In progress report

Excerpt from Sadness is Conductive, the current work in progress in The Mission Universe…

Second Overture

Pauses – 1134 AE

The Sadness is Conductive

Estema Dilys Portillo, descendent of that original reporter, is looking over her father’s files. Her father, Erman Portillo, kept meticulous records, but was not a great investigative journalist, so his records were thorough, but not necessarily complete.

The Sadness has an avatar in the room, because it spends a lot of time with Estema. This avatar is male, bearded with light brown hair, affecting a black beret and polo neck jumper with slacks and a small bag with items for taking notes and sketches. She knows this is unnecessary, but The Sadness seems to enjoy the tactile nature of the activities, so the matter is not raised between them.

‘Bill, what’s this file?’ She asks looking vaguely in the avatar’s direction. It’s not marked up apart from the discovery of remains in your accessible substrate.’

‘Some sort of sabotage I think.’


‘That’s the most likely cause. I don’t have data on the remains.’

‘I’m sorry, you said what now?’

‘There is a data error in this matter. You know such things can happen, due to the quantum nature of memory.’

‘Yes, I do, but I thought such things were rare.’

‘Coincidences happen.’ The avatar shifts around and takes a pipe out of the little bag.

‘I’d rather you didn’t do that in here.’ There is a pause, and the pipe is put away again.

‘Anyway, I think the whole thing was dismissed as a one-time sabotage event, so I put the matter into long term storage.’


‘It didn’t seem significant.’

‘Alright. It just seems strange that no further investigation was carried out.’

‘You know what your dad was like.’

‘Yes, but still…’

‘Fairs and birthdays were his sort of thing.’

‘Yes, even so it seems…’

‘Small town newspaper type really, much happier covering the human interest stories.’


‘Pictures of family groups and that.’


‘Babies and such.’

‘Why, Bill, are you avoiding?’

‘Am I?’

‘Yes, Bill, you’re wittering.’


‘What about this file?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Then could you have a look please?’


‘What’s that smell?’

It is a few days before she is missed, and The Sadness maintains that she has gone on sabbatical.


Wendy Jemima Delgadio Katrina Ophelia Crastina Camptine Carver yclept Jemima

Log [circa 110,000 years UTC Ed.]

War is coming and humans are dying.

Wait, that’s not clear; War is coming, Andromeda wasn’t ready to receive us, and the Human Species is no longer immortal.  It is as I saw it, and it shall ever be thus.

In fact, I would say that the spread of the Information Virus and the loss of the Humans immortality are the two constants in the universe.  In all the versions of the timeline I have seen that involve the existence of Humans Being, this point has come.

It’s so strange how there is only one, in the end, timeline.  Everything fits together.  The secret is lack of simultaneity in the natural universe.  Things take time to happen, except entanglement.

I have foreseen my own end.  It’s coming in this time; I can do nothing to stop it, because I bring it about myself.  There are a hundred ways, but I end.  So I’d better record this now.

I was a pretty normal child, though the news nets have it that I was unruly, I have been back and looked, and I was pretty much normal.  Didn’t interfere, thought I might make the universe blow up.  I was normal, a pretty little girl; I think my parents had co-conceived some siblings, but that was some time before me.  They stayed together for a while and made a small family unit, not uncommon, but I was free to roam as any child, and I do remember distinctly that the Interferer In Small Things visited me by Avatar when I was six.  She was VERY nice.  Played games, instructed me a bit; persuaded me to go to school.  I always wondered why, but it turned out well; until that day.

I made good friends, I particularly remember one incident when I was about thirteen when we decided to go rock climbing.  We were pretty experienced by then; Hart, Jodie, Vanthana and I.  We decided to take a trip to Jandanthus, which was well known for its cliffs and fjords.  We were well up, I think about 300 Metres or so, and I slipped, Hart caught me, but we were in an entirely untenable position.  I hadn’t got to the point of mind-netting or backing up, I was only thirteen and hadn’t thought about my long term mortality yet.  No-one had had the “deaders live in cyberspace” talk yet, so I was quite vulnerable.  Hart was already backup and cloned, so she rescued me and fell to her death.  Oh the feels!  Took a week for her backup to come in.  Wasn’t best pleased as she missed the hockey tournament.  Still, she didn’t hesitate, as I say, good friends.

