034. Names Or Masks, Nom, De Plume

Early days didn’t make the disintegration easy. The man sat opposite him was talking in terms that were so modern they may as well have been archaic. Magicians, artists, writers, engineers – they weren’t much different if you looked at it from the right angle.

He’d just come from Angle Land, had been speaking to Leroy, a Rastafarian iteration of The King, or Le Roi. He met Leroy back when he had caused the Celtic Brotherhood to shit bricks by being declared Ard Ri after standing on the Stone Of Destiny in Tara, and being blessed with the gift of poetry. A Pen Dragon turned street poet, dropping knowledge via a heavy dose of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Leroi Jones, with a dash of Public Enemy thrown in.

Bringing a Massive Attack with Black Steel in the Hour Of Chaos. They were sat at a structural weak point in the system, where Renaissance Italy overlapped with L’undone in a Narrative Collapse.

‘You been hanging with Da Vinci, De Plume? Talking about Ardenti In Mundo again? You know I’m the Pen Dragon of the moment, and I am supposed to know about these bastards. Word of The Unter King abroad again.’

‘All of that. You’ve been watching things change in the Ark Hive?’

‘Surely. Blanc and Noir come and spew crap in my ear every once in a while, and who else is going to be tampering with the blockchain?’

‘I am not hiding myself very well, am I?’

‘That’s part of your game? You are leaving large enough clues lying around. De Plume? Who the hell is going to fall for that? I knew you were Coran Andress the moment you stepped into the room.’

‘How? That knowledge didn’t just came when you stood on that damned stone? Or when you pulled the word-sword out of the other?’

‘Nah. Could have happened when I sat down with Black Jesus though. He was in Logos mode at that moment, and Gabriel was his drinking buddy. What does it matter? Proliferation protocols, metaphorm fluidity – what the hell is there in this world that you didn’t make complex?’

‘I kept sex pretty straight forward.’

‘Oh, god, we’re fucked. You really think that?’

‘I suppose not, huh?’

‘Sometimes, I am not sure if you are kidding me on. This place is a kingdom built on sand, and knowing what I know about you and the nature of what you are, I am not sure whether you have been downloaded here into your own creation from the start or whether it was ten minutes ago. You seem super aware and super confused all at the same time.’

And he was back in the room with his current interrogator.

‘You were seeing Leroy? Word is you’ve had Nephilim here too.’

‘I speak to anyone and everyone. Even you, Mr Brecht.’

‘Ah, well we’re friends, aren’t we?’

‘We are? I suppose we are. I forget how long we have been speaking.’

‘Doesn’t really matter does it?’

‘Maybe not. Maybe so.’

‘I’ve heard what you are. I’ve heard what you were.’

‘That isn’t so clear anymore.’

‘Ah. Well, I have to go, De Plume.’

‘I will see you around.’

‘You will.’

-*-

‘Pieter?’

‘Yes?’

‘Carter.’

‘You’re in?’

‘Yeah. Total identity collapse and fragmentation. Seems like The Fire Mirror didn’t do a damned sight to repel him, but it may have caused this.’

‘Not something we’ve had much experience handling.’

‘But he’s there. Now I have to find someone that can help with this.’

‘Yeah, I’ll put on my thinking cap.’

‘You do that.’

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033. Influence Writing

Multiple realities pushed close against their reality, and everyone could feel it – there were those that were other, but might be considered to be benevolent, and there were those who were attempting entrance that were unwelcome.

To look at them was not to understand them – merely to know that they were there. Space and time buckled around them, localspace physics sputtering and failing like tiny engines crushed under the bootheel of illogic. Poured into a form that configured itself from the narrative data contained in the substrate they were interfacing with, those from the Unscripted Realms unfolded themselves into a giant humanoid form, and once they were there, they moved rapidly away from their ingress point. Leaving behind them only a single writer.

The Inviolable Editor handed a small note to the Immaculate Author, something that no one else would ever read. The Author smiled and placed the note in his mouth – ate it, and sat down to begin typing.

Change came from both of them, different tensions pulling at the physical structure; felt in the spirit; understood by the mind. And no one knew what it meant, because in a very real way it meant something that had never been meant before in the entire history of this reality.

And to some degree it does not matter who is writing. It may be the one brought in through Bellwether, or it may be someone else. It may be something else. Maybe Bellwether’s echo is merely a translation of the editing that someone else wishes to impose. Do those in the story recognise the push from outside, or does it merely translate as force? Do words foam around the causal chain thrusting its sharp point of effect at certain characters.

