(3) Impossible Feedback
The Regency Campaign (201-1123 to 204-1123)
This file has yet to be fully
This file has yet to be fully
Mich Saginaw has determined that there is nothing in
common between the tech of this Ancient Site and Black Tech. It's
barely using the same physical laws. The doors are a complete
unknown -- he doesn't even know how he would do that in practical terms
with black tech.
The physical locations of the rooms in the Ancient
Site, however, that he does have. He does want to do an active
scan of at least one of those to see what he can find. Witchhunter
has done scans, of course, but with their technology they can't pick up
Room Zero at all.
Robert Morris has continued working on the bouncing
sphere patterns, and despite his best efforts he can't get the computer
to resolve it. He's completely convinced that there is a pattern
-- he can almost see it -- but no matter what he does, he can't find it.
Robert has also been looking through Witchhunter's
computers. The encryption is standard civilian Imperial, although
absolutely state of the art for that. There's nothing much of
interest until he finds his way to a specially encrypted area. He
hacks into that too, and retrieves a large amount of data on
psionics. It also contains Marquis Marcus Crestworthy's personal
notes, including the psionic capabilities of his crew -- to varying
extents, they are all psionic. He passes this on to Shark to add
to his psionic data.
In a burst of generosity to the talking monkey,
Robert re-encrypts that area using much more secure methods. He
sets it up so that it automatically and only be unlocked when Marquis
Marc himself tries to access it through a terminal on his ship.
Marquis Marc has been invited to Nightshade from his expedition base
on Witchhunter to look at the
various "movies" that Edward "Shark" Teeth wanted to show him.
As for Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, her
intention is to discuss matters of her football data. It's
Shark's data, but her problem, so they are both going to have to be
involved in the discussion. She asks Shark to present the
football data to Marquis, and asks him what this means. It does
of course include the events in Adabicci inside the black hole,
including the 95% attentuated response, and other "normal" data both in
and out of fish oil trances.
Marquis Marc says it will take him some time to
analyze it. He'll take it back to Witchhunter and work on
it there. He asks if Kalida has any specific questions, but she
says she'd rather he look at it and come to his own conclusion first
before she tells him what he might see.
They spend the evening eating, drinking,
reminiscing, and eventually Marquis Marc makes his way back to his own
After breakfast the next day, an away team is
assembled to make an expedition to the Statue Room. Mich takes a
one-way black tech communcation device
Staying behind are at least Robert and Teri;
Sir Misha, Mich, Kalida, and possibly Shark will be going on the
Meanwhile, Robert is sure that he almost has the
pattern within his grasp. With a little more work, he is certain
that he can write the pattern as a single scryptese glyph, but it just
isn't quite there yet. Perhaps he can puzzle out the last details
before the away team comes back.
Over on the Witchhunter, Wulf and Pat have
been preparing their end of the expedition. They have a grav
platform -- immediately dubbed The Mule by Nightshade's crew --
loaded with a week of supplies in case the site delays them, and
hi-tech survival gear such as efficient water condensers. Of
course the Mule has to be narrow enough to get through the doors, but
even so it can still carry a lot of gear.
They enter Room Zero in mid-morning 11:00.
Shark's rod is still propped up against the door on the left.
Kalida asks Wulf and Pat how long that door remains
shut. They reply that it varies -- it could be as long as three
or four days, so this is not unusual.
Of course, as Wulf points out, they don't call
anything "unusual" here. Once they have more data they can
establish what is "normal," but until then it's just speculation.
He does add that they have never seen the other two doors in Room Zero
shut, the ones straight ahead and to the right.
Straight ahead is where they are headed now.
They are to continue straight, heading neither right nor left, and that
will take them to the Statue Room if it's accessible this time.
Of course, "straight" is an apparent term in here. Pat adds that
they don't think they have to worry about doors changing where they
lead while the group goes through. They have always been
consistent about that, and they're calling that "normal."
Mich suggests throwing a flashlight through the
portal where they lost the pig, and perhaps water and food for Dyuuk if
he's still alive. They can then figure out where the special
portal leads in a physical sense anyway.
The first room is the Donut Room. This is a
tunnel with a circular cross-section just like the Long Room, except
this one curves upwards ahead of them. Wulf says that this room
goes on for a while, and that they're on the right path. Finding
this one here skips several rooms and takes them a fair way in.
