004. Unscripted

Five of them on an Eden Plant in the formless black; each assigned to Dream a specific element and that fed through the one who was assigned the element of spirit. The Dream Hive was a low physical impact read-scripter that meant that they could conserve physical energy. Energy was important out here – the environmental pressures of working in an unreal atmosphere were unbelievable. Bottom of the ocean? Vacuum of space? Nothing in comparison.

Hickman was the spirit-man; Bennett was on fire; Browning was running water; Carletti was responsible for air; and Gynosa was controlling earth. They would sleep and lucid dream and the lucid dream would be scripted into the injection module which was designed to imprint onto the formless black. Did this make them like gods? Ah, well, there were rumours about them like there were rumours about any of the more seemingly esoteric branches of the agency. At the end of the day it was a job.

His scheduled wake rotation prodded him more insistently than usual – that was not normal protocol and it already set him to worrying before he opened the communication. A status update requested? An assessment of safety parameters? That could mean only one thing … their organisation was under attack. That they felt the need to warn someone this far out from the reality core was not a good sign.

He looked at the stations Sentry log and the slaved AI did not seem to be overly worried about anything. Slaved AI, he smiled for a second at the thought – how different was it from them? Using a small capacity of their brain-power harnessed to shape a newly forming corner of the reality spectrum. The AI was slaved because asking an AI with free-roaming capabilities to sit here and do one thing had proved to be a recipe for psychosis. What a choice though – a lobotomy or psychosis.

He had the search filter look for any anomalies. He found one. Everyone in the Unscripted was linked to a Perimeter planet and an avatar who functioned as a reality anchor – theirs was Davide Mathieu; a great guy they had all met with and bonded with back before the mission was offically greenlighted. David had broken communication – every week a code was transmitted and every week he responded with an appropriate answer: this week, no answer. He let Parsneck know.

If there was a crisis underway how soon could he expect a response team? He wasn’t sure – it was an eventuality they all planned for but never expected to face. Their stability was now under threat – the question was, did they proceed with the scripting or did they knock it on the head? More script would mean less chaos and more order, but that tenuous link to perimeter space would be put under tremendous stress in the interim.

Man, if someone just decided to plug in a Deus-Ex-Machina Gate to shortcut their route out here the waves might snip their umbilicus and send them rolling out into the blackness. Hickman did not like this one bit – there were risks that he and his crew daily faced, and did so happily, but there were things that it was not reasonable to expect them to undergo. Did he wake them and tell them what was going down? They would each find out on their wake rotation anyway. Part of him wondered if he should just program in a compressed wake-cycle and get them through their necessary conscious periods with the minimum of fuss. It wasn’t fair for him to make that decision for them but it might be safest for them and the mission as a whole.

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003. Scaled

What is your model for reality? First question for anyone hoping to become a Reality Engineer. What organising principle do you use to hang the whole of your reality upon? Could you rebuild Dublin from Joyce’s Ulysses? Could you come up with a convincing proliferating rewrite code that uses the minds of a reality’s denizens to hold it together? Do you have the kind of penetrating gaze that sees into the base template of a place so that you can edit it freelance?

The thing was, most reality engineers had an innate ability to effect their reality before they ever underwent the processes that locked them into the fundamental editing tools that enabled them to control the fundamental parts of all creation.

Parsneck was Chief Editor at the moment, and had just picked up the communique from Kellogg. He had been getting reports about missing agents; he had been watching the switchboard flicker like a nest of dying fireflies. Someone was unstitching the tapestry they worked so hard to maintain – it wasn’t the first time it had happened and it wouldn’t be the last, but it didn’t very often happen like this … without so much as a by your leave. No warning in a finely tuned system that was plugged into the very undercurrents that shaped everything? That didn’t make much sense, did it?

Whatever was happening and whoever was making it happen this took some real juice. At some point, and hopefully not too far along the timeline of this thing, they would start to see the emanation point from which all these waves of changes pushed out from.

He checked the security on The Inviolate Narrative and it seemed to be holding. He checked the security on the Blue Pen and everyone within it seemed to have a fully active integrity field. The Slushpile Buffer seemed quite full. Good, that was all the central command accounted for.

He took a look at Project Blackbox, sending word out through the Numbers Stations for them to transmit an a-OK code back to him … response was one hundred percent.

He had to look at the outliers. The pioneers in The Unscripted Realms. Those who dwelled in the Inverted Dimensions. Not all of what they were doing was preservation – some of what they were about was breaking eggs for new omelettes. It was all carefully regulated. There was a group above him that he never met who set and dictated policy – he didn’t know exactly who or what they were but he trusted them implicitly. He would have to consult with his liaison very soon and see if there was anything from uplines he needed to take into consideration. He would not let this ship go down – couldn’t let it go down.

002. Engine House

‘What are you doing, Kellogg?’

‘Monitoring field engineers.’

‘Any in particular?’

‘Pieter mainly – he is following after Brecht; he’s been tracing other disappearances.’

‘And why are you doing this?’

‘Because this is what I do – calibration.’

‘Seems off-mission.’

‘For you, sure. For me? No. So, butt out, Feiner.’

Hunter moved into his line of vision.

‘Sepper is watching you.’

‘Good, let him.’

Kellogg had a remit that meant he was independent of most other agents – you needed someone who was isolated and protected who could maintain an index of agents when they were dealing with something as tempestuous and unpredictable as reality. Command structure above a certain pay-grade were also reality-locked (well, as much as possible), and that included no one in this room that was watching him.

Kellogg tapped his security alert – time to make sure that his back-up team were ready to step in and extract him if this thing went wrong. He had been viewing all of them – people didn’t like that. People did not normally notice what he was doing so the fact that they were meant things were already abnormal.

Reality was not an easy thing to maintain, and as with any war there are those who have to be sacrificed and those who must be saved at all costs. He was Project Blackbox – his brain was a spatio-temporal frequency locked bio-mech fusion device that was designed to survive reality collapse; it emitted an integrity field that would hold him together in spite of it all. It hadn’t gone that far yet – but something was definitely amiss.

The communication got an affirmative to say it had been received. If he upped sticks and moved his base of operations though it would cause more suspicion, maybe more resentment. He had a hunch that someone was attacking them and their agents, and those kind of attacks were rarely about the agency … they were always removing the watchmen to do something that they would have been very interested in watching. But what?

He needed to get a line in to Pieter. Had to be possible, right? Right.