Light swirls around,seeming to speed up, and to drag the sky with it. Everyone feels a moment where they are fixed and the world is reconfiguring around them; where it is moving, light ribboning out from stars dying in the transmission of their energy out into the universe.

Two fingers touching. A spark. A repeating spark. A hung moment. A stutter. The words repeat on a loop. But it is something – something is happening.

Reality Engineer level one shakes hands with Reality Engineer level two and they know that they have not met, and they know that all is possible, so anything is probable. Does it mean you should not tend your area of the garden if you discover there is another garden and another gardener nearby? The seeds are carried by the wind where they need to go, and they grow how they will grow into the shapes that are buried in the instructions that rest at their centre.

Gruff is a frozen moment with nothing being typed.

Bellwether is a refutation. His envoy a refutation.

The Immovable Editor is a conversation with the Immaculate Author.

The Unscripted are a journey deep into alien territory.

Stories don’t really have an end, the books just leave us dangling, and wondering, after the goal that was set up in the early chapters was achieved, what shape the stories that get told by their descendants will take.

Sometimes a story only seems done because the landscape is changing and you can’t quite see what it is that is being cooked under the fogbank of steam rising out of the cooking pot.

Reality has always been engineered though some may have failed to see the intelligence behind the design and running of the machinery. What is needed when the machinery becomes an ill conceived engine for the navigation of existence? It needs to be reconfigured – it needs to be reimagined – it needs to engineered.

A garden – flowers growing, blooms dawning like the waking sun, and people arrive to cultivate them, and to refine them. Some would call them gardeners, and some might call them Reality Engineers.

Carter Brecht pulled on an encounter suit.

032. Overarch

There are always levels above where you can see. There is no conspiracy – it is just that as beings we never stop climbing. You reach the highest hill you can climb and you want to leap up and touch the sky; you touch the sky and you want to leap higher and touch the moon; touch the moon and your ambition is to press your palm against the underbelly of the heavens.

There are always those who believe that their reality is a sealed circuit, and that there are no truths beyond the ones that they might touch with their fingertips and weigh in their hands. At the same time there are those visionaries who see beyond the ceiling and push through the walls, and discover the undiscovered territory that was always there unmapped.

So, the Inviolate Narrative and the Immaculate Author were, in truth, truths for people in one room. Step through the door into the rest of the house and you learn that there is more to the picture; more to the building. That the limits of the truth are in fact a lie. You stare at a fragment and think that you have a synecdoche but all you have is a jigsaw piece.

When a system is ready to defy the order that governs it, and it starts to break out of the box that has imprisoned it, those outside the bedroom start to take notice. Inside the box is a training ground, and outside the box is the world. At least something analogous to that.

A child plays with Russian Dolls and they miss the fundamental truth that they are witness to – they do not realise that they are witnessing a model of reality, and that what they hold in their hands is a key to understanding how the multiversal structure of reality works. One truth inside another truth being contained within another.

There is no exit sign that ever leads you anywhere but into another level of the game.

I am the Immovable Editor says the man at the Gate. Here is the Guillotine Truth for the childish Inverted Pyramid that kisses the lips of The Tesseract Translator.

He is still typing when the figure sits down next to him and holds out a card with the hanging man inverted upon it. This is the world turned upside down – a tree uprooted and a man floating above the branches turned root system. The runes are a code that can only be deciphered when you map it onto the genome; when you attach it to the sephiroth; when you acknowledge it’s place in alignment with the chakras.

The Inviolate Author turns to this man from beyond the realms of the possibility that he has been scripting, and he sees him a denial of his own branching creation. Sometimes saviour and jailer are not too far apart … like many things, it is all about perspective.

Totalspace shudders, something is sending riptides of change through it just by being there.

031. Crashwrite

Gruff was trying to shut down the gate, trying to cut off the power; he hoped that the one that had made it through wouldn’t act as an anchor to allow the others to come across.

How had they knocked out so many agents in one go? Was it possible to revive them? He didn’t know and he couldn’t worry about that for the time being. He had to concentrate instead on helping by correcting the error that he had made.

Coding reality was like writing poetry. In fact he often limbered up by writing sonnets and sestinas beforehand, and it seemed to undam whatever creative juices he needed to be able to sculpt something out of thin air.

It was interesting to watch reality bubble as you stripped away the logic underpins, and worked to break down the agreement interfaces with any other intersecting realities. He spent a lot of his time in programmer isolations capsules, so he had developed an interesting relationship with the place where he lived … something of a tangential acquaintance if you will. The place was the crucible in which all other things that he crafted existed though, so he wasn’t totally detached from it.

