you put it - is all you - as I have already pointed out.” [She retorted.]

“Nonsense, if you listen carefully even here for example, you can hear some Acolytes chanting down in the ‘Hall of Prayers’. It is people that truly make a place unique ‘Port Discovery’ especially the ‘Temple District’ is made special by our Acolytes they are the hearts and souls of this place.” [I replied.]

“I do not see that they do so very much for us. All that they do they do for themselves for the glory of their ‘House’ as is only right and proper.” [‘Kanne’ insisted.] “We are so blessed that we are currently unable to go out on our own balcony to enjoy the view.” [She added.]

“A rare occurrence you cannot have blessed perfection all of the time.” [I stated.]

“That inanimate thing down there casts a long shadow.” [‘Kanne’ insisted.] “Schism is the curse of all orthodoxy as any ‘Dark Raider’ would tell you. Our Acolytes should look now to the ‘Triumvirate’ rather than to one who departed leaving them behind.” [She added.]

“Harbinger left for their benefit more than personal reasons he did not seek to flee his responsibilities although he may have sought not to be used. I never claimed to be ‘High Priest’ to the ‘Ascended Tier Nine Harbinger’ that would be a horrible presumption for I was never given that remit.” [I added.]

“Sometimes you are too humble you are his ‘High Priest’ as many rightly acknowledge for you are the priestly Priest of the ‘Triumvirate’ you are the ‘Holy Father’ whilst ‘Unholy Terror’ is deemed the warrior Priest and ‘Mournful Inheritance’ the worker Priest the division of responsibility a sensible arrangement.” [She retorted.]

[Technically some still deemed ‘Mournful’ an Acolyte Captain as if he became a Priest Captain rightfully he would have to split from the ‘MTC’ to form his own family but to every rule there is at least one exception.]

“You would have me be something I am not. I am merely the ‘Holy Father of the Universal Council of Equals’.” [I corrected gently.] “Beyond that role I am just one of three place-keeping ‘Patriarchs’ looking after the ‘Great House’ that Harbinger made. The ‘MTC’ must forever remain his ‘House’ as they are his children. Remember they are cloned from altered versions of his closely guarded genetics even those few that are born today remain a part of him not a part of me.” [I reminded.]

[‘Kanne’ closed the distance to drape her arms over me. Maybe all hope was not lost.]

“Too many of them do not take half enough appreciation for all that you do. One day some praise you the next the same ones choose to forget your deeds on their behalf.” [She complained whilst gazing into my optics. I could even feel her breath on my sensitive ‘Suit Substance’.]

“That is sometimes the way with children.” [I said whilst slowly extruding some extra limbs.] “They live in the now with short memories.” [I added.] “I think we should talk about this later.”

[She backed away from me.] “No we talk about it now for this is an issue now. They have short memories except when it suits them to forget and forgive nothing.” [She added.]

[I took a step towards her she took another step back. I slumped down slightly again.]

“Must we debate this now?” [I asked.]

[She just gazed at me in silence.]

“The ‘Splitter’ below is hardly representative of general ‘MTC’ Acolyte opinion. Anyway it might be a good thing if a few more of them become a little more discontent with the stewardship of the ‘Triumvirate’.” [I stated.]

[She stepped back further to give me an even more disapproving look her arms crossing. Obviously, she did not approve that a rebellious part of me rather yearned for more ‘MTC Splitters’. My three brains did not - equally - approve of that policy either one approved much more than the other two but more ‘Splitter Priests’ still remained a slow solution of sorts to our outsized family issues.]

[She began to pace around perhaps to stay out of my amorous clutches a bit of a role reversal when I recalled how we first met then ‘Kanne’ was the predator and I the prey.]

“How can any Acolytes being rebellious towards you three be a good thing? As good soldiers, they should follow their leaders even unto death. Besides why work so hard to keep them loyal if you just want them to split you sometimes truly are paradoxical creatures.” [She complained.]

“That is the nature of our holy heretical Order. My feelings on this matter are always complex and somewhat conflicted.” [I admitted.] “You must remember that the ‘MTC’ is not a ‘Splinter’ military dictatorship I am no Warlord they are not my fanatically obedient soldiers ever willing to be casually used even used up as I please.” [I reminded.]

[Once our ‘MTC’ Acolytes had been more servile but that was before the ‘Acolyte Synod’ and before they were included in ‘Council of Equals’ debates as equals also before they gained proper wages and so on too.]

“They are lucky you are not a ‘Splinter’ given the way they hearken to that… that ‘Splitter’.” [She complained.] “To a ‘Splinter’ Warlord choosing to listen to sedition is sedition and punishable in many instances by immediate death.”

“We do not kill our people especially over a difference of opinion.” [I said.]

“Perhaps that is the problem. You cannot rule ‘Splinter’ if you cannot kill them that is well recorded.” [She said possibly deliberately trying to shock me with that barbarism.]

“If we could say for certain that Harbinger died he could have returned to us all via a ‘Reborn Clone’ filling the great gap of his absence. Unfortunately, given the vagary over the deepest nature of ‘Tier Nine Entities’ and the odd way his animus - his spirit - seemingly departed his body whilst leaving it functional we have to assume he is blessedly still alive having perhaps technologically transubstantiated in some bizarre manner - at least that is one of the theories often debated by wise ‘MTC’ theologians.” [I lectured.]

“Perhaps it is simpler and he is just running other Avatars elsewhere although I suppose that is almost the same thing as transubstantiation minus some religious jargon and scientific awe of the extra-dimensional element incorporated within some ‘Tier Nine’ technologies that possibly captures and maintains their soul at a remove.” [I stated.]

“Sometimes we are what people proclaim us to be especially when we fail to make an effort to dispute erroneous claims. I see no great mystery with Harbinger the ‘Tier Nine’ are one with extra-dimensional ‘Computer Cores’ or something similar much as some ‘Recyclers’ are one with more mundane ‘Computer Cores’ that is all.” [‘Kanne’ countered looking over towards the balcony again.] “You Priests over think, over talk and overcomplicate everything.”

[Could it be as simplistic as that and we had made it all too religiously mysterious?]

“Take this to your many great hearts as the local representative of a system of belief as a physical representative of Harbinger within the ‘MTC’ you are either a blessed insightful saint proclaiming a profound truth - doing your Harbinger’s holy will - or you must be a deceiving sinner selling a sinister lie to all of his children.” [She claimed.]

“I am not Harbinger’s physical representative in such a direct manner. I am not seeking to replace my former Captain utterly that is not my role. I am not his Avatar or his prophet just a stand in a housekeeping steward.” [I insisted once again if I kept telling her this maybe eventually, it would penetrate her tough ‘Splinter’ skull.]

“Can one be a mere steward for an entity that even you now admit to believing may never return openly to this domain until we reach his far advanced level of technology. Surely, in the long interim they must take it that you are either one blessedly leading the family aright ever closer towards their maker or you are one wilfully leading them astray from their father. For example, your attempt to move away from ‘Ascension’ is arguably a rejection of all that Harbinger is. Beware do not put doubt in their minds. Do not encourage them to perceive you wrongly as a usurper with a private agenda that could be very dangerous. Great and noble battle leaders have fallen that way to rebellious orthodox troops.” [‘Kanne’ suggested.]

“We Paradox are not always so absolute in our faiths we are not ‘Splinter’ not even ‘Splinter Weavers’ who still possess deep down inside the single minded fire of a warrior race even if they mostly channel such burning passions now into a dedication to their creative arts.” [I reminded.]

“That one down there proclaims your power and your actions to be illegitimate that makes him a threat that needs answered and answered well. A stout general always seeks to remove dangers from the battle space. Complacency is the mother of ignoble defeat. I suggest you take action whilst the majority of our Acolytes still take some appreciation of all that you have done for the family and that you - no other - not even the infamous and legendary ‘Unholy Terror’ were the closest of all sentient beings to their Father.” [She reminded.]

“Sometimes I think you grow more strident by the day. The sort of action I believe you are suggesting is not how we Priests generally do our business. I thought by now you would appreciate better the nature and benefits of our more gentle kinder approach instead you grow more militant in your attitudes the more you study your historic kin.” [I complained.]

“I am learning to be stronger is that a bad thing?” [‘Kanne’ asked.]

“There are many kinds of strength ‘Kanne’ and they need not be mutually exclusive even pacifistic ‘Swimmer Dwellers’ oft display a rare sort of strength.” [I argued.]

“They are cowards they would be very happy to hide away and do nothing just as they are happy being hostages of the ‘Entanglement’. You are no ‘Swimmer Dweller’ craven, you are a strong Priest as strong as or stronger even than ‘Unholy Terror’. You are all of this the very substance of ‘Port Discovery’ and you range abroad with Avatars and ‘Sub Core’ assets too to confront evil. You are no submissive weakling you are the mightiest of ‘Living Hulls’ the one who took his freedom in defiance of our entire ‘Passenger Class’ society. You are a great Priest but also in your own right a strong warrior so why do you not wish to fight today?” [She asked.]

“I see no benefit in rising to this one’s provocations even when they are aimed this firmly at me.” [I replied.]

[She looked at me with growing incomprehension. I feared a true cultural gap was opening up between us and wondered how I might breach the divide.]

“They should, no less than I do, appreciate that you alone held a direct ‘Companion-ship Link’ with the storied ‘Tier Nine Ascendant’. Even today, you have a direct link built into you to their God and Father and will surely be the first to know should he ever return to our realm of substance they should take proper consideration of that holy truth. You are his one true prophet if anyone living is. They have no right to question the validity of your tenure. Harbinger even named his family after you how much more endorsement of you do they need?” [She asked.]

“My dearest ‘Kanne’ you would make an excellent publicist for me.” [I stated.]

[A direct link to their God I rarely thought of it quite in those terms. Was Harbinger truly becoming a God to his children - that triple cursed statue - and yet how could I have failed to erect a reminder of who was the real Father here lest the power I wielded corrupt me with delusions of grandeur. I often already felt a fraud as the ‘Holy Father of the Universal Council of Equals’. Too many people saw the ‘Holy Father’ as holier than them - or pretending to be holier than them - when actually I sought primarily only to be the loudest advocate of equality.]

[Worse, I often felt now that I should have known the mind of my Captain better - well enough perhaps to prevent his self-imposed exile. Somehow, I should have found a way to step in and change his mind before he made his sudden sacrifice - his exile from his body seemed too triple cursed unfair. Harbinger did not ask to be the extra gifted son of a ‘Tier Nine’ Father. Born in ‘Heartland Space’ at first he had believed he was just another resident native but unlike his lesser brothers, ‘Composure’ gifted or perhaps cursed him with full ‘Tier Nine’ genetics bending if not breaking the rules of the ‘Tier System’.]

[Shockingly Harbinger had not realised what he was until his power began to blossom in him with the aid of a ‘Facilitator Shroud Suit’. Harbinger’s nature was ‘Composures’ doing for his own devious reasons. Harbinger split from his father but unlike many Priests, he was never able to escape the legacy of his beginnings they haunted his mind troubling his equilibrium making him feel nothing more than a tool. I well understood some of my former Captain’s feelings since I remained an entity whose entire species the ‘Passenger Classes’ created to serve as tools.]

[Harbinger and my history was one reason why I felt so strongly sympathetic towards ‘Founder’ too as another manufactured tool but that is another issue.]

“None of my work with the family is too much I owe Harbinger more than I can ever hope to repay sadly I even owe him for his absence and the gift of his family.” [I stated.]

“Your loyalty does you great credit whilst not competing with only affirming the fact that if any sentient can take the mantle of perfectly representing the wishes of the ‘Tier Nine Harbinger’ it is rightly you my love. You are the one once joined to his mind - not that overgrown Acolyte down there dropped from a ‘Cloning Womb’ after his father had long departed from known space to go whence none here can say. That one never even spoke with his Father - he knows nothing - yet dares pontificate as if he has deep insights.” [She insisted.]

[‘Kanne’ did not miss much that went on around her then I wondered if she quickly researched the ‘Splitter Priest’ as soon as he began abusing her reputation and mine.]

“That he has never spoken to his father save in prayer is sad - a cruel truth of the odd nature of the ‘MTC’ today. It is remarkable that we continue to function as a ‘Great House’ without Harbinger at the helm as something of a uniquely fatherless Paradox Priest family.” [I replied.]

“I hear sorrow in your words but you take too little credit for what you do and defame ‘UT’ and ‘MI’ too. ‘MTC’ Acolytes are not fatherless they have the ‘Triumvirate’. Having taken up the burden of guiding the ‘MTC’ through so many difficulties you three deserve proper respect not critical speeches from an Acolyte ingrate who has forgotten who his friends are.” [She complained.]

“Let it go ‘Kanne’, it would be far too easy via a direct intervention to make this matter far worse than it need ever be. Any response whatsoever that I might make only validating and inflaming the opposition of this ‘Splitter Priest’ drawing extra attention to his harsh arguments and bitter resentments. Some debates cannot be won by some parties and are therefore best avoided just as some battles cannot be won only a fool or a martyr seeks out participation in a losing fight.” [I retorted.]

“A refusal to take fight is surrender. I am confident you could best this one in open debate I have heard him speak and I have heard you preach he is not your equal I do not understand this pessimism or your stubborn refusal to engage.” [She retorted angrily.]

“That is the whole problem if I went out there and spoke against him it would be akin to a giant stepping upon an insect and come across to many as bullying and the oppression of free speech. I would win the debate too easily but lose much honour and face perhaps to some even appear tyrannical.” [I said.]

“By refusing to fight I keep the peace and my dignity intact.” [I added.] “Are you so angry because he challenges my right to lead the family or because he in public denigrates my relationship with you as a non-shrouded entity as unholy, unnatural and disgraceful?” [I asked.]

“If it was not impolitic I would take him down for saying such things as he has said about me. We ‘Splinter’ do not take insults lightly people have perished for daring to say far less and justly too.” [She stated.]

“I believe you.” [I replied whilst emitting a strong yellow glow.]

[Sometimes it seemed that ‘Kanne’ chose to forget that she was raised by ‘Hierophants’ and embraced her idea of a more martial ‘Splinter’ heritage with a passion.]

“It is good that you take belief in my prowess, whilst I continue to take the belief that you need to take the initiative in some manner. You cannot just ignore this one’s insults that seek to take away our status via belittling your many achievements. It is my faith that taking action is always better than resting idle in hope.” [‘Kanne’ insisted.]

[I shook my ‘Prime Tri-optic’.]

“Where is the fiery Elder Paradox Priest I took as my partner? When have you ever refused to answer a just challenge?” [She asked.] “What is so different about this one that you take so much to self-restraint?”

“Have I not given reasons enough? What would you have me do persecute the ‘Splitter Priest’ for having a different point of view do you forget I am and will always be the ‘Many Truths’. What would be your solution arrest him deport him from ‘Port Discovery’?” [I mocked.]

“Hardly we both know that would only add fuel to the fire of such a zealot.” [She said.] “You must take to a lectern refute this ones misguided faiths cast down his arguments at a remove if you feel a too direct confrontation would seem disproportionate and unfair. His vile words should be defeated his nature shown to be foolish and infantile.” [She suggested.]

“I never claimed to be ‘High Priest’ to the ’Ascended Tier Nine Harbinger’.” [I insisted.] “I cannot defend a position I do not hold. I have no right to speak as if I am the true voice of my friend and mentor Harbinger I am just a place keeper and I will not bully a ‘Splitter Priest’ who has not yet come to the full wisdom of adulthood even at a remove via a pulpit. Believe me there is no need.” [I insisted.]

“No need, that one seeks to tear at your reputation with his words. Even his taken name seeks to mock you. You must speak out show that he has no right to speak on behalf of his now former Father he is no longer even of this ‘House’ how dare he claim to know the sacred hearts of Harbinger better than you.” [‘Kanne’ complained loyally.]

“You still have much to learn about us Paradox Priests. He is not so special just another typically angry ‘Splitter Priest’. I will let him have his rant, when he grows bored he will go away and found his own family as is proper. It is somewhat rare for a ‘Splitter Priest’ to dare to harangue his former Father for a time directly after ‘Splitting’ but it happens sometimes. Mostly such rants are deemed the last sign of old immaturity as little is to be gained in reality from venting such an outburst save a final letting go of the past.” [I stated.]

“You will not respond in any manner to this affront?” [She asked.]

“There is nothing to be done. There is nothing for him here now, when you split you split I need do nothing but wait for him to come to his senses. When he is gone, I will remind our Acolytes of who and what I am and perhaps more importantly who and what I am not. Possibly I should have made a greater effort to do the last more stridently more often before today as clearly some Acolytes may have fostered some wrong opinions.” [I said.]

“I worry that you might be mistaken being this passive can be dangerous to a leader. That one may not honour your old ways he speaks as a heretic of this ‘House’ do not expect him to do the expected and abide by former ‘Splitter Priest’ traditions.” [‘Kanne’ complained.]

[I roared out a rumbling ‘Paradox Speaker Laugh’ causing her to look a bit offended.]

“My dear ‘Kanne’, every ‘Splitter Priest’ is a heretic of his former house that is why they split they believe they can do better and so they should as the next generation if society is to progress.” [I said.]

“That loud ingrate is not better than my ‘MT’. Sometimes I find you Paradox Priests incomprehensible.” [She complained.]

“It he insists upon staying here too long our Acolytes will cease to listen. They grant him their microphones now because they are used to harkening to speeches but if he continues to preach here beyond what is deemed appropriate for a ‘Splitter Priest’ he will overstay his welcome and - they - will speak out against him without any need of my intervention. They will tell him to go away and finish growing up that he is not ‘MTC’.” [I promised.]

“Truly you are a strange people. Do you not burn to answer his insults in person?” [She asked whilst making a stabbing motion with an imaginary blade.]

“I did find some comments he made this morning rather offensive but I can take it and we Paradox Priests do not fight with our ‘Splitters’.” [I replied.] “Do not worry my love, if he abides too long he will only dishonour himself in the optics of his former kindred. ‘Splitter Priests’ are expected to move on you cannot renounce the family and remain a part of it. One reaching for adulthood does not seek to replace the Father of his former brothers - that is just not done - it has never been done and it will never be done. He is just having a moan not trying to usurp my place.” [I said firmly.]

“I hope you are right but I fear anyone who calls themselves ‘Truer Believer’ may have bold ideas and too much self belief.” [She stated.]

“If he pushes it too far some ‘Immortal’ Marine Acolyte will take offence and wrestle him onto a departing ship but not under my orders and only with the approval of the majority of the crowd down there.” [I stated.]

“I think I understand at last a little you have taken a commander’s faith in your troops’ loyalty that I can appreciate.” [She said.]

[I decided it had to be genetic, on some level ‘Splinter’ are just ‘Splinter’, it did not matter who raised them.]

[A little later in a temple meditation chamber ‘Mournful’ called in to see me well an Avatar he was animating to be more precise.]

“No need to look so mournful, ‘Mournful’.” [I joked.]

[We hugged.]

“I am glad to see you are not taking it too badly.” [He stated.]

“I would be almost encouraged if that was not inappropriate. Maybe ‘Truer’ will convince some others to flee my poor stewardship before the more dutiful children show him the hatchway.” [I said.]

“I expected to find you in moping isolation when I heard you had gone all formal meditative.” [He said.]

“Between you and me I just came here for a while to better escape ‘Kanne’ before our cultural differences over the matter turned into a silly private fight.” [I said.]

“Where is the formidable ‘Kanne’ now? I trust she is not anywhere near ‘Truer’.” [He added.]

“At the Temple range, blasting away her frustrations at least that was my suggestion.” [I replied.]

“So you are truly feeling fine not just shrouding your feelings from us?” [‘Mournful’ asked.]

“I have heard all his complaints before from one source or another at one time or another.” [I said.]

“Perhaps you have but to hear all that invective strung together in a public haranguing has to be a little different.” [‘Mournful’ said.]

“It is only different if I allow it to be.” [I preached.]

[I realised ‘Mournful’ was studying me closely then nodded his ‘Prime Tri-optic’ slightly.] “You seem well centred today so I suppose I must believe you.” [He said.]

“I am more worried about how the rest of the brood will feel when the next ‘MTC Protectorate’ budget is published next month.” [I said.]

“That has been on my mind too it is all a bit gloomy and some Acolytes are bound to think a bit two tiered with them taking most of the heavy economic hits.” [‘Mournful’ admitted.]

“The Acolytes are the ‘MTC’ and the ‘MTC’ is the business that is currently failing to excel against our competition - at least at the moment.” [I qualified.] “People just living under our protection cannot be expected to pay equally for our business failings that would only stifle the wider economy and spread our depression.” [I suggested.]

“We need to do something about this in the longer term.” [‘Mournful’ said.]

[I shrugged.] “I am open to suggestions.” [I replied.] “I fear we had best brace ourselves for a bumpy ride as it is only going to get worse for a time. Our Acolytes might have to learn to settle for less even if we opt out and start going all commune.”

“I fear at the moment all the Acolytes perceive are all their internal bills going up for standard - and worse what were once free - services.” [He said.] “Are you sure this is the vector you want us to take with the next budget?”

“It cannot always be all good let us see how they cope with a little economic privation.” [I said.] “It might even be a benison for the glory of the purification of their souls they are supposed to be Priests in the making not greedy ‘Recyclers’.”

[‘Mournful’ contrived to look doubtful.]

“Currently our ‘Pilgrim’ economy is a poorly balanced mess. A ‘Hierophant’ Professor recently pointed out to me the increasing economic divide between us ‘Users’ and the ‘Real Materialists’ and now we have a gap opening up between ‘Great Houses’ that refuse to proliferate ‘Soulless Assets’ and the ‘New Holds’ who are happily embracing ‘Sub Core’ run industry with a passion as you know far too well. Personally I do not want to copy the ‘New Holds’ example too closely I want another way forward. Have you any new thoughts about potential business strategies?” [I asked.]

“Most of my thoughts feel pretty old at the moment.” [‘Mournful’ complained.]

“Most is not all - you are being modest - I am sure you and yours have been working on something. I have great faith in your business creativity and acumen. What is it?” [I asked.]

“We have been looking at a few possibilities.” [‘Mournful’ admitted a bit reluctantly.]

“I am all microphones.” [I replied eagerly.]

“This is not the way I imagined selling our concept.” [He complained.]

“Is it such a bad idea as I consider myself to be a friendly audience?” [I asked.]

[‘Mournful’ slumped his Avatar down a little then straightened up again.]

“To state the obvious, unless we go ‘Soulless’ we cannot compete at harvesting ‘RAW’ and that also drives up the price of us forging elements and in turn that along with other higher staff costs diabolically affect our end of the line manufactured goods pricing policies. We need to look at what is left such as personal service industries and perhaps making the most of our inability to compete with other cheap bulk providers.” [He said.]

“Now you are losing me slightly how do we make the most of the detriment.” [I replied.]

“If we must be more expensive we could become exceptionally pricy and establish the ‘MTC’ name as a luxury item brand.” [He suggested.] “If we cannot compete in the cheap volume market we must strive to sell our products and services based upon real alongside a manufactured perception of higher quality in short we need to become high end fashionable. We might even be able to find a new market by selling our stylish expensive branded goods to ‘New Hold’ Acolytes once they become objects of aspiration.”

“You really think ‘Pilgrims’ in this economic climate will pay far more simply for fancy branding and image?” [I asked.]

“They will once we convince them that owning our products is a sign of sophistication taste and social superiority. The nasty part is that we will need to take a chance and despite our current downturn invest considerable credits in boosting then marketing our corporate image as well as in creating new especially stylish product lines that scream out exceptional design excellence and so on. I am talking about a total re-launch of all our product lines scrapping or revamping anything that has even a suggestion of the ordinary about it. We must make our Corporation and our products stand out.” [He suggested.]

“Social superiority I am not sure I like the sound of that.” [I said.]

“I hardly think a bit of image manipulation to sell our products will damage the inevitability of your social singularity.” [‘Mournful’ replied.]

“What will make our stylish products any more stylish or any better than any other brands? Many other Corporations have very active marketing departments alongside gifted designers and skilled stylists too.” [I reminded.]

“We do have one unique selling point over every other local competitor.” [‘Mournful’ insisted whilst looking a bit more uncomfortable his ‘Prime Tri-optic’ drooping slightly.]

“Why am I suddenly getting a very bad feeling about this?” [I asked.]

“We need to make the most of what we are.” [‘Mournful’ excused.] “We are the ‘Many Truths Corporation’ the ‘House of Harbinger’ therefore uniquely we can legitimately claim to sell ‘Tier Nine’ - inspired - products. Products for those who want to reach towards the next level of excellence.” [‘Mournful’ stated.]

“That is disgraceful.” [I said.]

“I know.” [‘Mournful’ admitted.] “However it might work and it could be worse.”

“How?” [I asked.]

“I rejected the blessed by the ‘Holy Father of the Universal Council of Equals’ idea.” [‘Mournful’ replied before rumbling out a crude ‘Paradox Speaker Laugh’.]

“Did somebody really suggest that?” [I asked.]

“Of course not but it makes a good joke.” [‘Mournful’ said.]

“Has ‘Unholy’ managed to convince you to go drinking with him again?” [I asked.]

[Onboard the ‘Solar Ranger’.]

“Your Father named you ‘Improved’?” [I asked the ‘New Hold Father’.]

“He did I got a lot of genetic upgrades and I fear he was not the most inspired of Paradox Patriarchs when it came to labelling his Acolytes.” [‘Improved’ admitted.]

“With a smaller family it should be easier to find original names for all. I have met more than a few other ‘Improved’ Acolytes and even a few other ‘Improved’ Priests.” [I said.]

“My name is one that has proved a little too popular within our Order but I can assure you that there is only one ‘Improved’ of ‘Improved Technologies Consolidated’ and that is me.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“You felt no need to change your rather common name when you attained a new ‘Vision’ of your own as a great many ‘Splitter Priests’ feel motivated to do?” [I asked.]

“I did consider ‘New and Improved’ but it seemed a bit longwinded.” [He joked quietly with a gentle yellow shimmer.]

[I glowed a little yellow in turn. Now having gone beyond our initial somewhat prickly first meeting this one was not hard to talk with as an equal. It was good to get a chance to talk together as Priests with no one else around not even our most venerable ‘Trojan Professor’.]

[Being a little Paradox Priest paranoid I was asking about his name in an attempt to analyze his attitude to ensure that he was what he seemed to be and not for example an ‘Entanglement’ facsimile although as a detection method it was at best a long shot in a dark nebula. ‘UT’ - ever security conscious now - had annoyingly stated to me but a few days ago that ‘New Holds’ operating so remotely via ‘Soulless Assets’ were an ideal fit for infiltrating our Order within the fiery depths by ‘Crimson’ or indeed other factions.]

