CatastrophicFailure

Revelations of the Kraken (Chapter 39: The Walking Dead)

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9 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

He grimaces more at the blackish slime covering his hand, sniffs at it, then wipes it on his stained apron. 

Infected Fish! O great golly! "Bob" is selling infected fish! Lets hope the city doesn't become infected just like the last one.........

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10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

May you not live in interesting times.
 

This whole section has a strong Terry Pratchett feel. 

Good stuff!

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I think 'Bob' and Kuang would fit just fine in Ankh Morpork. Give the Guards another interesting stop on their rounds. Depending on which flying mammal it's the century of. 

 

EDIT: Just a horrible thought! What if it's the Century of the Flying Ratsquirrelfish! Oh the HORRORS!

Edited by Patupi

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On 2/1/2018 at 2:27 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

He moves, and he touches, snaking his way to his destination clutching a dingy yellow Icefort™️ cooler.

Stinky? Is that you?

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10 minutes ago, roboslacker said:

Stinky? Is that you?

A multi-dimensional Stinky... nawwww, don't say he's responsible for all that? Maybe?

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3 hours ago, Patupi said:

I think 'Bob' and Kuang would fit just fine in Ankh Morpork. Give the Guards another interesting stop on their rounds. Depending on which flying mammal it's the century of. 

 

EDIT: Just a horrible thought! What if it's the Century of the Flying Ratsquirrelfish! Oh the HORRORS!

That explains EVERYTHING

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9 hours ago, Patupi said:

EDIT: Just a horrible thought! What if it's the Century of the Flying Ratsquirrelfish! Oh the HORRORS!

That is... terrifying... :0.0:  might have to steal it 

Like Piranha 2 But with fur. 

Also, @Vaporo, I haven’t overlooked your awesome asset there. :D I’ve got the link pulled up at home but haven’t had a chance to play with it yet. Sounds like full pages of Ussari are back on the menu!:wink:

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Sooooo....

As I sit here ignoring the game and waiting for the commercials, I’m reminded that, oddly enough, this is how it all began. It all started here three years ago. Edgas, the Kraken, and eventually this whole oddball universe all grew out of a bad Super Bowl joke, which itself has been lost to the Second Great Forum Derp.

If the Seahawks had won in 2015, no one would be reading this right now. :confused:

#ThisIsDeep :rolleyes:

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I wonder if anyone is going to embrace your legacy and start a story off of the bad football joke that was Tom Brady's miss on the Trickery and Deceit play in the first half. Wow. Actually now that I think about it, I might start something soon..........

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17 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Sooooo....

As I sit here ignoring the game and waiting for the commercials, I’m reminded that, oddly enough, this is how it all began. It all started here three years ago. Edgas, the Kraken, and eventually this whole oddball universe all grew out of a bad Super Bowl joke, which itself has been lost to the Second Great Forum Derp.

If the Seahawks had won in 2015, no one would be reading this right now. :confused:

#ThisIsDeep :rolleyes:

i'm lost now. what?

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11 hours ago, Thedrelle said:

i'm lost now. what?

This is going back to before I started work on Shadows of the Kraken in earnest, when it was just a few random posts in the WDYDIKSPT? thread with a vague theme:

Quote

Edgas, Edmund, & Billy-Bobrim did not sleep well during their rest period. Edgas awoke to Billy-Bobrim drifting about the cabin, muttering loudly in his sleep, "ItlookslikehesgonnathrowitwhyishethrowingitdontthrowitNOOOO!" then waking up screaming in a cloud of sweat, waking Edmund too and scaring the crap out of him. The three lonely Kerbals, so far from home, felt as if a great crowd of dread was floating over them, as if thousands of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. They all feared that in some distant, parallel universe, something terrible has happened.

This is about where it went from a mission report to an actual story, and became the bizarre 3-year odyssey it currently is. 

And surprisingly enough, I was actually able to dig up the old posts in that thread! (A big forum re-orgnization a while back broke all the links). Looks like I'll need to add a "Lost Chapters" addition to Shadows:D (and finish un-derping it... a year after I started... sigh...)

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9 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Edgas, Edmund, & Billy-Bobrim did not sleep well during their rest period. Edgas awoke to Billy-Bobrim drifting about the cabin, muttering loudly in his sleep, "ItlookslikehesgonnathrowitwhyishethrowingitdontthrowitNOOOO!" then waking up screaming in a cloud of sweat, waking Edmund too and scaring the crap out of him. The three lonely Kerbals, so far from home, felt as if a great crowd of dread was floating over them, as if thousands of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. They all feared that in some distant, parallel universe, something terrible has happened.