He knew as he wrote that someone else was coding in opposition, and that the ramifications of what they were doing with the edits might felt far away in other galaxies. It was tiring, writing this stuff, checking it to see what had survived and what had been updated, and then correcting it. He was trying to write quick enough and in an ironclad method that locked out further edits.

He was plugged in with a standard deck, but he got the impression his opponent was a hard-wire implant, and was just thinking his changes into place. Speed was an important factor, so anything he could do to give himself an edge was a good thing.

He concocted a spiralling fractal framework and pinned a tesseract gate to it to interfere with time-space anchoring by overloading the localspace index. He loaded do it in with a narrative spike to disguise it.

He put together some barnacle splices, wrote them in the style of his opponent, and floated them in within some Trojan commentary. This should go undetected long enough to allow him to combat the gate.

He drove in a fat wedge of Incommensurate Data that pulled at the fusion with the other reality. The gate began to splinter and the interloper fought back. Reality in the localspace began to crash.

030. Splice Storm

Four narratives competing distort the localspace. The Immaculate Author writes; Gruff, the hacker, writes; the interloper from elsewhere writes; and the reality writes itself.

The Prime Throughline isn’t apparently in the driving seat anymore. The thing which pushes is a confluence of divergent streams, like psychic floodwater pushing through the throat of a single river.

Seasickness swims through those who are awake and moving around. De ja vu stutters the movement, and indecision anchored footsteps plod onwards into no-direction pathways of causal amble.

Reality is sick; heavy with the dread of forced edits. The vying histories and competing futures are rewriting the software and rewiring the hardware of existence. Everyone and everything is ontological crisis, as logic tries to re-sort itself in the causal shuffle of things on a quantum scale.

Is this part of The Inviolate Narrative? Is this buried subtext protocols kicking in? If people are sat behind it driving reality, can it really be thought of as the self correcting mechanism it was meant to be?

What can truly remain fixed in a dynamic system? Rules? Rules designed to cradle evolution; rules designed to promote change within a framework of overall survival. Can the rules be designed to allow themselves to be changed without destroying the system? That was what The Immaculate Author had intended, but most realities were sealed systems not designed to allow ingress from exterior systems.

As the author of this reality he was aware that there were others like him, out there beyond the realms of the continuous story he was creating. These creatures that Belwether had enabled to impact on this reality were not from one of those places though … it were as if they derived from between the lines, and grew fat on the meat of narrative inconsistency; swelled to fill the narrative gaps. Had he not been taught that no amount of detail was too great when it came to setting out his stall as a universal narrator? How did one account for this? What might one do to guard against rewrites from unwanted authors?

He had had hack jobs before … one created that as one wrote; as one sought to define the boundaries of the thing they had created, individuals would rise up from amongst the masses to challenge the ultimate authority, which was him.

Gruff was an issue. The alien was an issue. It’s own presence here was an issue. How did one write the rules of a game that they were embedded in? To be in the box and write rules concerning the box was more than a little worrying, what if you wrote yourself into a corner, or wrote yourself out of the story?

He flexed his fingers and began to type swiftly. He would have to outwrite these people trying to corrupt this place.

029. Breach

It was present when the one forged from two had first entered their realm; it made first contact and it was it that had first come up with the idea of establishing a bridge between their realities. It was considered an honour to be the first across the divide, but it knew that it was also taking a risk.

How the Belwether had traversed the barrier they had never understood. They understood the physics of the traversal, but how the frail human body had survived was something else entirely. The energy framework of these beings was just totally alien to them.

Reality puckered around the intrusion. It knew that these humans called where it came from the Unscripted Realms, as if they bordered this reality, but the spatial intersect in this dimension was not the point where the transfer of base physical matter occurred, that took place on some higher dimensional plane, a plane where it and its cohorts wee more comfortable manifesting themselves.

The translation matrix was inexact; it came through in folds of rippling cancer-flesh: tumours spiralling through the localspace, elastic, harnessed to an incomplete programming language that set boundaries defining a physical form approximating that of the one they had fashioned for Bellwether.

It knew that all the beings around it were unconscious; or mostly they were. It accessed the shared memory that Belwether had been hooked into and it knew that the two beings that were still moving around were the one-time Immaculate Author, and Belwether’s companion in this escapade.

It did not know what level of strength it had been equipped with here, and it was brand new operating this body, so it wasn’t sure that it wanted to engage in any hostility just yet.

This world rippled around. Was it that he felt sick, or was this reality feverish at his presence? He peered under the skin of it, into the ontological engines driving this place, and it knew that it was antithetical to the place.