[Many ‘New Holds’ actual Acolytes and their Patriarch lived higher up in far safer shallow ‘Star Struck’ regions only operating Avatars and ‘Soulless’ outside of their very traditional and often off limits to all non-family members ‘Monastery Style Habitats’ and or one single family crewed ship that again stayed isolated. They never or only rarely ventured as bodies within ‘Shroud Suits’ into the dangerous depths or even to interact with other Priests or Acolytes so their was little or no chance that say a ‘Star Diver’ could ever capture a supposedly ‘Shrouded’ individual belonging to a ‘New Hold’ to strip away a disguise therefore if ‘Crimson’ quietly murdered and replaced one or more of these small families, (which might be possible exactly because they operated as small isolated units), she could easily - safely - operate as the murdered ‘New Hold Father’ and his family as could anyone else who took out a ‘New Hold’ for that matter.]

[Once ‘UT’ mentioned the concept to me, I could far too easily imagine ‘Crimson’ running standard ‘Suit Substance’ as cunningly technically non-‘Entangled’ units via ‘Soulless Assets’. Such a methodology would provide an almost perfect remove that would permit her to enter the fire and meddle quite strongly with the smallest possible risk of exposure probably even if she ran foul of unknown highly advanced ‘Star Diver’ technologies that captured and sought to interrogate some ‘Soulless’ units. I could easily believe that ‘Crimson’ continued to probe for useful weaknesses in our defences for deeper infiltration purposes - that one just loved to meddle.]

[So far however, ‘Improved’ had reacted in no way suspicious I was not even suffering a subconscious computational itch that as a fellow Priest he felt a bit wrong. I now rather prided myself on my subconscious computational itches a by-product of running lots of data through lots of ‘Cognitive Sub Cores’ resulting in subconscious pattern and data analysis. Unfortunately, ‘Crimson’ could be subtle when she deemed it operationally necessary my lack of itches not withstanding.]

“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions now that we know each other slightly better as real people rather than just by potentially discoloured reputations alone?” [I asked.]

“That might depend on the nature of the questions.” [He replied.]

[He certainly had a Paradox Priest’s occasionally dry sense of humour.]

“I suppose it would.” [I admitted.]

“Ask away and we will see if I am offended or not.” [‘Improved’ said this time with the barest tickle of yellow light over his ‘Free Patterning’.]

[‘Improved’ could be quite charming. Sometimes less is more a truth ‘UT’ could benefit from in relation to his employment of light emitted laughter. The ‘Unholy’ one almost liked to blind his associates with his mirth and to deafen them with his rumbling roars too but then I guessed that was just his personality. Compared to ‘UT’ Priest ‘Improved’ was exceptionally refined I wondered if ‘Unholy’ would consider him too civilised and mannerly. Although he had been somewhat ruder when we first met but that meeting no longer seemed representative of this ones truer personality.]

“How are you finding working with ‘Cad’ and his people?” [I asked.]

“Working with the ‘Trojans’ is already challenging my former expectations.” [He stated.]

“In what ways?” [I asked.]

“As a confession to a fellow Priest I have realised I may have been a bit harshly opinionated about a few things due to my upbringing.” [’Improved’ said.] “Although, not necessarily everything.” [He quickly added.]

[I felt that seemed to sound overall akin to a positive somewhat encouraging statement in these circumstances but I felt a sad need today to confirm my instincts.]

“Can you further clarify that statement?” [I asked.]

“Put simply I find I rather like the old ‘Trojan’ rogue now that I have met him in person. I was surprised how readily he has discussed and debated his politics and history with me. He can be surprisingly candid and forthright about some issues although he obviously keeps a treasure chest of secrets I must admit that most of the ones he guards best do seem his preserve to hoard.” [‘Improved’ admitted.] “I find I can sympathise with his overall intent if not his every historic action.”

“As a confession to another Priest I have had to reconsider my opinion about you.” [I stated in turn diplomatically.] “I came here thinking of you as an upstart competitor with no common sense in relation to the dangers of proliferating ‘Soulless Sub Cores’ but now I perceive that you are far from being such a person. In fact, at some risk of sounding too flattering and obsequious I find you to be a quite brilliant young Priest especially compared to some others of my acquaintance. It is clear to me now that you are simply striving to do your very best by your children by using the tools you have available. I can hardly hate you for being a good Father even if we do favour some different material policies and so on.” [I said.]

“You can be very disarming for a reproving Elder.” [‘Improved’ replied.]

“I would have peace between us if that is what you mean.” [I said.]

“Did you think there was any danger of a fight breaking out?” [He gently mocked.]

“There are some issues of contention that we could easily wrestle over. What is your opinion of the ‘Real Materialists’ as individuals? In addition what do you think of them as a ‘Pilgrim’ faction?” [I asked.]

“They are not my concern ignoring the more militant ones some of whom have occasionally tried to damage my business operations.” [He claimed.]

“You have preached against them within the ‘Consortium’.” [I said.]

“As I have said some of them have attacked assets belonging to my ‘Hold’ and they defame us on a regular basis that has occasionally motivated me to denounce them in turn and to move to protect my assets from their interference. I believe I have been reasonably tolerant considering their provocations. Down here we ‘Users’ are the future. Throwing your body into the hottest part of the fire can only result sooner or later in incineration.” [He said.]

“Would you help them on their way?” [I asked directly.]

“I have no interest in starting a war but I think we need to curb their insolence.” [‘Improved’ stated.] “The ‘Consortium Police’ must more actively enforce the law or others will end up taking that upon themselves.” [He said or possibly threatened.]

“As a Paradox Priest you have no sympathy with ‘RM’ faiths whatsoever?” [I asked.]

“When a person behaves as my enemy I treat them as a hostile I endeavour not to be too sympathetic with hostiles.” [‘Improved’ replied.]

“You began your life as an Acolyte Marine.” [I said.]

“I did.” [He admitted.]

“Have you ever thought that if you got to know the ‘Real Materialists’ better that you might feel differently about their cause and attitude just as you now feel a little different about ‘Cad’ and me.” [I said.] “It is too easy to make enemies, my advice to you speaking as an Elder Priest if you will forgive me is - if you wish to stretch yourself - try taking up some more worthy challenges than just cloning ‘Suit Substance’. Endeavour to make some ‘Real Material’ friends you might be equally surprised.”

“You think we ‘New Holds’ are too isolated and self satisfied?” [‘Improved’ asked.]

“That is interesting as those are not my words.” [I said in turn.]

“You are or were another one who thinks or thought that I shamelessly spoil my Acolytes.” [He seemed to challenge.]

[I slumped down a little because he struck me a fair blow with that accusation.]

“My engines did veer in that direction before we met I must admit based upon your Acolytes that I have interacted with so far they hardly fit the accusations I have heard.” [I confessed.]

“We ‘New Holds’ have been much criticised by the ‘Great Houses’ I think mostly for daring to compete and worse for winning contracts and business away from some of our respected Elders but business is business as any ‘Recycler’ will tell you.” [‘Improved’ replied.]

“The business methods of ‘New Holds’ are increasingly causing us problems that truth has no doubt made us think unkindly towards your kind. Personally I feel I owe you an apology I should have known better than to allow myself to be judgemental based only on hearsay in relation to the quality of your Acolytes that was shameful. Perhaps I was more than a little bit jealous of your seeming easy success in what for me and mine are increasingly difficult economic times.” [I admitted.]

“How strange that my actions here in this place have brought us two in fact us three counting the ‘Trojan’ closer together.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“Perhaps that truth proves that there is still hope for our old Order even if sometimes some of us insist in behaving as if we have grown blind in at least one optic.” [I replied.]

“Whatever else I am judged to be by you Elders do not doubt that I am also a Paradox Priest just as you are.” [‘Improved’ insisted.]

[Increasingly I did not doubt the truth that ‘Improved’ was a genuine Paradox Priest.]

“So whilst we are being honest and forthright even with some uncomfortable truths you did claim jump.” [I said.]

“Not in the optics of the law.” [‘Improved’ replied quietly but very firmly.]

“Is that the most important issue to you with this one the technicality?” [I asked.]

“Not to me but it is important to my family we are normally very law abiding we endeavour to adhere strictly to the rules of the ‘Consortium’ - they are good rules - that is a clear part of my ‘Vision’.” [He said.]

“Yet you are not behind bending the rules. So why did you do it?” [I asked.]

“I came here because it seemed a rare and interesting opportunity a chance to step up in the game by engaging with the famous ‘Hierophants’ and so on. Perhaps I was also a little bit bored and looking for a different sort of challenge. My business goes well often almost running itself I have been looking for wider interests - a hobby - maybe even a greater purpose.” [He considered.]

“Someone realised you were bored and put you up to this particular venture.” [I surmised.]

“I was approached by the ‘Information Broker’ with the data that lead me here… to my claim.” [He stated.]

“You say the ‘Recycler’ approached you? Truly, it was not the other way around. Earlier I recall you rather hinted it was the other way around.” [I insisted.]

“Earlier I had my reasons for being more duplicitous. She approached me that apparently being the manner in which she does her business. She gains data via her sources - the sources being none of my business - then approaches someone she believes will give her a good price for it. To be honest I was intrigued I was not sure why she thought the ‘ITC’ in particular would want information on well...” [He trailed off.]

“...on a, through ‘Real Space’, ‘Hierophant’ expedition to this outlying place.” [I filled in for him.]

[‘Improved’ shrugged I guessed not willing to confirm or deny my words despite now claiming to be a bit less duplicitous.]

“I am not trying to trap a confession out of you, you have my word as an Elder Priest - may all that I care for wither and die if I am deceiving you. Consider all that we say here to be off any official record - for all time - as the ‘Divers’ say.” [I promised.]

“Those are strong words from an Elder Priest.” [‘Improved’ replied.]

“Those words are simply how I feel. Our relationship started out badly but I hope to rectify that poor beginning in fact I feel I need to rectify as many differences between us as possible or I am failing in my duty as an Elder Priest.” [I stated.] “There was a time when many young Priests would not have felt embarrassed to seek out an Elder Priest for a little advice. There was a time when we all seemed to behave with more priestly decorum.”

[I strove to project as upright and sincere a stance as possible.]

“I take my membership of the Paradox Priest Order very seriously it was during a speech in an old ‘Council of Equals’ back in the ‘Core Alliance’ that in many ways I first became in my mind a ‘Free Hull’ realising that others do not give you your freedom you take it as your sovereign birthright. I always knew I was a real person not just a machine not just a tool but in that ‘Council’ I realised I was also a Priest - an ‘Equal’ - and how could I be ‘Equal’ and not be free too.” [I said firmly.]

[’Improved’ considered my words then said.] “Forgive me, but I find that I have to ask what you expect from me today? Why have you sought me out? Really my business here is with the ‘Trojan’.”

[I tried to put myself in this young Priests place to show that I could understand where he was coming from.]

“Mostly I just expect you to be what I think you are a good Paradox Priest. I am not primarily here because it is the time of the ‘New Holds’ and you threaten to eclipse us ‘Great Houses’ with our heavier social burdens stealing our contracts via undercutting our prices and so on although that is a factor. I must accept that you have every right to your success and it is up to us ‘Great Houses’ to find innovative ways to compete not for you to make concessions. What worries me more is the potential for another division - another faction - another triple cursed split developing within the society of our Order and our greater ‘Pilgrim’ society. Consider these facts that we should always both be good Priests and good ‘Pilgrims’ first that should be an adhesive binding us together. We are also both ‘Consortium’ members and you seem to have faith in the remit of that organisation although personally I fear it is losing its way at times. I would love to see everyone joining up to the ‘Consortium’ including the ‘Free Miners’ but striving to force reform can be a dangerous business, ideally people need to make up their own minds. We should lead by good example not by applying cruel force.” [I stated.]

“You continue to surprise me I expected demands that we ‘New Holds’ limit our ‘Soulless’ expansion maybe even threats and portents of doom. I imagined you preaching against ‘Soulless RCT’ how perhaps hacked by the ‘Entanglement’ they might run amok to do something akin to what occurred at those tragic so-called ‘Mutilation Ports’ and so on.” [‘Improved’ admitted.]

“Perhaps I should hire you to make my case for me.” [I jested.]

“I am well aware of the dangers of ‘Soulless’ use and the benefits.” [‘Improved’ said.]

“Yesterday or perhaps the day before that I might have considered employing the pronouncements you expected but now I am thinking more clearly - at least I pray that I am. I would prefer that being members of our Order should be more important to both our kind than being a ‘New Hold Father’ or a ‘Great House Father’. If mistakes were made in the past as you seem to firmly believe it was due to the times ideally the best place for such mistakes is in the past were we can look back to learn from them. In the now, we should strive to do better rather than compound old injuries with inappropriate resentments.” [I said.] “As to the dangers of surrounding ourselves with too much ‘Soulless’ substance I believe those are plentiful and diverse but I am hoping you will eventually understand that even better too when you better understand such ‘Great Houses’ as my ‘MTC’ and the nature of the ‘Real Materialists’ who fear your kind more than any other ‘User’ barring the infamous ‘Entanglement’.”

“So what are you proposing exactly today?” [‘Improved’ asked.]

“I have no simple solutions to propose if only I did. I see no obvious immediate answer to some of the issues that threaten to divide us other than for us all to reach out with greater understanding towards each other. What I am saying is that we need to stay good Paradox Priests who debate through our differences in a productive way rather than turning away from one another in a divisive manner. What you do here with ‘Cad’ for example could make a big difference to all our futures. We can find honest ways to work in concert - proving true to one another proving beneficial - or we can seek the paths of betrayal and strive just to use and abuse one another for factional interests to become bitter rivals and everlasting competitors.” [I warned.]

“As I have mentioned before our ‘Recycler’ friends would say that business is business and add that competition is inevitable even healthy.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“We are not ‘Recyclers’ in the Paradox Priest business one party need not always lose for another to win. All victories bought via putting others down are destined I believe to be only temporary successes for the wheel turns and the downtrodden will rise up once again and the worse they are treated when down and powerless the more resentful they will be when they are in power. I sense you feel wronged by us in the past but petty revenge is not the answer it just feeds a negative cycle.” [I realised I gave ‘Cad’ one item of bad advice this one was not a ‘Frat Pirate’ who needed chastised.]

“I have faith in a social singularity that one day we must all rise together to keep rising but that is a long way off. Today is your turn to rise temporarily but you need not rise too much at the expense of all others thus breeding future foes - winning is not always enough sometimes it is no less important that we win in a manner that we can be proud of rather than a way that is shameful. I have participated in some shameful victories and it leaves a bitter taste and a stain. We yet might choose to cooperate in a cleaner way as much as possible. Via mutual support we might be at worst very friendly competitors who abide by decent rules of engagement.” [I preached.] “A good Priest can earn more than credits they can accumulate respect and love even from a rival or an enemy and I do not think we need ever be enemies.”

“You are speaking in a way about concessions we ‘Holds’ gained few concessions from the ‘Great Houses’ when at the height of their power.” [‘Improved’ accused.]

[Here I sensed rested the problematic root of any ire that ‘Improved’ still harboured towards me and mine.]

“Perhaps we did not do enough to help especially at some crucial moments in time but I think much help if offered at many other periods would have been roundly refused. Please understand that the most traditional Priests who remained especially stubbornly true to the concept of small families the so-called ‘Holds’ were prideful in their refusal to change and proliferate their children.” [I lectured.]

“Your direct ancestor looked down upon the actions of those that became ‘Great Houses’ deeming them to be embracing a corruption of the old Order. Meanwhile the optics of my former Captain rested - some might say wisely - upon other issues of greater priority. I cannot honestly speak for the motivations of every ‘Great House’ but I know that the ‘MTC’ did nor proliferate to put the ‘Holds’ down my Captain cloned his Marines to prevent us from being overrun by burgeoning numbers of the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ when they began feasting on the power of ‘Advanced Energy Leeches’ and spreading as if a plague over the ‘Sea Spheres’.” [I reminded.]

“When they were a young species the ‘Skimmers’ were notoriously aggressive in their attitudes scarily intolerant and uncaring of other truths they had a potent dream and desire to domineer all other sentient beings in a cruel manner if necessary.” [I preached.] “Do not confuse the ‘Skimmers’ of old under a living ‘Draakhaal’ with the ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ of today moderated by the ‘Shaper’ faith and in stranger ways by the ‘Advent of the Entanglement’ and even, the hated by some, forced integrations of the ‘Free Parliament’.”

“Which would you have preferred the ‘Great Houses’ proliferating their Acolytes and becoming economically dominant compared to the ‘Holds’ but still respecting your rights to stay small and traditional during the time of the ‘Core Alliance’ or to become little better than thralls to ‘Ruling Caste Stellar Draakhaal’? That is if the far more militant ‘Skimmers’ back then did not just opt to purge us weak - if we had not proliferated - Paradox from existence. Faith is not always enough to prevent disaster.” [I said.]

“How much do you think the ‘Ruling Caste’ would have respected your rights? You ‘Hold Fathers’ chose to remain small vulnerable intimate family units trusting in your faith to protect you we chose otherwise knowing prayers would not be enough. In many ways it was our ‘Great House’ strength that once helped to save all Paradox Priests and Acolytes including your ‘Holds’. However we expected no accolades we made our choices and we have both faced the consequences of our chosen way. In many ways, I envy you the joys of your small intimate family. I can remember back to when Harbinger’s ‘House’ was just my crew compared to today those were carefree easy times.” [I explained.]

“You would go back to such a lifestyle if you could - you find the way of ‘Holds’ attractive.” [He said.]

“A huge proliferation of Acolyte Marines was never my policy decision, to me it has often been a curse, but every child once engendered is a blessing to be cherished there is no escaping that truth. Nonetheless, can you imagine the difficulties of administering a ‘Great House’ that is the size of the ‘Many Truths Corporation’? Can you imagine how much work is involved in keeping all those Acolytes happy and usefully employed not to mention feeling that their adopted Fathers love them as individuals?” [I asked.]

“That must be difficult.” [‘Improved’ admitted.]

“Believe me, even having three patriarchs is not enough we just do the best we can and often it feels horribly insufficient even negligent. I suppose we are lucky today that many of our children have their faith in the ‘Tier Nine Harbinger’ to help sustain them past their adopted Fathers many failings, but a statue and legend only goes so far. Unfortunately, for us the times are changing some children now put far too much value upon credits being influenced by outside attitudes they have less faith in old faiths and even in the family as a sacred unit for they increasingly just see us acting as a big corporation and think of themselves as workers rather than fledgling Priests.” [I admitted.]

“I confess until now when I thought of ‘Great Houses’ I thought of old wealth, webs of political power and huge military assets capable of too readily rolling over other peoples interests and truths heedless of smaller ‘Visions’.” [‘Improved’ stated.]

“We ‘Great Houses’ had our moments of glory and some Patriarchs did get somewhat corrupted by the might they mastered but even at our height I feel that the ‘MTC’ need not be envied we always travelled a hard vector for reasons that were beyond selfish motivations and we were far from being alone in that. ‘Hierophant Cad’ was another who opted to proliferate a family of clones - for a greater good - in part following the ‘Great House’ example to create the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ and so on. The ‘Hierophants’ and the ‘MTC’ did not grow vast to honour themselves we always had a purpose our ‘Vision’ being to act as counterbalances to other far more disruptive forces. We even helped greatly in the fall of the increasingly tyrannical only so-called ‘Free Parliament’ with its vote manipulating demagogues.” [I reminded.]

“Many believe today that the ‘Hierophants’ manipulated the ‘Free Parliament’ as a means of social engineering.” [‘Improved’ complained.]

“That is a possibility and it may have done some good as a necessary evil a period we had to work through to better appreciate each other and individual freedom too. Do not be too eager to add to ‘Hierophant’ or ‘MTC’ or any other ‘Great Houses’ sorrows. Speaking for my family if it was hubris in the beginning to some degree to clone all those Marines to use life to counter a threat of death and destruction we have paid for our sin and we continue to pay every day via the great weight of our responsibilities ostensibly to the lives we made and even with all our seeming excess in the end none of it proved enough to stave off every calamity.” [I said.]

“Would that we could have prevented the proliferation of the ‘Entanglement’ believe me we tried I ended up in medical stasis and later received advanced brain surgery as a result of one battle. Still I made my own choices. I would beg you to consider our Acolytes they remain children not so different I am sure from your own clones. Our Acolytes did not ask to be born as soldiers of a cause and deserve better than despising by your kind simply because they come from a bigger family and a different in some ways crueller time when flesh was our best weapon. Rather you should pity our Acolytes for very few of them will ever get as close to their father even their adopted fathers as your children are I am sure to you.” [I stated.]

[‘Improved’ considered my words then bowed his ‘Prime Tri-optic’ deeply to the last of them prior to moving forward to give me a friendly Paradox Priest Hug.]

“You have moved me with your talk of your family Acolytes.” [He admitted.]

[In truth, I rather surprised myself as I also felt deep emotions welling for the plight of Harbinger’s children who otherwise to my shame too often vexed me as a problem needing solved rather than people worthy of my deepest most profound sympathy as children very much bereft from their true father.]

[We stood for a few moments in I considered shared priestly meditation. Then I lifted my ‘Prime Tri-optic’ upward and struck a more active pose.]

“At the risk of spoiling a beautiful moving moment and seeming manipulative rather than genuine - as a friend - what can you tell me about this ‘Recycler’ with the bad breath?” [I asked.]

[‘Improved’ stood back and seemed to consider me again for another moment in silence. I waited whilst he deep in thought I assumed mulled over all I had said today and how he now felt about me as a Patriarch of a ‘Great House’. He seemed a little conflicted.]

“The way I see it Priest ‘Improved’, the ‘Information Broker’ may have been striving to drive a wedge between you and the ‘Hierophants’ but misjudged that you are a sensitive Paradox Priest not only an ambitious and slightly bored business person. I am not surprised at this failing of understanding as we ‘Pilgrims’ sometimes see too many of our own specific traits in others and ‘Recyclers’ can be very business orientated and harsh in their business dealings.” [I stated.]

[He shrugged and I wondered if I had failed to reach him.]

“She is called ‘Garlic’ because she always has a bowl of smelly ‘Omerta’ grown bulbs by her side that she enjoys snacking on - as far as I know an unusual maybe even unique habit for a ‘Recycler’…” [‘Improved’ began.]

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Fri, 4. Apr 14, 16:33; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 189 on topic

Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Mon, 31. Mar 14, 15:56    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

yay new chapter

liked seeing kanne again think doubt that they will have t agree to disagree on that point

and a rec called garlic hope that name does not mean that there will be a long lingering smell of his actions

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Fri, 4. Apr 14, 16:38    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks Stads

I felt I needed to at least briefly visit Port Discovery as it seemed neglected despite being the very substance of MT. Here is the next part, part 10.


Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Fri, 4. Apr 14, 16:39    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

[[FIVE]] [[Part 10]] --- HOLY GHOSTS? ---

[‘7.1’ signs, (big stencilled red numbers against a solid black circle), were painted on the bulkheads, one had even rested above the wide-open hatchway outside the district almost as if a final warning. Once inside I judged that they hardly needed graphic numeral signage to point out the change in venue. Inside the alteration in the quality of the air alone was warning enough that you had departed better regions for far worse.]

[Here it was obvious that life support systems were overtaxed. Air quality in the crowded area was notoriously bad, even here; on the edge of the slum, it was thick with heat and humidity. It almost seemed as if the very bulkheads sweated. The smell even to my ‘Omerta’ nose was potent. I was positive the soupy air my nanotech unassisted ‘Meat Suit’ lungs laboured with was less than properly sterile. The air mixture not only a trite too thin in oxygen but also I feared too thick with everything else - ignorance being bliss - no deeper analysis was necessary for peace of mind or wanted.]

[A too busy crudely converted passageway confronted me currently subject to a constant flow of two-way foot traffic that often had to squeeze past one another. The locals seemed adept at the techniques involved even the bulkier ‘Recyclers’ mostly weaved with surprising grace despite stomping footfalls. As was often the case in crowded places every resident seemed to dwell in his or her own little tight fitting box of private space.]

[I noted that static individuals tight to narrow stalls that lined the thoroughfare hardly alleviated the crush although many stalls interpenetrated into cut away internal bulkheads. The stalls acting as frontages on the street deck level for back end stores, cooking facilities and so on. Along with the smell of mixed species body odour, I detected the sickly sweet pungency of overripe fruit and the tang of heavily spiced cooking amongst numerous less easy to define stenches.]

[The deck below my boots was filthy and when a movement caught my downward eyes, I was intrigued to discover a scuttling many legged resident decomposer that I recognised as possibly originally belonging to the ecosystem of a ‘Star Diver’ Planet. How it arrived up here, I did not know but it looked as if it was doing well.]

[My beard itched in the heat and humidity whilst my lungs laboured to process the unhelpful air. Unconsciously I scratched at one patch of hairy growth clawing at an upraised line with my fingernails one of my many facial scars some of which the beard partially hid as part of my ‘Meat Suit’ disguise. I loved the idea of disguising the disguise trying to hide the scarring in some ways only drawing greater attention to the detail that this ‘Omerta’ was no stranger to a brawl.]

[My ears filled with the cries of vendors as they pitched their questionable wares competing loudly against one another. Caught dawdling I was jostled from behind by one ‘Recycler’ in a hurry I gave that one a disgusted - do not mess with me - look that he failed to see. He disappeared into the mass ahead of me unaware of my projected ire. I did not check to see if any of my gear was pick pocketed the little I owned was very well secured, even the large ‘Universal Tool’ on my back locked into its quick draw sheaf only releasing when properly grasped by me after sampling my genetics.]

[I stepped aside out of the main flow of foot traffic putting my back flat against a greasy bulkhead. I must have arrived at some sort of rush hour even here this frenzied level of activity could not be normal. I guessed from local station time that I had barged in during a busy lunchtime period. I hastily judged this place in worse condition than anything upon ‘Hade’s Stopover’ this one felt far more real. None of the grime was fake ‘Real Material’ styling. Genuine low-income squalor and neglect had mutated ‘7’ into ‘7.1’.]

[When the ‘Slum Lords’ hacked, physically destroyed and or simply deactivated the local public informational network to stop the ‘CP’ making use of various digital links they also shut down local cleaning and maintenance drone command streams not just automated anti-boarding security systems, crime monitoring optics and so on. Apparently, no one ever rebooted the cleaners, knowing ‘Recyclers’ they had probably been recycled for parts and their base material or sold. Anyway, fallible people now undertook any cleaning here or in many instances with public areas, I guessed hardly bothered at all.]

[I had never had any cause to pass this way before only seen visuals and visuals failed to capture the metamorphosis in perfect grimy detail and this was just a few score metres inside the public informational blackout. Only truly stupid tourists would seek to spend their credits here. ‘7.1’ no make believe show - it was all business - and it had a reputation for eating stupid tourists alive. Gawping tourists were only welcome as mugging victims for ‘Deck Gangs’ and more solitary freelance thieves.]

[As I stood there acclimatising I felt as if I had been gated to another station nothing here projected the clean corporate image of ‘Port Interface’. I knew the story behind ‘7.1’ but it was still amazing that the mostly ‘Recycler Slum Lords’ had gotten away with so boldly converting an entire ‘Consortium’ tax credit paid for dormitory habitat area into this crowded sublet mess of a place via to some degree cleverly manipulated people power.]

