[Fan Fiction] Iteration SkipfordJ

SkipfordJ NMS

Divergent Korvax designated SkipfordJ was dedicating most of their processor cycles to pondering while they managed incoming and outgoing freighter missions. Their fleet was modest, but provided more than enough profit to please the Gek aboard their capital ship.

Their bases were expanding across three galaxies, and their knowledgebase expanded as quickly as they explored. This generated a satisfaction that might be described as “happiness” by the organic Travellers they had encountered.

SkipfordJ still envied the Korvax that remained connected to the Convergence, and thus were one with the Atlas. They knew, however, that their status as a Traveller, and everything that they’d learned about the Atlas, made that impossible. As SkipfordJ had no memories of being one with their people’s hive mind, they were unable to weigh the benefits of each state of being against each other.

Additionally, their learning continued along routes that would otherwise be forbidden. The “authentic” AtlasPass v3 that they’d received from another Traveller had allowed access to information about the Atlas’ creation, its purpose, and the circumstances that led to its current state.

16 16 16 16

There was currently no way to determine how long it would take inside the multiverse for sixteen minutes to pass for the Atlas. Dedicating processor cycles to the effort would be a waste of resources until more data became available. So, SkipfordJ would do what they had always done. Collect data.

The giant ring structures that hinted at Sentinel malfunction would likely be a worthwhile target for complimentary research. The degradation of the Atlas was likely the cause of both the thinner barriers between universes and the increasingly erratic behavior of the Sentinels.

Oh, how they longed to share historical and experiential data with Nada. Ever since they’d met, SkipfordJ had wondered about the sheer volume of multiversal data that Nada must possess. What had Nada been able to analyze? What conclusions had they come to? How much had been forgotten as their anomalous space station carried them from universe to universe to universe?

SkipfordJ sent completed mission orders to each of the frigate captains, and watched them each engage their warp engines, destined for different locations in this galaxy. It was time to collect, sort, aggregate, and analyze.

[Fan Fiction] Predecessor, The End

New base

It felt good to be active. It felt good to be working toward a goal, and to be making progress. I had to remind myself that the new iteration’s storage was limited, as mine had been before my journey to confront the Atlas. I disconnected several power cables, making sure my multitool was breaking them down into their component elements. Next was the ladder. I swept the beam up and down the ladder as I considered.

Elearu had given the Korvax Traveler an excessive amount of activated indium from their mine, as they had given me shortly after they’d built the facility. It made getting credits, at least in this system, an incredibly easy thing to do. Currency had become a non-issue for those on Akrodne-X, thanks to Elearu’s generosity. After watching the new iteration build a wood base, and then begin to erect pre-fabricated rooms, I knew what I could do to help, both materially and psychologically.

The ladder was gone, and its components were in my exosuit. Scanning the windows was next. What was it like, I wondered, to begin your life a short distance away from a previous version of yourself? How would that impact the new Traveler’s outlook on the Atlas, especially if they were pulled along the same trail of bait, and were given the same impossible choice, that I had? How would my bitterness taint their own experiences?

Wait. The Korvax were directly connected to the Atlas through the Convergence, weren’t they? And yet, many Korvax Travelers frequented Polo and Nada’s Anomaly station, which was hidden from the Atlas. Does that mean that every single one was Divergent, like Nada? Each one, a being designed to be part of a hive mind, and yet living their lives as individuals, alone with themselves? I stood in the windowless, doorless, ladderless prefabricated pod, and boggled. Beginning their lives with no memories or identity? The cruelty was staggering.

I began to scan the walls of the pod. With Elearu staying, and with the wave of newcomers, the new iteration would not be alone, would not be without help. In fact, I suspected that they may experience more companionship than they were ready for. They would have a better beginning here without my interference. I’d decided to disassemble the base that I’d so lovingly crafted, and gift the new iteration with all of those materials. Then, once there was nearly no sign that I had ever been there, I would follow those that came with me, and head out into the stars. My freighter would become my base, and perhaps I would come to terms with the fading simulation all around me.

But probably I’d still be bitter.