It moved as if walking through sludge; the dense physicality weighed upon it, it was not pleasant. It knew that these creatures were going to think that they were all about domination, but the truth was that they saw this place as a commensurate part of a single whole, separated merely by the quirks of consciousness.

What would they do once their ingress was complete? Were they seeds that would fertilise this place and allow a new civilisation to grow? It was not sure. It knew that whatever picture the natives here had it was not an accurate representation of how it felt about itself. Did that matter? Would they be able to communicate? If it wasn’t possible what would that mean to it? Not much. It had it’s mission, and it would stick to it no matter what.

It reached out and it touched one of the beings that dwelled here, and it watched the matter decohere, watched the atoms float free like beads of sweat, until there was nothing left. This would be an interesting experience for all involved.

028. Integrity Field

Gruff was breathing heavily … it was a very tight space in which he found himself. He believed Bellwether as far as the agency was concerned but he was worried about his own survival, and being as prepared as ever he had fashioned a bubble reality that had been skintight around him as he helped his temporary boss to infiltrate one of the most dangerous places one might hope to visit.

He knew what he was looking at, as he saw the strings of code rippling under the surface detail. The agents were indeed knocked out … well, apart from a few of them. There was another being who, in his heart, he knew to be the Immaculate Author. As he looked around some part of him felt terrible for triggering the collapse, but now it was done, he had to do something.

Bellwether was a Trojan horse of the first water, and whatever was piggybacking in on him was not going to be bringing any good news with it. The stress point was being worked, and what looked like a green stick fracture wouldn’t take long to work itself into a full on rift.

He had to close it. Regret wasn’t something he was used to or comfortable with, and he didn’t like realising that what had seemed like a good idea turned out to be one of the most insane things that he had ever done.

He knew he hadn’t been detected or he would be dead. Even with all their resources tied up like they were, they would find a way to track down and deal with any intruders, especially after an attack of this magnitude.

He rattled off a breakage protocol to dig in under the integrity field of the station, one at a slightly different frequency to the hack he had already perpetrated. It went in smooth and he followed it up with a rapid-adjust reality interface to allow his bubble universe to intersect with the mainline. It was risky, but he had to do it.

The frame drag twist in through a tesseract rupture point cause some quantum foam to collect in his device that he might be able to fuel his future exit. His device was picking up several conflicting splices, and one of them was coming from wherever Bellwether had returned from. The coding as alien, but it was being spun into an easier to translation by the necessity of fusing with the localspace. He began to divine the logic and that gave him an in.

He might not be able to destroy this invader, but he could make their entrance a damned sight harder. That he had made it possible was something he wished to remedy.

026. Shuffle The Deck

Pieter and Brecht on the deck, a little disoriented, looked down at Hera. A female agent? Made very little sense to them, but they knew that she was just that.

When Bellwether had expired it was like everything attached to him was pulled into the singularity that he became. When he became a doorway they were yanked through. They were expert at dealing with exotic physics, but this was a new one for both of them. If they were pulled in on the end of one line though, what the hell was dangling on then end of the other one?

A wormhole bleed, a drainage from one universe into another; something larger.

‘We should do something,’said Brecht.

‘Like what?’ Said Pieter.

‘Well, this has something to do with Bellwether, doesn’t it?’

‘I guess so, and that’s going to be bad news for us, from what I know of him.’

He looked to her, and asked what had transpired.

‘He wasn’t an emissary like we thought, or a terrorist, he was a Trojan Horse. A four dimensional gateway folded into a body.’

‘And we’re sure it used to be two of us, right? And also, it looks badly off, but do we know it’s dead?’ Asked Pieter.

‘We don’t really know anything,’ said Hera, ‘As I am sure you know, they are called the unscripted realms for more than one reason.’

Brecht looked at what had been done with the body already. The layered reality was breaking down … Bellwether may have been subject to dream logic, but his masters from the fight they were putting up, most likely weren’t.

He staked the body with a Null Spike, hooked Possibility Lines to the question mark shaped head of the spike, and pulled out those lines to what would have been the cardinal points of the body. A circle: at its centre a receptive feed line. He struck it with a Lightning Edit, spliced A Collapse Protocol into the line, then struck a Sparkflint to ignite it. Watch this bastard burn; firmly shut the gate.

Hera and Pieter were impressed. Now came the wait.

025. After Maths

What do you end up with after maths? A sum of calculations, that is all. Something abstract for the dissecting tongues of debaters to chew over. Hera wakes in the wake where something fractured, something badly broken after an impact.