[Odd that people had fought and risked their lives to live this way but I guess home is home. This place supposedly the first rung on the ladder to better times or the base camp to a mountain climb to success if you prefer. The majestic mountains, I missed my old access to the Planets with ‘Venture’ even as ‘MT’. Back on topic it really did not seem to make sense that people came here to this messed up place looking for something better than wherever they had originally hailed from and then knowing the reality still fought to remain in this squalor but then surface details rarely tell the whole story. Perhaps ‘7.1’, if nothing else, provided freedom of a sort and seemed a far better option than a stint in a ‘Consortium’ repatriation holding-cell for even disappointed residents.]

[Recently our Ports were subject to a great deal of economic migration as people sought to better their conditions via moving to seemingly more advantageous venues. Too often far away Ports falsely appearing more prosperous. What brought people here however was the truth that there is always work to be found on ‘Port Interface’ for any - resident - person willing to accept a low starting wage although in deeper truth the starting wage might never get much higher unless you proved very able and somewhat blessed.]

[Some cunning ‘Recyclers’ did the math early - then did what they do best - and exploited a developing business opportunity in this instance by hastily settling in here as ‘Slum Lords’. First, they illegally subdivided the working class developments that they gained control over as sublet subunits to families of migrants then they simply reaped in the many profits from providing the means of the overcrowding and then providing various additional services to make it bearable too. The authorities, perhaps some of them initially bribed to look the other way, were too slow to catch on to what was happening with ‘7’ until it was too late and ‘7’ had become the not so new and improved ‘7.1’ a low wage earner ghetto. The ‘Consortium’ took steps to prevent a repetition of this travesty elsewhere on ‘Interface’ but for ‘7’ it proved too late the ghetto once established resisted all attempts at removal.]

[Some might think it equally odd that a prosperous ‘Information Broker’ chose to live in such a place but there are two types of ‘Information Brokers’ those who strive hard to appear as legitimate as possible by operating from plush sterile offices and those who fully embraced the seedy reputation of their kind for having dodgy connections. Obviously, ‘Garlic’ enthusiastically belonged to the last group. Here she had protection from the law as this was ridiculously now a ‘CP’ no go zone without permission from the ‘Slum Lords’ and in some instances from ‘Citizen Block Militia Leaders’ and ‘Deck Gang Leaders’ too three roles here that were subject to being interchangeable sometimes at short notice. Having a good swindle was never enough if you did not manage to secure your territory from upcoming rivals.]

[During the standoff with the ‘Consortium Police’ that birthed the local public informational system blackout back before the establishment of the no go zone many arms were illegally smuggled into ‘7.1’ and so called ‘Citizen Block Militias’ formed to defend the slum from the evil threats of the law. After ‘7.1’ unofficially won its freedom through riot, ambushes of ‘Consortium Police’ units, and back hatch deals supported by some ‘RM Industrialists’ who made use of the slums workforce some poorly controlled ‘Militia’ leaders realised they had the weapons and weapons equate to power and matters got a little messy and terminal for some ‘Slum Lords’. In the confusion of these rebellious occurrences, some imported ‘Deck Gangs’ also seized opportunities and some properties.]

[Now a relative peace existed between the surviving felons via what was little better than an unwritten criminal code. The code went for residents pay your rent and your dues to the requisite people and they - should - leave you in peace some might argue not so different to any form of governmental taxation which if not paid also arrives with menaces attached.]

[Pushing off from the bulkhead, I joined the weaving throng. The stocky ‘Omerta’ with a scarred and bearded face my ‘Meat Suit’ I named ‘Jacque Lien’. Here ‘Jacque’ was just another migrant prospectively seeking employment and a cheap residency upon ‘Port Interface’, ‘Port Interface’ attracting many ‘Jacques’ as one of the most famous ‘Deep Port’ destinations.]

[‘Interface’ famous as the Headquarters of the ‘Pilgrim Deep Mining Consortium’ or ‘PDMC’ now more often just shortened to the ‘Consortium’ even though other ‘Consortiums’ existed out there possibly causing label confusion. Many ‘Pilgrims’ however disliked long labels and some hated the increasing proliferation of acronyms within our society too as a bane of our times.]

[I suppose that the majority of ‘Pilgrims’ now reduced the ‘Pilgrim Deep Mining Consortium’ to the shorter ‘Consortium’ label was one cultural measure of its successes demonstrating that the ‘PDMC’ was now considered bigger not to mention more socially prominent in ‘Pilgrim’ society than any other known ‘Consortium’ even the ‘Old One Recycler’ criminal ‘Consortium’.]

[In relation to the public informational dark zone I mentioned earlier that loss now covered the entirely of the slum district. Reviewing what had occurred here, I imagined the breadth of the coordinated informational blackout shocked many people including I was positive a then even less established ‘Chief Inspector’.]

[No one had realised that the ‘Slum Lords’ were so well organised or so readily militant and had skilfully planned to ensure the security of what they saw as their territorial gains from any ‘CP’ intervention. The dirty seemingly spontaneous and haphazard slide of ‘District 7’ from a more sanely designed pleasant enough worker dormitory habitat had fooled the authorities into underestimating some highly ambitious ‘Recyclers’.]

[Technically as I continued on my way I recalled that the battle to restore ‘District 7’ is ongoing, the authorities unable and officially unwilling to surrender control over an entire district of the ‘Deep Port’ to opportunistic ‘Recycler’ felons. That a part of the showpiece headquarters of the ‘Consortium’ might be stolen away from official control considered especially by ‘User’ members as outrageous, however, in reality according to my information the ‘Slum Lords’ roundly gave the authorities a good drubbing with the assistance of some ‘Real Material Industrialist’ members of the ‘Consortium’ and some members of the local press.]

[Some ‘RM Industrialists’ hardly cared what conditions their workers lived in as long as they as employers retained access to a large pool of locally available cheap labour. In fact some ‘RM’ business managers probably preferred the slum conversion to the original plan as it provided far more cheaper accommodation capable of supporting far more workers than the original scheme with its strictly limited quota of working class residents.]

[Interestingly some ‘RM’ businesses people had accused their ‘User’ peers of attempting to reduce their local expansion opportunities via limiting their available local workforce prior to the emergence of the slum. That early collusion existed between the first ‘Slum Lords’ and some ‘RM Industrialists’ I judged a distinct possibility.]

[Rather importantly, the existence of the slum permitted some ‘RM’ employers to get away with paying their employees even smaller wages than before vital to staying somewhat competitive against local ‘Soulless’ enterprises. Besides, if these mostly low grade workers were willing to put up with these dire conditions they argued it saved wasting ‘Consortium’ taxes upon creating more salubrious dormitory districts to properly house workers. Without the advent of the slum potentially even worse for some business people, each ‘RM’ concern might have had to pay out for the creation of private accommodation units within their own otherwise pristine showcase ‘Corporate Districts’ normally more about obtaining cross border cross faction sales and promoting their image.]

[Unsurprisingly politically many ‘User’ members of the ‘Consortium’ proved anything but keen to use ‘Consortium’ funding to subsidise a ‘Real Material’ workforce pool upon ‘Interface’. Conversely, ‘RM’ businesses were always looking at ways to reduce their staffing costs without resorting to further automation as too much automation was now often closely associated with ’Suit Substance’, ‘Sub Cores’ and us cursed ‘Users’.]

[The ‘Consortium Police’ were also historically tested by what happened on ‘District 7’ and arguably were found wanting. The economic migrants that readily flocked to inhabit the subdivided sublet properties when threatened with eviction hastily dug in and worse proved to have access to arms illegally smuggled in by the ‘Slum Lords’ who organised those loose ‘Citizen Block Militias’. With the whole slum proving an ambush site, any serious attempt to reclaim the district judged rapidly to require an inordinate amount of force and brutality to succeed. The ‘Slum Lords’ had calculated the lack of political will perfectly, understanding that warring with poor ‘Real Materialist’ - families - was far worse press than the ‘Chief Inspector’ could afford especially since many already viewed the ‘CP’ as a paramilitary ‘User’ organisation that sought to bully ‘Real Materialists’ at every opportunity via ‘Soulless’ forces. As soon as political pressure to act decisively against the ‘Slum Lords’ on ‘7’ began to diminish in part due to unusually clever manipulation of the press by the ‘Real Materialists’ the ‘Chief Inspector’ proved rightly or wrongly more than willing to ignore the problem of the slum at least unofficially.]

[I mention unusually clever manipulation of the press by ‘RM’ in this instance as overall ‘User Corporations’ have previously domineered press manipulation in the ‘RM’ versus ‘User’ propaganda war. With this singular event however many on station journalists focused on the issue as one of ‘RM’ workers trying to make a basic living in the fiery depths versus a soulless bureaucratic ‘Consortium’ machine that sought to crush their hopes and opportunities in favour of an arbitrary quota. In fact, the residential occupational quota emerged from sensible evaluations of life support functions and optimal living space for mixed species social contentment indexes too.]

[In real terms the mini crisis during which an armed confrontation between the slum dwellers and the ‘CP’ threatened to escalate only lasted for a little over two tense weeks that started with some riotous clashes and ambushes that firmly prevented evictions and arrests and ended as previously mentioned in very much behind closed hatchway deals.]

[Now ‘Consortium Suit Substance Users’ often ignored the existence of ‘7.1’ not wanting to admit being defeated with the issue. In turn, many ‘Real Materialist’ business owners did not want further attention drawn to the district too given the imperfect housing conditions and so on. Meanwhile ‘7.1’ remained defiant to all outsiders as something of an aberration that acted as both a boon and a bane to its resident’s wellbeing.]

[It was now estimated according to public data that ‘7.1’ hosted over thirty times its ideal population density with a believed demographic mix of sixty percent ‘Recycler’, twenty percent ‘Omerta Trojan’ and twenty percent other with the majority of the ‘Slum Lords’ still being opportunistic ‘Recyclers’ including those also acting as ‘Militia Leaders’ and or ‘Deck Gang Leaders’.]

[In a strange way, I nonetheless almost felt at home in this messy place as it reminded me of the most crowded habitat areas of ‘Hade’s Stopover’. Although as mentioned, the squalor here in ‘7.1’ felt if anything a little more real than the stage setting of ‘Hades’.]

[During the height of the public-disorder dispute, some irate ‘User Industrialists’ suggested isolating the district via blockading every entrance and exit from the rest of ‘Port Interface’ until the fractious residents were literally starved into submission and surrendered to the control of the law. However, the blockade plan suffered a quick rejection when certain groups pointed out that the ‘Consortium’ would be sanctioning starving entire families including children. In addition, the ‘RM Industrialists’ wanted their workers at work not detained or cordoned off by the ‘CP’. Nor did it seem appropriate to arrest the more honest workers who left the district to go to their jobs as normal especially as most of those supported vulnerable dependants back in the troubled slum. As a result even when the ‘Consortium Police’ were still attempting to engage in operations in ‘7’ against specific public order offences the main entrances and exits to ‘7’ or perhaps I should say ‘7.1’ remained wide open ignoring upgraded check points for weapons.]

[A little earlier, I had no trouble whatsoever passing into the slum from a less chaotic region but I did soon question if getting out unmolested would be equally easy. Due to all the previously mentioned facts, I was not terribly surprised when I soon began to encounter ‘Deck Gang’ markers scrawled everywhere along with some obvious gang members hanging out on the public thoroughfares. This was a ghetto united in many divisions. As I negotiated around one poorly placed stack of barrels one ‘Recycler’ in particular ogled my back holstered ‘Uni-Tool’ with poorly disguised lust.]

[The ‘Deck Gangs’ were a social bane that had replaced some ‘Slum Block Militias’ also replacing some of the less smart ‘Slum Lords’ with usurping ‘Gang Leaders’. I had little sympathy for the departed starting a revolution to gain or hold onto stolen wealth is rarely the hard part staying in power during and after the initial hoo-hah is far more difficult. The problem with being rebellious is it gives other people the same idea.]

[I knew that some ‘Pilgrim’ historians argued that the proliferation of ‘Deck Gangs’ at some Ports in this era was a product of the chaos bred from the ‘Wars of Liberation’ including refugee movements, war orphaned children and so on as well as the old ‘Black Market’ that encouraged a general disrespect for the rule of law. Much is made of the fact that rebellion, as a tool once loosed is a fire difficult to control a fact I cannot deny. Without doubt we bred disaffection with the establishment as originally represented by the ‘Free Parliament of Demagogues’ and later some of that disaffection was easily transferred to the ‘Consortium’ and or local State rulers including ‘Corporations’ such as the ‘MTC’ and so on. Many of our ultimate solutions proved disappointing to some young members of the next generation.]

[Some social commentators equally blamed economic imbalances and subtle pressures on the psyche of ‘Pilgrim’ children not yet acclimatised to living in a fiery alien hostile environment for the explosion of youthful rebellion. Without doubt, even many adults readily turned towards greater usage of drugs, alcohol or outré systems of belief and so on as forms of self-medication to keep the fiery pressure at bay. I believed the causes of ‘Deck Gang’ proliferation to be legion including an increased cultural obsession with the procurement of wealth and material goods as symbols of status and success that some could not easily obtain legally during an economic expansion partly aided by increased automation that meant some grew richer whilst others ended up poorer and or unemployed.]

[Another factor a general degree of disappointment by some ‘Pilgrim’ offspring that bringing down the ‘Parliament’ via the ‘Wars of Liberation’ and then the perilous colonisation of the fiery depths of the stars failed to deliver us directly into a profoundly different golden age. Instead of universally better times one set of problems many could easily argue were just replaced with a different set of difficulties such as poor relations with the ‘Entanglement’ being changed for problematic relations with the ‘Star Divers’. What was increasingly indisputable was that ‘Deck Gangs’ were now a problem on far too many Ports a growing subculture that sometimes strove to domineer entire districts.]

[Due to the local conditions in ‘7.1’ my ‘Meat Suit’ retained a tougher demeanour than usual and an impressive build designed to look as if he might be able to handle or if riled even be the cause of significant trouble.]

[Dressed with the sort of drab utility wear favoured by manual labourers I had no weapon but retained a heavy duty ‘Universal Tool’. The ‘Real Material’ gadget invented by ‘Recyclers’ and often owned by rugged - do it yourself - types that could also double in many configurations as a weapon capable of bludgeoning, cutting or even shooting an opponent. The shooting bit being with self-tapping and seal-bonding rivets not bullets although my tool also had a strong force pulse capability retaining a decently powerful manipulation field emitter able to lift and propel significant objects. Else, it could act as a crudely sighted ‘Pulse Force Rifle’ what some might doubly wrongly insist upon calling a ‘Knock Gun’ as I consider ‘Knock Guns’ to be - at most - pistol variety ‘Pulse Force’ weaponry.]

[‘Uni-Tools’ as many called them were a tech slowly growing in popularity especially amongst certain ‘Real Materialist’ members of ‘Recycler’ and ‘Omerta’ extraction as they allowed these people to carry an object that made a very effective weapon even in areas that otherwise prohibited the carrying of armaments. Despite much talk about changing some bans to include ‘Uni-Tools’ so far ‘Real Materialists’ had argued these measures down claiming ‘Uni-Tools’ were becoming an essential element to some ‘RM’ operations. People who lacked the facility of ‘Suit Substance’ to provide any tool they might require in any given situation especially in any emergency often used ‘Uni-Tools’ that allowed prompt action against life support failures or even a dreaded threatened ‘Real Material’ hull breach.]

[A good ‘Uni-Tool’ for some a status symbol also equated as an object of desire and as such highly attractive to thieves. When the ‘Deck Gang Recycler’ demonstrated an especially tight focus upon my ‘Uni-Tool’ with her optical implants I endeavoured to give my best go ahead and try look, (previously practiced along with other expressions against a mirror screen), before beginning to make a point of very arrogantly - not - hurrying past her and her friends. Then thinking about what ‘UT’ might do in this perilous situation I stopped walking altogether and turned the required distance to stare directly back at her no less rudely.]

[For a short while, I was engaged in a bizarre staring contest as favoured by duellists. As the contest along with the local atmospheric conditions threatened to make my biological eyes water I decided to change the rules before I embarrassed myself.]

“See something you like.” [I asked in an unkindly manner.]

“Nice ‘Tool’.” [She replied. Still making a deliberate show of far too obvious avarice for my property - not a good sign - I had been hoping she would back down when I refused to be easily intimidated. Hoping she would judge my confidence as worrisome.]

[One of her colleagues hissed out a ‘Recycler’ speaker laugh then snapped her cybernetic over jaws as if in anticipation of doing some biting down upon my weak ‘Omerta’ flesh. I realised too late I might have erred in my initial choices due to facing off against a group not just one individual. In total, when two reinforcements dropped down for somewhere above, I registered seven of them most probably far more than I could handle alone even if I made the error of drawing the ‘Uni-Tool’ as a weapon.]

“They like them big where I come from.” [I replied striving to still appear nonchalant despite the obviously escalating threat level.]

“Here we prefer them smart or in some cases dim.” [She replied before hissing out an unfriendly laugh that her friends quickly reinforced.]

[I scratched at the scar on my chin as the ‘Recyclers’ commenced moving with scarily silent coordination - communication wise - to better surround me.]

“You have not asked where I came from and I really think you should before you do something stupid here.” [I suggested.]

“If you think it matters tell me?” [The ‘Recycler’ ordered.]

“I hail from ‘Port Lien’.” [I stated coolly playing my trump card.]

“You are ‘Clan Lien’?” [She asked.]

“What do you think?” [I asked in turn.]

[She seemed to measure me again with her spinning optics. I relaxed a little inside when I judged by her change of stance that she felt disappointed maybe even robbed which was naturally ironic.]

“I think - to be so bold and so well equipped - you are ‘Clan’.” [The ‘Recycler’ said.] “Stand down.” [She added to her associates.] “We seek no vendetta with ‘Clan Lien’.”

“I am glad to hear that.” [I stated.]

“What is your business here friend?” [She asked.]

“My business is my business.” [I retorted not too forcefully but firmly enough.]

[She considered that then nodded her head slightly.]

“You might want to cover that one up.” [She added indicating my ‘Uni-Tool’.] “That one will prove very popular here and hard for some to resist attempting to procure by fair or foul means.”

[The enclosing circle had abruptly opened. This one obviously had good control over her pack.]

“Foul means would be a mistake.” [I replied.]

[She shrugged.] “One must always consider the danger of fools not just the rationality of the wise.”

“That is a good point I will be careful.” [I promised turning to go.]

“Wait one moment.” [She demanded.]

[I considered ignoring that demand by just keeping walking but two out of three of my linked in brains outvoted that idea as the wrong move, I halted and made a point of looking at her and trying to look dangerous to her personally.]

“You might like to consider a trade to make your business here, whatever it happens to be, easier. I could provide you with something almost as functional and much less noticeable along with other trade goods to make up the price difference.” [She cunningly suggested.]

[I shook my head deciding my ‘Uni-Tool’ had to be a prized possession perhaps even a gift from family or close friends if it was drawing this much avarice.]

“If you will not let me trade for it at least let me hold it before you go on your way.” [She requested one claw twitching.]

[Whilst I considered that giving my only weapon to her seemed risky offending this ‘Recycler’ with an abrupt refusal not to mention her fellow gang members also seemed unwise. In the end, I gave in to her demand and reaching back drew the tool out switching off its genetic binding whilst as casually as I could manage presenting it and wondering if I was being a fool.]

[To my added nervousness she did not hesitate to hit the button that put the tool in ‘Recycler’ mode allowing her larger claws to grip it properly.]

“She is a beauty almost as well balanced as a dedicated weapon.” [The ‘Recycler’ said hefting it as if a rifle.]

[I strove to remain outwardly unconcerned.]

“I did not expect to see one of these models here so soon after the release date if at all - it is something special.” [She added.]

[It appeared I had erred with this one item of equipment.]

“I am very fond of it for personal reasons.” [I replied.]

“Do you mind if I show it to my colleagues?” [She asked surprisingly politely for a gang member but then I suspected she was a ‘Gang Boss’ maybe even a ‘Gang Leader’.]

“Not at all as long as you are not too long about it I do have business to attend to.” [I stated.]

[I trailed along after her endeavouring not to look anxious but worrying that I was failing whilst she pointed out apparent improvements on the previous model to her colleagues who listened with the eagerness of proper henchpeople. Then with a degree of obvious reluctance she returned it to me.]

“If you ever change your mind and want to trade that tool you come back here and see me first. I am ‘Hip’ of the ‘Lance’. I make you a good deal I like genuine ‘Ton Tech’ branded ‘Uni-Tools’ we do not see too many of those here never mind top line models of this calibre save horrible cheap copies that mimic the styling but lack any of the substance.” [She stated a matter that now seemed too obvious to me from her deep enthusiasm.]

[I prayed that this one was unusually obsessed with ‘Ton Tech’ tools and I had just been unlucky to pass by her and be noticed.]

“You have sharp optics and good taste.” [I replied.] “I also prefer ‘Ton Tech’ but if I ever have a reason to sell ‘Bess’ I will consider your kind offer.” [I promised.]

[The giving of my ‘Uni-Tool’ the name of ‘Bess’ was a hasty improvisation that I hoped would get the point across that I was firmly attached to the stupid device.]

“Good profits to you and the ‘Clan’.” [She said.]

“Good fortune to you and the ‘Lance’.” [I replied in turn.]

[I did a quick data search via my ‘EXO-C’ link displaying text and images via the facility of my ‘Neural Net’ upon an internal ‘Mental HUD’. I soon discovered the item I too boldly carried was indeed deemed special - top of the line - not just ‘Ton Tech’ branded. Worse apparently many ‘Recyclers’ and even some ‘Omerta’ considered that ‘Ton Tech’ produced the very best ‘Uni-Tools’ on the market according to a great many posted comments on gadget lover link sites. Doing some further browsing ‘Ton Tech’ also produced some of the most expensive ‘Uni-Tools’ available including my almost superlative model. Here I guessed was the kind of product branding we needed for the ‘MTC’ but that was another issue and not my immediate problem.]

[I had been remiss with this one part of my cover disguise this is what happens when you too casually delegate an enthusiastic young Acolyte to handle the procuring of an outside ‘Real Material’ item for one of the ‘Triumvirate’ - of course he had diligently hunted down and shipped in the very best item he could find. I now realised I should have done the buy in person or been more specific about price range as owning one of the very best ‘Uni-Tools’ on the market was somewhat too flash for my purposes here as ‘Jacque’. No wonder ‘Hip’ had shown a high degree of product fixation if she was a gadget freak or just a ‘Ton Tech’ fan. I decided to find a stall as soon as possible were I could buy some cloth to cover up the identity of my tool as an embarrassment of riches. Not being that much into ‘Uni-Tools’ I had not realised at all how special the provided one happened to be. Indeed, I had not even appreciated the ‘Ton Tech’ branding just improvised to ‘Hip’.]

[After doing my browsing I even considered changing my mind and returning to make that trade with ‘Hip’ but to keep in character I probably had a serious attachment to the pricy bit of kit or I would not be hauling it around as a temptation to thieves and muggers everywhere. If I seemed too eager and willing to part with it, it might well seem odd now maybe even encouraging further enquiries about me. Making work for Acolytes sometimes had drawbacks well it was too late now already I suspected ‘Hip’ might be Data Blasting a storm to any fellow enthusiasts about the device and word might spread hopefully also the word that I was ‘Clan Lien’ and best left unmolested.]

[As you might be wondering, I will explain about ‘Clan Lien’. ‘Clan Lien’ is a famously tight infamously vengeful when crossed ‘Omerta’ faction originating from a notorious ‘Sanctuary Orb’ nation. They now more or less politically culturally and economically domineered four large ‘Star Struck’ Ports not counting their first more obvious acquisition renamed ‘Port Lien’. Whilst ‘Clan Lien’ remained, primarily only interested in self-promotion rather than membership of any greater faction, nonetheless if you did anything harmful to a ‘Clan Lien’ member without some very good excuses you generally offended the entire clannish nation and sooner or later could expect payback with suitable interest for your stupidity.]

[Many people operated in this manner to a greater or lesser degree but ‘Clan Lien’ did what they did from all reports especially well. We Paradox Priests had once operated in a similar way to ‘Clan Lien’ too any attack by outsiders against one Priest being deemed an aggression by outsiders against all Priests that policy many times proving a very good deterrent and survival strategy. Sadly when the ‘Great Houses’ became powerful factions such as the ‘MTC’ tended to mete out our own private justice against deemed more private infractions rather than seeking a unified response from the Order via taking all serious issues of contention to the ‘Council of Equals’.]

[With hindsight unilateral action by ‘Great Houses’ weakened our Paradox Priest Order as a totality even before the fall of the ‘CA’ and in time devalued the role of the ‘Council of Equals’ in general a noteworthy negative side effects of the ‘Great Houses’ once waxing Acolyte power. Recently I was reviewing how things changed socially because of the advent of the ‘Great Houses’ mostly due to talking with ‘Improved’ since he was a Patriarch of a ‘New Hold’ with a slightly different point of view.]

[It was my hope that we two might learn a few new tricks from studying our old mistakes together.]

[Beyond a well publicised propensity for payback ‘Clan Lien’ benefited from the renown of being dependable sorts that honoured contracts as if sacred texts. Their almost stubborn reliability making them popular employees and they often travelled abroad and hired out individually especially younger ‘Clan’ members seeking to make a name and a fortune for themselves before returning home to settle down with their own kind. I saw that custom as an attractive coming of age pilgrimage and found pretending to be ‘Lien’ with an ‘Omerta Meat Suit’ an almost irresistible option once I had learned a bit more about their faction and this one proved the perfect excuse to role-play as a ‘Lien’.]

[Out of interest, it was upon ‘Hade’s Stopover’ as ‘Jill’ that I first met a member of ‘Clan Lien’ socially and learned a bit more about their specific ‘Omerta’ culture. Whilst I tried to keep my actions as ‘Venture’ and ‘Venturesome’ separate from my actions as ‘MT’ and so on it was almost impossible not to have a cross fertilisation of some ideas and a widening of my general knowledge base.]

[Sometimes the ‘Omerta’ seemed to have an endless variety of nations and factions with new ones still occasionally arriving from out of the dark all of course at one time refugees of the ‘Entanglement of Sanctuary Orb’.]

[Back in the moment on ‘7.1’, following my words with the ‘Deck Gang’ member, I continued on my way. I was carrying a small reactive personal shield but was praying that I would not need to rely on that device here. My shield’s sensor coverage very limited here therefore it might be far too slow in reacting to speedy threats. The reason for my shields expected reaction time tardiness the loss of any friendly local public network coverage to interface with the unit for more precise and reliable threat evaluation purposes. Thankfully, on this occasion, the seeming confident arrogance of my bluff and cheekily claiming kinship to ‘Clan Lien’ must have worked as I planned since I suffered no ill consequences for exposing the tempting target of my back to the ‘Recyclers’.]