The upward curve is at about a 30m radius. The
entry door is in a flat wall, just like the Long Room, and at the base
of the curve.
The team is a little apprehensive about climbing
this curve, but they soon find out that the gravity curves too, so that
each person appears to be at the base of the curve. Pat says that
they considered calling it the Hamster Wheel, but Donut Room was the
name they decided on.
This does mean they're always walking slightly
uphill, and of course it's not easy walking because the floor is curved
in cross section too. It's kind of like walking in a ring of an
old-fashioned small rotating space station. Walking back the way
they came would also be uphill.
The room goes on for about five kilometers.
Obviously that's well beyond where they would have encountered the
other side of the door, but they don't reach it where they would have
expected. This is one of the rooms that was an early clue that
physical and apparent space didn't correspond -- precise measurements
show that the ring does not deviate from a plane, and that they seem to
be walking around and around in a single ring the whole time.
Robert reports that they are physically about 30 km
away, and walking in a straight line on a flat level.
Most of them manage to stay on their feet, but
Kalida stumbles and falls down. Mich trips at one point too, but
elegantly keeps his feet under him and stay upright.
After a couple of hours of walking, they approach a
door like the one they entered by, in a flat wall ahead of them.
Robert confirms that they have walked five kilometers in a straight
line, but all the sensors the team have with them show the room is
exactly circular. Football sensors show nothing, and Mich is
wearing his psi helmet, so it is unlikely to be something messing with
their brains directly.
Through the next door is The Crossroads. This
cross-shaped room is semi-circular in cross section with a 5 meter
radius, the door at the level of the flat floor. Ahead of them
the tunnel goes about 20 meters and ends with another door, while
halfway along a similar tunnel intersects this one, leading to doors to
the left and right. They will be going straight.
Wulf explains that this is not the only room like
this, just the first crossroads of this type they found.
Kalida asks if they are all identical.
Wulf says that they are, but they feel
different. They don't know for sure if they are the same room,
because they never thought to mark them.
Robert reports that they are about 500 meters
directly below Room Zero.
Kalida tries to write on the wall with a pen, but it
doesn't leave a mark. The surface is grey and fairly smooth, and
it doesn't seem scratchable.
Mich hands Kalida some chocolate pudding, and she
uses that to make a smear on the floor. She glares at him when he
suggests lipstick or eye shadow.
Sir Misha matter of factly observes that leaving
fingers on the floor pointing the way is a good solution to this kind
With the room marked, they move on to the door at
the end ahead of them. Wulf says that they have about a 90%
chance of the Crystal Room, and a 10% chance of the Black Room.
This is the Crystal Room. The room itself is a
40 meter sphere. The entire surface of the sphere is made of
hexagonal prism crystals. They're not quite a prism, because they
taper very slightly so that they would meet at a point in the center of
the room. The crystals vary in length up to 10 meters from the
base depth, although most of them are just two or three meters
long. Each is a single color, although each is a different color
from its neighbors.
This room is phsycially about 1500 meters
underground, and about 200 km south of the landing site.
The team is standing on a totally invisible bridge,
with a door directly opposite. The outline of the door is cut out
through any crystals that would intersect it. Wulf says they have
tried to take samples of the crystals, but they don't have anything
capable of even marking them. They have not had any success
determining the composition of the crystals. It seems to resemble
quartz in terms of its crystal structure, but it isn't quartz.
Kalida reaches out and touches a crystal with her
hand. It feels slightly warm, and slightly sticky as she pulls
her hand away. She tries another, and it feels the same. It
does leave her hand feeling a little sticky afterwards, but it just
feels that way -- it isn't really stick, and the feeling fades quite
Mich reaches out and touches one himself. He
observes that it doesn't feel electrostatically sticky, just plain
sticky. Under magnification it looks perfectly smooth -- at every
magnification Mich has available, it looks smooth.
The pathway here is about 3 meters wide, Wulf says,
the usual width. They have found none where the walkway stops
anywhere across. They used to feel their way with a stick, but
they don't bother now. The walkways are completely reliable, they
The team sets out across the room.