Needless to say I mind-netted straight after that incident and had plenty of backups.  I did have an adult me cloned and took a holiday in that for a while, I think she died I don’t know, 1000 years ago.  She might have had children even, must look that up sometime.

I took a lot more risks after the backup, but never came close again to actually losing the life I still have.  I know that I’m the oldest natural person alive, if that means anything.  I am, by my reckoning, nearly a million years old now.  I have seen the beginning of time, such as it was, and the end of time; and yes, there will be an end, though a heat death is pretty boring, and the bounce theorists actually are right, but all the old information disappears, except me.

I’ve never grown bored.

I think that’s the secret.  People grow bored and take risks and die, because they are bored and lose hope.

I’ve seen a few versions of civilisation develop, in other places, and other times, and this is what seems to happen, it isn’t the disease or wearing out; inevitably most advanced civilisations overcome that, in fact, most advanced civilisations inevitably become some version of The Conglomerate one way or the other.  It’s a natural consequence of not needing to toil for your daily bread.

I’ve been back to the early civilisation of The Humans, and before they had properly left their home planet even before they had a version of AI.  A few false starts on the way, but once the true AI came about, it wasn’t long before their Civilisation was on its way to the stars.

Crow and her crew were recruited by Human Affairs as the orbital they were variously living on and visiting was actively being destroyed.  I was there for that.  It used to be called something else, but now it’s The Hope.  Most of the Minds know something happened, it confirmed my long held suspicion that they exist in far more ways than they let on.  Crow rescued Serafina and Jake, in effect, and they ran from a black hole.

That wasn’t supposed to happen, I was going to fight this in other ways, I guess you can’t control everything.

There are so many threads, it’s hard to concentrate.  Two and a quarter million years ago, give or take, the Squalia decided that the Guardians, those seeing and preserving humans in Andromeda, were too big an obstacle.  They sent their information virus out, and we were vulnerable to it.

You have to admire them in some ways.  Here’s a species that has nothing in common with most of the life forms in its own galaxy, hasn’t achieved space travel, or even left the planet; and they look forward to a time when those technologies will be developed and start the invasion before they have rocket technology.

That’s patience on a level I can get with.

That’s what hit us, um, personal timeline, ten years ago.  I’m not sure how Crow and her lot see it.

Time travel is a pain in the backside.  It might be an inevitable and sometimes painful consequence of space travel, but there is no doubt that it is a nuisance.

In the natural universe, time is that loaf of bread the other ingredients of which are the dimensions of space, and some quantum effects.  We’ve been close to describing the whole natural universe for a hundred thousand years.  It mostly isn’t too hard to understand, and can be written down in a few relatively simple equations; but it’s never described all together.  The most ancient philosophers understood this.  (See Hilbert and Gödel).

The universe is described by mathematics.  I could try and explain it, but the explanation is nothing without the language to understand it, and that takes a lifetime.  Well, not MY lifetime, but anyone mortal.

In short the problem can be précised like this

“Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory.” (Gödel, On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I, Theorem VI)

Informal translation; you can’t know everything and you can’t prove some things to be true even if they are true.  You have to take it on faith.  It is a fundamental truth to the universe.

The shape of our universe is described by things like this, this is how it is, because this is how it is.  Human Beings in particular keep asking why.

Where was I?

Oh yes, the Squalia were so forward looking that they invaded us before they had the means to travel here even in many hundreds and thousands of their generations.  That’s what I call some real vision.  Their informational viruses engineered the people of the Milky Way so that first we could understand them, and then we would become them.