[Fan Fiction] Predecessor, pt 4

Korvax Traveler

I found myself staring at the security feed for far longer than was reasonable. While exploring a nearby system, I received a message from my Vy’Keen Weaponsmaster that there was a visitor to the base. This was nothing out of the ordinary; the base was open to everyone. The Colonel insisted that this one was different, and they were forwarding me the live data.

As far as I could recall, I had never met this Korvax before. They were wandering through the base, using my equipment. No, not wandering. They moved through the hallways and ladders with familiarity. They knew exactly where they were going, and precisely what needed. And yet, this was the first time that his base staff had felt the need to alert me.

As I watched, I noticed that the visitor didn’t move like a Korvax. There was a smoothness to their gait that implied an organic body. I’d only seen that in Apollo and Null. And, now that I was thinking about it, in the Korvax Travelers on the Anomaly station. Ever since it had changed, it was always full of all manner of beings from across the multiverse. And they all moved in the same fluid way that singled them out for what they were. So, our new Korvax friend was a Traveler.

Their multi-tool was low-end, and their ship was that little red and white fighter that I’d spent so long using. How long had it been since they’d awakened on a hostile world, with no concrete memories, a broken ship, and an exosuit computer that had just enough information to give them a chance of survival? It couldn’t have been that long, but they hadn’t come here first. They’d had a chance to customize their gear at a station Appearance Modifier. And what they’d chosen made the situation stranger yet.

If I had been a Korvax, rather than, well, me, I would have chosen nearly that exact configuration. Alternating purple and black, smooth armor rather than the leathers I wear now, compact and efficient armor rather than sturdy and obvious. Had the Atlas spawned another iteration of… me? Was it betting that a Korvax would be more compliant? Or was a new iteration another bug, another sign of the simulation falling apart at the seams?

Of course, there was no way to be sure. On top of that, none of this was this new Traveler’s fault. I immediately resolved to do what I could for them, and to ensure they did not suffer the same fate as Artemis and Apollo. They would know they weren’t alone, and that there were Travelers out there that would help them.

I closed the security feed and opened a communication channel to Elearu.

[Fan Fiction] Predecessor, pt 3

No Mans Sky Atlas Interface

I boarded my freighter, loaded in the coordinates that Polo had provided, and told the navigator to engage when ready. The data insertions began in that very first system. At every jump, I was being fed both a portal glyph and the coordinates for the next system, leading ever-closer to the center of the galaxy. Who was sending me that data? Who would be able to? Was it something about being a Traveler that triggered all of this? Was someone watching me and my crew? No, they were bread crumbs, left by the Atlas itself.

I followed them, and they led to another Atlas interface, like the one I’d found when searching for Artemis. Metal that was not metal, lights that held words like the Knowledge Stones, and a smell like rotting faecium and burning silicon strong enough to coat the mouth. As I approached the massive, pulsating red orb, I felt… too many things. What it wanted me to do, in a desperate attempt to keep its experiment going, was unthinkable. Its need, its magnitude, and its pain sent me reeling. I could not contain any of it. I lashed out, told it no, and staggered backwards. It was not angry; it didn’t attack or threaten. It spoke to me, in words, and said it would be waiting for my return.

I found myself on the surface of an uncharted planet. I stumbled back to my ship, only to find it showering sparks and in need of repair. Inside the cockpit, I tried to ignore the burnt-hair smoke and begin repairs, but my mind raced. The pull to the center of the galaxy had been manufactured. Apollo and the strange base Overseer were planted to ready me for this. My memory-less existence as an anomalous Traveler, alone even among others of my kind, was purpose-built as a safety valve in the Atlas’ great machine. Its grand, multiverse-spanning simulation.

When I returned, I told Nada and Polo. Time was finite, and would run out. There was no way of knowing how long we had, but I had cursed us to that end, because the alternative was worse. I would not do what Null had done. They took it as well as they could, and I returned to Akrodne X, doing my best to ignore what had happened.