Bellwether is aflame but is not consumed by the fire. In blank eyes she divines an absence … Bodily here but mentally elsewhere. Why does this not feel at all like a victory?

She knows she is being watched. She is always being watched. Judged by her performance; it has all become a performance.But she enjoys the part; considers herself an essential cog and a well functioning one.

End it here? Kill him? But what is he and what consequences would that have? He was hard enough to take down, and she was betting he wasn’t very high in the hierarchy of whatever it was that was waking him up.

Bellwether didn’t look like a doorway, but he surely was one. Her vision was picking up the energy surges that were spiking through his chakras … Stable points which could be latched onto with a directional gateway.

How was its she could see that much and not get a fix on the throughpoint? There was some kind of dimensional drift that she couldn’t compensate for. That sick feeling again, not in the pit of the stomach … Deeper, like the roots of her very real ness were being yanked out of the soil.

How? How did you get past this? How did you survive something like this? They were used to dealing with minor skirmishes from tiny backroom entities who wished to grab the spotlight, and who wished to rewrite their own little corner of localspace. This was something else … A chain held in place by one of their own now corrupted. She wanted to sever the connection, but she wasn’t sure any of the tech she had at her disposal was of an adequate magnitude.

She wondered if she would have to destroy the station in order to defeat this thing. What of her sisters? Nothing. This creature seemed to have defeated everyone … Everyone but her? How? And again, how?

She erected a containment field, dropped a Dream Logic Bomb into it and hoped that would layer the reality deep enough around him that he had no chance of escape. Wake and rise to discover the lie, to wake and rise again forever. It relied on an agreement of local physics, so that might be a problem, except that he had to have something in agreement for him to have stabilised enough to be a manifest gateway here. Would that be true of those using this bodymass as an ingress point? She had to try something, and this was better than nothing, right? Right. She had to revive or reconnect with someone, find out the status of her brothers and sisters. Communication would be unstable but she had to try.

Her internal rig span through whitenoise. Reality was whitenoise. Hera was afraid.

023. Hera

The crew were shutdown – quite a thing to behold, an entire agency station’s crew unconscious; not something you expected to see everyday, if ever. She felt for them, her brothers; wondered what it would be like were the same thing to happen to her and her sisters.

She had decloaked and was walking the floors totally visible; well, she was behind a holo-projection which allowed her to maintain the illusion that there were only men in the agency. Couldn’t have Bellwether knowing too much, could they? And speaking of that man, where in the hell was he? Shouldn’t the gloating have ceased and whatever came next be commencing?

She would try communicating with this man first, see what his demands were, if he had any; and stop him if he just intended to take over, which she suspected was not the case.

When he materialised she recognised him … Kind of. She had once been stationed here and had been required to memorise the faces of every member of the crew, and this one was reminiscent of not one but two. She was eidetic, and tacked onto that human framework was the kind of intuitive neural learning net that enhanced her data-processing abilities to a ridiculously high level of speed and accuracy.

Who though? A rogue, but not exactly. One of theirs, but not exactly. She double-tapped the arch in her left eye orbit and toggled through the different reality filters available to her. Not one but two … Enough of both of them left to register. Surely Bellwether would know that they could find this out about him? But then she remembered:the man didn’t expect anyone to be awake to see his intrusion.

Zaire and Bolus, what had brought them to this state? Another toggle through the register of different filters and she had her answer … This being was kicking out heavy particles of unscripted; almost like it was sporulating. The thing was infecting reality, ideas coded into the matter that was flaking off it into the room, and this thing was sick with the idea.

It was, she knew instinctively, the idea that had done all this damage to the crew. Would her training be enough to stave off any kind of attack that this thing might mount against her? She wasn’t sure. She was supposed to be sure about everything to do with is creature and how to handle it, but she could feel reality boiling. Waves of sickness rolled through the space, and the machinery of localspace physics sputtered like a dying candle.

‘You think,’ he said ‘that I know nothing of you discreet bitches, barnacled onto this place in your bubble universes. The truth of me is larger than you can comprehend. I am Zaire and I am Bolus, but how many versions are there fused into this vessel? For how many realities am I the nexus? How many versions of me were Virago?’

She swallowed nervously.

‘For people that travel through multiple realities, this agency is sometimes astoundingly blind. I wonder at that. How blind men are supposed to be able to police something they do not truly see? The lie of them;the lie of this place. I am the cleansing truth, come to tear it down.’

She came out of hiding in a swift movement of attack. He was ready for her.