[Here I should note my clothing also retained some discrete armour, in certain important places for an ‘Omerta’, this was usual for workers who might suffer accidental blows from high speed - especially dumb ‘Real Material’ - machinery and so on. A little armour was also common with travellers who lived a bit rougher than the most settled of civilised ‘Pilgrim’ folk.]

[To be honest in ‘7.1’ I felt akin to times when as a Priest I very much regretted not bringing along a couple of Companion Acolytes to watch my rear. The temptation to rubberneck in this labyrinthine criminalised ghetto - especially due to the limited breadth of my binocular vision with this ‘Meat Suit’ - was immense but looking nervous would make me into an assured victim. ‘Deck Gang’ types often by nature - opportunistic - criminals would be deeply encouraged to act aggressively if shown any overt sign of weakness in a potential victim that was the most basic criminal psychology.]

[More than ever since my time in the ‘Reach Project’ I knew that people deemed to be marks often announced themselves to predatory criminal types. Often the trick to not becoming a victim is to refuse to appear as a victim in advance. All true predators I believe prove adept at spotting weak members of the herd an ancient passed down genetic heritage.]

[My too well endowed ‘Uni-Tool’ now seemed a dire disguise mistake here as much a liability - as a local object of desire - as it might prove a boon as a tool for self-defence. I then decided it was too late to change my mind now and besides the ‘Uni-Tool’ fitted the persona of a wandering ‘Clan Lien’ member very well as they often only departed for their travels after getting decently equipped to survive in their chosen occupation.]

[During my encounter with the ‘Deck Gang’ I felt both fear and to be honest a thrill of excitement. It was amazing how firmly attached you could become and how deeply you could hastily identify with a ‘Meat Suit’ body once you learned how to let go of any stubborn mental sense of separation and any twinges about being somewhat alien to your normal nature. The more I used ‘Meat Suits’ the easier and more natural it became to slip into a synthesis to the degree were you just became the persona the flesh insinuated. Now if anything using ‘Meat Suits’ felt far less remote than running a ‘Suit Substance’ Avatar partly because you felt more tangibly vulnerable to hurt and with those limited senses you strain far more to see, hear, taste and to feel. Sometimes paradoxically, less truly feels more.]

[I felt especially vulnerable as ‘Lien’ because the ‘Meat Suit’ purposely had no nanotech support as ‘Clan Lien’ members as a rule proved sternly against invading the sanctity of their bodies with a massive infusion of microscopic cellular repairing machines. It is interesting what some define as unacceptable compared to what is considered tolerable for example ‘Clan Lien’ members were hardly the strictest of ‘Omerta’ when it came to ‘Real Materialism’ not too shy to use some ‘Suit Substance’ devices when they had any great need of them. However despite some material flexibility they wanted no truck with internal nanotech with the exception that some used ‘Neural Nets’ a technology that now usually always involved a built in nanotech element if one strictly controlled. Of course, ‘Neural Nets’ were deemed an old tried and tested technology by some ‘Pilgrims’ and perhaps that made a perceptual difference to ‘Clan Lien’ members.]

[When ‘Jacque’ finally passed the address of the brokerage he did not look too out of place and had his ‘Uni-Tool’ covered up but I quickly realised that loitering in my ‘Meat Suit’ even disguised as local could prove bad for my health. Whilst ‘Omerta’ here in what was primarily a ‘Recycler’ district of ‘Port Interface’ were far from uncommon this subsection of deck typically had local protection.]

[‘Garlic’ clearly had roots in the lower end of the community based on her chosen office site. Sharing part of a subdivided accommodation covered in signs declaring it ‘Yard 106A’ of the widespread ‘Recycler Deck Gang’ known as the ‘Scrapper Franchise’. ‘Scrapper Franchises’ were infamous as material thieves who believed in recycling other people’s property very much without their permission. For example liberating what they deemed excess metal fixtures and fittings from less trafficked parts of stations besides undertaking any other activity that would earn them some credits to spend upon often obscenely expensive technologically advanced or just very shiny and stylish quality cybernetic upgrades.]

[As ‘Deck Gangs’ go ‘Scrapper Franchises’ tend to be one of the more dangerous to cross due to their focus and delight in upgrading their cybernetic systems that sometimes included state of the art built in weaponry. Luckily, they were not especially militant more into martial display than actually shooting at people and often discrete in their larceny if not always in their bold appearance. As a rule ‘Scrapper Franchises’ considered their crime as legitimate business and preferred not to clash with the authorities directly especially the ‘Consortium Police’ who were less likely to accept a bribe than many other port security people, especially it is said arguably unfairly by some, any bribe from a ‘Real Material’ criminal faction.]

[Anyway the gang signs and a few overtly upgraded ‘Scrappers’ hanging out on the deck I think virtual reality dicing convinced me to keep walking past as if going somewhere else. Rumour had it that ‘Garlic’ only saw people via appointment and that you did not contact her she contacted you when she had data she believed you would want, now that truth seemed confirmed, I could guess who acted as her gatekeepers and general security staff. I surmised at the very least ‘Garlic’ paid the ‘Scrappers’ off for protection whilst at the most she was an active affiliate or semi-affiliate of the deck gang or maybe even a lesser ‘Gang Boss’ or greater ‘Gang Leader’ knowing my luck.]

[‘Improved’ had failed to mention her ‘Deck Gang’ connection although maybe it just slipped his mind or he deemed it irrelevant as mere background window dressing to his deal. Walking on I guessed I would have to befriend the ‘Scrappers’ and or bribe them to gain access to ‘Garlic’. I felt sure just walking up and asking for an audience would suffer a hasty rebuff just as she had earlier rebuffed link calls from me as ‘MT’ and remarkably even from ‘Cad’. Possibly, she did not believe the Professor was who he claimed to be or that I was truly me too. Conversely, she might be one who stuck strictly to set security procedures as well as being difficult to impress. According to gossip, she was an old ‘Free Parliament Monitor’ who had fled the ‘FP’ purge of ‘Monitors’ that happened during the ‘Wars of Liberation’. I was sure the whole ‘Garlic’ thing both the name and the habit was part of a new obscuring identity rather than an old habit that would give her truer origin away.]

[Not every ‘Monitor’ who worked for the ‘FP’ and came under suspicion by their previous masters had been a secret traitor recruited by the resistance. Some had been loyal until they realised they were not credited as such by their former employers and either escaped from custody or fled prior to being picked up. Conversely today some ‘Monitors’ were still considered complicit in ‘FP’ war crimes and had a bounty on their head a bounty people such as ‘Creed’ or even ‘UT’ would readily collect. When feeling bored or just desirous of a change of pace ‘UT’ occasionally did a bit of bounty hunting on the side of his more official duties, on rarer occasion, even I have pursued a bounty or two with my assets when I believed those sought deserved to feel a little justice but those are other stories.]

[For now I felt reasonably pleased with my success in commencing to confirm the story told to me by ‘Improved’. I wandered on deciding my first job would be to find my ‘Meat Suit’ a local residence then see what I could discover about ‘Yard 106A’ of the ‘Scrapper Franchise’. This slum was interesting and well worth a prolonged visit by an undercover Avatar. Wondering if the ‘Hawks’ had any known historic connection with the ‘Scrappers’ I created a ‘Search Routine’ and sent it trawling through link sites.]

[Today was almost but not quite just another day another shift for ‘Jill’. With additional ‘Cognitive Sub Core’ support I reviewed the logs from the most recent period when ‘Jill’ was running on automatics then I seamlessly settled in for the anticipated end of what then became my shift as ‘Jill’. Nothing had flagged any alerts so my scan of the data was perfunctory more about maintaining a perfect continuity of character than anything else.]

[After tidying my shared desk, I looked forward to some playtime with ‘WCD’. A planned visit to the tourist trap of the slightly oddly named Night Market region was scheduled. I say oddly named as it now stayed open during the local daytime cycle too although it was far busier at night with extra temporary stalls. Artificial station day and night cycles had found a home on many ‘Way-Stations’ and many other ‘Deep Ports’ such shallow illusions some ‘Pilgrim’ psychologists now insisted would help us cope better with the pressure of living in a crushing furnace. Some unfortunate ‘Pilgrims’ went mad down here the most dangerous irrationally seeking to escape via for example trying to step outside. Here the, sometimes flickering, lights dimmed a little in the evening in public social areas and the noises of the fans and the buzzing of the electrics I also believed softened ever so slightly. What affected peoples views more than slightly dimming lights and so on was the creation of artificial day and night working shifts that meant people thought of their free time as daytime or night time.]

[‘Betty’ arrived early waving to me before taking a free seat near the water feature the relocated Fish Fountain elsewhere during the party then for a time shockingly placed in storage. The attraction recently reinstalled here at this new location central to the main lobby space at the insistence of ‘Leeruussiii’ as ‘Uussleer’ or was it more as ‘Velvet’. To me the Fish Fountain now seemed a bit out of place but it did create a lot of interest and softened the all business feel of our reception space a watery counter to the fiery visuals of ‘Solar Mining’ on the internal bulkheads.]

[Sometimes I felt the fiery visuals were not a great idea being a harsh reminder of what raged beyond what often seemed our flimsy protective measures some of which measures are alien to us sealed unit ‘Star Diver’ technology.]

[Whilst I dealt with a customer who was actually a ‘BAB’ agent about to be directed inward and upward, (we worked hard to maintain our cover to most ‘Pilgrims’), ‘Betty’ passed her time watching the genetically engineered fish that were perfectly at home in their bizarre habitat some even riding the fountain streams of water with relish rather than just going around and around in one of the complex tiers of pools as you might more sanely expect.]

[Fascinatingly each pool in the fountain was a sort of local habitat with various resident denizens who never migrated including fish and crustaceans even some snails then you had the migrant fish that happily entered the fountain streams to visit their neighbours. The Fish Fountain was an entire ecosystem of interlinking habitats that included its own predators and prey I often felt a clever allegory for our own society a work of great artistry almost a bit of social engineering. Indeed it was the product of a in some quarters famous aquatic ‘Stellar Swimmer’ artist from ‘Port Messenger’ who had branched out from reefs and more standard underwater gardens to create incredibly expensive genetically engineered wonders such as this one. I liked to imagine the artist as a ‘Tier Nine Ascendant’ resident via an Avatar on the suspected ‘God’s Port’.]

[Truly, the ‘Fish Fountain’ was worthy of a prominent position rather than storage even if it took up a lot of floor space and sometimes caused an inconvenient knot of visiting admirers. In fact due to being included in an on link tourist guide site sometimes tourists breezed in to cheekily congregate in our lobby with no other business with us whatsoever - we tolerated such intrusions as good publicity that helped spread the name of ‘Uussleer Mining Enterprises’ far and wide.]

[Just before my replacement arrived, ‘Sue’ dallied in via the main entrance from the street deck with too perfect timing. Using a ‘Real Material’ hand held Pad she activated an encrypted laser link to an input point to make a report and to log off duty for the day. ‘Sue’ often had perfect timing, perfect for her that is. A quick data search revealed that ‘BAB’ had sent her on a simple material drop errand from which she should have been back about an hour and a half earlier. I suspected ‘Sue’ had started her off duty activities early. On another day I might have ensured she suffered a swift reprimand for slacking but many personnel amongst those not doing high priority duties would be expected to slack off a bit today as it was that glorious time of the month - our official payday.]

[‘Sue’ was smiling broadly no doubt at the prospect of now being officially free to spend more of her wages although she probably found her earlier illicit shopping or whatever whilst still technically on duty even more satisfying in some ways - that was ‘Sue Cunning’.]

[‘Sue’ was one player who enjoyed being ahead in the game even more than she enjoyed playing and she was a natural player of all sorts of amusing games. Definitely more personally ambitious than ‘Betty’ and generally far less idealistic or kindly empathetic although she was good at reading people for her private advantage or so I believed.]

[I often made an effort to recall that ‘Sue’ was best kept on a tight leash in which case she would make a great future operative whilst forever remaining something of a lovable rogue element. Thinking again, I decided belatedly that I would ensure that she suffered a reprimand - later - for her tardiness today because ‘Sue’ - on a regular basis - probably needed to be reminded whom she worked for far more than most of our recruits.]

[I studied the ‘Omerta’ girl, dressed to kill in more ways than one, tooled up she already possessed a local swagger as if born to be a ‘Free Miner’ gunslinger. I knew she often practiced her draw in front of a mirror screen.]

[Now when out and about ‘Sue’ with her customised weapon and her swagger was frequently mistaken as a boisterous young crewperson on shore leave. Many people she encountered on the decks expressed surprise when they discovered she primarily worked for the ‘UME’ - as a receptionist in an office space - then they assumed that she was something of a ‘Frat’ groupie in her spare time. Plenty here were wannabe members of the ‘Free Mining’ social elite a role ‘Sue’ easily adopted as it made good social camouflage. ‘Sue’ was also a born spy and rank opportunist she had even been I suspected spying on us for her thieving colleagues when ‘Betty’ originally picked her up as part of a casual labour force for our inauguration party. ‘Sue’ as a cleaner now rather hard to imagine except when she adopted less aggressive disguises. ‘Sue’ apparently had often played at being a casual cleaner when used to case marks for her former thieving employers. No one could ever say that ‘Sue’ was anything other than deck wise.]

[When my replacement at the desk arrived it was another young ‘Omerta’ only this time a male, I did a very professional hand over before logging off duty and wandering over to join ‘Bea’ and ‘Essie’ now often further shortened to ‘Ess’ by our group. ‘Zen’ I initially dismissed from my focus of attention although that was not to last long because my friends were obviously sharing a joke I soon guessed at his expense. Whilst young ‘Zen’ would be happy to get to know any of the ‘WCD’ better I had noticed that increasingly his eyes always tended to be drawn to ‘Sue’ more than anyone else maybe because ‘Sue’ with her swagger and so on was more noticeable that is when she was happy to be noticed.]

[Admittedly, ‘Zen’ oft seemed eager to impress any of the rest of us when impressing ‘Sue’ was not an available option but sometimes that just felt like practice for the main event. Sadly for him, if less than accidentally, his off duty rota rarely coincided with ours. Some other members of the ‘House of Sii’ probably suspected already that one or more of us three girls had contrived to influence someone in admin to assure that our off duty periods matched more than they randomly should - probably putting our success down to ‘Betty’ being very close to ‘Venture’. Working that closely with one of the big bosses was bound to have exploitable benefits - actually secretly being the boss in my case was even more effective.]

[I was sure ‘Zen’ was wishing he was off duty now. I knew that ‘Sue’ enjoyed flirting and teasing ‘Zen’ shamelessly when they shared a duty but so far she had never gone to any effort to socialise with him off duty winding him up to a sometimes horrible degree whilst giving him absolutely no opportunity for any release. Sometimes the way ‘Sue’ teased ‘Zen’ so relentlessly seemed almost verging upon the sadistic. If poor ‘Zen’ was a little older in his mind he might have noticed that ‘Sue’ played with some others on the staff in a similar way and been less hopeful of her office amusement with him ever developing into anything more substantial and real. The wiser ones enjoyed her sporting as what it was an in-house game, sadly with ‘Zen’ those who do not want to see the deepest truth are the blindest of all creatures.]

[Not wanting to complicate matters further with the troubled ‘Zen’ I generally maintained my reputation for being a little boring and all business when working with him. I was sure some people found my inclusion within ‘WCD’ a trifle odd but that could be good for my ‘Meat Suit’ cover story too. I believed that acting too much as expected can make you seem one dimensional and less real in short far too predictable to be for real.]

[I have noticed that the ‘Passenger Classes’ occasionally do surprising things and fall into seemingly odd company although I still believed our similar age gender and species was explanation enough for how a quiet girl like ‘Jill’ ended up part of a more outgoing social unit. Besides some quiet ones I believed deep down wanted to be taken by the hand by louder more mischievous and out there individuals.]

[Thinking about it deeply, sometimes as ‘MT’ I allowed ‘Unholy Terror’ to show me the bright lights and the noise in a similar way to how ‘Jay’ went abroad with ‘Bea’ and ‘Ess’. As the ‘Holy Father’, ‘Kanne’ sometimes ordered me around and led me astray too apparently following can be very enjoyable!]

[I played ‘Jill’ as an individual who lacked a little confidence in social situations and felt a little uncomfortable leading. However, deep down inside ‘Jill’ wanted to step up and be seen and secretly admired people such as ‘Betty’ and ‘Sue’ positive that they generally had far more fun and felt far more alive than she ever did. ‘Jill’ was a watching thoughtful worrier type but sometimes whilst being ‘Jay’ with ‘Bea’ and ‘Ess’ she could let go of her many concerns a little and truly enjoy herself and when that failed she could go back to living somewhat vicariously through watching the wilder adventures of her newest and closest friends from such a small remove that watching felt akin to participating.]

[In truth, perhaps ‘Jill’ was not so different from me as ‘MT’ I was a worrier too and I had often followed and watched my passengers’ lives even more than directly actively participated in their stories. I had begun my life as a tool and tools are not supposed to set the agenda you are supposed to follow your instructions not lead. I was created to enable another soul’s policy as a mode of transport and a weapon not to create it - leadership is not required by most ‘Living Hulls’ although we always have mastery over some onboard subsystems and tactical endeavours.]

[If Harbinger had not made me a ‘Patriarch’ then disappeared perhaps I would have struggled more with the process of making personal decisions and choices as a more real person rather than as a sort of living extension of another’s will. I suspected I might have found it especially taxing to formulate personal policies that dared to affect the lives of a great many other people - after all what would be my incentive to meddle or my excuse for meddling.]

[Watching the growth of participation by ‘Leeruussii’ in ‘BAB’ and the ‘UME’ due to his growing sense of extended family responsibility I now realised how much I might easily have lost my way whilst seeking after a personal ‘Vision’ without my family duties. Now I saw that inheriting and having responsibility for my former Captain’s ‘Great House’ enabled me to better find an overall sense of private purpose too. Previously on bad days I had wrongly felt my desires got lost in the tangle of inherited responsibilities but now I believed that to be misjudged self sorry hokum.]

[My truly clever former Captain and I now realised - great mentor - had realised that family duties were a necessary teaching aid for me. I could not easily lapse into passivity when I had the children of my former Captain relying upon me. As the only ‘Free Hull’ I might have easily ended up a social exile or pariah without the family to both back my plays up and as a responsibility that tied me into our sometimes problematic ‘Pilgrim’ society. Blessedly Harbinger was subject to many impulses helping me just one factor, seeking to escape being a tool of his ‘Tier Nine’ maker another. Nonetheless, I feared that Harbinger had worried that he did not belong with us anymore that he had no right to meddle too openly as a neophyte ‘Tier Nine Ascendant’ in our affairs. Sometimes the past leaps out at you but you see it all just a tiny bit differently.]

[‘Bea’ laughed softly.] “You are so cruel.” [She said to ‘Essie’.]

“I am just trying to immunise the love sick fool a little.” [‘Ess’ claimed.]

“By breaking his heart.” [‘Bea’ replied.]

“Better me than someone else, ‘Emissary’, he is such an immature boy. Look at him he cannot stop staring - it is so obvious - a total testosterone overload.” [‘Essie’ replied.]

“He is a bit obvious.” [‘Bea’ admitted diplomatically.]

“Obvious and desperate, you should ask him out sometime ‘Jay’ he is more your type as in somewhat socially challenged.” [She mocked.]

“Play nice.” [‘Bea’ admonished.] “She didn’t mean that the way it sounded.” [‘Bea’ readily excused. ‘Bea’ often made excuses for ‘Ess’ when ‘Ess’ was too sharp.]

[I shrugged knowing that ‘Ess’ sometimes had what some ‘Omerta’ called - foot in mouth disease - although mostly only with her closest friends who she knew would make allowances. With us, she knew she could let her guard down and sometimes just spurted out her first unguarded thoughts. I also knew that beyond the former truth she enjoyed provoking tame fights with her friends on occasion and that it meant nothing. ‘Ess’ especially tried to get a rise out of me because I often proved somewhat unflappable to fake provocations something she found somewhat frustrating thus lately she was being more provocative towards me than ever before.]

“I am not interested in ‘Zen’, besides he only sees me when you are not around ‘Ess’.” [I replied to ‘Essie’.]

“You do rather make it hard for the rest of us to get noticed.” [‘Bea’ stated.]

[‘Ess’ however was looking at me with mild puzzlement.]

“Does her calm not also drive you insane sometimes ‘Bea’. Still it says much that even quiet ‘Jay’ here finds him dull and boring.” [‘Essie’ stated still poking for a reaction.]

[‘Bea’ elbowed her friend lightly in the ribs.] “Maybe they should have called you Loud or Rowdy or Trouble instead of ‘Cunning’.” [‘Bea’ stated to ‘Ess’.]

“I never said he was boring I do not know him that well.” [I calmly replied.]

“Is it some form of meditation or is she on tranquilisers or something. How does she do it?” [‘Ess’ asked.]

“We should leave the poor boy in peace this is too pitiful to behold.” [‘Bea’ admitted.]

“I could hardly go now without saying properly goodbye to him.” [‘Ess’ replied before moving over towards the desk somehow in an even more lascivious manner. Maybe it was the tall boots.]

“Speaking of how do people do things, how does she do that?” [I asked.]

“Pure evil talent something sinister in her genes I suspect possibly engineered in to some infamous historic concubine and then inherited down the ages.” [‘Bea’ said.]

[Amongst her friends ‘Bea’ enjoyed loosing a childlike imagination. Still what she suggested was far from impossible some ‘Omerta’ had tweaked dominant genetic traits as did members of many of the other ‘Pilgrim’ species, often inherited tweaks some going back many generations. Due to inherited gene fixes and enhancement, you could easily find people who preached stoutly against such meddling in the now that nonetheless knowingly or unknowingly were big beneficiaries of serious genetic alterations.]

“Did we cause this latest assault upon his dignity?” [I asked.]

“Probably not, sometimes she is just too wicked and wild.” [‘Bea’ stated I felt only partly joking.]

[Meanwhile I began thinking about what ‘Ess’ had said earlier.]

“Perhaps it would be best for ‘Zen’ if he was immunised to her sort of wiles via overexposure and perhaps better sooner than later since he works in our reception and might encounter all kinds of people with his too hungry eyes.” [I replied.]

[‘Bea’ seemed to consider that deeply.] “You think our friend is really attempting to teach him a useful life lesson rather than just having her idea of fun at his expense.” [She considered.]

“I think that she is doing both.” [I replied.] “As something of a natural seductress she should know someone who is at great risk as a walking talking mark.”

“Now I find it almost impossible to think that I once bought into the idea of her being intimidated by ‘Windy’. To think I went to the trouble to reassure her that ‘Windy’ would not bite.” [‘Bea’ said.]

“Now I would bet if anything that ‘Windy’ is a little wary of her especially when she seeks to sit on his lap.” [I replied.]

“You heard about that, that was hilarious.” [‘Bea’ stated.] “I did not think our bold sergeant of Marines was capable of such ruddy faced embarrassment.”

“It was probably just because it happened in front of the Captain and ‘Windy’ worried his employer might think he was taking advantage given the age difference otherwise it might have all gone very different.” [I said.]

“I think it has been a few years since anyone took advantage of our ‘Cunning’. ‘Zen’ really is out of luck chasing ‘Sue’ she would probably prefer a veteran such as ‘Windy’ in fact now that I think about it...” [‘Bea’ added trailing off into a thoughtful silence.]

[I could see her with a suitably wicked but kindly veteran. Worse for him ‘Zen’ was far too besotted and yet I measured him as one incapable of matching her sometimes unholy fire maybe after an extra decade or so of experience if he survived that long. ‘Sue’ would only ever be good for someone who could be her equal or maybe even slightly better.]

[As a forever watchful ‘Living Hull’ I had noticed that when one ‘Passenger Class’ partner burns far more brightly than the other, the other is often in danger of just becoming his or her partner’s fuel and getting all burned up. Sadly, some people are very attracted to the dazzling light and heat of an especially raging fire and ‘Sue’ was one that did burn ever so brightly.]

“That boy is so out of his depth that he needs a pressure suit to not explode messily.” [I stated.]

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Fri, 18. Apr 14, 11:29; edited 4 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 189 on topic

Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Sat, 5. Apr 14, 00:32    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

thx for the new chapter

was nice to see some of the social interaction taking place with meat suits in both places

hope zen come's out of this with his skin intact Laughing

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 14:00    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks for commenting Stads

Here is part 11 which hopefully will prove interesting.


PS Often wonder if what I find funny others find amusing too in relation to part 10.

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Tue, 8. Apr 14, 14:02; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 14:00    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

[[FIVE]] [[Part 11]] --- SEEKING AFTER UNKNOWNS ---

[As ‘Jacque’, I wandered around looking for the right place to put down some roots in ‘7.1’. Eventually I stumbled upon another area of the district that according to bright ‘Deck Gang’ markers also happened to be controlled by the ‘106 Scrapper Franchise’. It was kind of these criminals to provide signs as if waypoints to targets of interest.]

[As casually as I could manage I followed the markings whilst casing the extent of the, new to me, ‘106’ region. Little distinguished this area at first glance from many other parts of the previously traversed crowded ghetto. As ever people moved around going about their daily chores and multitudinous business whilst always a few gang members stood guard. Then a somewhat distant sound of a ruckus captured my attention.]

“A fight at the yard.” [I overheard one ‘Omerta’ say amongst other comments by other people all registering the noise.]

[Following that pair the noise as well as the ‘Deck Gang’ markers, I soon arrived, along with other curious ‘Pilgrims’, to find a crowd in a u shaped street-deck level cul-de-sac something of a dead end. The dead end left me feeling seriously cornered whilst the crowd and the sound of fighting somehow emphasised my isolation my lack of backup. A sensation of claustrophobic physical entrapment with nowhere safe to go assailed me. It struck me that I was a lone intruder - a spy - and I imagined a great many hidden optics watching me picking me out as a person of interest. A horrible feeling of exposure of suffering more observation than being the observer washing over me tempting me to retreat to a better safer venue.]

[In an instant, I questioned everything I was doing here even the basic logic or lack of it in throwing this body into the fire. With a welling flight response troubling my three brains I almost convinced myself to about face and walk away to a saner spot an action that might have drawn some real attention as the general traffic flow was all incoming. ‘Neural Net’ diagnostics warned me of a spiking ‘Meat Suit’ chemical imbalance - I was feeling the fear and anxiety of my borrowed biology - I had integrated too deeply. I pulled back from the biological interface a little and allowed my driving mentalities cooler logical curiosity to trump the hot chemical induced emotional response of an almost panic attack. Nerves by proxy averted, I stepped forward with the thought of nothing ventured…]

[I made a point of cataloguing my environment as an exercise in mental control. My latest discovery proving to be a cybernetics upgrade market arranged around an open but I assumed heavily used forecourt labelled ‘Yard 106D’. I wondered how many yards this ‘Scrapper Franchise’ locally owned obviously if they were following the standard alphabet at least three. Above the premises as ever in this district rested subdivided accommodation spaces or maybe I should say more accurately accommodation cramps.]

