Saturday, 20 July 2019

Disillusioned But Happy

Apologies for the slight delay since my last report: I took a few days off after my ordeal, and I – wait, why am I apologising to you lot? I’m a Space Lord. Never mind.

This will be a brief but hopefully interesting update. After a few days of unwinding and trying a new brand of drinking chocolate, I thought I’d better check my spying devices to see whether anything had happened on Mars. But – and here’s the interesting part – I couldn’t find the stream feeds.

At first, I thought there must be some system glitch, or a fault in the device hub. But I looked much more closely, and found that I’d never installed the devices. I mean that literally. I’m not saying it was as though I’d never installed them, or that I’d installed them and then flown back to Mars in my sleep and destroyed them. No, nothing like that. I mean that I checked my stores, and they were all still there.

Then I remembered that I’d been unable to find Psi-spy the second time I searched, and I’d assumed, at the time, that I’d just screwed up my attempt to hack the hyperwave web encryption. Now, though, I started to wonder. This was a mystery, and it needed investigating. I set off immediately to return to Mars once more.

I must say, I was relieved to find the hideout was still there. I’d been starting to wonder whether I’d dreamed the whole thing! I entered the strange place once again, and made my way to the fan room.

I almost lost my cool when I saw what awaited me. Every screen in the room was showing a face – but this time, not my own face. No. It was the face of Maria Thessifus! And every one of them wore a silent smirk.

It took me only minutes to piece it all together, during which I took a much more detailed look at the device I’d placed on my head before. I can now say with 94% certainty that it was a memory injector. It had faked every one of my odd experiences – the infinite recursion of mind-piggybacking myself; the investigation into Psi-spy; being trapped for so long under the headset; and of course, my installing the spying devices as well… all of that was induced in my own mind by this machine, to distract me. Maria had left this strange installation on Mars to divert me from the L3 point, should I ever go looking there during Saturn’s opposition.

Honestly, I really admire her attention to detail. This was beyond evil! A pity for her that it didn’t work because of the dead pod that never received the mind backup. We all have bad luck now and then, despite our genius.

This time, I did destroy the entire place from altitude – being careful to avoid the gaze of NASA by synchronising my actions to their absence from the sky. They might notice a few rocks out of place, but they’ll probably just think they missed a landslide.  Now I’m rid of Maria T. for good, I’m looking forward to a quiet Summer before I set up precautionary defences in preparation for the likely forthcoming winter riots. Good luck with that, by the way – I hope you all have water stockpiled.

The up side of this whole episode is that I do not, after all, have to revise my world view to encompass psionics. I’m not sure whether I’m relieved about that or not: even I, deep down, would kind of like magic to be real.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Chasing Pebbles

It was as I feared. I found Maria T’s spare pod at the L3 point, and my probes had picked up a signal from it a couple of days ago. Presumably it sends data on a regular basis, in case it isn’t received. Given that it would now make no difference, I decided simply to destroy the pod and then go looking for whatever receptor might have got the message near Saturn.

On the way there, I had another look at Psi-spy. Or at least, I tried to. The Galactic Web seemed to know nothing of its existence, which was a bit odd. I mean, it had taken me a bit of digging around last time to find it, but this time there was no trace of the company at all. Was it possible that they were on to me and had put up some extra hack shields? It wouldn’t surprise me.

I got to Saturn and began a laborious search of the rings, that being the last place I’d managed to find one of Professor T’s pods. It took quite a few hours, during which time I also scanned all the moons I could, to make sure they were clean.

The scans of both moons and rings all came up negative, which I found particularly exasperating. There had to be a pod here, surely! I switched to a visual search, which soon took its toll on my eyes. I won’t list any of the names I was calling Maria at this point, but several of them are actually banned in some parts of the galaxy.

Pausing only to get some sleep for an hour or two, I resumed the search and was about to give it up, when at last I spotted something. It was almost invisible! A tumbling spot of black, falling through the rocks that made up the ring system. It was quite lucky I managed to see it because I wasn’t expecting it to be tumbling. A pod would have attitude jets…

I moved in closer and used a tractor beam to stabilise it. A quick scan revealed the truth: it had suffered a power failure! My heart leapt in anticipation, but I had to be sure it hadn’t sent data out to anywhere else, so that meant boarding the thing. I popped across in an EVA suit and spent an hour figuring out how to access the dead computer without enabling the comms relays. And I had my answer. The pod had been dead for over a year! Long enough, in fact, to mean that there wasn’t any chance of its having sent out any data that could harm me.

It’s been quite a circuitous trip, I must say! But, having destroyed the pod and completed my visual scan, I’m now confident that Maria T is gone for good. Finally, I can breathe easy again. I’m looking forward to a day or two back on Earth doing not much at all except drinking hot chocolate.

Thursday, 11 July 2019


I’m free – but I need some questions answered!