As far as I can determine, the painful discorporation I experienced when attempting to enter Nada and Polo’s station was just another symptom of the simulation breaking down. The broken freighters, drifting between planets, infested with dangerous… something… is more evidence to throw on the pile.

And yet, Polo’s hope may not be unfounded. I’ve seen an entirely new type of ship, one that seems to be alive. It pulses with a kind of inner light, and is made of an organic material like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve also heard stories of a new kind of exocraft – a mechanized suit for operating with more dexterity in extreme environments. Elearu has even mentioned new Travelers building bases, right here on Akrodne X.

Is this some sort of desperate, creative spasm by the Atlas? Some last-ditch attempt at changing the inevitable course of its experiment? Or has something truly changed for the better?

I guess I’ll find out for myself.

[Fan Fiction] Predecessor, pt 2

No Mans Sky Atlas Rises

Sixteen. Over and over and over. Through finding Artemis, putting up with Apollo, getting my footing with Nada and Polo and their strange space station, it’s always been sixteen. Across the worlds and systems of the Euclid Galaxy, that number has shown up everywhere. Gek and Vy’Keen never remembered speaking about it, though they did, and with voices not their own. The Korvax never spoke of it, but they were closer to the Atlas than anyone but the Sentinels. And I’ve found no evidence that the Sentinels have ever spoken to anyone.

Since my last communication, I’ve made it back onto the anomalous station. Something drove me to keep trying, despite the threat of painful discorporation. It wasn’t the blueprints, and it wasn’t the frantic hustle and bustle of all of the Travelers. Maybe it was Nada’s sad acceptance of the multiverse’s fate. Maybe it was the rich, chocolatey scent of Polo’s continued hope. Ah, I’m skipping ahead.

I couldn’t shake the pull. I hadn’t seen any other Travelers on Akrodne X, except for Elearu, in ages. They could have left for other systems, or perhaps they’d slipped out of our reality, like Artemis had. Who could know? I’d find myself staring out through the glass of my grow domes, at a countryside littered with abandoned bases, slowly being reclaimed by the environment.

I could no longer find the solace in building that I once had, that Elearu still did. I had put so much of myself into creating these sprawling pods, glass-filled corridors, and underground concrete. I had built something beautiful, but it was complete. My compatriots, Gek, Vy’Keen, Korvax, and whatever the Overseer was, could operate just fine without me. They had their own project and own lives, despite Attendant Eil’s implications.

I looked to the stars next. I’d explored several nearby systems, but each was so like the last. There had to be more. There had to be.

There was. I had been told that many Travelers had ventured toward the center of the galaxy, in search of the Atlas itself, but that few returned. Perhaps they’d found renewed purpose, a place to call home, or something more sinister had happened to them. Nada had expressed their misgivings about seeking it out, and I’d put together some of the why. The Atlas was tightly linked to the Korvax hive mine, and Nada had been split from it for a very long time. Most didn’t survive that sundering, let alone thrive. Nada was afraid of being forced to rejoin, and of losing their individuality among the many. And they were right to fear.

The Sentinels were designed to answer directly to the Atlas, and they had wiped out entire universes of living beings. The ancient Gek had been punished by the Atlas, reduced from a mighty empire to trade-obsessed merchants, for their transgressions against the Korvax. It mercilessly hunted any being that rebelled against it or sought to escape it. Fearing the Atlas was wise.

And yet, the visions I’d received from the ruined monuments told me that there was more to it. The appearance of shattered worlds told me that something was wrong. And Null had said the Atlas was in great pain. Were we, the Travelers, not the Atlas’ way of knowing itself? Were we not its curiosity? Its drive to understand? That’s why the Gek fear us. That’s why the Vy’Keen aid us. That’s why the Korvax revere us.

And maybe that’s why I had to know for myself.

[Fan Fiction] Predecessor, pt 1

Three switches was all it took to relinquish control of my faithful ship, the Crystal Song, to the station’s auto-docking system. Once again, I flipped them, the motions burned into my brain from what seemed like years of piloting. The ship and station seemed to spin as they negotiated a common horizon. I focused on slowing my breathing and keeping my muscles relaxed. If it happened again, it was likely to hurt just as bad as the last several times. Unfortunately, the Anomaly, as it was commonly known, was the only place in this universe or any other where I could exchange the salvaged tech I’d dug up for blueprints. And I REALLY wanted those blueprints.

