Let’s go deeper into the project list. Because, why not?
For Fight or Flight, I need to set aside funds for the next artist, rather than just looking when I happen to have them handy. I think that will help the search, and I’ll be able to focus better on other projects. Maybe.
For Adam’s Name in Chicago (actual title pending), there’s more active writing that needs to be done. Susan’s intro needs to be drastically expanded, as does the battle with the demon. On top of that, it needs a full editing pass for consistency and flow.
For the No Man’s Sky fan fiction, I think I could switch over to it when I need a break from whatever else I’m writing at the time. That way, I don’t feel any pressure, and it can just be another facet of a game that I already enjoy.
For the writing prompt stuff… I have no idea. It’s dang shiny, but I feel better completing stuff than I do starting new stuff. So, I think I will put it on hold until the first two are completed.
Okay, this definitely feels like I’m on the right track.
To continue the effort to get back on the writing horse, I’d like to lay out where I’m at. List out all of the projects that feel like they’ve been scattered to the wind. They’re probably not, but, you know, impostor syndrome. Ok, let’s go!
Fight or Flight
Need an artist for the next chapter
Adam’s Name – Chicago
First round of edits
No Man’s Sky fan fiction
Never picked it back up after the character switch
Writing fiction has been difficult. It’s been difficult for years now. Even writing blog posts can feel like pulling my own teeth. With as deeply as writing is entwined with how I see myself, with how I feel about myself, this whole thing has sucked.
One of the tools I’ve used to kick myself out of a writing funk has been changing the scenery. Pick up, go somewhere else, sit down, and try again. Diners, parks, and coffee shops have been great for this sort of thing. But, you know.
This week, though, that changes. I’ve got my vaccination, I’ve got some vaccinated friends, and have been invited to join them on a road trip across the Midwest. Lots of driving, some motels, and meeting with other vaccinated friends that are strewn across the land. I’m bringing notebooks, pens, and a laptop. Oh, let’s not forget my mask and my vaccination card. (Should I say vaccine again, just for good measure?)
No excuses. I want to push through this. I want to find that zone. I want to find that place where frustration, anxiety, doubt, and stress transmute into worlds, people, and story.
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.
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.
Please, for the love of everything, confirm that you are registered to vote, and haven’t been removed from the rolls. It will take only moments, and may save your vote.
Writing the No Man’s Sky fan fiction feels good. I am definitely exercising muscles that have been dormant for a while. This will get me ready for writing the next draft of the next chapter of Adam’s Name. And by chapter, I mean book. And by book, I mean… book. Dangit.
The school year has started back up, and we opted for fully virtual, rather than a hybrid in-person and virtual setup. Neither their mom nor I felt or thought that it’s safe enough for anything else. The old adage of schools being petri dishes is incredibly apt right now, no matter how much sterilization or separation that they’re able to pull off. I am more than happy to put up with complaining about the kids missing their friends in exchange for being sure they’re not going to be involved in an outbreak.
The Razer laptop’s battery expanded, contracted, and has been replaced. Kudos to the third party battery company for not abandoning their customer after ten months. Free replacement, no ridiculous hoops, and the new one does the thing. If you’re looking to replace a laptop battery, check out ANTIEE.
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?
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.