2

*PTSD of the game comes back, as I remember my rage that you would pass the ball on the one-yard line with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield*

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12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

And surprisingly enough, I was actually able to dig up the old posts in that thread! (A big forum re-orgnization a while back broke all the links). Looks like I'll need to add a "Lost Chapters" addition to Shadows:D (and finish un-derping it... a year after I started... sigh...)

interesting. 

Gonna have to read this as soon as it's underped and linked!

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12 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Looks like I'll need to add a "Lost Chapters" addition to Shadows:D (and finish un-derping it... a year after I started... sigh...)

 

I was actually thinking of doing something like this. In my stories, I normally write up excerpts and then write them in.. Sometimes those excerpts don't make it in, doomed to sit in the spiral forgotten... Maybe it's time to change that 

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On 2/6/2018 at 9:57 AM, DarkOwl57 said:

I was actually thinking of doing something like this. In my stories, I normally write up excerpts and then write them in.. Sometimes those excerpts don't make it in, doomed to sit in the spiral forgotten... Maybe it's time to change that 

You may find them unexpectedly amusing, even to yourself.:D  Or cringe-inducing.:blush: One of the two...

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And I'm all caught up now. Darn. I have to find another thing to read.....

But it's very good. Moar? Soon ish? Or Eventually(patent pending)

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7 hours ago, qzgy said:

And I'm all caught up now. Darn. I have to find another thing to read.....

But it's very good. Moar? Soon ish? Or Eventually(patent pending)

I think you may have just set a new record. :D

Moar is coming... eventually. :P It’s just crossed the 4100-word mark and still going, and is definitely going to need the patience skill of my editor(s). :confused:

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Quote

 “of course, O most piscatory culinarian!” 

Oh my, I burst into laughter reading that one ... 

... by the way - doesn't it smell like RatSquirrelFish here?! 

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I'd like to dedicate this one to @KSK. Not for anything
specific in the text, but he's wrestling with is own Krakens
at the moment, too. ЦDДCҢI, CФMЯДDЄ, and Kermspeed.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them...


Chapter 17: Psychosurgery 



Fwoooooooooooooooshgobblegobblesplitspotwhooooooooshbubbleburblechickachickaparpchuckachuckaoooooooshgerbalkerbalblurbblurpsquishbobbalobbasquee...

She stared. 

Edgas stared. 

The thing across the galley continued its gurgling, bubbling cacophony.

“And now that I’ve cleared my throat,” Burdous said with a final cough, “time to make the coffee.” 

Fwoooooooosh....

She just kept on... staring, “where did you find this guy?”

Edgas did too, “on a beach in Ponpín, apparently...”

...burblebubblusplurtsplort...

Finally Edgas sighed, and swept some baking implements to the far end of the table, frowning at them as he did.

She... frowned at him, “what is it?”

“Nothing,” a quick shake of his head. 

And then the oafish one was upon them, “and here we go,” he set a cup down before her, “triple skinny two-thirds decaf half-chocolate no-whip mocha with the foam poured into the image of a snow-capped mountain, just like you like.” He offered a hopeful smile. 

She scowled at him, and it crumbled. 

He gave his own little sigh and set a cup down before Edgas, “and just like you like, blacker than the Kraken’s own ar—“

Edgas eyed him. 

“—m pit.”

Edgas nodded, and took a sip, “hey... this is pretty good...” he muttered.

“There’s a closely guarded secret to making good coffee,” Burdous smirked, leaning in to whisper, “you add water.”

“I didn’t even know we had an espresso machine,” Edgas took another sip, “I’m the station commander, how do I not know these things?”

“You don’t, I brought one.”

“You did? How?”

“In the suit.”

How?

“It’s bigger on the inside.”

“H—“ Edgas glared at him. 

“My own design, of course. Very compact,” Burdous retrieved his own mug, “based on the original Tercella Kerman model, these newfangled things just don’t produce the same aroma without the catalytically decomposed high-test peroxide.”

Edgas put a hand to his face... then noticed the other mug, “what is... that..?”

“Double ristretto venti half-soy nonfat decaf organic chocolate brownie iced vanilla double-shot gingerbread frappuccino extra hot with foam whipped cream upside down double blended, one Sweet'N Low and one Nutrasweet, over ice.” 


“We... we had all that?”

“No.”

“How did—“

“The suit.”

How—“

“Bigger on the inside.”

Edgas rolled his eyes. 

Burdous sat down, and nodded at her, once more with that hopeful smile, “you haven’t touched your coffee yet.”