When you last heard from me I was in quite a pickle, having entered a strange mental state in which I seemed to occupy infinitely many universes at once. Got to say that’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to describe, and really you have to experience it to understand. Here’s what happened next.

I spent several hours doing my best to find the exit keyword for the device, using some of the password-hacking techniques I’d learned at the Academy. I was quite rusty, and although I covered the vocabulary space in roughly the right path, I probably missed a few regions here and there. But in the end, it made no difference, because it wasn’t a word that finally released me – it was an action.

After hours trapped in one location, I’d begun to feel the need to urinate. I ignored it for as long as I possibly could, but in the end… well, you know how it is. Due to my anger at being held against my will, I wasn’t exactly going to lose any sleep about peeing right there in the room, and I decided I would have to do exactly that. But as soon as I unzipped my suit, the device let go of me! The infinities receded rapidly, dwindling until the last few of them flitted away from me like terrified birds. Carefully, I removed the headset, breathed a sigh of thanks, and then went to relieve myself in the designated place. I’m not a monster.

I returned to find everything as I’d left it, with the infernal machine sitting there innocently, like some child’s plaything. A thought struck me. This was no toy, it was a work of exquisite engineering. Whoever had built this place was unlikely to have skills enough to make it, so they had probably bought it.

A few minutes exploring the computer finally paid off by yielding a receipt from a company called Psi-spy. Not the most pronounceable name, but it instantly raised a shrewd suspicion, and I visited their store front to find the listing for the device. I had to do a few sneaky things to access the place too, since it was well hidden. Clearly their business was, how can I put this, not 100% legitimate.

It turned out that the odd device was a ‘remote psionic piggyback probe’. I honestly thought psionic devices were the stuff of myth, but it turns out I was wrong. In future, I’ll try to remember that, just because Analemma doesn’t sell something, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Anyway, when I realised what the thing was designed to do, everything made perfect sense – and I was filled with satisfaction at solving the puzzle, blended with horror at what it implied.

My stalker (yes, by now that word definitely applied) had been taking free rides in my mind with this device, and I hadn’t even been aware of it. Perhaps by now you’ve guessed what happened when I put it on: an infinite recursion generated by my own mind giving a ride to my mind, which gave a ride to my mind, which gave a ride to my mind… and so on. In the world of real physics, this process would have had a limit somewhere. But psionics isn’t physics, it’s basically magic. I’d entered a new phase in my life, in which I’d have to accept that things were not as they had previously seemed.

Obviously I needed to destroy the place. I couldn’t have people spying on me like that! Climbing rapidly to altitude in the Minicruiser, I lost no time in obliterating the hideout.

Ha! Don’t tell me you believed that? Of course I wasn’t nearly so stupid. Why would I destroy evidence in such a manner? Evidence that could allow me to find my stalker? I’m disappointed if you underestimated my cunning to that extent. No, I put a plan into action to trap my foe. First, I reprogrammed the remote probe to target chickens on Earth, one at a time, moving on to a new one only when each died. Given the way most chickens die, I thought this just about unpleasant enough. Then I applied a secure lock to my configuration change to prevent the machine being retargeted. I’m hoping that this busybody fan won’t realise I’ve been here, and will just think it’s malfunctioned. In addition, I left a few spying devices of my own around the place, well hidden. I needed to know who was doing this, because (and I’m going to be blunt here) they needed to be dealt with, by any means necessary, ranging from memory erasure to severe forms of death.

After a quick scan to check nobody had returned, I left Mars and headed to the L3 point, my original objective. I’ll be in touch later to tell you what I found there, although I’m not hopeful. I’ve now missed the opposition of Saturn, so my chance to destroy whatever Maria T had left there may have passed.

But at least there’s only one of me again. Infinity, seen up close, is nowhere near as cool as you might think.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

The Tube

I hope you’re able to read this. I don’t even know if this is the right Earth. Come to think of it, I’m not sure this is the right me.

Some really weird stuff has been going on! As Marvin the Paranoid Android once acerbically put it, “I think you’ll find reality is on the blink again.”

It began as I cloaked the Minicruiser and began descending towards the relay station, preparing to give it a brief but decisive dose of Quantum Field Disruptor, which would cause its wave equation to randomise, flinging all its constituent particles into their fields as incoherent energy (yes, it’s my favourite weapon).

As I reached for the trigger, I noticed something odd: the relay station had no antennae. Somehow, the scan hadn’t revealed this. Perhaps it had misinterpreted a rock as an antenna or something like that. Who knows? Anyway, it stayed my hand for a second or two – and during that second or two, I committed an error to which I too often succumb: I got curious.

So of course, after that, I simply had to land and explore the place. There was no other option.

It was pretty hard to find the door by eye: the facility had been well concealed, in such a way that even a future Martian colony might not discover it for centuries. When I finally spotted a triangular outline in the rock and found the catch hidden in a conveniently dust-storm-proof crevice, I entered with some caution.