Sir Misha happens to pass through the exact center
of the room, and as he does so he feels for a moment like his body is
charged with some kind of energy. He steps back and walks back to
the center again. It's nothing he's felt before, but he just
feels charged up with something.
Sir Misha says, "There's something here.
Something energizing." The feeling starts to fade after a little
while, but he can still feel it.
Kalida grabs the PRIS binoculars and looks at Sir
Misha. He doesn't look unusual at all. Mich looks too, and
is sure there is nothing there to see. They watch their captain
as he walks through yet again, and they still don't see anything.
The footballs are silent.
Sir Misha definitely feels like he's charging up
more each time. It's a feeling that's totally unfamiliar.
He suggests someone else try.
Wulf and Pat look at each other and back off to a
Kalida walks through the center, but she feels
On the other hand, Sir Misha still feels a little
charged up. It's not fading as fast now.
Kalida decides she wants to go into a trance in the
exact center. The place is about a meter above the walkway, so
she'll have to sit on something. They pull the Mule in so that
she can get in the right place.
Kalida goes into her trance. The carbonated
syrup is still there, although she's in a different kind of
bubble. This one is glowing brightly, almost blinding her.
She can tell there are other bubbles around her, ones like before, but
it's hard to see around her because of the light. She's still the
only one around, but this time her bubble is not moving. Well,
it's not moving around, but it is closing in on her. She tries to
Out of her trance now, she looks around. She's
still having trouble seeing, like everything is still bright around
her. She doesn't feel strange in any other way, but it's starting
to feel worse. She clambers off the Mule and promptly falls over
because she can't see what she's doing.
She tells everyone there there's definitely
something right here at this spot. She explains that it's still
glowing brightly and she can't see anything, but it was the only bubble
she's been in that didn't move. Her vision is improving a little,
but very slowly.
Meanwhile, Mich has been preparing a snack for
everyone. The MREs are actually palatable when he's done with
By then Kalida can see well enough to eat, although
she's not normal yet.
Mich suggests it might be because Sir Misha is
wearing his zack that he is getting charged up. It's a reasonable
theory. The footballs still aren't registering anything.
Kalida is curious if she went into a trance not in
the center, how it would look then?
Whatever the reason, it's still only Sir Misha who's
noticing it. Mich keeps trying but with no results.
Kalida's next experiment is to take the flashlight
and holds it up in that spot.
Suddenly something doesn't feel right. Marine
instincts kiek in, and she lets go of the flashlight and hits the
Pat says, "What?"
And at that moment the flashlight explodes.
There's a very bright flash and shrapnel flies.
Most of the team get away with singed hair from the
bright hot flash, but Pat takes something in the chest and goes down
backwards. Mich rushes over and tends to her. She has
several shrapnel wounds and is unconscious, but it won't be
life-threatening as long as he treats the injuries.
While Mich is patching up Pat, Kalida starts to call
Robert to see what it looked like from his end.
Before she can, Robert calls Mich. "We've got
something blue," he says, sounding concerned. "The power cube
went blue and the ship has shut itself down. We have a problem
with the power cube."
Mich suggests restarting the cube from the
batteries, explaining to Robert where to find them and how to do
it. He tells Sir Misha that they're too far away from Nightshade
for him to go back and do it himself. He's sure Robert can do it
with his instructions.
Sir Misha says they need to wait here until Robert's
done. They should not go any further or try anything else until
they know whether they have to go back to the ship.
While they're waiting, they talk over what
happened. Kalida let go of the flashlight and it hung there, not
falling, until it exploded moments later. Shrapnel from the
flashlight scattered across the room in a burst of heat and light.
After an hour, Robert calls back. He's made
his way through hand-cranked doors, fed the power cube the batteries,
and Nightshade is up and running again. Mich's
instructions worked. Even though stealth went down, the Witchhunter
crew would not have seen the ship unless they were peering intently at
the brush and vegetation that hid it from sight.
Kalida wonders if the flashlight was still here when
it exploded, or whether it just appeared to be in this physical
location. Mich might be able to determine that from the records
once he gets back to Nightshade, but it might be very tricky to
be certain about it.