She glanced at it. It really... did look like a snow capped mountain. Sort of. Holding his gaze, she reached out with a single finger to the saucer, and slowly slid the cup closer, as if afraid it might bite. Or... avalanche. His face fell again.

“That’s a pretty tall order,” Edgas observed, “you really remembered that all this time?”

“Of course!” Burdous tried another grin, “took her a while to find her thing, but she knows what she likes.”

It... did smell quite enticing. 

“You guys must have been pretty close,” Edgas mused. 

She raised the cup to her lips, took a tentative sip...

“Wait... you two weren’t, like..?”

And immediately launched into a fit of coughing and choking. Despite her convulsions, her eyes bulged with sheer horror. She was distantly afraid she might cough them right out of her skull.

“You... all right?” Edgas asked. 

“I fine,” she croaked, face taught, lips pulled back in a rictus, “swallowed wrong.”

No!” Burdous spat, “we were... are... were... friends...” he looked at her again, “I think she was the first real friend I ever had.”

She finally got her lungs under control, feeling a bit of a heel. She took another sip as a concession. 

“We were all close, back then, sort of,” Burdous leaned back, stirring at his coffee. He gave Edgas a nod, “this was before we met, right around the time of the first Kerbonaut Exchanges with the Ussaris. Her, and me, and Cha—“

He squeezed his eyes shut, seeming to choke on something himself. Then she winced, her eyes drifting toward... Edgas...

“And... us old guys,” Burdous continued, then grinned, “of course, back then we weren’t quite so old. Well, except for Edm—“ 

Once again, he squeezed his eyes shut, slowly shaking his head. And once again, she felt it. From Edgas. As real as if it were her own heart someone was dragging a knife across. 

Yet Edgas... kept his face neutral, “so, um... what were you doing in Ponpín, anyway?”

Whatever it was faded from Burdous’s face as well, “I was attending an art exhibition in Bangkong, since you ask.”

“An art exhibition,” Edgas voice was flat as a board, “in Bangkong.”

“Yeah, an art exhibition in Bangkong!” The two stared at each other for a moment. Burdous grinned that frightful grin, “well, I maybe kinda sorta had a fling with the artist, too.”

“A fling?”

“What, is there an echo in here? Yes, a fling.”

“A fling.”

“A fling.”

Edgas raised an eye... bulge, “you mean the kind of fling where security flings you right back out the door?”

“I—! Wait, how’d you guess?”

Edgas just put a hand to his face. 

“You know,” she mused, mostly to herself, “I have strangest urge to hit him over head with something.”

“He kinda brings that out in people,” Edgas told his hand. 

“Yeah, yeah that’s right!” Burdous said with entirely too much enthusiasm, “you hit me over the head with things! See? You’re remembering, right?” Another pleading grin.

She reached over to the pile of baking implements, and began tapping a wooden rolling pin against her other palm. The grin collapsed. 

“Burdous...” Edgas groaned.

“What can I say? I’m still looking for the right kerbelle,” Burdous leaned in to her, and did that... thing with his eyes again, “but in the meantime I’m having a blast with all the wrong ones. Right? Right?”

Clunk.

“Ow!” he rubbed at his head, then sighed, “aww. That line always used to get a laugh out of you.” Frowning, he glanced aside, “ooh, chicken bread!” and tore out a piece.

Omnomnom-munch-munch-smack-chew...

“Hey...” he said around the mouthful, “this is actually pretty good.”

Clunk.

“Ow.”

Just like old times, all right,” Edgas mumbled, “so... anything interesting happening down south? We’ve been out of communication with the storm and all...”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Burdous grunted, glancing at his phone.

Clunk.

“Ow! Hey!”

“Oh... um...” she looked down at the rolling pin in her hand, “sorry...” she set it aside.

Burdous leaned back, out of range, draping on arm over his chair and chewing on another mouthful, “anyways, nah, not really. Same old, same old. More fighting broke out in Andacania the other day, and—“

“What?” Edgas broke in, “what about the peacekeeping force?”

Burdous grinned, “that’s who was fighting. Apparently they arranged some big football match— ahem,” he screwed his face up, “soc-kur— between the Krünians and Dachlandish, some ref made a call someone didn’t like, and this huge brawl broke out. The locals had to come in and break it up.”

Edgas looked at him flatly, “you’ve got to be kidding.”

“Hey, would I lie?”

Clunk.

“Ow! Ok, I get the point, sheesh.”

She looked down at her hand again, “er, sorry...” and set the rolling pin just a bit further away. 