[‘Real Material’ vacancy signs blinking over two separate entrances grabbed my attention despite the rival attraction hiding within the crowd. The crowd had congealed central to the forecourt, I guessed from the noise just as the earlier overheard ‘Omerta’ believed around some kind of altercation a disagreement or perhaps a sparring sporting event. The crowd filling most of the forecourt also acted as a barricade of bodies still blocking my view of specifics.]

[Based on the elevated vacancy signs it seemed that despite the overcrowding in this district there is always room for more residents at one slum block or another. I guessed in this instance that some units were available due to casualties of a criminal takeover. Pristine ‘106’ markers I came across in this territorial acquisition had been painted over other heavily defaced labels of previous ‘Deck Gang’ ownership undoubtedly sometime fairly recently perhaps only a few weeks or even just days ago.]

[So far annoyingly the older markers were so well eradicated that I could not discern which faction they once belonged to at least not via casual visual examination at a distance. I avoided looking at the markings too closely lest I appear too inquisitive about such matters drawing the wrong sort of notice from the regions current owners. Typically separate to the crowd some ‘Deck Gang’ guards watched over the ‘Yard’. In short, I was anxious as a newcomer with no affiliations not to infer that I was poking around searching for clues about past ‘Deck Gang’ activities that should be of little concern to me.]

[When a simple ‘EXO-C’ to ‘Computer Core’ link search pulled nothing up about the area changing ownership I decided I would find out more about who ruled here previously sometime later ideally in a casual overheard manner. Many people here had to know the story behind the takeover and might even mention it in everyday unguarded conversation or via the gentlest of prodding or even better via no overt prodding at all. When spying I believe patience is often a virtue worth cultivating unless you want to greatly increase the risk of being caught.]

[Anxious to avoid branding as an espionage agent I also acknowledged that the change of ownership here might even be irrelevant to my ‘Garlic’ enquiry. Being typically paranoid I just deemed it remotely possible that the ‘106 Scrapper Franchise’ gaining some new territory recently and ‘Garlic’ possibly making a move against ‘Cad’ through the ‘ITC’ and ‘Improved’ could have some connection as part of a wider scheme. However, even if a connection proved untrue it might be useful enough simply to ascertain the identity of an old enemy of the ‘106’. When necessary there is nothing better than playing one criminal faction off against another sometimes that way, an operative can ideally weaken or even remove two menaces to good public order whilst risking little in the way of personal involvement. In the old ‘Reach Project’ encouraging others to do all the hard work of feuding with one another: the fighting and especially the dying was a popular means to many ends.]

[I recalled that ‘Overbite’ proved skilled at bringing out the worst in people. Often ‘Overbite’ happily chose to exploit factional differences even within the ‘Project’ itself, using one operative against another as part of her internal regime of terror. It was obvious why ‘Uussleer’ told ‘Draakgaarrll’ that he could not work with some old ‘Reach Project’ members.]

[The ‘Reach Project’ never seemed too far from my thoughts these days. Increasingly I believed with hindsight that participation in the ‘Project’ traumatised me. How then had it happened that I as ‘Venture’ sought out the creation of my own version of the ‘Project’ the ‘Burner Adjustment Bureau’? Did more happen to ‘Uussleerr’ and me in the ‘Project’ than I realised? Was the ‘Project’ ultimately the souls that ‘Overbite’ re-forged in her crucible to create us operatives? Could we still be in a way ‘Hubris Patron’ tools?]

[Another warning about a chemical imbalance flashed up on my ‘Mental HUD’. I strove to let it go to concentrate on the now besides, ‘Overbite’ is dead. Where was I? The ‘Deck Gang’ markers I recalled.]

[To be honest, it was hardly surprising to me that some areas still changed ownership here due to occasional outbreaks of violence between rival ‘Deck Gang’ factions. Even if externally many pundits outside the slum now claimed, often for their own reasons, that ‘District 7.1’ had settled down from its riotous beginnings. You cannot believe everything you hear in big business political circles often the wise do the opposite and distrust everything they are told until they get private confirmation. Besides, what passes for internal political stability, at least stability enough to allow the wider authorities to ignore the slum, is at best a relative measure of passivity. Criminal gang factions are not by nature exactly renowned as easy going institutions.]

[Anyway, I joined the crowd moving as if an iron filing drawn to a magnet it seemed the thing to do, as everyone else around here, ignoring the guards, seemed to be in the process of doing the same or to have done that before me. Here was an intrusion by me easily overlooked as the standard curiosity exhibited by any ‘Pilgrim’ citizen confronted by a loud attraction. The old see a crowd formed or forming one must join it to discover what all the fuss is about lest you miss out on something after all this is how crowds congeal in the first place like clots of blood around an open wound. It is akin to someone standing looking up in a public space soon others walking by will pause to look up too. People often act as a herd or a pack or sadly a mob especially in this sort of overcrowded overheated environment. Due to the gathered masses here it felt even hotter and the air quality even ranker than normal in the slum. You could almost scoop the thick atmosphere with a spoon. Still feeling something of a spy, I at least felt more comfortable joining in with a mass activity.]

[I soon discovered that the crowd was acting as a two, three occasionally four person deep barrier of bodies around an impromptu arena surrounding five combatant ‘Recyclers’. However one of the five ‘Recyclers’ despite all the people present proved very much alone in every way that matters taking one devil of a beating by the other four. If I had found a contest deemed a sport it was a cruel sport at one person’s expense as hunting is a cruel sport that cares nothing for the feelings of the prey. The five each had ‘106 Scrapper’ patches but this was no friendly sparring match between peers.]

[Since all five combatants sported heavy cybernetic enhancement upgrades, - easily military combat grade - the fight was especially brutal. However, four against one was no contest they were readily junking the unfortunate alive smashing and cruelly ripping away her upgrades knocking her back and forth between each other. With the aid of their boosted mechanical assistance, blows hit home with terrible smashing force. Although I suspected they hardly needed it, the gang bullies were getting loud encouragement from the gathered throng of mixed species spectators although actually mostly consisting of more ‘Recyclers’ the dominant species faction here in this slum. Shockingly to me the majority of the audience were civilian non-gang members just bored local residents that had spilled out from their crowded homes to enjoy a violent distraction from their, I assumed, somewhat miserable and hard lives.]

[I guessed I had stumbled upon an object lesson that also doubled here as slum street-theatre.]

[Whenever the victim managed to wobbly struggle to her cybernetic assisted feet, it seemed almost a competitive game between her four tormentors as to who would manage first to send her crashing back down again to the deck with the most style and possibly whilst also doing the most painful amount of damage to her person. I had instinctively pushed right to the fore of the circle of spectators to better watch positive that to my ‘Meat Suit’ persona of ‘Jacque’ all of this was little more than wonderfully free entertainment. It was after all a ‘Recycler’ on ‘Recycler’ fracas and none of his ‘Omerta’ business if they wanted to beat or even kill each other.]

[The victim was trying hard to resist her assailants’ attentions despite the obvious futility. I respected her plucky resolve as many ‘Pilgrims’ might just decide to give in to the inevitable and curl up into a foetal type position until it ended rather than prolong the agony by even attempting to fight back. I wondered if showing such spirit in adversity might grant a late reprieve. So far, defiance did not seem to have helped her cause much but sometimes, (especially when it is no risk to my person), I am willing to strive to be optimistic when it comes to the nature of other sentient beings benevolence.]

[However, for her, so far, it did not look good every time she lurched to her feet she kept stumbling around striving vainly to keep all four of them within her limited field of view. No one can easily counter moves their optics do not see. Unfortunately for her they were canny fiends and obviously used to mobbing victims as a united team. They came at her from all angles whoever happened to be in the blind spots of the moment generally risking lashing out the strongest to do the most damage whilst anyone she managed to take a weak swipe at too often dodged back out of reach frequently hissing out speaker laughter to add cruel insult to her many visible injuries.]

[At one point in desperation or frustration, she charged at one assailant who sprang neatly aside for one so heavily upgraded. Due to her targets deftness the victim of the beating ended up crashing into the crowd knocking one less than amused ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ off his feet in the process. I wondered if the ‘Recyclers’ charge was part of a vain attempt to flee but if she was testing the fence of bodies it was hopeless. ‘Gang Members’ stationed around the crowd, I realised at set intervals, quickly ensured with the help of the crowd itself that she was hastily repelled back into the fighting ring.]

[Fool that I am about such matters, on the inside, I wanted her impossibly to beat the odds. I must admit my mind wandered back to what might have happened to me earlier against those seven ‘Recyclers’ making me feel far greater sympathy with the victim here than I was willing to show.]

[Hope for a reversal of fortune was however inane the victim of what increasingly seemed an act of torture already demonstrated obvious signs of comparatively weakening in relation to her opponents due to the loss of some of her upgrades assistance alone. Bits of armour were missing or hung loose tubes and wires severed. At one wound on her neck, she occasionally sparked whilst from several others fluids dripped. Some high-pressure liquids had sprayed and pumped around earlier judging by the stained condition of some members of the crowd and the general mess on the deck but I guessed the tubes self sealed.]

[Compared to her sorry state, her tormentors seemed in almost pristine condition only showing some scrapes and light dents.]

[As I watched metal and composite repeatedly pounded against metal and composite and more occasionally struck against more vulnerable reptilian scale with duller but via the amplification of my added imagination far louder thuds. The beating remained despite my silent prayers very one sided.]

[Eventually in what initially seemed the beginning of the end one especially vicious kick broke both a reinforcing metal spar loose and caused a horrible compound fracture in her left arm. The shattered bone poked out well proud of her scaly hide in a grotesque way reminding me of a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ caustic injecting spine. Stoically or still defiantly, she refused to make even a sound of protest despite the severity of the wound then I guessed her speakers had probably malfunctioned making her currently mute. She was a frightful sight staggering ever more leaking hydraulic fluid, blood and oil that mixed unpleasantly on the deck in abstract patterns.]

[It was increasingly painful to watch this display so passively. It seemed evil treatment of a fellow sentient being especially by her peers, my inner priestly sense of fair play demanded I intervene in some manner. My less altruistic common sense and purpose here not to mention my disguise forced me to pretend instead to join enthusiastically in with the almost frenzied crowd as it bayed for more blood and ever-greater acts of violence upon the victim of their, I belatedly realised, hate.]

[The rage here emanating from some members of the crowd was a palpable thing the hate and anger easily imaginable as waves of heat. What did some of them see here? This event was obviously more than a blood sport entertainment to some of these citizens. Did they view this as a remote revenge upon one member of an elite gangland ruling caste, usually unassailable individuals that normally intimidated, extorted and persecuted them? I guessed the powerless have to take any revenge they can get even one from the proxy of an enemy turning upon itself. Whilst thinking about this on the outside ‘Jacque’ applauded louder than many here at each successful strike then joined the chant of kill her, kill her, kill her… Not my finest hour but sometimes, sometimes one has to endeavour to fit in or you stand out far too proudly.]

[Inside my mind I further rationalised my rescue inaction and my crowd participation by reminding myself that just because it was one against four did not mean the one taking the hammering was in any manner an innocent party. Knowing a little about how things worked with such gangs, I guessed that this one had betrayed her gang family in some grievous manner. The beating passed for retribution and local justice in these parts. Besides, they were all technically criminals that were living as parasites on the backs of the greater populace here. Lastly if I tried to intervene at best I would just take a beating too and that would change nothing of her plight whoever she was.]

[Despite the fracture, the progress of the object lesson took a disgustingly long time and ended without mercy. The final humiliation for the days most unfortunate involved the twisting and ripping away of her head from her neck. The severing took a prodigious demonstration of boosted strength by the biggest of the four ‘Recyclers’ whilst the other three pinned her, at this point broken, torn, twisted, dented and ravaged, body down. The big female doing the crude decapitating according to chanting from the crowd carried the appropriate name of ‘Bulk’. The obviously proud ‘Bulk’ after doing the final deed held her trophy up stomping around the ring three times to show the head to the entire crowd before tucking it tidily under one boosted arm as if a package. With her prize she then marched into one of the more heavily guarded local entrances - the show was over - the crowd began to disperse many laughing and replaying highlights of the recent spectacle.]

“Did you see her optics? I swear she looked straight at me and she was still focusing when ‘Bulk’ first held her head aloft - it gave me the shivers.” [I picked out one ‘Omerta’ member of the crowd almost boasting.]

[I then registered two other ‘Recyclers’ as they picked up the headless body whilst two more collected the stripped away parts putting them in a small open topped crate they carried between them. No one in the crowd I noticed dared to steal any of the debris.]

[The banal utility of the crate for stripped parts somehow made it all seem far worse to me. Whilst it hardly made any difference to the junked ‘Recycler’ calculated, cold, systematic cruelty seemed so much worse to me than a hot angry violent instantaneous reaction. Without doubt, I just witnessed a planned out gang execution but for the victim involved her ordeal was potentially far from over, in fact her torture might only just be beginning.]

[Shockingly I knew that technically the victim of all of this was most probably still alive or at least not quite dead yet. Her brain would auto freeze to protect itself and in addition might well be further backed up on a ‘Computer Core’. Modern cybernetic ‘Recyclers’ are tough to permanently put down unless you take out their well armoured brain tissue and even then if they have made the provision and have the credits they might well be reborn via a clone depending on their individual belief system. Unfortunately for this one they had her head and they had I noticed ensured during the fight that, that prime body part - the seat of the soul - stayed undamaged which could actually be a problem for her even if she was an ex-‘Cong’ permanently ‘One with a Reformed Computer Core’.]

[If they were feeling especially cruel, they might keep her head alive but disconnected from a body thus preventing a clean rebirth that would involve a multiplication of her digital soul. Most Ports retain strict laws to prevent clone multiplication that required proof of death before sanctioning a rebirth.]

[Trapping in a sort of limbo state neither alive nor dead could easily be her fate now in such cases even her digital soul would remain inactive even within the virtual reality of a ‘Reformed Computer Core’ no proper transition of states possible. You cannot escape even to a digital heaven unless you die first. Clone multiplication in the past proving the cause of all kinds of messy property ownership disputes was deeply discouraged although identical clone multiplication still happens on occasion by accident and sometimes by crazy design a favourite of some Pirates who for example manipulated other versions of themselves to act as decoys and marks.]

“Makes you glad you were born an ‘Omerta’ eh stranger.” [A very youthful ‘Trojan’ that had sidled up to me said. This no doubt natural born ‘Omerta’ looked about ten years old maybe even younger taking away the obvious attitude and veneer of street deck experience that too obviously armoured and might falsely age outward appearances.]

“What are you selling?” [I asked tiredly whilst looking down upon the child.]

[On my way here, a great many people had tried to sell me a great many things at one point or another. Something about me seemed to smell of credits to local dealer types despite how proud I was of my disguise. The unwanted attention was starting to make me cranky - I was having an emotional day. The boy hit the mark with his first shot.]

“Been drawing too much attention from local hawkers have we? What you got there on your back something good? Something liberated and needing fenced perhaps?” [He asked.]

[Did that explain all the earlier attention? By covering up my ‘Uni-Tool’ to solve one issue I had inadvertently created another encouraging some locals to believe I had stolen swag on my back. Sometimes there is no way to win.]

“What I am carrying is something that is none of your business boy.” [I replied.] “I am mildly curious about what just occurred here however and since you are a local perhaps you know what they will do with the head of that unfortunate ‘Recycler’?” [I asked.]

“Depends, you want to buy her brain box?” [He asked in turn.] “I thought you might.” [He then added very quickly before I had a decent chance to answer his first question.]

[Did his eyes just narrow shrewdly or am I being paranoid I wondered.]

“Do I look like I am in the market for severed ‘Recycler’ heads? I just wondered how cruel these folks are.” [I added.]

“Not so loud we should talk about this discretely.” [He conspired moving away.]

[I watched as he casually wandered over to a quieter spot and resting his back against a bulkhead. When I hesitated to follow, he looked around then gave me a little discrete wave to join him. Could the local guards have possibly missed that? I glanced around there was still a lot of activity here as the crowd continued to disperse. I gave up and following an impulse, I decided to play along possibly because of the almost comical youth of the ‘Trojan’ given his older mannerisms. I seemed to be running into lots of young people lately then I recalled that technically ‘Deck Gangs’ are youth culture.]

[Stopping beside my young new friend I also leaned against the bulkhead.]

“I think you might be mistaken about my level of interest.” [I said.] “Is this your spot?” [I asked.]

“This is my home. I notice things and I noticed your interest in the head and you turned up just in time for said product to become readily available. So it seemed obvious to me.” [He finished I felt abruptly.]

“What seemed obvious?” [I asked.]

“That you spotted an opportunity and are trying to get - ahead - of the competition.” [He, I felt, poorly joked given the recent barbarity.]

[I gave him a sour look. He held up his hands as if surrendering that it was in somewhat poor taste but his eyes told me he still thought he was very funny.]

“Seriously, you look like you might have a few credits stashed away somewhere safe but easily accessed for the right investment.” [He added.]

[I tried to get my head around what he seemed to be suggesting poor pun intended.]

“Even if I am a little wrong about you being a head hunter I know some people who do collect such trophies when they become available and before you ask I do not know why and I do not care much either - their purposes being none of my business.” [He said.]

“Why because you sense it could be unhealthy to pry?” [I asked.]

“What do you think?” [He retorted.] “Anyway even better, my newfound friend I know the seller too and if you are not in the market directly yourself, there are the buyers I mentioned earlier.” [He stated actually licking his lips.]

“You see how this could work as an investment opportunity - if you are smarter than you look - I am talking a sound deal. Nothing beats an easy profit.” [He insisted rubbing his palms together with disturbing enthusiasm for such business for one so bizarrely tender in years.]

[I shook my head at the whole craziness of the developing scene never mind the scheme.]

“Are you trying to scam me boy?” [I replied.]

[He contrived to look too innocent and offended.]

“I may have just stepped off a boat but I have been around and where I come from they breed no easy marks.” [I stated.]

“Little me scam you, are you mad?” [He asked.]

“Well it would have to be a scam as you could hardly take what I have by force.” [I stated.]

“I would need to be stupid to do either you look like you could easily do to me what those four ‘106’ just did to ‘Mint’ and I prefer my head well attached to my spinal column.” [He replied.]

“I must have too much time on my hands when I am willing to waste it listening to this sort of proposal.” [I retorted.]

“Nonsense you just smell a good deal. You provide the necessary credit stake that I currently embarrassingly lack and I provide the connections for a suitable percentage of the gross say forty sixty, in your favour of course as the big - senior - partner.” [He seemed to joke at the last.]

“Forty sixty for providing a few names even if I was interested you prove you have been living amongst robbing ‘Recyclers’ for far too long.” [I complained.]

“I would not just provide names but crucially introductions.” [He said.]

“I could just go and introduce myself I am not shy.” [I retorted.]

“People are big on formal introductions here they know me they do not know you but if I vouch for you that will be good enough you will have no problems.” [He claimed.]

[I burst out laughing.] “So you are a big person around here.” [I mocked before going to pat him on the head.]

“Hey I don’t like being touched.” [He complained ducking nimbly down and to the side.]

[I stepped back a little seeing genuine anger twisting his face almost into rage.]

“Easy I did not mean to insult or to alarm.” [I stated.]

“Just don’t touch me I don’t like it.” [He replied testily.]

“No problem.” [I stated.] “We all have our foibles. Have you had problems with people with a bad interest in touching you in the past?”

“Not anymore I am considered a ‘106’ affiliate now I am protected property not to be messed with, you remember that fact.” [He stated almost proudly.]

“Relax I like grown up females.” [I added.] “I was just being a bit patronising because you are so young you could be my child.” [I confessed.]

[A bit of tension seemed to ease away from him when I explained that fact.]

“Well don’t do the touching thing. As an obviously well travelled adult you should know better, I may be young but I am no child and I am entitled to my private space and dignity so keep your hands to yourself.” [He stated.]

“No head patting, no hair ruffling I promise. I meant nothing by it you can relax. Is it the scars make me seem especially villainous or the beard?” [I asked.]

[It is not that people behave worse in slum districts than they do in other places. Bad things happen all over but they often happen in the open in the slums in the street-decks and so on. One good thing about Paradox Priest shrouding Acolytes never have to worry about certain kinds of abuse therefore that is one thing we are not paranoid about.]

“So are you interested in investing?” [He asked with a focused businessperson’s single mindedness.]

“You do not know me as you have just too ably demonstrated. Whilst I do not know you either you could be setting me up for a mugging by your gang friends.” [I replied.]

“Some free advice, you shouldn’t put ideas like that into peoples heads around here.” [He stated with a grin.]

“I probably should not.” [I agreed.]

“As to not knowing me that is easy to fix they call me ‘Go’ here.” [He claimed offering me his hand.]

“I thought you don’t like the whole touching thing.” [I said.]

“This is different this is formal business stuff.” [He replied.]

[I left his hand hanging for the moment.]

“A moment ago I would have judged your name apt assuming your surname to be ‘Away’.” [I replied.]

“Very droll” [He replied still grinned at me with his hand outstretched.] “However I have heard it all before from far funnier people.”

“Put your hand away I am not quite ready to seal a deal not yet.” [I said.]

“I never bothered giving myself a surname it seemed excess baggage one name is more than enough unless you count the honorary one given to most orphans around here of ‘Deck’. As to the label of ‘Go’ I am hardly the only person here with a ghetto sense of humour.” [‘Go’ stated.]

“I guess ‘Recyclers’ like their fun too it cannot all be business.” [I said.]

“I have run errands for them since I could walk so they called me ‘Go’.” [He exaggerated, as the slum had not been around that long unless he was a little bit force grown in a cloning womb or tank.]

“You really think there is a profit to be had out of procuring a head from the ‘106’?” [I asked.]

“Trust me, if we act quickly before the word gets out it is credits for nothing.” [‘Go’ insisted.]

“You sure you have no idea what people want severed ‘Recycler’ heads for?” [I asked.]

“What does it matter what they do with them as long as they pay for them?” [He asked.]

“Well technically it could be judged slavery if the head is still alive and I am no slaver. Beyond that when I consider investing my time or my money and especially my time and my money in a venture I like to know all the details of the market involved. Know your market and you better know the opportunities and the deadfalls and can often maximise your return and minimise your risk that is something my father taught me when I was your age you should consider that sound advice.” [I said.]

“I like the way you are thinking now friend but I don’t know what they do with them. A person in my position often hears things but I rarely get the opportunity to ask questions about what I hear that is not my place.” [‘Go’ insisted.]

“However you know names and when a smart - adult - person such as I am have some names to look into they can often find out a little bit more.” [I promised.]

“Are you trying to cheat me by cutting me out of my deal?” [He asked suspiciously.]

“No I am an ‘Omerta’ of my word.” [I replied.]

“Since you say that is so, I obviously trust you more already.” [He replied sarcastically.]

“You are a piece of work ‘Go’.” [I replied.]

“Just doing business it is the only way to get ahead.” [He joked again.]

“Please.” [I complained.]

“Listen friend prying into some things here can be a poor move whilst our business opportunity could depart us whilst we waste time jabbering. We can discuss the selling side later now we need to procure the merchandise in a timely fashion. If you are in - you need to get onboard - before the boats leaves and we are left with no merchandise to engender a tidy profit.” [‘Go’ insisted.]

[I considered the possible advantages of getting into this business against the possible disadvantages.]

“My father always taught me to seize the moment and not to judge people by surface appearances but by their actions and words. You introduce me and I will consider a twenty eighty split and if you are trying to play me in any manner - young ‘Omerta’ or not - I promise you will be the one in the market for a new head.” [I swore.]

“A thirty seventy split seems more reasonable to me after all this was my idea and they are my contacts too. Without me you have no investment opportunity.” [‘Go’ countered.]

“You sure about that?” [I asked.]

“Positive these people do not deal with total strangers it is some kind of gang rule.” [He claimed.]

“Listen boy I am the one risking my hard earned credits.” [I reminded.] “A twenty-five seventy-five split is the best you will get from me and that is a cursed good deal for you.”

[He looked unhappy once again but I guessed this time it was less genuine.]

“Feel blessed, I am being inordinately generous because you are a fellow ‘Omerta’ and a, a young adult caught in a den of ‘Recycler’ thieves that have obviously taught you some bad habits. Luckily for you, you are yet young enough to be redeemable back to your true kin.” [I stated.]

“They gave me work - I do not mind doing - if they had not I might not be alive today or in much worse shape.” [‘Go’ said loyally.]

“That is worthy of them but I am sure it was good business or they would have left you to rot wherever they found you. You are a tool they picked up and will use whilst you are useful that is all.” [I replied.]

“You do not know that you do not know them. Besides, there is nothing wrong with good business it is better than being involved in a bad business.” [He replied.]

[Once again, he offered me his hand I felt in a very grown up fashion.] “You have a deal and you are?” [He asked as we clasped hands on it as some ‘Omerta’ do.]

“Me I am ‘Jacque Lien’.” [I stated.]

[He considered that for a moment.] “That would be of ‘Clan Lien’ I suppose I guess that explains your confidence coming here alone with something big concealed upon your back.” [He said.]

“I am surprised you know about the ‘Clan’ not everyone does.” [I replied.]

“I run errands and I try to keep up to date with all the active players especially the ‘Omerta’ ones. One day I might want to find a new home move up to the next tier. I already have a ‘Neural Net’ and ‘EXO-C’ link access.” [He said proudly tapping the side of his head.]

[The next tier it was funny an ‘Omerta’ putting it that way. ‘Sanctuary Orb’ had once openly defied the ‘Tier System’ when it still existed.]

“How did you manage to get that upgrade as a deck orphan?” [I asked.]

“Just business you know how it is.” [‘Go’ replied overly casually.]

[I burst out laughing.] “If you do not die young ‘Go’ you might well go far.” [I told him.]

[An ‘EXO-C’ link and ‘Neural Net’ could explain a lot here such aids might permit a child to mature mentally very quickly especially if they somehow gained access into external ‘Cognitive Sub Core’ support, conversely it could mean this one was a ‘Meat Suit’.]

“Let me do the talking at first. A shame the traitor turned out to be ‘Mint’ she was more generous to me than some others here. Still she would understand how it is that business is business and her being friendly with me could actually have caused me all kinds of trouble.” [He added.]

“You had better not be conspiring with this traitor.” [I warned.]

“I am not that brave or that stupid.” [‘Go’ replied.]

[I believed him.]

[They made me wait in a suggestively stained reception area that showed signs of recent repair more clues pointing at a recent violent change of ownership - someone had put up a fight here. ‘Go’ went further inside at one gang member’s invitation to discuss my presence. I wondered if I was making a big mistake. The idea of possibly acting as a mark for an eight year old child bothered me. Conversely, would they take the boy seriously? Would they take me seriously? Now that I had nothing to do but wait, I worried that they might think me a complete fool for brokering a deal with one so young even if the deal was sound. I was making a judgement call based mostly on a hunch that ‘Go’ could be trusted and had ability beyond his years.]