The outside doors opened, and the Crystal Song was through. Incomprehensible machinery moved, switched, and rotated around the ship as I slowly drifted forward, toward the inner doors. Maybe this time would be different. I’d gotten in once since this had started happening, but I didn’t have anything to trade. Of course, now that my hold was full to the brim, as they say, I couldn’t get in. And each attempt was more painful than the last.

The inner doors cracked open, spilling out warm, intense white light. This was it. Moment of truth. The doors slid all the way open, and the Song’s instrument panel faded to the light filling my vision. So close! Just one more second, and I’d be through…

The warm white changed to a cold, harsh blue. Every nerve ending lit up in pain. It felt like being torn apart and being pulled away, like every atom in me screaming away from ever other, but I was still alive enough to feel it. Then all I could hear was my own screaming voice, and my body was rebuilding itself inside my base on Akrodne X. It took only a moment, and then the pain was gone as if it had never been.

I was breathing so hard that my faceplate was fogging up. How many times was that? Five? Six? I haven’t tried it again since. The Anomaly hovers there, hanging in space next to the system’s station, taunting me. But I’m not risking it again. Not for a long while.

Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt #7 – If I looked into your fridge right now, what would I find?

Eve’s Sacrifice

The Steady Matron settled into high, geosynchronous orbit above the Arecibo Satellite Museum., or thereabouts. Earth stopped spinning inside its reinforced magnetic field. It shimmered as it contained the roiling battles between methane clouds and water hurricanes. Captain Morgan fought the urge to spit. Instead, she just scowled at the ruined planet.

“Captain, Grandmother has sent word. Forty minutes until rendezvous, and 10 more for orbit matching and docking.” She smiled, feeling warmth relax the knots in her shoulders. Gloria was so excited. She waved internal coms open.

“Any special needs that we can satisfy for Grandmother’s crew?” She unbuckled, checking over the ship-to-ship docking equipment for damage done by the Trade Commission.

“No, Captain. They run with Earth atmo, but insisted on wearing breathers. I offered to cycle our life support, but Captain Gyeong read me the riot act, and would have none of it.”

Captain Morgan’s eyes narrowed. “Gyeong is captain of the Grandmother? What happened to Captain Sullivan?”

“You didn’t hear? Arrested six planet months ago.”

“Thanks, Gloria.” She waved the channel closed and sighed. This hand-off would be both easier and harder than she’d expected. She wouldn’t have to deal with Gloria and Sullivan glaring daggers at each other over her. But Gyeong? She was perfect for the Grandmother. Just paranoid enough to keep her compatriots safe operating in the midst of the people they were leaving behind, but too paranoid to take the hand-off without lots of double-checking. They’d be docked for a while, but not long enough to arouse suspicion. It’d be tight. She brought up the system’s power distribution system and powered up the lab equipment in the garden. They’d have to stop and recharge on their way out of Earth space, but it’d be worth it to shave seconds off the transfer.

The air shifted in the room, and the scent of sandalwood beat Gloria into the cockpit. She knelt behind the chair, her clothes rustling. Her hands gripped the Captain’s shoulders, and kneaded tense, stressed muscles. She opened her mouth to ask Gloria if she would be prepping for the docking, and chuckled as she realized that was exactly what was happening. “That… is just what I need.”

“I’m sorry that you heard about Sullivan from me.” Gloria pushed into a knot next to the Captain’s shoulder blade, and smiled at the repressed scream. “Although, I’m sure you’re relieved that he and I won’t be at each other’s throats.” Another knot, this time met with a whimper. Gloria’s hands moved up, kneading mercilessly. “Gyeong is no dummy, though. She’ll see us through this.” Next the upper arms, muscles squeezed and released. The Captain noticed that her eyelids had slid shut without her permission. Mutinous bastards. “She’s got a botanist on board, who wants to adopt our greenhouse idea for the Grandmother.”