“So yeah, there was that,” Burdous said around another mouthful, “also, roughnecks on Minmus threatening to strike again, big lawsuit over that ‘Space-Mush’ stuff not actually being food, and... oh, you’ll be interested in this: the KSA cut funding for Project Longshot. Again.”

Again?” Edgas rolled his eyes, “you’ve got to be kidding.”

“You already said that.”

Edgas just glared at him. 

“Big waste of money in the first place if you ask me,” Burdous swallowed and sipped at his coffee. 

Clunk.

“Owww!” he hissed through his teeth, “now what was that for?!”

“I—“ she stared at the rolling pin in her hand, unsure how it had gotten there, “er... sorry, I just... sorry. You take this,” she passed it to Edgas, who just shook his head. 

“Don’t you want to see what’s out there?” he said.

“No!” Burdous cried, giving her a quick glance, then more quietly, “I’ve seen more than my share. And I wouldn’t think you of all people would want to see, either.”

“That’s why I need to,” Edgas countered. 

“Ignorance is bliss in this case, my dude,” he leaned back again, “besides, we already know what’s there. Three superheated gas giants, a couple of big airless rocks, and a debris disk so big the inferometers can image it directly from Eeloo.”

“Still, what if there’s life out there?” Edgas pressed. 

“There isn’t,” Burdous took another big bite, “flarp’s sake, bruh, there’s a moon right here, in our own system, where you can breathe the air— if you don’t mind the pulmonary frostbite— and even that’s absolutely sterile. There’s no life out there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if our, um,” he shot her another glance, “mutual friend had something to do with that.”

CClluunnkk..


"OOww!!"

Her eyes dropped in shock to the rolling pin once more in her hands. 

“What was that for?!”
“What gives?”

“Um... I...” she recovered quickly, “now you are both doing it.”

"DDooiinnggwwhhaatt??"

“That thing, where I understand all the words coming out of your mouths but have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Project Longshot,” Edgas said, wincing at the sore spot on his head, “it’s... was... a proposal to send a lightweight space probe to the nearest star—“

“Using the latest revision of my engine,” Burdous cut in.

“... to survey it and search for any sign of simple extraterrestrial life,” Edgas finished with a roll of his eyes. 

She looked at him in confusion, “should I be impressed?”

“Not really,” Burdous smirked, “wouldn’t have worked anyway. Even if— and that’s a big if, and I’m the engine guy— they could get it up to ten percent of the speed of light, it would still take over a hundred years to reach the nearest star. And you don’t even wanna hear about the next nearest star,” then he leaned in close to Edgas, “er... how much have you filled her in on, anyway?”

She looked at him.

He looked at her. 

Clunk.

“Ow!”

“Maybe I’d just better take that,” Edgas said with an unsteady grin, then threw the rolling pin across the room. 

“Sorry.”

“So then she doesn’t know?” Burdous gave his temple another rub.

Edgas just shook his head, but... something seemed to pass between them once again.

“Know what?” she eyed them both.

“Um...” Burdous suddenly puffed out his chest, “that I was the first Kerbal to walk on every planet and moon in the solar system!” He finished with the eye thing.

She looked to Edgas, “should I be impressed?”

He shrugged, holding his hand up and waggling it back and forth. 

Back to Burdous, “I am impressed,” she said, sounding thoroughly unimpressed. 

Burdous... put a hand to his chin, tapping one finger against it, “how much do you remember?”

“I...” she felt around for the rolling pin, and oddly enough, didn’t find it. 

“Hmm,” Burdous leaned in, reaching for her hand, which she quickly snatched back. He gave a little sigh, “ok... Val? Look at me here, seriously, not trying to be a jerk, ‘kay?”

She glared at him.

He pressed on, with that hopeful grin, “do you know what a planet is?”

“Of course, you oaf!”

He nodded, “and do you know what a star is?”

“Yes!”

“Hmm, ok. Now an easy one, what year is it?”

“It is—!” the thought seemed to evaporate before it reached her lips. For a moment, just a moment, she could swear... She just stared at him.

Burdous looked over, “wait, have you done any mnemonic testing with her?”

“Well, er,” Edgas scratched at the back of his head, “we really didn’t want to stress, or... or... upset her...”

Burdous frowned at him, then returned to her with a grin, “do you remember growing up? Flight school? Kerbonaut training?”

She shook her head.

“Hmm, ok. What’s Kermanovsky’s ideal rocket equation?”

∆v = ve ln(m0/m1),” she said, then felt her own eyes grow wide. 

“Ah hah,” Burdous hummed quietly, “now, do you remember your first time at the KSC?”