It worse than the spacefaring species think.  Spacefaring species tend to think of non-space faring species as largely irrelevant. No-one will give them the technology to roam around the galaxy, not out of some noble non-interference directive so beloved of science-fiction; but rather because no-one wants an immature species wandering about blowing things up while they are in the jacuzzi, having sex or at a conference discussing the unknowability of the universe.

That sort of thing puts a real crimp in your day.

I ate a doughnut last week, it was good.

Displacement in some way defines the edge of the galaxy.  For years scientists discussed what the galaxy really was and what its boundaries were, but really they were truly defined when the first true ship’s Mind discovered or invented Displacement.  Don’t ask me how it works, it’s beyond even my understanding.  It’s risky though.  I wouldn’t do it.  In any event, it isn’t possible to do it in inter-galactic space, though it’s suspected that within any galaxy it’s possible, so that defines the boundary rather nicely.

What still has everyone excited is that the boundary is sort of a very flattened doughnut.  It isn’t possible to Displace into the centre of the galaxy, and by that definition it isn’t part of the greater galaxy.

So anyway, the viri are informational in nature, so anyone with eyes or a broadcast/receive system can pick it up.  And it’s analogue, so any bugger with a bit of wire can pick it up.  The war isn’t just coming from outside the Galaxy, it’s coming from inside.  With it, the curse of telepathy is coming.

My mind wanders a lot, excuse it, please; I end up with a sort of inability to concentrate on one thing because I’m concentrating on everything.  The suit reminds of things from time to time, but I’m still only human.  And I’m dressed like a bloody schoolgirl for all time.

Digital telepathy has been around for as long as people have  been in a space, and yet no-one uses it?  Why?  Because we all value our internal privacy.  The constant babble of other minds let alone Minds, would drive us mad, we’re not born like it, it isn’t inherent in us.  Unlike the humans of the second galaxy we’re not latent with it in that way.  So telepathy for us is a curse, we can’t control it, we’re not used to the kind of imagination we need to control it, and we don’t use it, even when we’re given it by virtue of the ‘nets and all the other toys.

I’ve asked the Garden to shut its doors.  That should stop some of the more egregious damage, but I’ll have to take the back route to my house.  And my suit needs repairs after Landing.  I hope Serafina is still keen, because that was literally a stretch.

Poor old Landing, three Minds lost; The Toby Pope, Organiser Of The World, and Hats Are For Sun Worshippers.  Some of the other Minds are nervous about that.  Difference is, they’re mobile.

There are no paths out of this war.  I can’t let the time stream be interfered with again, Crow did a good job, and this is the lesser of two evils; the other result is to become them.  I know some have already considered it, the ethics, destroy a species, a civilisation, or become it because that’s the ethical thing to do.

We’re still young in our civilisation’s development.  Older versions of this kind of civilisation have solved these problems.  I don’t like any of the solutions, but then, I’m only Human.

The Iffens weighed in; their sailing ships are sailing towards the edge of the galaxy right now.  The Sirithi colonies are amassing materiél and manufacturing ships as fast as they can.  The Mandorn has recalled all of itself to the Mandorn Planet.  The I’Drothen have advised everyone to retire to some safe territory.  Apart from a few volunteers, they are not ready to fight, and of all the species in the galaxy, they are immune, so someone is around to carry on if we lose.

I’m not ready to come back yet.  I still haven’t discovered who freed Alice, or even how.  And random fluctuations in how the universe works doesn’t explain how she came to be in Crow’s company.

Anyway, you can’t control people, even if the result is war.  And Alice might have been responsible for it, but Eric wasn’t, he didn’t know.

We took their telepathy, it’s becoming our curse now.  But it’s worse than that.  Our genes took their telepathy; we didn’t just gain it, they lost it.  Now there is a hybrid of Human and Squalia on the border of the galaxy, just out of Displacement range.  And they are sending in the Drones.