Her head lolled forward as Gloria’s hands moved to her neck. “In an Earth atmo ship? Won’t the plants clean out the crap that make it what it is?”

“Apparently, that’s the point. They figure that it’ll happen slow enough to condition the crew to non-Earth atmo in prep for a move. When the exodus happens, they want to use it for the colonists.”

“Huh.” Gloria draped her arms around Morgan’s neck, fingers brushing her collarbones. “That’s a fantastic idea.” Gloria’s breath was warm, tickling the back of her neck. “We’re going to have to recharge when we reach the Kuiper Belt. When we’re drifting, you and I are going to have some one-on-one time.”

“Is that an order, Captain?” Gloria had shifted, and her lips tickled Morgan in the most wonderful way.

“I’ll make it one if I have to.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Gloria gently kissed the back of her Captain’s neck, then sighed. “you’d better get to the galley, if you’re going to meet them in the lab.”

Morgan released the pilot’s harness and swung out of the chair. “Right, as always.” They stared at each other, smiling, and then Morgan left. Two hallway segments and a right turn took her to the refrigerator. She reached to the back of the top shelf and pulled the red and green apple out. It’d take a bit to calibrate the lab instruments to verify and decode hidden within the seeds’ DNA. She should have it ready just as Gyeong and her people boarded. Timing would be everything.

Writing Prompt

Writing prompt #6 – What requires your patience today?

A Brave New World

“Of course I will prepare for boarding, officer.” Captain Morgan waved the communications channel closed as she lowered the intensity of the ship’s repulsion field and prepped the primary airlock for cycling. “I have nothing better to do than be boarded at five checkpoints along Sol’s busiest trade route, three of which didn’t exist last month. I AM MORE THAN HAPPY TO COMPLY!” She forced herself to breathe. Shouting used excess oxygen, and oxygen wasn’t cheap. Yet. She waved on the internal ship-wide communications. “Gloria, greet our trade inspector at the primary airlock, please.”

Her voice came back distorted. “Another one? Guns or no guns?”

The captain allowed herself a chuckle. The Trade Commission must be scanning them with something heavy duty to be messing with the internals. “No guns. Especially not where they could be found.”

“Yes, Captain.” Another wave, and the speakers in the cockpit silenced. She breathed deeply again, and counted to ten. They must know she was smuggling something, and that it was wanted by very bad, very powerful people. If they knew what it was, they’d never bother boarding.

She climbed out of her seat and walked under the sun-like lights, trailing her hand along the floor-to-ceiling leaves. She intended to be in the cargo bay, checking their decoy cargo – real cargo worked well and brought in more profit besides – when the Inspector was introduced to her. If she didn’t care about the cargo, red flags would wave. After all, getting this stuff to its destination was her livelihood.

She cranked open the doors to the hold, entered, and quickly cranked them shut behind her. She grinned, and felt real pride. Nearly half of the hold had been converted to a greenhouse, and the growing things were thriving. The ship’s need for oxygen refills was halved, they had a smattering of fruits and vegetables to liven up the meal packs, and the improvement in morale for both herself and for Gloria had been immeasurable. They’d installed the wall-climbers after that, which had again improved their independence.

The crank popped on the outside of the hold’s door, so the Captain grabbed the manifest and began scanning and comparing ID codes. Textiles, rare “earth” metals, ore, more textiles, more textiles, three canisters of pure liquid methane…


The clipped and demeaning tone of the Inspector raised her eyebrow. She turned and approached him, all business. “Inspector.” Jackass. “What brings you aboard the Steady Matron?”

He glared at her. “Contraband. Your ship will be searched through for it. I assume your documents are in order?”

She handed him a transparent plastic card and let irritation sneak into her voice. “They were at the last four checkpoints, I imagine that they still are. You are, of course, welcome to search the ship. I’m just thankful that none of my cargo is perishable.”

“I’m sure.” He dropped the card into a reader, and looked puzzled. “Captain Morgan? Like the rum?”

She rubbed her temples. A world of their own was worth whatever patience these morons required.