No.

“Your hero’s recognition before the Empress?”

No.

“That... bar in Kermangrad where I really shouldn’t have said that to a logger three times my size?”

She raised an eye... bulge at him. 

“Ok, um, good... Now finish this sentence: ‘force is...’”

“...the product of mass and acceleration,” she answered without hesitation, and again her eyes grew wide.

Burdous rubbed at his chin, then produced a scrap of paper and a pencil. He scrawled something on it before passing them to her, “here, solve for x.”

“What’s... that?” Edgas peered over. 

She just blinked at the paper for a moment... the took the pencil and scribbled on it, the motions seeing to flow to her hands without passing through her mind. 

“A standard engineering equation anyone with a master’s should know by rote...” he glanced at the sheet, “and yep, she’s got it.”

“What’re you getting at, here?” Edgas raised his own eye... bulge. 

“You can obviously speak proper Kerblish,” Burdous continued, as if ignoring him, “ЬЦT CДЙ ҰФЦ SPӔK ЦSSДЯI?”

She rolled her eyes, ““ҰЄS, I CДЙ SPӔK ЦSSДЯI.”

Burdous gave Edgas a smirk, ”ДЙD ШҢДT ДЬФЦT ҰФЦ , CДЙ ҰФЦ SPӔK ЦSSДЯI?”

“ҰЄS, I CДЙ SPӔK ЦSSДЯI!” he grunted back. 

Then back to her, “ШҢДT DФ ҰФЦ TҢIЙK, DФЄS IT SФЦЙD LIKЄ ҢЄ ҢДS MДЯЫ̆ЄS IЙ ҢIS MФЦTҢ?”

Despite herself, she couldn’t help but giggle at that, “I ШДS TҢIЙKIЙG ЯФCKS.”

Burdous gave Edgas one of his long, considering, chin-tapping looks, ”ҰЄS, ЯФCKS... TҢЄҰ ШФЦLD ЬЄ MФЯЄ ДЙGЦLДЯ ДЙD, ШЄLL, ЬIGGЄЯ...”

Edgas looked at him flatly, “very funny.”

“ҰФЦ KЙФШ, CФMЯДDЄ,” Burdous rested his head in one hand, grabbed a can from the pile and began rolling it back and forth with the other, a smirk on his face, “TҢIS CДЙ IS IЙ ЦSSДЯI. TҢДT MӔЙS ҰФЦ’VЄ ЬЄЄЙ ГЯДDIЙG ШIГҢ TҢЄ FЯФЙTѤЯ ФЦTPФSTS. ЦЙLЄSS SФMЄФЙЄ ЄLSЄ DID TҢЄ TДLKIЙG, TҢЄҰ MЦST ЯӔLLҰ ҢДVЄ GФЦGЄD ҰФЦ ФЙ TҢIS CДЙ ФF—” he looked at it, one eye... bulge going up, “ЦDДCҢI™️-ЬЯДЙD PICKLЄD CҢICKЄЙ GIZZДЯDS?!” He made a little gagging noise. 

For a moment, Edgas’s didn’t change. Then he turned to her, “could I... borrow that for just a sec, please?”

Clunk!

“Ow!” Burdous grabbed the rolling pin out of his hand, “Kerm! Flarping! Dangit! He stalked across the galley, opened the freezer door, threw it in then slammed the door shut just as fast as he could, before jamming the locking pin through the latch. He thought about it a moment, grabbed another can lying around and beat on the end of the pin until it was so bent it couldn’t be removed, thought about it a moment more, and dragged a shelf in front of the door just to be safe. 

She had both hands pressed to her mouth, trying very hard not to make all sorts of undignified noises. 

“Now then, where was I?” Burdous sat back down, rubbing his head. 

“I think you were about to make a point,” said Edgas. 

“Oh, yeah,” Burdous gave a little cough, and turned to her, “There’s information still there,” he pointed at her head, “but you don’t seem able to access it, like...” he leaned back, “a drive with a high-level format. A blank slate.” He coughed again.

“So... her memories might be intact?” Edgas prodded.

“Hard to say. I’m no neurologist, just putting one and one and one together and dividing by the cosine,” he coughed again... and then again... then put a fist to his mouth and coughed out a great mass of feathers that hung in the air. 

He blinked at them, “whoah... bruh, your cook has got to— hack! Gag!” Then Burdous opened his mouth wide and reached his hand inside— being a Kerbal, this was surprisingly easy— and pulled out a small bone, “ugh, this bread is good but your guy has got to clean the chicken better!” 