The interior felt wrong. I immediately realised that the cushioned flooring and oak panels were hardly Maria T’s style. And besides, why would she furnish a simple relay station that way? My curiosity was burning by then, and I began mapping the whole place.

There were rooms made for dining, recreation, sleeping… clearly, someone lived there. Or had. No life signs had registered on the scan, nor signals that might emanate from an AI. I didn’t find any cryostats, so that left only two possibilities: either the occupant or occupants were away for a while, or they had gone for good.

And then, I found the fan room, and even I felt helpless and baffled.

No word of a lie: it was covered in memorabilia, images, screens rolling continuous news stories… the works. It was a homage to one person, and one person only. Whoever lived here had an unhealthy obsession such as I’d never seen. And the object of their adulation, dear reader, was yours truly.

That’s right. I’d stumbled on the living space of an Owota Dszira fan. And at this point, I could ask, “all right, which of you is it? Comment below please, and put me out of my misery!” Except that would be stupid. Nobody who reads this blog has a secret hideout on Mars, unless I’ve seriously underestimated my audience.

I just couldn’t grasp what I was looking at. There were images of me working on my Cockpoppies in my lab (where had they got those?); video of me piloting my Minicruiser; even photos from the Academy. Unbelievable. I felt like the introverted winner of a reality TV show.

At one end of the room was an odd device, of a design I’d not encountered before. It had a headset attached to it, and a simple interface consisting of a green button. The headset was about my size, leading me to suspect that my unwitting host was humanoid.

I’m not sure whether the bizarre surroundings had addled my brain, but I’m sorry to say that I was rather foolish. Yes, that’s right: I decided to put on the headset and press the green button, to see what happened. I regretted it immediately.

It’s very hard to describe what happened next, but the best I can manage is to say that it was like being launched in a railgun with magnetic loops, only the acceleration was insane, the loops got closer and more numerous until a tiny space within my head seemed full of an infinitude of them, and then… BANG! It happened.

Dear reader, I wish I could explain what happened, but I can’t. Something quite mystical, and currently still beyond my powers of analysis. It was like being infinitely connected to my surroundings. Every slightest twitch of my head made me extremely dizzy, as if everything had an odd sort of inertia to it, space and time lagging behind my movements. I tried pressing the green button again, but nothing happened, and I guessed that the only way to stop this thing was to speak a voice command. I also tried to see whether I might be able to remove the headset, but the moment I touched it, an alarm sounded – so I decided that might be a stupid idea. Who knew what the thing was doing to my brain?

And, believe it or not, I’m still sitting here in this room, trying to think of how to escape. I’m sort of getting used to the feeling of infinity, but it’s like looking through a tube of endless universes, and it’s starting to make me feel sick. I managed to use my comm pad and write this account, which I’ve sent off to Mike for publication. I’ll give you an update when – or if – I ever escape this surreal booby trap.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

O Rly?

Last night I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. The Minicruiser was configured for the trip, including a new Quantum Field Disruptor cannon I’d ordered recently from Analemma, just in case; I’d checked all the camouflage devices around my place; the fake composter was still undisturbed, hiding my wormhole power source; and the commsats were all green. I was actually kicking back with a glass or two of a new ‘tipple’, as I believe it’s called: Anarchist Alchemist from Brewdog. It’s a name that resonates with me, for obvious reasons. And just when I was completely at peace, anticipating an easy victory in my mission, an idea exploded in my brain, shattering my mood.

I’d overlooked Mars.

With all my perfect planning and cunning schemes, how could I have missed the most obvious relay station available? Groobashi Pul’xih! I need to up my game. And in case you’re wondering – yes, it turned out that our mutual friend, Professor Thessifus, seemed to have done exactly what I have just implied.

The next hour or so was spent carefully scanning everything I could think of (well, as carefully as I could after those drinks). Not just on Mars but beyond, to the outer gas giants: Uranus is actually in a feasible relay position at the moment. But after all that, it was Mars. It was always Mars. The place is simply too convenient, with its proximity, its thin atmosphere and its weak magnetic field. My deep radar picked up a tiny, partially-underground structure right at the equator, cleverly disguised as part of an escarpment to avoid the gaze of NASA. The reported probability of its being a relay installation was 98%.

So now I’m on my way there. I didn’t really have any choice, and my plans to spend the weekend visiting Iceland have had to be shelved. But my contact there, Alexandra, is happy to wait. It’s all right for her – she has a damned comfy house carved out of solid rock, and plenty not to do. Hot spring jacuzzi, my arse… and I wish I meant that literally. Of course, you’ve probably guessed that she’s not really human. Perhaps I’ll tell you more about her some day.

I’m approaching orbit now so I need to sign off so I can get the ship into stealth mode. I’ll report back when I can.