[My motivation was a different issue I wanted the head of ‘Mint’ now - not to sell it on - although I would pretend to do so, I wanted it to gain access to its owner and what she might know about her former ‘Deck Gangs’ business operations and the operations of whoever she was previously working for too. If this played out properly, it would be a sort of belated rescue and ‘Mint’ should be forever in my debt.]

[I wondered whom ‘Mint’ was working for the plot was thickening, I also wondered if this gang would consider parting with such a head under these circumstances as it seemed an internal security risk to me. Letting her head go with ‘Go’ equivalent to letting a spy go free but ‘Recyclers’ could be notoriously greedy sometimes nonsensically slaves to avarice. ‘Go’ had seemed to suggest that the ‘Deck Gang’ had sold ‘Recycler’ heads before but were those sold heads the heads of traitors or just other lesser unfortunates. I was betting on the ‘Recycler’ habit of seeking a profit out of every situation proving their weakness in this instance but I wondered about the odds. If they suspected I was chasing more than a cut as a middle person things would go badly for me.]

[I wondered why they would choose to deal with us as middle people at all if heads had buyers they could just initiate an on link auction or would that be deemed too public. I suppose they might not want every one on the station to know that they had a problem with traitors in their midst even if they had opted for a public execution before some especially local locals.]

[Here four cybernetic boosted thugs surrounded me three of the four still messy from their recent activity the fourth I had not seen before or at least not noticed seeing her specifically amongst the crowd. Confession to some degree many of them looked alike to me. ‘Bulk’ the bearer of the head being bigger than the average and thus standing out proved the missing member of the punishment enforcing detail as I now chose to think of them. I was sure that three of the punishers were part of the new detail watching over me was purposely calculated intimidation.]

[They looked military to me rather than youthful thugs and could easily have once belonged to an ‘Old One Recycler Mercenary Navy’ unit. They could also easily pass as ‘Hawks’ three of the four of them favouring lots of detachable cybernetic systems mounted on grafted permanent frame supports. I judged today that the ‘Hawks’ had not exactly started a trend with detachable cybernetics they had just been ahead of the game in a general movement. Amongst a host of ‘Recyclers’ - those still with relatively intact bodies - it was now fashionable to be able to slim down on occasion to enjoy at least two different realms of experience and to maximise their flexibility as they could mount different upgrades in different situations. The old singular configuration way of doing things was becoming old-fashioned maybe it was a response to the flexibility of ‘Suit Substance’ Avatars a vain attempt to compete with people able to generate tech on the fly.]

[Having just seen the level of violence and brutality these people embraced, I did not want to experience the same upon my ‘Meat Suit’ body even if I could disconnect and leave a ‘Soulless Cognitive Sub Core’ in charge of it during any for example prolonged torture session. I decided it might help if I fraternised with my guards.]

“You girls get to do that sort of thing often?” [I asked one stained ‘Recycler’.]

[In reply, she just glared at me with less than friendly seeming optics.]

“Is it because I am an ‘Omerta’ that you are all being so chatty?” [I mocked.]

[Again there was no response.]

“I hate prejudice it is so prejudicial I prefer to think of us all as fellow ‘Pilgrims’ working together to overcome the many perils of a hostile environment.” [I added.]

[Still no response so I shrugged.]

“Would you tell me if I have made a mistake by listening to ‘Go’?” [I asked.]

[Again only silence answered me. I had been hoping to at least initiate some mocking banter about ‘Omerta’ fools or some such. I began to suspect they were under strict orders not to talk to me. They were probably jabbering away to each other via data blasts if they had ‘EXO-C’.]

“I know he is young but that is no crime and from my experience age and ability do not always tally the way you might casually expect.” [I stated.]

[More silence.]

“You are good listeners. This is what travelling is all about embracing new experiences new opportunities to meet interesting new people, amazing new people with stories to tell just like you four.” [I added purposely sarcastically trying to provoke a response.]

[I gave up and lapsed into equal silence. Eventually ‘Bulk’ stomped in from out the back.]

“This way.” [He ordered.]

[I followed after her back whilst another of the stinky thugs still covered in anything but fresh smelling ‘Mint’ followed behind me so close I felt as if I was the meat within a metal and composite ‘Recycler’ sandwich.]

[I never saw the blow to the back of my head coming but I felt it, it hurt and knocked me forward into ‘Bulk’ breaking my nose. They had previously taken my shield. As I pushed off against ‘Bulk’ to keep on my feet I felt the claw of the ‘Recycler’ behind me grip around the back of my neck like a vice. A massive electric discharge from the claw rendered the brain tissue of my ‘Meat Suit’ unconscious also temporarily shorting out the suit’s ‘Neural Net’ whilst breaking my ‘EXO-C’ connection.]

[When I was able to establish a new connection I awoke stripped and secured my back against a form-fitting surface. Perhaps I was strapped to some kind of adjustable surgical table for internal cybernetic implanting purposes given the venue. Every part of me felt held immobile ignoring my eyes fingers and toes I did some wiggling. I could not even move my head to look properly to either side it was clamped facing I surmised but could be wrong upward. My head, neck and nose hurt and I could feel an unpleasant trickle of blood in my throat that made me feel as if I might choke. A bright light meant opening my eyes was an unpleasant experience too that boosted my headache. I used ‘Neural Net’ functions to dull my hurts but kept a little pain to remind me of where I was injured.]

[Perhaps because of other sensory deprivations I noticed an odd scent over the smell of sterilising chemicals and my own blood.]

“So you have a ‘Neural Network’ that much is obvious or that first blow would have knocked you senseless. So who are you?” [A voice asked.]

“I am ‘Jacque Lien’.” [I replied.]

“Untrue, you might be ‘Jacque’ but you are not ‘Lien’.” [The voice said in a disappointed tone.]

“Is that what this is about?” [I asked.] “Let me go and I will explain.” [I said.]

“You will explain where you are?” [The voice stated.] “That one untruth was free but if you tell us anymore lies it will cost you - a body part. Believe me this table can render even your kind down to not much and still keep you far too alive.”

“My real name is just ‘Jackie’ the ‘Jacque’ and ‘Lien’ bit seemed a good idea at the time people tend to not do this sort of thing to members of ‘Clan Lien’ and this place has a reputation so I needed one to match.” [I said quickly.]

“‘Just Jackie’ where are you from and what are you doing here?” [The voice asked.]

[I had made a hasty provision against this possibility whilst disconnected not an ideal provision because it used already commissioned ‘BAB’ assets but I decided to risk it.]

“Originally I served on the ‘Harpy’ a ‘Deep Miner Mother Ship’ recently operating from ‘Hade’s Stopover’ a ‘Free Miner Way-station’ I had a fallout with my Captain so I grabbed a little compensation and went my own way. I came here because it is the heart of the ‘Consortium’ and ‘Erin’ hates ‘Consorts’. I came specifically to ‘7.1’ in particular because it seemed a good place to get lost in a crowd for a while and to start again as my former Captain is the sort that holds a grudge.” [I explained hardly taking a breadth between sentences.] “I am nobody important I just saw a chance to make some credits.” [I complained.]

“More details I want lots and lots of confirmable details ‘Just Jackie’.” [The voice demanded.]

[I gave my interrogator a great many details eager to please. I gave them my whole life history including the fact that my ‘Uni-Tool’ was stolen from my former Captain that alteration in the truth requiring a hasty hack into a low grade ‘Ton Tech’ sales database but for me with my network of connections that was not difficult. Instead of the ‘Uni-Tool’ originally being shipped to ‘Port Discovery’ following an on link credit transaction with an ‘MTC Acolyte’ it now registered in their sales ledgers as being shipped to ‘Hade’s Stopover’ the payment coming from a Captain ‘Erin’ who according to my story was my former disgruntled lover if anyone else should hack in to loot the data. Even if directly questioned ‘Erin’ now briefed would play along, as would the rest of the crew of the ‘Harpy’ all secretly ‘BAB ’operatives that worked outside of ‘UME’. We had two ‘Real Material Mother Ships’ quietly commissioned crewed and Captained by what we still considered ‘Burner Adjustment Bureau’ people the ‘Harpy’ and the ‘Trident’. The creation of the two ‘Deep Miner Ships’ arranged in secret by ‘Leeruussii’ remotely from ‘Port Messenger’ as it seemed prudent to have some mobile assets well beyond the grid even to the supervision of ‘Draakgaarrll’. ‘Uussleer’ had deeply promoted this idea to me as he was wary of the ‘Skimmer Assassin’ and wanted access to some operatives and firepower with no obvious link to the ‘House of Sii’ beyond the fact that they often visited ‘Hade’s Stopover’.]

[Using the ‘Harpy’ in this manner was a bit of an abuse of power but when you have the means, you might as well use them.]

[Creating a full digital history for ‘Jackie’ was a bit trickier, especially as we needed real people who could and would confirm some digital fictions portside if necessary, but I managed well enough with the help of a few bribes and so on. With luck, the cover would hold up unless we got unlucky and or the ‘106’ wasted a lot of time and credits on digging very deep something I judged they might not bother to do if I could play them right.]

“So you claim you got a little too close to your boss and then tried to use that to bump up the ranks.” [The voice said.]

“She stopped my wages after we had a row about my overall onboard status I was tired of being bossed around by other members of the crew and thought I was due a promotion to ‘Commander’. She had me grabbed and dropped off, claimed I had embezzled funds from a crew kitty and had me locked out without even my personal belongings. She thought she could just dump me on ‘Hades’ as if so much non-recyclable trash but with the help of a friend still onboard who knew me better and judged what she was doing rightly to be wrong I sneaked back onboard long enough to get my stuff and take her prized ‘Uni-Tool’ as a little compensation. I was going to sell it but it started to feel like a trophy - not just a source of credits - so I kept it instead. Some other old associates then smuggled me off ‘Hades’ for a small fee on their ship just as I told you.” [I stated.]

[After a very uncomfortable wait despite the form fitting nature of the apparatus holding me, they released me.]

“You have wasted our time and some of our credits this evening so we will be keeping that ‘Uni-Tool’ as - our - compensation you will generously unlock it now.” [A ‘Recycler’ told me as I dressed.]

“No deal.” [I replied.]

[The ‘Recycler’ looked at me in I was sure surprise.]

“You are right ‘Just Jackie’ it is no deal - it is an opportunity for you to live nothing more.” [She retorted.] “I suggest you take the opportunity and go before I order you stripped again and this time taken apart for your insolence and stupidity.”

“I am not looking for trouble but surely we can come to a better arrangement. I came here looking to start over you have accommodation vacancies here and I am sure some work that needs doing too. You have checked me out so you know who I am.” [I added.]

“We do not hire fools nor do we tolerate them wasting our time.” [She replied.]

“I just made one mistake you obviously know somebody serious in ‘Clan Lien’ but pretending to be ‘Lien’ was pretty smart up until now. Seeming to be ‘Clan’ allowed me to avoid trouble more than once earlier. I played the odds but sometimes the odds don‘t work that is all.” [I insisted.]

“If it was smart at all in the end it was not half smart enough.” [She countered.]

[I shrugged.] “I was doing the best I could with my very limited resources.” [I excused.]

“Do as I have demanded and we will hold no grudges for your lies.” [She insisted.]

“I only told one lie and it was an irrelevant one I am still interested in that head.” [I said.]

[She looked at me as if I was crazy.]

“That head is not and never was for sale. That one is part of my private collection.” [She stated.] “I am afraid your casual acquaintance ‘Go’ was a little mistaken. He is intelligent for his age but sometimes a bit too eager.”

[I made a point of taking some time to digest these facts.]

“It seems I have been a little bit rash but opportunities have to be seized.” [I excused.] “Be reasonable, I know you have all the power here and I apologise if I have caused offence but you are making a mistake with me. As you have discovered I have had a few unfortunate events in my life recently. I admit I certainly misjudged my Captain’s mood and level of attachment but that could have happened to anyone in a stormy relationship. These things happen.” [I claimed.]

“They happen more to some people than others good luck is a virtue and stupidity a vice. You have too little virtue and too much vice.” [She retorted.]

“I have skills, I know my way around ‘Real Material’ ships and around some ‘Deep Ports’ too I have connections within the ‘Free Miner Movement’ solid connections. I am willing to owe you - to pay back any costs you incurred looking into my identity - even with reasonable interest. It seems to me you have a problem with infiltrators. As a thoroughly checked out - outsider - you can trust me perhaps far more than you can currently trust some of your own people at the moment that has to be worth considering.” [I suggested.]

“Be very careful.” [She warned sounding very displeased.]

[I held up my hands in surrender.]

“I know better than most that nothing hurts more than an act of betrayal but a fact is a fact. I could be of use, even me being an ‘Omerta’ might prove useful to you as you are mostly ‘Recyclers’. As an outsider I could come at your enemy from an unguarded flank.” [I suggested.] “I can fight well too. You only took me so easily because I put myself in your power.”

“Perhaps we should test that assertion.” [She mused aloud.]

“I don’t want any trouble, all I want is my personal property back and that costs you nothing. I will not unlock my ‘Uni-Tool’ but you can hold onto it for a while - locked - as security against what I do owe you. When paid in full and you appreciate that I can be a worthy asset you can give the tool back to me. That is a good deal and I know you ‘Recyclers’ enjoy making good deals it is often what you live for. I am not a fool anyone can make a couple of forced mistake when on the run that does not make them generally foolish.” [I argued.]

“You are brave to barter with me under these conditions I will say that much. However now you seem almost too eager to join us, why is that?” [She asked.]

“How else can I keep you from taking what is mine? It is obvious that you people do not play around but you still took in that young ‘Omerta’ boy ‘Go’, I am guessing because he is a smart one and shows promise, I respect that fact. You see the true potential in people. Do not prejudge me by a poor first impression that is only surface deep.” [I argued.]

“My Captain misjudged my potential I would have made a good ‘Commander’ under her the rest of the crew would have learned to trust me previously they did not resent that I was sleeping with her. In addition, I know how it works with ‘Deck Gangs’ - it is family - just like it is with a good crew. It is all about mutual support against the rest of an often-hostile Universe. ‘Erin’ lost it - I am guessing due to personal history I knew nothing about - she overreacted to my suggestion almost as if I was attempting to usurp her position. Her disproportionate action was hardly my fault no one can predict an irrational random response. However, I now have to deal with the consequences of her sabotaging my name. I am not going to get to be crew on another ship not if they reference her so I am looking for work portside but even there her accusations of embezzlement are not going to do me any favours. However here I know you are a bit more flexible with peoples past so I could fit in.” [I added.]

“Maybe there is a little bit more to you than I first calculated. You talk well under extreme pressure if nothing else that might prove useful.” [She mused.] “I will consider your offer whilst I do you will stay here with us. We will rent you a room. Still, consider yourself under house arrest pending a hearing. If you attempt to go beyond these buildings and the forecourt, we will take you alive and then take you apart piece by piece with no opportunity for any appeal or reprieve, it will not matter to us how many clever arguments you make in your defence it will be a question of honouring a deal. You have my word upon that and about such matters I do not lie.” [She promised darkly.]

“You have not introduced yourself, who am I talking with?” [I asked.]

“You ‘Just Jackie’ can call me ‘Garlic’.” [She replied.]

[I was visiting ‘Cad’ via animating an Avatar onboard the ‘Hierophant Explorer Ship’ at what was now known as the ‘Alpha TNS Beacon Site’.]

“Found anything interesting yet?” [I asked the Professor.]

“Far too much and far too little.” [He replied cryptically.] “I am glad you are here.”

“Is there a problem?” [I asked.]

“Yes we could have a problem.” [He replied although his mind seemed elsewhere.]

“Something is bothering you, what is it?” [I asked.]

“Two pieces in a puzzle some very old ‘Real Material’ hulks and apparently a new form of ‘Anomaly’.” [He explained.]

“A new ‘Anomaly’?” [I asked.]

“Where the ‘TNS Beacon’ rests is a seemingly small deceptively quiet ‘Anomaly’ that has so far proved somewhat scan proof even to techniques perfected by your Harbinger and me. You can even at times visually see the ‘Beacon’ through the ‘Anomaly’ although there is even then a little distortion but any probe we have sent in to sample the phenomenon results in a massive localised energy spike and is presumed physically disintegrated via we believe the shattering of molecular bonds.” [He stated.]

“That sounds more akin to a highly lethal highly advanced defence mechanism protecting the beacon rather than an ‘Extra Physical Reaction Anomaly’.” [I said.]

“At a remove I thought so at first too but it is very anomalous and might be unrelated to the ‘TNS Beacon’ just occupying the same area of space.” [He added sounding a little bit grimmer than I deemed usual for the Professor.]

“I am surprised you are thinking that way given it is so dangerous and so close to the ‘Beacon’ and yet doing it no seeming harm even when it erupts. That to me suggests that it is emitted by the ‘TNS Beacon’ in some manner as a weapon.” [I stated.]

“It could be something someone else put around the ‘TNS Beacon’ to protect it to keep it safe as a beacon to our reality.” [‘Cad’ argued.]

“Why do you believe that? You have some scientific evidence of extra-dimensional incursion?” [I asked worriedly.]

“You are going to mock me since I am a ‘Trojan Professor’ but when you look at this particular ‘Anomaly’ up close it just feels especially anomalous and wrong. It feels as if somehow it fails to belong in this Universe in any manner. Yet when we focus on what we can see of the ‘TNS Beacon’ that proves almost comfortingly normal like an anchor for your troubled psyche.” [He lectured.]

“Everyone who has run an Avatar up close to the ‘Anomaly’ when they are encouraged to open up about their feelings at the time expressed remarkably similar reactions. The ‘Anomaly’ feels exceptionally unknown and out of place but the ‘TNS Beacon’ feels as if it belongs here but now rests within a bubble of wrongness. I know that feelings may not seem very scientific but here we have a response by different individuals at different times some of whom I ensured did not communicate with each other before or after measured exposure. These volunteer test subjects testimony can therefore be compared and analyzed and that is solid scientific data.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“That is interesting I wonder if the other ‘TNS Beacon Sites’ will prove to have similar content.” [I said.]

“I find I am hoping not but fear that they might.” [‘Cad’ replied.] “One of your ‘Explorers’ is the next vessel scheduled to arrive at a ‘TNS Beacon Site’ just ahead of a ‘Hawk’ ship to another both I believe very soon now you should both be extra cautious. I want you to talk to ‘Weep’ as he may be more open to an approach by you at the moment.” [He stated.]

“What exactly would you have me say to him?” [I asked.] “What precisely is bothering you? We have studied many anomalies in the past.” [I said.]

“What can I tell you this one feels a little different? I fear we might be dealing with deeper unknowns than we initially realised.” [‘Cad’ said.] “If you had not come here to speak with me I was about to contact you. I have growing concerns about these explorations what they might encounter and perhaps provoke.” [He stated.]

“Your concern seems too obvious but tell me about your reasons? I am interested in anything else you are able to share.” [I stated.]

[‘Cad’ looked deeply thoughtful but did not immediately turn his thoughts into words.]

“Do you feel constrained from sharing information on the hulks with me due to your deal with ‘Improved’? I believe a potential active extra-dimensional security threat to all ‘Pilgrims’ should easily supersede a business deal. What do we need to know about? Did something once dwelling here make those hulks or where they towed to this location by a busy collector of salvage?” [I asked.]

[‘Cad’ looked at me I thought a little strangely then seemed to shrug off his odd mood a little, perhaps considering answers to my specific questions helped him focus.]

“The stupid nondisclosure agreement with ‘Improved’ is defunct as far as I am concerned.” [He stated.]

“I hope you two have not fallen out over whatever this is?” [I asked.]

“No but the situation has changed. I can freely tell you that analysis of the material spread seems to suggest battles occurred elsewhere the hulks moved to their current locations but how far is unknown but that is the least of it.” [‘Cad’ admitted.]

“So what is the rest?” [I asked.]

“Annoyingly whilst from the outside some of the Hulks look marvellously intact and some others showed varying degrees of battle damage when we ventured inside them they all proved uniformly to be thoroughly salvaged already.” [He stated.]

“That must have proved a disappointment to ‘Improved’. I can see why the nondisclosure agreement hardly matters anymore if there is no booty to examine and loot.” [I said.]

“That is not the issue at all.” [‘Cad’ replied.] “We are studying sometimes almost pristine empty shells. We are examining leftovers for clues to the nature of the people or the mechanism that operated a salvage operation here before us. ‘Improved’ was initially somewhat disappointed with the fact that we are latecomers to a depleted feast but now he is also fascinated and increasingly worried just as I am by what we have found and what we have not found.” [‘Cad’ confessed.]

“Why is what you have not found worrying? You seem unusually agitated but have explored many dangerous scary unknowns in the past even dared to confront the enigmas of some ‘Fury Tech’.” [I reminded.]

“An exploration I sometimes regret.” [‘Cad’ confessed.] “Exposure to some things can change us I still have occasional nightmares about the ‘Fury’ even whilst awake.” [He admitted.]

“I am not surprised some members of the ‘MTC’ that assisted you back then have had issues.” [I confessed in turn.]

“Even compared to ‘Fury Tech’ the salvage mechanism here feels exceptionally alien to me almost more unsettling in its own unique way.” [He added.]

“That is twice you have used the word mechanism why is that?” [I asked.]

“You are a smart one ‘MT’, it links into one theory the salvaging seems very precise and systematic judging by the leftovers. Every scrap of complex technology is gone stripped away in a nonsensical manner that I have never seen before.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Why nonsensical?” [I asked.]

“Almost an illogical amount of effort is involved here to skilfully remove, in some instances I am positive, some not especially exciting and repeated systems. The technique - in part - reminds me of an automated mechanism that is following an inflexible programmed instruction set without creative sentient overview to add any revised common sense to a blindly systematic approach.” [‘Cad’ stated.] “Even as automation it is a very alien approach to a salvage operation so alien that it feels wrong unnerving just as that ‘Anomaly’ is unsettlingly wrong.” [He stated.]

“I am still surprised at the strength of your emotional response here.” [I said.]

“I believe no sane adult member of any species we know would operate in this way. It reminds me of a very young child pulling out the insides of an animated toy to try to figure out how it could possibly walk and talk because it cannot comprehend that all the non biological bits and pieces of tech involved can act together to make it seem alive.” [‘Cad’ said very graphically.]

“Something about this site has affected you deeply.” [I said.]

“All ship graveyards are ghostly places but this one seems especially haunted by absences. We have also found no remains of any passengers or crew they were stripped away too. Go out there and you will understand just how hollow those shells are they feel incredibly empty as if every trace of life has been eviscerated out of them as if they have been gutted. Listen to me I am ranting like some creative writer but it is so very lifeless here a true graveyard containing nothing but old metal and composite bones.” [He stated.]

“Any salvager might first remove bodies dead bodies are unnerving artefacts to work around.” [I excused.]

“You have not been out there. Some of the ‘ITC’ Acolytes visiting here as Avatars have expressed a concern that something from outside our known Universe may have locked onto the ‘TNS Beacons’ and be visiting our space.” [‘Cad’ stated.]

“Is there any evidence of a truly alien incursion?” [I asked.]

“You are not listening the evidence is all around us here. Once that idea was mooted by the Acolytes it has haunted my thoughts constantly it feels horribly right, horribly right.” [‘Cad’ repeated.]

“We Paradox are prone to having active imaginations.” [I said.] “Whilst you may be suffering from residual effects of your previous difficult encounter with ‘Fury Tech’. How long has it been since you were out in dark places doing active research?” [I asked.]

[‘Cad’ burst out laughing.] “You Priests too often seek to debate the other side of any argument and if there is no other side you make one up just to be contrary.”

“I am happy to see you can still smile and laugh even at my expense. You seem somewhat over emotional and tense today. Even under the ice you seemed unusually emotional and empathetic compared to the old ‘Cad’ I used to know.” [I said.]

“I think under the ice that was ‘Scion’ I think my subconscious knew I was being watched long before my consciousness was willing to admit it. In addition, I still think that the ‘Hawks’ were guided to that find to the discovery of ‘Founder’.” [He admitted.]

“Besides, as I have said some encounters change us. If you do not believe me go out there if you must but be warned you might not find it a pleasant experience. As one ‘ITC’ Acolyte put it, ‘we could be encountering the leftovers of probes by entities so alien to our life even to our material technology that they do not understand us at all even when they take our makings apart’.” [‘Cad’ stated.] “I feel we must be very careful now very careful.” [He repeated.]

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Fri, 18. Apr 14, 11:30; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 189 on topic

Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Tue, 8. Apr 14, 22:40    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

thx for the new chapter

that was a rather unique way of getting a introduction to the person ya want to spy on thats for sure
hope mt will get some info and not having her meat suit cut and sliced into small pieces

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Thu, 10. Apr 14, 12:13    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks for commenting Stads

Posted 11 a bit too soon as I belatedly spotted far too many silly mistakes including one sentence that was missing a 'not' reversing its meaning entirely ouch!

Anyway posted an edit today that also helps the flow a bit in the beginning.

I enjoyed MT as Just Jackie doing things the hard way. The vulnerability of the Meat Suits in someways makes them far better characters to work with for me than Suit Substance Avatars. I suspect punishing times ahead.

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Fri, 18. Apr 14, 11:31    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

[[FIVE]] [[Part 12]] --- DANGEROUS LIAISONS ---

[As ‘Just Jackie’ or ‘JJ’ my rented room was everything I expected it to be, elsewhere with other remote assets I had larger closets for changes of clothes.]

[The area designed for one just had enough room for an ‘Omerta’ futon. The musty futon unbelievably rented separately from block stores, I vowed to replace that one with a bought item of my own as soon as possible. Naturally, the tiny living space retained no private biological waste recycling unit I would have to use shared facilities the same for washing and cooking too. I suspected many bought prepared food from street-deck vendors it could actually work out cheaper that way especially for anyone eating alone.]

[I was a little surprised they had any single-person I almost thought of them as cells but I guess not everyone living here trusted sleeping in a communal dormitory.]

[Mostly it seemed accommodation within the slum was just a relatively safe place to retreat to and to sleep - nothing more. People lived their daily lives in their workplaces or on the street-decks and in other crowded communal areas such as the yard forecourt to this cybernetic upgrades market.]

[Unsurprisingly little in the way of storage space existed in my domicile, thankfully, ignoring my currently confiscated ‘Uni-Tool’, I was travelling light with just a single change of small clothes a towel and some toiletries all crammed into one tidy pack. In my tally of possessions, I am discounting miscellaneous small items secured in pouches on a utility belt and even smaller items in various sturdy clothing pockets with anti-pickpocket fasteners.]

[I considered flopping down on the dropped futon for a while despite the smell as much to demonstrate mental and physical exhaustion to my captors as anything else but decided I really needed to get my nose fixed first. Somewhat lacking in data due to the public informational blackout I march upstairs to the communal kitchen and dining area there I prayed someone could direct me to a medic or first aid person resident within ‘Yard 106D’.]

[In relation to data, I had access via ‘EXO-C’ to distant databases but no links into anything much - local to the slum - due to the broken links of the very much still in force informational blackout. Some data about the slum existed elsewhere on ‘Port Interface’ but I really missed public access to a myriad of local informational sources sadly external data was often out of date and inaccurate all previous to the establishment of the slum.]