Edgas just put a hand to his face, “or you could just try chewing ok, let’s back up a minute. You said you know what happened to her? How she got here?”

Burdous’s amused smirk slid away like a collapsing cliff face. He leaned back, rubbing at his eyes and letting out a long breath. He somehow seemed much older. 

“I might,” he said at length, turning to her, “I... I should have known, I should have done something, I...”

“Why don’t you start from the beginning, eh bud?” Edgas reached over and gave him a light clap on the shoulder. 

He nodded, “this was... a long time ago, back before we met, about a year before...” once more, she sensed something unspoken pass between the two kerbs, “...you know... anyways, the ship was originally the brainchild of Layland Kerman himself...”

“The philanthropist?”

“Right, and head of the Company until the Board of Directors used that crashed satellite to seize control from him. He envisioned dozens, even hundreds of them going back and forth building a colony on Laythe. I was.... brought in to it pretty early on, I was willing to do anything to get my engine built, just had to be a good team player,” he spat, “but as good as my engine was, even back then, there’s still a limit to how much mass it can throw, y’know? Layland wanted to move hundreds, thousands of colonists at a time. All the life support, supplies, living space... it would just be impossible. Not even he’s immune to the rocket equation. But eventually, he hit upon a possible solution: cryogenic stasis.”

“Wait, what? Freezing people?” Edgas scoffed, “that’s... impossible... Right?”

Burdous gave him a little wink, “no life support, no supplies, no living space. Instead of a living city you just send a container full of meat popsicles. He dumped a huge amount of resources into the program. I wasn’t in on it, it was super hush-hush, but I did have authorization to read the internal papers. Fascinating stuff, but they ran up against a hard problem pretty fast. 

“Maintaining near-absolute zero temps was pretty easy, but the freezing and thawing process... it was incredibly complex. That is, if you wanted someone alive on the other side. We’re talking hundreds of metrics that all had to be monitored and adjusted in real-time with zero errors, beyond what any person or even a trained team could do. But a computer couldn’t do it either, it’s not as simple as ‘if x then y’ or even ‘if (SwapFileBase.ToLower() == Dir.Substring(RunDir.Length, SwapFileBase.Length).ToLower() && ".txt"==Dir.Substring(Dir.Length-4))’ there’s just too much...” he hunted for a word, “...nuance. What they needed was an intelligence. An artificial.... intelligence....”

Burdous stretched, rubbing at his throat, “and that was its own kerfuffle. They found you can’t just slap together a bunch of circuits and algorithms and turn on a brand new mind like throwing a switch. The early experiments...” he shuddered, “and I probably didn’t get the half of it. They went up like an overpowered light bulb, one brief, brilliant flash of awareness, and then... pop.”

“Um... pop?” Edgas asked, looking decidedly green...er.

“Pop. Cracked. Shattered. A person, we might say they went mad. Those first intellects all lost their minds. But the program kept forging ahead, making slow but measurable progress... until the Board took over. 

“They weren’t interested in colonies or world building, all they wanted was more money. They changed everything, shifted the entire project from colonizing Laythe to a Grand Tour of all the planets, in concert with the Ussaris. Claiming the juiciest bits of the solar system for themselves, of course. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if the board and the Imperium had the whole thing divvied up before hand. They certainly weren’t interested in the cryogenics program, not with all the problems... but it was still a sunk cost at that point. 

“They decided to put together the bits that were working into a prototype lifeboat for the Grand Tour ship. The idea was, if there was a problem, the crew could abandon ship and freeze themselves until a rescue could be mounted,” he gave a grunt, and a cough, “the prototype was to be sent up to the ship while it was still under construction, for a few months of testing, to see if it would could work at all. I was due to head up there myself around the same time, to oversee the work on my engine.

“I was delayed a few days ‘cause of the—“ he didn’t quite look at her, “—funeral.

“But when I got up there, my brother Jerdous was furious! I’d never seen him so mad before. Of course, I—“ another quick glance, “I didn’t know he was running the whole show.” He leaned in once more, fixing Edgas with a hard stare, “my brother said the lifeboat AI went crazy, and tried to torch the whole ship. He had to blow out the docking ring to get rid of it, nearly killed him. And the lifeboat went shooting off into space, never to be heard from again.”

He shifted, fixing her with that same hard stare, “history records that you died, on a failed Ussari moonshot, just before this all went down,” he slumped down into his chair, grinding the heels of his palms into his eyes and muttering, “I should have known.”

“So... she was on this lifeboat? At the Jool ship? That’s...”