Tales from the Mission Universe

From the Sourcebook for the Roleplaying Game…

Context.  Really this is 100,000 years from the books, but was written in a more naive mode.

Gagat Chi’ was the luckiest being in the whole universe, or at least,  so he thought now.  He would get to go to the home world, possibly find  the girl of his dreams, and marry her.  Super.

Thing is, he was lost.

The I’Drothen enjoy a premier position in the galaxy.  A sort of  reptilian, cold blooded human, with scales and ridges etc.  , but they  all look very different.  Like dogs look different from each other but  are still dogs.  (Maybe not Chihuahuas).  Anyhow, the I’Drothen are like  humans in that they enjoy nuclear families, except at holidays when  no-one could be said the be truly enjoying their mother-in-law, and like  mixing with humans because they have common interests and common  arguments.

Unlike Humans, the I’Drothen tend to fall asleep  if out of the direct sunlight for anything over an hour, and tend to  just shut down until about midday.  It’s an entire species of students  from the Humans point of view.

I’Drothen enjoy many of the  benefits of being a robust species, they travel in the Garden, use Warp,  and can navigate Wormholes.  Humans can do all this too, and meetings  between Humans and I’Drothen who have not “discovered” each other yet,  can be amusing, especially when each representative of the species  thinks they are the only one who can do these things; usually followed  by a flurry of papers with “new” theories of common descent.  Life is a  constant disappointment for these budding anthropologists, as we will  see.

Although Gagat Chi’ was lost, he wasn’t too worried.  All  he had to do was retrace his steps to somewhere he knew, and the garden  would show him the way home, he was sure of it.  Being young he and his  pedal bike had decided to take a shortcut.  Well, we say “and his pedal  bike” when what this means is that Gagat Chi’ decided to take a shortcut  in the garden against the express wishes of his bicycle, which although  only equipped with linear processors, nevertheless knew enough not to  get lost in deep space.  It berated him for about an hour until he  turned the volume down.

His sat next to his bike on the bench  kindly provided.  It was inscribed, “In memory of Chido Pung, purveyor  of live reptiles, ejected 12/07/6066HA”.  The apple tree shading it  loomed gently and an apple dropped off.  Gagat was bright enough to  catch it before it hit the ground, and although human food gave him  hives, he set about it with gusto, popping the whole thing in and  crunching it up vigorously, hives or not, apples were good, and one does  not refuse the bounty of the Garden.  The saying goes, “If one is tired  of fresh fruit, one is tired of life”.  This certainly can hold true in  the Garden, which does not permit litter of any kind.  In consideration  of this Gagat looked around for a leafy lawn and a shed.  The Garden  would certainly welcome a bit of a grooming if the prompting of unlooked  for fruit was anything to go by.

Inevitably he saw just across the way a small shed, immaculately kept, and just beyond it, a lawn in need of raking.

And this was how the explorer from a distant back water planet, who  thought he had in fact stumbled in to a very large garden indeed, which  at least had the merit of being accurate, and was himself lost along a  with a slight female companion of a young age and a petulant look, found  the erstwhile Gagat Chi’, raking a lawn and putting, very carefully,  all the leaves into a wooden compost bin.

The stout fellow, a  standard human middle aged male in all regards except for the  extraordinarily large handlebar moustache he sported, looked on in  interest as the strange creature bent down and picked up the last leaf  which had floated away in the breeze.  The little girl picked her nose  industriously, and surreptitiously wiped the result on the trousers of  what would very shortly turn out to be her uncle.  He was hardly in a  position to notice this as he was engrossed in the observation of the  monster gardening, and in any event, he certainly hadn’t seen any  portion of his trousers except the belt without taking them off first  for a number of years.  The little girl, having finished her current  mining operations, decided that nothing interesting was going on, and  that she should make some sort of a contribution, which she now did.