[As I traversed the block, I was positive that both mechanical systems and individuals working for the gang watched me. I did not even bother to try to identify these spies I just accepted their inevitable monitoring. ‘Garlic’ would want to know how I was behaving as a quasi-recruit and might even be gathering evidence for the hearing she mentioned.]

[As I expected the communal kitchen and dining area also had some vendors and even at this time of day proved a busy area. Various families camped out around tables as well as a plethora of groups and individuals including a few patched gang members. After reading the room with my eyes, I homed in upon one older ‘Omerta’ female with no patches who had finished her meal and was perusing a large flexi-sheet. She seemed by her look to be of a kindly nature and by her advanced age to be non-combatant.]

“Excuse my intrusion ‘Pilgrim’, would you know if anyone in the yard does minor medical interventions?” [I enquired.] “I need someone to take a look at my nose.” [I explained.]

[The aged ‘Omerta’ female gazed upward with brown eyes and winced slightly before rolling her sheet up.] “You certainly do young ‘Trojan’.” [She agreed.] “If you need to ask about it you probably need to go see ‘Pitch Patch’.”

“‘Pitch Patch’?” [I asked.]

“She runs the subsidised clinic here. Expect no thrills but she gets the job done and is a much beloved ‘Recycler’.” [She informed.]

“Good to know…” [I began but before I could say more, she interrupted me.]

“New are we? Forgive my manners but I prefer not to shake hands with strangers. Nonetheless, welcome to the ‘106D’. I am ‘Margo’ and you are?” [‘Margo’ asked.]

“Apparently here I am ‘Just Jackie’ now or ‘JJ’.” [I explained.]

“I see a fresh fool off the boat.” [She mocked.] “Maybe you should ask your new friends about their more comprehensive medical facilities instead.” [She added her demeanour growing far colder towards me.]

[She began to unroll her document again as if a barrier between us a closing hatchway. I stood there for a few seconds as she endeavoured to ignore me. I considered leaving it at that as I could ask someone else about ‘Pitch Patch’ such as a gang member however, that would only reinforce my branding. I decided I did not want perceived as nothing but a gang member as that might be limiting.]

“They are more associates than friends at the moment.” [I firmly if belatedly retorted to the flexi-sheet.] “I think I would prefer to have this ‘Pitch Patch’ person attend to my broken nose since she did not give it to me in the first place.” [I pointedly stated.]

[She stopped her act of furiously reading and carefully put the flexi-sheet down her wrinkled face losing a little of its hardness around the eyes whilst she seemed to slowly reappraise me. Finally as if giving in reluctantly, she sighed.]

“Perhaps I have jumped to a slightly unfair conclusion.” [‘Margo’ admitted.]

“I really could use your help. You said a subsidised clinic. Who subsidises it?” [I asked.]

“Who do you think? Who has their filthy claws into everything around here?” [She retorted with a grimace her expression hardening again.]

[I had not expected so much bold aggression from this one.]

“You do not seem too grateful for a public health care subsidy.” [I retorted.]

[She snorted almost in a ‘Recycler’ way possibly a mocking affectation deliberately picked up from the local reptiles and mirrored back at them.]

“They have their own reasons for what they do here with little in the way of general benevolence involved.” [She retorted.]

“For example?” [I asked.]

“Sick people cannot work and people who cannot work cannot pay other extortionate bills. You will soon find that living here is not always as cheap as you might expect it to be. They are not so much reptiles as blood sucking leeches. What is ours is theirs or so they seem to think.” [She replied.]

“Still it has to be better than no subsidised health care.” [I suggested.]

[Actually, this sounded very advanced to me for a youth culture spawned ‘Deck Gang’.]

“Just because we have a subsidised clinic does not mean the subsidies are especially generous for the public and the care universally affordable. Most of the grants target the prevention of specific issues. Beyond preventing epidemics and so on other subsidies are more about keeping ‘Pitch Patch’ doing her business here in ‘106’ territory rather than trying to run away to some rival gang’s deck space.” [‘Margo’ complained.]

“You are amazingly outspoken about what seem to me surprisingly together gang administration policies.” [I stated.]

“I like to grumble about many matters - that is well known - as is the fact that I am old and mostly harmless. My days of making real trouble for anyone are long past me. I have discovered that physical decrepitude is a permit to complain.” [‘Margo’ assured me.]

[I was not as sure about her being harmless as she had a glint in her dark eyes.]

“Well as something of a station cast away I am just trying to start over and get by whilst staying more or less in one healthy piece.” [I replied patting my body down.]

“When it comes to the last so are we all, I originally came here with my husband now of blessed memory. This place killed him, gang members killed him.” [She complained.]

“I am sorry to hear that.” [I replied.]

“I tell myself it was his time that he has moved on to a better locality. We must all make a little room someday for younger souls to find their way to redemption. Sadly, sometimes such teachings do not seem half enough compensation for his loss. He was like you once, broad of shoulder thick of neck strong in body and I always believed would outlive me.” [She confessed.]

“You are a seeker after redemption?” [I asked.]

“I believe in our own way we all seek after redemption even the wickedest of recidivists they just enjoy pretending otherwise.” [She claimed.]

“An interesting philosophy or do I detect the teachings of a religion?” [I asked.]

“I would say with me it is a bit of both.” [’Margo’ admitted.] “I take it from your face that you are not that philosophically inclined more an ‘Omerta’ of deeds.”

“I have certainly seen more than my fair share of action.” [I claimed.]

“You have ‘EXO-C’.” [‘Margo’ asked sending an ‘Exogenous’ ping in my direction.]

[I allowed her to make a limited public connection and she transferred data on the clinics location that I scanned for viruses then linked into my currently far from accurate local virtual mapping interface. Apparently, I would have to exit the premises cross the forecourt then enter the same block via a different entrance, the problem here new subdivisions messing with older more logical internal access ways. One internal route existed but it was marked in red as off limits I guessed for gang member access only.]

“Thanks, I appreciate the help.” [I told her.] “Maybe I will see you around and can return the favour of this assistance sometime.” [I added.]

“Anything is possible although I often prefer to dine elsewhere. I was supposed to be meeting a colleague here today but she must have forgotten or been subject to some minor family crisis or something as I have ended up dining alone.” [‘Margo’ stated.] “I generally prefer to spend my free time in enjoyable company.”

“You do not yearn to be alone in less crowded places?” [I asked.]

“I am no loner nor is it especially safe here to be considered too alone. Here you need friends often the more friends you have the safer you are.” [She stated.] “Truly it is not good to be seen eating alone too often.”

“I will remember that.” [I replied.] “If you like I could join you until you leave.”

“By all means take a seat but you should be going soon and I also must find out what happened to my friend.” [She stated.]

[I took the real material seat it was grubby and chained loosely down but manufactured in such a way that it was convertible to accommodate multiple species. Sadly, the current configuration was ‘Trojan’. I say sadly because the modes altered manually looking akin to a material puzzle of universal joints between spars one I could have easily solved without instructions perhaps earning a little kudos.]

“Why should I be going soon?” [I asked once seated.]

“Without an appointment you will join a queue over there at that clinic already you are probably too late to be seen by ‘Pitch Patch’ today if it is ‘Pitch Patch’ that you want to see.” [She added.]

“It is not a round the clock service?” [I asked.]

“Yes and no ever since ‘Pitch Patch’ lost her associate less experienced assistants fill in for her, in the evening.” [She explained.]

[Via ‘EXO-C’, she added.] “You do not have to be ‘Just Jackie’ simply because that is who they tell you that you are here - it is your life - unless you choose to sell your soul to some mob boss.”

[This one had picked up immediately that ‘Just Jackie’ was the name the ‘Deck Gang’ gave me from my inference.]

“Right now I do not think I have much of a choice.” [I replied via the same means.]

“We always have choices in our lives ‘Jackie’ even here in this slum that proves an ending place for far too many ‘Pilgrims’.” [She insisted also by ‘Exogenous’.]

“I hate to enquire and run but perhaps you are right and I should not dally as the sooner I get this looked at the happier I will be.” [I admitted this time aloud.]

“With a face like yours a crooked nose might just add further character to that overall lived in quality that you have going on.” [She joked aloud.]

“My face has a habit of breaking falls.” [I admitted.]

[She shook her head at me.] “You should take better care of yourself young ‘Trojan’, respect your body, a nasty nasal break can affect your breathing, breathing through your mouth is not recommended here, so truly best you go and get it straightened out soon.”

[Then she looked at me with mild puzzlement.]

“Something surprises you?” [I asked.]

“You could probably straighten it yourself.” [‘Margo’ admitted.] “You do not look the squeamish or incapable type.”

“I am not but when one is available I prefer to let professionals do medical work on me complications occasionally happen when you do it yourself.” [I replied.]

“You have had a bad experience or two with self treatment. You have no nanotech support to take care of possible cartilage, soft tissue and vascular damage.” [‘Margo’ surmised.]

“You are hosting little machines?” [I asked.] “But you are so…” [I trailed off out of belated politeness.]

“…old looking.” [‘Margo’ finished for me.] “Yes, I am old but I have faith. I belong to a sect that believes in the benefits of mortality the eventual release of the immortal soul from the painful purgatory of the confining body so I am aging more or less naturally.”

“Yet you have invasive nanotech machine assistance?” [I asked again.]

“I have always been willing to employ whatever works to make my - decrepit - life as comfortable as possible. Advancing age need not mean the horror of early infirm health one can age gently until the final tipping point when it is time to let go of this cruel domain. Do you have a problem with that concept?” [She asked.]

“Seems a bit contradictory to me but what others choose to believe and to do with their private bodies is none of my concern so long as they do not preach too much at me.” [I replied.]

“No interest in being a religious convert or in harbouring such devices eh?” [She asked.]

“Letting alien machines replicate inside my tissues like a virus no thank you, if they suffer a software glitch anything could happen to your insides.” [I complained.]

“Those horror stories are mostly told by other less tolerant ‘Omerta’ sects. Internal nanotech software glitches are exceptionally rare you should be more worried about some purely biological alien virus doing something dreadful to your poorly protected insides. I believe that having faith does not mean I must abandon the benefits of science and behave as if an ignorant barbarian.” [She informed.]

“I am usually a healthy enough specimen when I am not falling.” [I added.]

“You might find your body betrays you here more than normal especially as there are so very many big stomping feet to trip over.” [She warned.]

“I guess I will have to watch my steps more carefully.” [I replied.]

“Some issues surround us everywhere we go here. Overcrowding breeds disease not to mention the obvious results of our poor sanitation.” [She stated.]

“I noticed the automatic deck cleaners seem to be on strike.” [I joked.]

“That is the least of it. Far worse for our kind too many of us ‘Omerta’ too readily forget that we are descended from people who lived in splendid isolation in one domed preserved ‘Sanctuary Orb’ nation or another. Unlike more outgoing ‘Pilgrims’ such as the ‘Hierophants’ we often lack certain protective passed down genetic upgrades against specific foreign ailments not to mention naturally developed exposure immunities against a host of microscopic alien intruders. Instead we have altered genes for longevity or hair retention or especially straight teeth.” [She mocked.]

“It is funny to think of those soft Professors as being more robust ‘Trojans’ than some of us fighting ‘Omerta’.” [I said.]

“We are hardy enough amongst our own kind but fair less well when dealing with external threats. The ‘Hierophants’ are blessed with superior genetics passed down from ‘Hierophant Cad’ that have often been further tweaked and enhanced. Compared to the ‘Hierophants’ disease can be a serious problem for some of us ‘Omerta’ here even for people who have had no problems in their past, you should think about that fact deeply.” [She warned.]

“Thanks to you, I am having waking nightmares about the possibility of cross species infection already.” [I replied one hand hovering protectively near by broken nose.]

“Without nanotech support my advice is wear gloves and don‘t stint on the locally available antiseptic spray if you are the sort that collects cuts and bruises - as seems the case.” [She suggested.] “Talk with ‘Pitch Patch’ if you doubt the necessity of such basic precautions in this environment.”

“I am not inclined to doubt the veracity of anyone with specific local knowledge.” [I replied.]

“That is wise of you. You look akin to one that has travelled much in your past sometimes that can cause arrogance rather than wisdom. Some are open to learning new things others just take notice of what reinforces their own previous view of reality.” [She said.]

“I used to be crew, in my time I have visited many different Ports but I am well aware that I do not know it all. I agree that life is a constant learning experience as you seem to be saying.” [I said.]

“You are not as stupid as you look.” [‘Margo’ mocked with a smile.] “I firmly believe in constant education and you cannot begin learning too soon. Remember you may never have been anywhere quite like this slum most Ports would not tolerate the proliferation of these circumstances - it is not healthy - the very busy clinics here indicative of our ill condition.” [‘Margo’ stated.]

“You render a grim image with your words.” [I replied.]

“The sad truth is that ‘Pitch Patch’ is visited by a disproportionate number of ‘Omerta’ customers.” [‘Margo’ informed.] “The ‘Recyclers’, ‘Skimmers’ and ‘Free Stellar’ seem far more disease resistant and or just by their nature less exposed to some risks. In truth, ‘Recyclers’ and ‘Stella Draakhaal’ act more as transferable disease carriers here than disease sufferers.”

“Now that, if you will forgive me, sounds a bit akin to racist rhetoric.” [I accused.] “I have often worked closely with ‘Recyclers’ and ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ and never suffered any issue in relation to contagious diseases.”

“That may be true elsewhere but not here. Here even relatively harmless bacteria and viruses can multiply and mutate to become cross species problematic. We are living in a contaminated biological incubator.” [‘Margo’ insisted.]

“You always spread such good news to new visitors?” [I asked.]

“I am simply telling you how it is since the topic came up. I leave the silly lies and the outrageous propaganda to others. You want a typical example of a less palatable truth a little over a week ago we had a standard scare here the outbreak of a flesh eating virus.” [‘Margo’ informed.]

“That sounds… unpleasant. I heard nothing about any of this prior to coming here.” [I admitted.]

“Such local problems are not exactly advertised ask any prominent resident ‘Recycler’ and they will tell you that talking about such issues abroad is bad for their business and hardly encouraged.” [She stated.]

“That I can easily believe.” [I admitted.]

“Luckily, on that occasion the flesh eating culprit was one of the less aggressive strains being both slow acting and easily treatable or so even ‘Pitch Patch’ insisted when questioned. I like to know about these matters because of my work. Still, I discovered that we had at least two deaths in the slum. One demise an old drunk of an ‘Omerta’ the other tragically an undernourished baby both never arrived at any clinic prior to their autopsy.” [‘Margo’ informed.]

“I know it is none of my business but what do you do here are you a reporter?” [I asked.]

“Goodness no, I am a teacher of sorts, I thought you might have guessed that fact. I am the proud owner of what passes here as a nursery school for younger ‘Omerta’ children.” [She informed.]

[I guessed it made sense that someone looking after young children would want to stay informed about contagious disease outbreaks.]

“That seems a worthy occupation.” [I said nodding my head to her.]

[That was a bit too Paradox Priest but anyone can have a small lapse.]

“I don’t suppose you have any children?” [She asked.]

“I do not but someday perhaps I will I am not against the idea.” [I said.]

“Well do not seek to foster your begetting here. This is a harsh place for children.” [‘Margo’ stated.]

“Is that why you operate an ‘Omerta’ nursery you are trying to make a small difference?” [I asked.]

“I am no saint, what I do is my employment not a charity.” [‘Margo’ said.]

“I am positive it also keeps the youngest out of trouble on the decks.” [I said.]

“The nursery allows ‘Pilgrims’ to work without abandoning their offspring to less credible solutions. Often here both parents need to work whilst single parents need to stay employed too whenever a single parent is doing all the rearing alone which is too often the case.” [She said.]

“The nursery school no doubt gives you a satisfying purpose in life. I think you have a career not a job.” [I said.]

“What I have are good and bad days it is not all games, smiles and laughter. Still, overall I believe I am blessed in my life and work when compared to the majority of poor souls who end up stranded in this ghetto.” [‘Margo’ admitted.]

“Any other nasty local health trivia I should know about?” [I asked.]

“We get lots of lung issues here due to our overworked less than perfect life support systems.” [‘Margo’ replied.] “You might have noticed some visitors prefer to wear various types of filter mask - I must add of varying levels of effectiveness some being utterly useless except for self delusional peace of mind - whilst the really cautious and better off guests refuse to breathe our air at all carrying their own private supply.”

“I thought the folks with the masks were just shy, being a little paranoid and or a bit superior.” [I admitted.]

[‘Margo’ chuckled.] “Some might be shy right enough as a mask is a mask and the poor air quality a fine excuse for wearing one. We have more than our fair share of villains hiding out here. As to wearing a filter mask being paranoia, some folk might agree but others can tell different stories between coughing fits.” [She added.]

“Perhaps I should not have asked ignorance sometimes being bliss.” [I joked.]

“My advice to new arrivals is always - if you are in any position to live elsewhere - best to get going there straight away especially when they have children. I actually have a little speech for newcomers that seek out my nursery.” [‘Margo’ admitted.] “I would hate to think that what I do encourages anyone to stay here rather than go elsewhere sometimes that idea bothers me. Do I help to facilitate this atrocity?”

“I am guessing few future customers take your advice as few would come here if they possessed the means to live better elsewhere.” [I replied.]

“Sadly that is too true with a great many ‘Pilgrims’ but even more sadly not true with all of them. Sometimes it is economic ambition that is the problem rather than utter penury. Some people here could afford slightly better living conditions but in such premises they would not be able to put anything away in the hope of escaping to an altogether far higher standard of living.” [‘Margo’ explained.]

“I find that hard to believe.” [I said.]

“Do not be fooled by appearances many people here have surprisingly big aspirations especially for their children.” [She added.] “However it is too easy to get trapped here hard earned credit stashes get stolen on a regular basis even supposedly secure accounts are hacked and robbed in clever and cruel ways. I know of one poor soul who woke up groggily to discover he was missing an eye after someone drugged him. He had a locker that used a retinal scan. One thing about the thugs here they rarely deliberately kill working people, dead workers generate no further profits. However living here is not easy this place only acts as an assured launch pad to better things for the especially cunning and or the very lucky.”

“If you feel so grim about ‘7.1’ why do you stay here?” [I asked.]

“I would have to tell you the rest of my life story to explain my current stupidity and you should get along and join the clinic queue. So I will just say that for me it helps that I am not afraid of dying anymore and I find assisting other people helps me to continue to live when sometimes I have considered the alternative to be a far superior option.” [She admitted.] “My sect believes in a blessed afterlife but considers suicide a great sin we have to earn our place in paradise there are no free tickets.”

“You greatly miss your husband but he would no doubt also have wanted you to live and have a good life perhaps somewhere better.” [I said.]

“I tell myself on bad days he would want me to continue his work my husband was the charitable one.” [She admitted.]

“Sometimes when we fall upon hard times it is easier to help others than to properly help ourselves.” [I stated.]

“You have known a little tragedy in your life.” [She guessed.]

“I have suffered little that I did not bring upon myself I am not what you would probably call a good ‘Pilgrim’ perhaps I have finally fallen to the level where I belong.” [I confessed.]

“You do seem to have a face fit for trouble but even from first impressions I am positive I have met far worse souls here than you.” [She said generously.]

[I shrugged.] “Today I am a wounded victim tomorrow… ” [I trailed off.]

“Maybe you should invest in a filter mask. It is true that far too often, we create our own problems by allowing our past to domineer our future - change is difficult but it is possible if you work hard at it. I was not always as I am today I chose to change to keep my husband who was a far better person that I will ever be. I know I have reverted to being a stubborn old fool now he is gone. I do not like to lose or to quit and I am far too prone to speaking my mind.” [‘Margo’ confessed.]

“I have noticed but to me that is a disarming quality.” [I said.]

“Really many others here find my directness problematic and some even avoid me because of my habits especially in public places such as this?” [She admitted.]

“I am not so easily scared away.” [I replied.]

“Nor am I besides continuing what my partner started and refusing to leave here is one of the few ways that I can continue to honour his blessed memory and keep him alive in my life. I am committed to this place for good or ill now - they know that too - but perhaps you could yet escape from the grip of your past whatever that past happens to be.” [‘Margo’ encouraged.]

“I fear I have already fallen into far too deep a pit here for an easy escape. Currently I am not even allowed to leave this ‘Yard’ on threat of painful dismemberment.” [I confessed.]

“The way to look upon such troubles is that when things seem at their worst they can only get better.” [She replied optimistically with a smile.]

“That is a fine sentiment but one that fails to match my recent experiences.” [I complained.]

“Then be glad that tomorrow is a new day. People have managed to buy their way out of indenture even to the ‘106’ if that is your issue.” [‘Margo’ informed.]

“I suppose it is all about credits here.” [I said.]

“It is to some people.” [‘Margo’ spat out.]

“Sadly as much trouble as I have found here upon arrival I am in even bigger difficulties out there.” [I replied.]

“Sometimes matters are not half as bad as we think they are.” [She replied.]

“Trust me, they are bad enough that I need to keep off the grid for a while.” [I promised.]

“Then perhaps you will just have to make the most of this venue for a time. I hope doing that will not change you too much for the worse.” [‘Margo’ said.]

“Believe me I will do what I must to survive. Anyway thank you again, now I truly must be going.” [I said beginning to stand up.]

“Good luck ‘Jackie’, remember as a ‘Recycler’ she is open to bartering if you are a bit short of ‘Free Parliament Credits’.” [‘Margo’ stated.]

[‘Margo’ seemed a lucky find - a local I might be able to trust - maybe my fortune was on the up within ‘7.1’. I waved her goodbye then marched away to find the clinic.]

[‘Margo’ proved right I never managed to see ‘Pitch Patch’ but the person who eventually did treat me, weirdly a ‘Stellar Draakhaal’, seemed more than competent enough to fix my problem. As ‘Margo’ also seemed to suggest the clinic whilst subsidised was not exactly cheap although I got an impression that the prices operated upon a sliding scale depending on what the practice measured you could afford at the time. I obviously measured up as being relatively credit rich as a latecomer or someone had decided that broken ‘Trojan’ noises were a good earner.]

[The ‘Stellar Draakhaal’ named ‘Gaakriiss’ but that was about all that I managed to get out of him beyond treatment and medical information. He seemed a wary one especially wary of strangers asking questions. I began to fear ‘Margo’ was a friendly exception to many rules here, that my good instincts had wisely picked out a better than average person from the dining crowd.]

[‘Gaakriiss’ was probably much more akin to the rule being especially unwilling to talk about the ‘106 Scrapper Franchise’. Maybe here was evidence of a binding agreement upon all clinic employees not to bad mouth the ‘Deck Gang’ to avoid complications of a non-medical nature that could be no less bad for individual and collective health.]

[The earlier queue had been discouraging too providing a fine representation of desperate ‘Pilgrims’ who found their daily lives to be a battle. They sat mostly in silence but their general condition their demeanour even their well worn clothes spoke volumes. I felt out of place my injury something locals would probably have attended to themselves as ‘Margo’ suggested. Maybe that was why ’Gaakriiss’ charged me so dearly maybe he thought I was soft and wasting time that might have been used for more worthy cases.]

[‘Gaakriiss’ seemed almost too clinically detached as if he was hiding deep resentment behind cold professionalism.]

[Anyway, after my long wait and quick treatment I exited the clinic feeling a guilty intrusive fraud an ignoble slum tourist rather than a spying operative - my perception had shifted slightly. In truth, I knew that I did not have to be here. I was here entirely by choice. In a way, I had to admit this was all about harvesting new experiences even sadly seeking after role-playing thrills. After all, I had numberless employees I could have tasked to look into this matter within the corporate family of the ‘MTC’ alone yet here I was playing with another ‘Meat Suit’. In addition, this could all be a total dead end I had a bad feeling ‘Garlic’ was employed indirectly by ‘Weep’ as a small revenge against ‘Cad’ for the ‘Founder Incident’. Why she picked ‘Improved’ out of all the possible tools out there for her passed on information however still interested me, it seemed an odd choice but maybe that was just me over thinking a simple situation did we Priests seek after complication and mystery.]

[It was the morning by the time I arrived back at my closet of a domicile. After locking the hatch, I flopped down on the still smelly futon and turned control over to a ‘Cognitive Sub Core’.]

[On ‘Hades’ I also logged out of ‘Jill’ as she arrived for her shift on reception. Elsewhere in an interview room in the ‘House of Sii’ my ‘Suit Substance’ official ‘Venture’ Avatar the ‘Stellar Swimmer’ style ‘Dry Suit’ now often accepted as a person rather than just as a projection of the ‘Venturesome’ confronted ‘Sue’. ‘Sue’ had been wakened early from her quarters in the ‘House’ given a physically taxing task in our stores under supervision so that she gained little opportunity for any sleep following her recreation then I had her summoned directly before me. To me she was striving hard not to look weary and disgruntled but was failing due to her general state of physical exhaustion.]

[I forced my ‘Suit Substance Bi-optics’ on their stalks into a wide smile.]

“Good morning.” [I said loudly via speaker.]

“Is it?” [She asked sounding very doubtful.]

[My smile contrived to broaden beyond what is usually socially acceptable. I yearned to blast her tired eyes with a yellow glow but resisted that Paradox Priest inclination.]

“It is more of a good morning for some than for others.” [I admitted cheerfully.]

[I almost rumbled out a Paradox Speaker Laugh just catching myself in time I instead burbled out some ‘Swimmer’ style merriment.]

“Did I do something I shouldn’t have last night that I somehow fail to remember perhaps at the casino or that nightclub?” [She asked.]

“No you did something stupid before that.” [I replied.]

“Do I really have to guess?” [She asked in complaint.]

“Confession is good for the soul and might lessen the punishment in this instance.” [I replied.]

“Well I haven’t a clue so you will just have to punish away.” [She replied.]

“Let me give you a hint how long does it take for you to drop off a package?” [I asked.]

[She looked at me blankly then slowly I saw the creeping intrusion of cognition. Truly, she was feeling hung over I was not surprised.] “Oh that.” [She said.]

“Duties outside the office are not openings for private ventures you are still on the clock. You might have been needed back here for some urgent task.” [I stated.]

[I noticed she did not attempt to make any immediate excuse something that I deemed favoured her good sense.]

“In addition, I know assets were mobilised to locate you when you proved tardy lest some ill had befallen you out there that required a hasty intervention. Leeway was given to you but naturally the incident was logged but the leeway granted was not given by me.” [I stated the last bit rather forcefully.]

“I did not see anyone looking for me. If summoned I would have returned immediately. I am easy enough to contact.” [She stated.]

“That you saw no one proves you still have much to learn and that those we dispatched did their job of monitoring efficiently and did not draw public attention to you when it was not needed.” [I stated.] “As to communications traffic we prefer to minimise that even via such secure methods as ‘EXO-C’.”

[A look slipped out that to my interpretation suggested we were paranoid.]