“Improbable,” Burdous said, staring up at the ceiling, “that wreck you have in your hangar is the entry capsule from the lifeboat, I’m sure of it. If you pulled her out of that...” and added a great sigh, “once you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Edgas’s eyes tried to look in two different directions at once, “how? Why? I don’t...”

“I don’t either,” Burdous got up, went to the counter, and returned with the smashed metal box with the two broken lights from the junk pile, “but this does. Whatever it is, it's gonna be in this memory core.”

“Yeah," Edgas nodded, “that was my initial thought too, but my computer guy couldn’t get anything off it, the damage is too bad.”

“I’m not surprised, all due respect to him but this is above his pay grade. Technically, it’s way above mine. And it’s likely a good thing for your station he didn’t.”

“I don’t follow you.”

“This is the Company, remember? Real Deep Black stuff. I’d bet my right arm there’s one nasty AHAB routine in here,” he patted the box.

“Wait, the big fish guy?”

“Named for the same. AKA the ‘taking you with me’ defense. Try to access it wrong, and it’ll fry the system, the user, and whatever else it happens to be connected to.”

Edgas swallowed hard, “ok, so... what about the crash damage? The memory core is all burned up.”

And then... Burdous’s face split into a wide, knowing grin, that only lasted for a moment. He flipped the box over, unscrewing a blacked, hemispherical shell from the back. He undid some sort of catch, and then another, before placing the half-sphere flat side down on the table. He lifted, revealing a grayish mass of something that looked like thick rope, which slumped slightly as it was exposed.  

She peered at it, feeling a small lump rise in her gut. It looked far too much like a, well, brain. 

Burdous picked up a short length, blackened on both ends, “this isn’t crash damage.”

“There was a fire, it’s burnt...” Edgas pointed. 

“The system architects based the AI units on the standard issue MechIVAN flight computer, this is one reason,” he scratched at the charred shell with a fingernail, dislodging little chunks easily, “this is ablator, which coked and swelled, insulating the memory core and CPU. The canister is designed to survive an uncontrolled entry and impact, exposure to fire, water, vacuum... like the black box of a point-to-point rocket.” He fan a finger over the flaky black end of the rope-looking bit, “this came from inside.

She caught... just a slight roll from Edgas’s eyes, as if he knew he was being dragged along, “some kind of power surge?” he said. 

Burdous shook his head, “triple-redundant regulators in the power supply, and besides, this is too precise for a random surge. The only thing that could have caused a failure like this in this kinda system is an internal catastrophic over-volt. And judging by how flaky the charring is, it happened a long time ago, too.”

Edgas stopped his eyes in mid-roll, leaning in himself, “you’ve got a hunch.”

“Just conjecture,” Burdous looked from him... to her... and back again, “but this was deliberate. I think somehow, the AI encountered a situation it just couldn’t handle. Grossly out-of-range sensor readings, conflicting instructions... or maybe just the magnitude that it was about to spend eternity floating in deep space, alone. It couldn’t process the input, so as a defense mechanism, it altered its own perception by excising the bad data.”

He held both their eyes, “it lobotomized itself.”

Edgas leaned back, “whoah. You’re... sure?”

“It’s a theory, I won’t know ‘til I get into the memory core.”

“So... you can fix it, then?”

“No,” Burdous answered without hesitation, and Edgas’s shoulders slumped. Then he patted the box, “but it can.”

“Ok, now I’m lost.”

With one finger, Burdous stirred at the disquieting-looking mass of thick grey cords, “these are helical-coiled thin-film functional oxide memristor strands, called rope memory. Yeah, like the early pre-transistor stuff. This is your raw data storage, operating instructions, application subroutines, et cetera. This is the ‘brain,’” he tapped on the box, “in here is the CPU, an artificial neural network of carbon nanotube spintronics. Yeah, carbon based, like life. Encoded in here are the critical subroutines that process and make sense of all the data you’ve got in here. This, is the mind.

“Now, some of this stuff is unrecoverable,” he picked up a bit, singed on both ends, and tossed it back over his shoulder, “this... whatever this was... this one too... that’s all lost. The only equipment in the world that could possibly read those was in a single room in a highrise Kokyo which I’m pretty sure has been demolished. But these other bits are intact.”

Once again, his eyes did that furtive dance between her and Edgas, “Ed, do you... still have that thumb drive? The original?

“Thumb drive?”

“The one that blew up my laptop...”

“Um... oh! Actually, I think I just might.”

“I’ll need it. I can decompile the neutralized AHAB routine that did that and use its code as a basis to dissect whatever’s protecting this. Once I get past that, I can access the CPU directly.”