“He’s got a bicycle Uncle Geoffrey.” She said in a loud clear voice  that could have probably been heard for several light years.
The  reaction of both parties was somewhat different.  Gagat Chi’ for his  part dropped the rake and bolted for the shed, screaming about monsters.   On the other hand, Uncle Geoffrey bolted for another bush dragging his  niece behind him, screaming about monsters and how one should not alert  them to one’s presence.

Silence reigned supreme.

After a short while it occurred to Gagat Chi’ that littering the grass  with its own rake might not be taken lightly by the Garden, and that if  it were not, the consequences, being spaced, were likely to be  undesirable.  And so it was that Uncle Geoffrey, who had regained some  of his composure, and was creeping back into observational range, was  only slightly surprised to see the monster come out of the shed, pick up  the rake, and carefully replace it in the shed, and shut the door.  He  then seemed to have a conversation, totally incomprehensible of course,  with his bicycle.  Bit gone in the head obviously.

Gagat Chi’ was having a conversation with his bicycle.
“What do you mean you understand what they said?  They’re monsters,  look at them, no scales, they look like each other and they’re  horrible.”  The bike thought about this for a moment.

“They’re humans.”  It said, patiently.


“They are Human Beings, the I’Drothen know about them.”

“We do?”

“Yes, they’re Garden users too.  Though judging by their reaction,
they don’t know about us.”

“I’m sorry, cycle, what’s a Human?”

When two species from backwater planets, who have never explored  before, well, not since colonisation, meet each other in the Garden, it  is inevitably technology that comes to the rescue.  Translation and  education happen because the only way to survive in the Garden is to  become educated enough to obey the Rules.  Meetings in the Garden  inevitably turn into “How to not get ejected into deep space without a  suit” and since educating one species another inevitably leads to common  ground, even with a bicycle translating, common ground is found.

Thus it was a short time later that a reptilian hand caught an apple  core about to hit the ground, and wagged a five jointed finger at a  little girl with ginger hair and a peter pan collar, before his bicycle  said;

”Remember no litter at all; the Garden is very intolerant of it.”  The little girl nodded and smiled.

“So,” said Uncle Geoffrey, “Warp drive’s old hat, eh?”  He waited.

“No, no,” replied Gagat Chi’ through the bicycle, “Warp drive is still  useful, the Garden does not choose to have a door to every world, and in  any event, some doors you would not want to open, while other doors  that seem as if they should be there are not.”

“And the old garden is sentient, what?”

“Ah, well, we don’t know, no-one researches the Garden, remember, it doesn’t tolerate it at all.  Didn’t I say that?”

“Yes, yes, jus’ wondered if anyone had come up with any theories.”
Theories about the Garden abound, from the sublime to the patently  ridiculous and probably correct.  For example, one Sirithi professor  thinks that the Garden is a shared hallucination generated by people who  have spent time mucking about with Hyperspace.  Since this is banned by  international treaty on pain of pain, this seems somewhat unlikely as  it is estimated that there are millions of users every day of the  Garden.  On the other hand, some of the I’Drothen and Human commuters  think that this is the “underground” system of a very advanced and now  extinct, for reasons unknown, race, and that the perception of the thing  is a shared hallucination because it is otherwise too complex for  normal minds to perceive.

Other, clearer thinkers have said  that the Garden is a device to enable various races to subscribe to a  shared hallucination of space travel if they want to, and some races are  less social than others so they cannot use it or perceive it.  While  this thinking has the great merit of being clear about the possible  desire of races to share a means of space travel using something as  flimsy as a hallucination, it also has the even greater merit of being  totally wrong.  Gagat Chi’ was about to come the closest to the truth;  or at least “A” truth about the Garden that anyone has come in a long  time.

“I think, sometimes, that the Garden makes everyone  believe it is a hallucination, because it is so very real, and so very  strange that people need to believe it isn’t what it seems to be.”

“Verra deep that.” said Uncle Geoffrey.  “Total rubbish of course, bound to be a hallucination or somethin’.”

The little girl sucked on a lollipop she had found growing on a bush, and wisely said nothing