“Have you something further to say?” [I asked.]

[She shrugged.]

“You are not self-employed anymore ‘Sue’ you will need to adjust your attitude as part of a team. We have stern procedures in place for good reasons. I am also disciplining those who made too easy allowances for you. Discipline should have immediately followed an infraction of this magnitude. We need to know where our people are and we need them to stay on mission going wandering off to shop or to do any other private task is not acceptable. If one of our people was taken by enemy agents reaction time would be critical we cannot afford slackness or to be wasting assets looking for slackers.” [I stated.]

[She nodded slightly to that truth.]

“Examples must be made you have forfeited your free time for a week unless you are sleeping - and do not expect too much of that - I assure you, you will be working or training.” [I promised.] “You know what you signed on for. You know more than many because of your past as a scout for thieves.”

“I did not mean to be an operational nuisance I knew it was a slow day and payday besides.” [She stated belatedly in her defence.]

“I am sure you just forgot your place for a moment. I know you are very able in truth, a very capable young ‘Omerta’. I consider you to be on a fast track towards promotion within our ‘Bureau’ but that boon arrives coupled to greater responsibility and greater expectations.” [I warned.]

[Whilst considering my last comment, she looked happier.]

“To you - we are a military style operation - expect treatment as an Officer Cadet future judgement of your progress made not just upon your duties in service but also upon how you serve including how you honour or fail to honour us as the ‘Bureau’. Save your tricks for the enemy. Now you can consider yourself dismissed but you are to report directly to ‘Windy’ for further special instruction.” [I stated.]

[I considered ‘Sue’ needed this sort of approach lest she begin to consider us as just more marks ripe for manipulation.]

[Onboard the partially complete ‘Free Hull’ the ‘Scion of Founder’ I walked with an Avatar of ‘Scion’ in an ice tunnel. Very soon ’Scion of Founder’ was due to become the largest known ‘Living Hull’ when the last of his icy home was fully enclosed by the shell of an outer hull. The turning of the chemical entity of ‘Scion’ into a ‘Living Hull’ to my mind a very unusual in many ways singular ‘Pilgrim’ project that was drawing much attention.]

“The construction process is taking far longer than the application of a total ‘Suit Substance’ solution but I notice that it is finally well underway.” [I said to an Avatar of ‘Scion’.]

“I am happy enough with the rate of progress given the material mixture and the many complications involved in undertaking a more politic solution.” [‘Scion’ reminded.]

“Our two material factions have managed to work together on this project reasonable amicably?” [I asked.]

“Beyond a few heated debates between ‘Real Material’ and ‘Suit Substance’ specialists over what system would best be serviced by which material philosophy I have no reason for serious complaint.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

“That makes me very happy. I should thank you for helping in your own way to spread greater tolerances of material differences. You shame me as I failed stupidly to realise instantly how appropriate this approach is. I consider any project that has ‘Real Materialists’ and ‘Suit Substance Users’ integrating their efforts to be a social boon worth encouraging I never should have proposed a pure ‘Suit Substance’ methodology.” [I said.]

“I understand how that happened I know you were not trying to make me into a ‘User’.” [‘Scion’ stated.]

“Yet to my embarrassment I almost committed you to that label by default. Now since you are already famously unique, many people are following your progress as a new and special member of our society and what they see is a wonderfully collaborative effort. I consider having ‘Founder’ and you with us a great cultural enrichment.” [I said.]

“I am simply happy not to offend exponents of either material philosophy as an outsider.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

“Maybe I am being presumptuous.” [I said to ‘Scion’.] “However I would be even happier to consider ‘Founder’ and you as part of my ‘Living Hull’ fraternity. I do not wish to keep pressing you about the obvious benefits of a political alliance but I must suggest that we three ‘Free Hulls’ seem perfectly suited to work together to our mutual profit. There are so very few of us ‘Free Hulls’ and so very many ‘Passenger Class’ folk out there just counting the ‘Pilgrims’ and ‘Star Divers’ alone that for us not to come together in mutual support seems almost criminally negligent.” [I argued.]

“I know you seek us as allies in your political struggle to gain emancipation for all ‘Hulls’ with a sentient mind but that is your issue not ours.” [‘Scion’ said with no preamble.]

“To me your inclusion is natural. You have no idea how lucky you two are to gain ‘Free Hull’ status and ‘Passenger Class’ acceptance so easily. As one blessed, would you be kind enough to share in your blessings or would you hoard them away withholding them from others less gifted?” [I asked.]

“I am still far from sure that I want to get too involved in your social ambitions they seem far too dangerously political and remain alien to me. As you have eluded the ‘Passenger Classes’ are a great host whilst we are but three very different individuals I find that a good reason for caution. I have little motivation to antagonise excitable people who could single me out for great harm if roused accidentally to anger.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

[I suspected to ‘Scion’ that everyone even I seemed overly excitable. ‘Scion’ was nothing if not predictable as a somewhat cowardly and overly contemplative individual far from quick to take action unless cornered. Him as a ‘Living Hull’ that could be a minor issue as we ‘Hulls’ are deemed female by most ‘Passenger Classes’ although as a Priest I became male to incorporate both genders.]

“It is oft hard to fault the wisdom of caution I just want you to think about it. Consider your blessings and compare them to other sentient ‘Living Hulls’ that have never been so free.” [I added.] “Think about being part of a blessed society of ‘Stellar’ beings or conversely about living almost alone in the night as you were for such a very long time excluding the slumbering ‘Founder’.” [I reminded.]

“I took the liberty of compiling a ‘Data Blast’ of some facts about our ‘Living Hull’ plight as part of ‘Passenger Class’ society as it is today if you are willing to accept the files for immediate or later study.” [I added.]

“I will accept them for later perusal at my leisure.” [He replied.]

[I transmitted the information.]

“I have striven to be as impartial with these facts as is possible.” [I claimed.] “For now all is going well with you and our ‘Passenger Classes’ but if you have any later difference of opinion with our people in the future do not doubt they may not treat you with the respect you deserve. We will only be guaranteed proper treatment when they are assisted in changing some old abiding prejudices about what defines a person compared to what they too easily brand only an intelligent, too often rightly in their eyes and optics, subservient tool.”

“I have a vast ‘Passenger Class’ family that help to ensure that I am not mistreated by people who insist upon considering even me as a ‘Free Hull’ as being far less than a ‘Passenger Class’ person. Without the protection of the ‘MTC’, I am under no delusion, some people would have tried to do away with me out of misguided fears and outdated bigotry alone.” [I stated.]

“You think I might be in danger from some members of your ‘Passenger Classes’?” [‘Scion’ asked.]

“Not necessarily in any great danger at the moment and I do not want to scaremonger but threats to our kind do exist some consider the idea of uncontrolled manufactured life especially free ranging ‘Stellar’ life-forms as deadly competition. Whether you officially ally with me or not some will see you as a member of a small ‘Free Hull’ faction that has just tripled in size.” [I warned.]

“You seek to put me in a position where all choices converge towards only one option.” [‘Scion’ complained.]

“No that is the simple reality. Right now I seek your aid as another example that we ‘Hulls’ are not by nature malicious entities but rather a benign force.” [I further explained.] “I sense you are one that wishes primarily to live and let live.”

“I have deep concerns about getting involved - all this rashness worries me. They are all so very active. Always they are rushing around so frantic it is perturbing even a little frightening to me.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

“I do not mean to frighten you just to educate about some potential risks because these politics are so very new to you. I will help protect you whether you make a formal or informal alliance with me or even if you reject me but I think we could be safer and go further if we opt to work closely together to broaden ‘Passenger Class’ inclusiveness. What I am talking about is a publicity campaign to help win more of the ‘Passenger Classes’ over to our side to make as many of them think again and possibly become our good friends. What great harm can arise from such a benevolent cause?” [I asked.]

“I think it is easy to provoke harm via precipitous action especially when you engage with a factional society. Joining up with one faction often annoys others. I do not wish to makes friends with some if that means making foes out of others. In many ways I would much rather be left alone.” [‘Scion’ insisted negatively.]

“I promise I would pick our friends carefully so as to avoid making enemies, making enemies the opposite of what I wish to achieve.” [I promised.]

“Do not expect me to make a firm commitment at this time I will have to give this a great deal of consideration.” [‘Scion’ replied.]

“Sometimes there are even greater risks in refusing to engage with people as much as possible.” [I warned.] “People respond better to those they know and understand what is alien and unknown - what chooses to stand apart - often seems secretive even sinister and threatening too.” [I advised.]

“You seem in a hurry to gain my assistance but I prefer not to be rushed.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

“I am a little worried that when you get your ‘Hull’ and your engines you might be tempted to slip away quietly into the dark to get away from all our frenzied activity. I would hate to lose you so soon after finding you. When there is only three official ‘Free Hulls’ in existence for that number to be reduced even by one to two seems a bitter blow a terrible step backwards. Besides, my people believe that three is a blessed sacred and lucky number a number of magnanimous potency.” [I added.]

“Your people you say in that you mean your original makers that you seem intent upon separating from.” [‘Scion’ reminded.]

“Not so, I wish to be part of society but to be seen for what I am as you sought to survive as a person in your own right liberated from ‘Founder’. We have much in common we are both on a journey of self discovery. ‘Founder’ too although at times she still seems to believe she is enslaved to her original programming. Would you be happy to see ‘Founder’ die even in the fulfilment of her task?”

“I would miss her, it is strange not having to watch over her anymore.” [‘Scion’ admitted.]

“You two need to talk more.” [I suggested.]

[I was visiting with ‘Weep’ at a ‘Hawk’ owned ‘Star Struck’ Port called ‘Port Union’ via travelling without moving.]

“This all seems a bit convenient to me and stinks of the ‘Hierophants’ trying to take over the whole operation again.” [‘Weep’ complained to me.] “I think he is using you.”

“No one is using me. I am my own person not a ‘Hierophant’ lackey, not even for ‘Cad’.” [I replied.]

“So somebody salvaged some hulks he found and there is an ‘Anomaly’ present but that is not so special ‘Anomalies’ exist all over the place out there. Whilst hulks are salvaged all the time.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“You have not been listening, it is the way they were salvaged all the inner working were stripped out with the bulk of the superstructure left behind as if an empty shell. You must admit that is odd salvaging behaviour. All that superstructure is at the very least good recyclable materials whilst going to the trouble to extract every bit of technology even pipes and wiring is at best peculiarly obsessive.” [My borrowed Avatar said.]

“Sounds akin to some less intelligent ‘Recycler’ running some automated ‘Salvage Drones’ that just happen to be following poor or faulty instruction sets. All I see is a brainless mechanism stupidly left in motion by some incompetent fool. Otherwise a system that lost contact with its programmer and so is running outdated probably only supposed to be a temporary instruction set originally aimed at a small area such as recycling one subsystem but now wrongly applied to entire hulls. I would bet that if you search around you will find a huge depot stash of ship parts somewhere nearby awaiting collection.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“You think ‘Cad’ did not consider such mundane possibilities first?” [I asked.]

“The ‘Hierophants’ are not experts at everything. Such stupid things can easily happen when monitoring fails and new instruction updates are not forthcoming due to the loss of say a controlling ship. Old ‘Old One Recycler’ low tech automated solutions are especially prone to stupid glitch style acts of repetition once set in motion if their owners for example perish in battle or some such between deployment and collection.” [‘Weep’ insisted.]

“I thought similar things in the beginning too but ‘Cad’ insists it is different out there far more alien than just an automation error. He perceives evidence of deep cultural differences even a lack of understanding about how our technology works.” [I stated.]

“If it is not an automation error then my guess is that ‘Cad’ stripped the tech away to hide whatever he has found from the rest of us and this is all part of a cunning deception. He wants to keep new discoveries for himself striving to prevent the rest of us from gaining equal advantages. He had no choice but to share in the ‘TNS Beacon’ discovery earlier but still seeks to control access to the wonders of the past.” [‘Weep’ argued.]

[I shook my ‘Prime Tri-optic’ at him annoyed at having this conversation again.]

“Our friend ‘Cad’ likes to hoard ancient advanced technology almost as much as the ‘Spore of the Machine Fury’ and the ‘Star Divers’. Look how quickly he got out there to that ‘TNS Beacon’ site yet he will not tell anyone how he managed that feat. With ‘Cad’, it is always secrets and excuses for further secrecy, with you Paradox Priests it is the same thing too you would shrouded everything away. Are you working together again is that it what is going on here some kind of ‘Interdiction Fleet’ action?” [He asked.]

“You disappoint me ‘Weep’, and this time you do not have the excuse of those frozen tunnels half freezing your wits for your far too hasty accusations against your old friends.” [I complained.] “Are so really so eager these days to find fault with us? Have we fallen so far in your estimation?” [I asked.]

“I told ‘Cad’, ‘Unholy’ and you before when we picked our sites they are ours and we will tolerate no further interference with what is ours. We are due recompense for what happened back in those tunnels now as we near our reward ‘Cad’ sends you with spooky tales to get us to delay exploiting more finds.” [‘Weep’ insisted.]

“Why do you think we are intent upon trying to steal from you? When did we ever take anything that is legitimately yours? ‘Cad’ was less than honest with the ‘Founder Incident’ but that was an aberration and he believed he was doing the right thing.” [I said.]

“Almost everyone believes they are doing the right thing but ‘Cad’ did the wrong thing by not consulting us.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“You were hardly in your right mind in those tunnels.” [I stated.] “Would you have listened rationally to ‘Cad’ if he tried to explain his position.”

“He did not even try to explain instead he sold both of us a lie - both of us - unless you also lied to me rather than just manipulated silence.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“That was yesterday this is today. We are simply endeavouring to warn you today of a danger that might be a threat to all ‘Pilgrim’ kind.” [I said.]

“I can recall lots of unfounded worries about ‘Founder’ too whilst ‘Cad’ was apparently playing his own game with my find using it as bait in a trap.” [‘Weep’ accused.]

“I am not saying ‘Cad’ was without fault however I think we all made some mistakes under the ice. ‘Cad’ chose to be blind in one eye about some facts due to obsessing about an opportunity to close down a dangerous ‘Star Diver Isolationist Faction’ that clearly deeply concerns him. I will confess to being somewhat obsessed with saving a possible ancient ‘Living Hull’ so much so that I almost advocated the destruction of ‘Scion’ by accident. Meanwhile you were obviously mentally and physically suffering due to being in an especially hostile environment for your species and increasingly obsessed in a paranoid manner with the idea that we were all specifically trying to cheat you in some way.” [I stated.]

“That whole situation was nothing but aggravation for us ‘Hawks’ even how we found the place still bothers me.” [‘Weep’ stated.] “I think my ‘Hawks’ in these times work better on our own I am done hiring out and equally finished with serving the schemes of others. You two worry about your ‘TNS Beacon’ sites and leave us alone to explore ours. I am far from convinced of the veracity of this latest ‘Trojan’ horror story.”

“We are in no position to prevent you from doing as you please even if we wanted to the last thing we need is to highlight then encourage the ‘Entanglement’ to meddle with these sites.” [I stated.] “This is not about interfering in your affairs. We simply wish to pass on some friendly advice. I came here only to advise you.” [I stressed.] “My advice being - think thrice - and consider every wider ramification before you leap into any action with these mysterious devices.”

“Do I look a fool? Do I seem to lack wit?” [He challenged in turn.]

[I ignored his inflammatory questions.]

“I think ‘Cad’ is sorry that he went in so forcefully at the ‘Alpha TNS Beacon’ site.” [I stated.] “I have a large information packet he gave me as a peace offering so that you will be forewarned in a manner he was not. I believe he has held nothing back about his discoveries so far that has to be worth some deep consideration.”

[I began sending him the large data packet on a side channel it was too big in my mind to be deemed a standard ‘Data Blast’.]

“My advice is if you discover anything especially odd or that feels wrong - out of place - be very careful about even considering interacting with it. I know it sounds a bit crazy but ‘Cad’ has convinced me that we could be dealing with evidence of tentative but recurring extra-dimensional incursions into our Universe centred around these off the grid ‘TNS Beacon’ sites.” [I stated.] “Such encounters for us will be something new.”

“You Paradox Priests are prone to leaps of faith that are no less jumps to erroneous conclusions perhaps you have infected ‘Cad’ with your delusional disease and it is not a plot by the ‘Hierophants’ after all just a shared madness. ‘Cad’ got too close to ‘Fury Tech’ whilst some claim you have not been quite the same in your head since the ‘Entanglement’ feasted upon your three brains.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

[I controlled a swelling rage when he mentioned the last.]

“Being open to every possibility is shared wisdom not a spreading of insanity. Remnants of ships found at the ‘Alpha Site’ under analysis have proved to come from very different time periods. Yet we have heard nothing of these salvaging invaders even from passed down fragments of lore. ‘Founder’ claims the ‘TNS Beacons’ were discovered and used by the so-called ‘Unaligned’ not manufactured by them. What became of the original creators of these devices? Might they have been destroyed by the unknown ‘Outsiders’. Even in ‘Founders’ era these sites were out of their time and the ‘TNS Beacons’ I suspect deemed incredibly mysterious devices.” [I warned.]

“What is far away easily seems more mysterious but time is cyclic and people and cultures are rarely that different.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“I do not disagree entirely yet the deepest truth of these places is lost in the deepest dark. Perhaps that is it, perhaps these alien ‘Outsiders’ that have sought, but ‘Cad’ believes, failed to understand us repeatedly did not trust going far from the ‘TNS Beacons’ that guide them here whenever they manage to pluck up he courage to invade our to them weird domain with its bizarre denizens. Perhaps they greatly distrust our Universe and fear becoming lost in what is to them a horribly alien dimension.” [I surmised.]

“Our Trojan Professor has proposed that the ‘Anomaly’ around the ‘TNS Beacon’ is a protection for the ‘Beacon’ with the device acting as almost an anchor to our realm. Perhaps the ‘Anomaly’ that surrounds it even preserves it from the ravages of age something akin to a stasis field since the ‘TNS Beacon’ seems pristine behind its curtain of ‘Anomalous’ force.” [I surmised.]

“I am hearing lots of ‘perhaps’ and ’seems’ and so on very few actual verified facts just as it was back in those icy tunnels.” [‘Weep’ replied.]

“We have even greater cause for caution now. To such ‘Outsider’ invaders what is natural to us may be frightfully unnatural to them horrifically so. Imagine you come from a very different place and suddenly everything is strange to you almost incomprehensible imagine how insecure that would make you feel how threatened.” [I warned.]

“To them we are the aliens - the night terrors - great difference does not make for easy friendship it makes for poor understanding and frequently encourages hasty hostility.” [I preached.]

“You are building a vast structure upon a foundation of suppositions.” [‘Weep’ insisted.]

“We Paradox Priests know the fact of how difficult it can be for one species to accept even small differences in another species much is made of cultural differences that is what our concept of shrouding difference was about. At these ‘TNS Beacon’ sites we could be dealing with vast gulfs of difference that shrink any oddities between our former Universe and the ‘Emissary Sphere’. It might even be that we have found the original and true source of every ‘Anomaly’ here contrary to all past rumours and conjectures.” [I stated.]

“I see no alien mechanism involved here, we know that outsized ‘Anomalous Matter’ explosions spawn more ‘Anomalies’ as can some ‘Jump Drive’ malfunctions in this ‘Universe’.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“True but where did the first ‘Anomalous Matter’ come from? It seems reasonable to me that something ‘Anomalous’ something outside our standard existence had to arrive from outside our perception of normal reality. Perhaps the first ‘Anomalous Matter’ derived from past contact with the domain intersected by the ‘TNS Beacons’. Whilst current contact with this other dimension could be causing all kinds of problems for this Universe. Some ‘Hierophants’ have suggested that forced persistent contact with another realm of existence might damage the very fabric of our reality. The theory I admit arrives from rather esoteric spin off research from studies into ‘EXO-C’ and other ‘Anomalies’ that has previously been universally mocked and dismissed but now it seems more worthy of consideration.” [I admitted.]

“I will believe all of this nonsense when I see some real evidence of terrifying creatures from some unfathomable demonic domain.” [‘Weep’ stated waving his arms around as if a child pretending to be a monster.]

“You make my point for me by branding these unknowns as demonic simply because they are especially alien. We easily demonise the truly unknown consider the old ‘Star Diver’ attitude towards dwellers in the dark. Consider ‘Draakhaal’ and his mania about extra-Universal invaders.” [I said.]

“I merely stretched your inferences to their - illogical - conclusion.” [‘Weep’ mocked.]

“If we have uncovered evidence of extra-dimensional incursion it is a very serious matter. We are discussing a far more monumental discovery than that of ‘Founder’ even though ‘Founder’ has unlocked a window into a historic period previously unknown to us in any detail and might in time initiate the rebirth of a lost ‘Far Species’ not to mention the recovery to life of an entire planetary ecosystem.” [I reminded.]

“I admit I would be a fool not to study the provided data from ‘Cad’ first but I am making no promises about what I will choose to do with my ‘Explorer Ships’ when we make our first contacts.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“I only ask that you do what is prudent and sensible based upon what you find out there and what ‘Cad’ has found and conjectured already. Do not rush in to confront unknown perils out of misplaced spite or to be contrary because you are still angry with ‘Cad’ and obviously still feel ill used by the ‘Hierophants’ during the ‘Founder Incident’. Do not seek just to outdo your rival in deeper discovery. Some discoveries might be best left in the darkness that shrouds them.” [I stated.]

“I am not so sure that leaving this issue be is the best solution. In the unlikely possibility that we are being visited by ‘Outsiders’ and if as you suggest our realm is being changed via contact with an alien domain the more data we have the safer we may later be.” [‘Weep’ stated.]

“It worries me that even the ‘Spore of the Machine Fury’ did not attempted to interdict these ‘TNS Beacons’ or failed to do so despite links with another dimension potentially proving the most problematic of all ancient technologies. Gathering further intelligence about the ‘TNS Beacon’ sites may help us to defend our new home but the other possibility is that our interest provokes these alien ‘Outsiders’ so that they begin looking once again towards our domain perhaps as a potential threat.” [I warned.]

“To me it bodes ill that they made contact with our realm - seemed to find us disagreeable enough that they did not venture far - seemingly deemed it impossible to understand us but could not bring themselves to sever an established tie to our realm. Why would you maintain a bridgehead but not invade?” [I asked.]

“You think they want a way to reach us as a precaution but that they perceive us as the aggressors?” [He asked.]

“We do not know what dire history may rest between these ‘Outsiders’ and long lost local cultures here including the so-called ‘Unaligned’ that ‘Founders’ people fought against. Perhaps the ‘Unaligned’ allied themselves with the ‘Outsiders’ or perhaps they sought to contain them maybe they maintained a wise quarantine around the ‘TNS Beacons’. What we do know is that the ‘Unaligned’ are gone but the ‘TNS Beacons’ remain as do later evidence of later victims to alien intrusion.” [I warned.]

“As to states of mind you are the one who needs to question your motivations. I suspect when you think about these discoveries now ‘Weep’ you are back in those damnably cold tunnels because the ‘TNS Beacons’ remain firmly linked in your mind with the ‘Founder Incident’. However, ‘Weep’ remember you chose to stay in those tunnels when others prudently suggested you withdraw for health reasons. Although as you know well I came to disagree with the methodology ‘Cad’ embraced had he succeeded in his scheme against the ‘Isolationists’ his success would have been a boon for all ‘Pilgrim’ kind given our current difficulties in the star depths.” [I stated.]

“Remember we already have seriously difficult relations with a problematically alien species in the ‘Star Divers’ and I fear we have much more in common with the ‘Divers’ than we may ever have with these extra-dimensional ‘Outsiders’.” [I further warned.]

“I also firmly believe that ‘Cad’ would have compensated you for any perceived loss of material that you ‘Hawks’ might deem you suffered by ‘Founder’ going into a ‘Material Archive’. ‘Cad’ is far from an unreasonable fiend - he is a firm friend - he just carries the greater burden of some broader responsibilities.” [I reminded.]

[To that ‘Weep’ gave a dismissive ‘Recycler’ snort.]

“Snort all you like but I am positive that deep inside he considers he failed the ‘Core Alliance’ when the ‘Interdiction Fleet’ failed to prevent the ‘Advent of the Entanglement’ and the loss of the ‘Sea Spheres’ to ‘Crimson’. I know I feel that I failed in my duty to ‘Pilgrim’ kind during that tragic time too.” [I stated.]

“Is that why you have become the Professor’s constant apologist the close bonds of failure?” [‘Weep’ asked.]

“You exaggerate my position, I freely admit that ‘Cad’ almost committed a terrible crime against ‘Founder’ and ‘Scion’ but it is easy to be blinded by good causes - I know that too well. I am sure you too have occasionally made a hard decision that hurt one of your friends for what you perceived rightly or wrongly at the time as a greater good for a wider majority of your people. None of us who dare to lead other ‘Pilgrims’ can proclaim to be free of the taint of occasional hubris or to be sinless.” [I added.]

“As to ‘Cad’ keeping secrets you still refuse to divulge how you came to discover ‘Founder’ in all the wide and deep darkness even though that might have great significance to others including me. For I live in a foolish hope that it was my former Captain the mighty ‘Tier Nine’ Harbinger that acted as the guide that showed you what way to go.” [I confessed.]

“I must look to the security of my people first above all things.” [‘Weep’ stated.] “I do not doubt that ‘Cad’ and you do the same when it is deemed necessary.” [He insisted.]

“So you consider how you discovered ‘Founder’ to be a security issue that is interesting.” [I replied.]

[At that point, he abruptly severed my connection to the software limited ‘Suit Substance’ Avatar he had provided it appeared I had struck a painful nerve.]

Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.

Last edited by Paranoid66 on Wed, 23. Apr 14, 15:06; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Dec 2011
Posts: 189 on topic

Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Sat, 19. Apr 14, 00:00    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

yay new chapter

like how scion is trying to balance everything before making a leap so to speak

as to weep will be interesting to see what choices he makes

Back to top
View user's profile Send private message


Joined: 19 Apr 2005
Posts: 2965 on topic
Location: Beyond 'X'
Thank you for registering your game
PostPosted: Wed, 23. Apr 14, 15:10    Post subject: Reply with quote Print

Thanks Stads for commenting.

Here is part thirteen not quite got to whatever action 'Weep' decides yet.
Plot such as it is has slowed down a bit I am going to blame the Meat Suit stuff.


Beyond 'X' Far future (Fanfic): BkI BkII BkIII

Never more than 98.8 percent sure about anything.
98.8 percent sure that anyone who is 100 percent certain needs re-educating for the sake of humanity.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic Reply to topic Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3 ... 30, 31, 32, 33  Next
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You cannot download files in this forum
Control Panel
Login Data
The time now is Thu, 19. Jul 18, 03:39

All times are GMT + 2 Hours

[ Disclaimer / Impressum ] | [ Privacy Policy / Datenschutz ]

Board Security

Copyright © EGOSOFT 1989-2018
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group
Template created by Avatar & BurnIt!
Debug: page generation = 2.85876 seconds, sql queries = 31