And now he turned, and his eyes bored into hers for a long time, “if I can give the CPU just the right... jolt... it can reroute around the bad synapses and access the memory core again,” he tapped at his own head, “the mind can heal the brain.”

Edgas opened his mouth to speak, but what came out was a sharp yelp as his hand went to his temple. A moment later, she yelped too. 

“Whoah,” Burdous’s eyes went up, “What was that all about?”

“Don’t mind me, just a random stabbing pain behind my eyes,” Edgas said, eying his empty coffee mug, “probably too little caffeine. But... you too..?” he raised an eye... bulge at her. 

“Yes,” she said, crossing her arms, “you kicked me under table.”

“Oh. Er, sorry...” his cheeks grew red. 

She frowned at him. He had kicked her, that much was true, but an instant before that...

Edgas rose, still rubbing at his head, “let me show you to the lab, just let me know what else you need.”

The three of them left the kitchen, heading down a long corridor. She kept her distance from both, for the moment. This newcomer... he seemed sincere enough, but there was just something about him she didn’t like. He glanced back with another of those hopeful smiles, which once more dropped away at her scowl. 

Burdous sighed, “I shouldn’t need much, a basic connection to the CPU is pretty straightforward. Just an airgap computer on battery power. Oh, and maybe some welding kit. Breaking through the firewall and getting past the AHAB might be a couple days’ work.”

Edgas nodded, “if that’s what it takes, then. We’re... really not much on guest accommodations, here. I’ll see if you can bunk with someone.”

“Hmmpf. It better not be anyone weird," then Burdous handed the metal box to him, and spun around with yet another hopeful look. 

“Hey, remember this one?” he dumped the rope memory into one hand, screwing his face up and staring with glazed eyes, “braaaaaaains. Braaa-aaaa-aaa—hack! Hack! Gurgle-gurgle gasp—” he doubled over in a fit of raspy, wet coughs. “Ew,” he muttered, as if swallowing something unpleasant. And yet, that hopeful look returned. 

Clunk.

“Ow! Oh, come on!”

She quickly dropped the rolling pin. 

Edgas rolled his eyes, “you sound like you’re coming down with a cold or something.”

For an instant, Burdous’s eyes went wide. Then he calmly replaced the... brains, in the shell, and put that in Edgas’s other hand. He reached up, straightening the other kerb’s collar.

Then seized it and screamed in Edgas’s face, “oh for flarp’s flarping sake, of course I’m coming down with a cold! I just went from the tropics to the coldest place on Kerbin! Eighty below?! Those South Polers got nothin’ on you! Gah! You’ve all been marinading in each other’s germs for so long you’re immune to each other! I’ll be lucky if a cold is all I get up here!”

He pulled Edgas in close... and licked his cheek.

Mmmmmlllllem There! Enjoy your fresh Bangkong germs! And furthermore, I—“ 

A rather insistent, rumbling gurgle interrupted his tirade. 

“Oh crap.”

Burdous looked down, and something rumbled again. His complexion shot through pale and back to very, very green. Er.

“Oh crap. I knew I shouldn’t have touched that chicken bread!” he looked around in panic, the gurgles growing in volume, “I need a bathroom, quick!” he tore off down the hall to the door, flew through it, and slammed it hard behind him.

She and Edgas could only stare in wide-eyed, and for Edgas, slightly damp, horror at the foul ripping noises that passed the thin door. They seemed to go on and on without end. 

Finally she spoke, “but... I thought... that one is closet...”

Edgas looked longingly at his very full hands, and in the end only sighed. 

“Not anymore, it’s not.”

 

 

 

Special thanks to @Ten Key for his editorial advice, and @Vaporo for bringing back Kerillic. :D
Hey, I posted this one with no post-post editing! 

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13 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Finally she spoke, “but... I thought... that one is closet...”

Edgas looked longingly at his very full hands, and in the end only sighed. 

“Not anymore, it’s not.”

Dear God, I hope this place is MODULAR!

 Detach, Isolate, and burn, NOW

GO GO GO!

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And now the reach of the tainted RatSquirrelFish reaches our Heroes.... Please let Burdous not have it... it's just a coincidence... right? RIGHT?!?

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On 2/22/2018 at 9:53 AM, Thedrelle said:

Dear God, I hope this place is MODULAR!

 Detach, Isolate, and burn, NOW

GO GO GO!

Ah, the gastrointestinal wonders of coffee, undercooked chicken, and a touch of peroxide. :D

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Spoiler

 

Another flarpin' spoiler in my post. I finally remembered to check back, and wow. Great work dude.

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