The words Robert uses to describe what happened
translate as "It was an mpossible feedback." That's not quite
what the scryptese means, but to say it any other way would be to talk
like Lap'da. The description in his native language is much more
complex, and allows for other possibilities. Since it did happen,
clearly it can happen, and an involved weave of background, concepts,
and frame of reference expresses that plainly to Robert. The idea
that there isn't enough background to make it possible is easy for him
to understand, but that's completely different from "we don't
understand it" or "we don't have enough date" and can only really make
it into Galanglic as "Impossible."
"Don't do that again," says Mich to Kalida. If
the power cube itself had blown up, there is no telling how big an
explosion that could have been. They do have the spare cube, of
course, but they could only use that if there was enough of the ship
left to patch it into.
Kalida has no intention of doing anything like
that. She isn't even going to place her body in that spot
again. She recalls now that this bubble felt sharp, unlike the
other ones she'd been in that felt softer. This was a hard
bubble, whatever that means. Once again, the football sensors
showed nothing, but there is just enough background readings to be sure
they are still working.
Sir Misha says it is time to move on towards the
Statue Room, at least as soon as Pat is ready to move. She's only
just now regaining consciousness, but Mich says that she should be able
to move on after another hour of quiet rest.
So at 17:30 they are ready to move on again.
They walk to the far side of the room, and through the door.
Wulf shrugs, sighs, and announces that this might be
the Slow Room. It's another circular corridor about 5 meters
long. He says they'll walk across it and come out about a day
later. All clocks and their perceived time will be off when they
exit. It's too late now to avoid that. Communications don't
work in here at all.
The black tech communicator still has power, but
undoubtedly it looks strange to Robert in a way he can't
interpret. The away team can't tell it's not working, of course,
since it's one way.
The team emerges from the slow room into Crossroads
again, complete with chocolate pudding. It's as if they've
entered from the same door they entered it the first time.
Kalida asks Wulf and Pat if they consider this
"different" in feel to the one they entered before, but they say it
doesn't feel any different. They say they might have to go
through this loop several times, but they don't know how many.
There usually is a loop on the way to the Statue Room.
Robert syncs up the communications, and says it's
8:00 next day.
Kalida asks Robert if this Crossroads is in the same
physical location as it was last time they where here.
He confirms it is, and despite the strange power
draw in the previous room he could locate it at somewhere around the
far side of Albert. He mentions as an aside that he is
sure there's a pattern to the Sphere Room, even though the computer has
finally come back and said there isn't one.
The next room is the Crystal Room again, confirmed
by the flashlight shrapnel and by Robert reporting their
location. Everyone avoids the center point. Kalida does,
however, touch a crystal again. It's still sticky and warm.
Kalida wonders if the crystals reacted in any way to
the explosion. They check all the sensors, and fortunately some
of them were running at the time. There were no detectable
Beyond the Crystal Room is the Slow Room
again. This time they come out on the same day, just hours later
at 13:00, into the Crossroads with pudding.
Wulf says they just need to keep going through the
loop until it breaks.
Again, on to the same Crystal Room and again
avoiding the center spot, they go into the Slow Room a third time.
At 18:00 -- over a day later -- they emerge from the
Slow Room into something different.
This is a circular corridor. It curves to the
right on a 50 meter radius, and Wulf says it's called the Right
Room. There are several other ways they could have reached here,
but they are on the right track although there are several more rooms
to go. The room curves around 90 degrees and ends in a door.
Robert says they are 800 km to the northwest of the
landing site, about a kilometer underground. This room does curve
physically, matching the apparent curve.
The door opens up into a vast ellipsoid cavern,
about 500m long and 100m in maximum cross section diameter. It is
full of what look like trees, completely grey, but very organic and
very much like trees. The trunks are almost like a bundle of
twisted fibers that then splay out into branches with leaves.
They all grow out of the floor of the room.
Wulf says this is the Tree Room. He adds that
the walkway is five meters wide here, unusually wider than the three
meters they have come to think of as "normal." They have laid
down two lines of cable to mark the width since it's hard to be sure
you're walking in a straight line in this long room.
Kalida's first act on entering the room is to walk
up and touch a tree. It looks and feels smooth, and seems to be
pulsing or throbbing about every second and a half. It is neither
warm nor cold, a neutral temperature. The texture is smooth, but
the trunk is not quite even. It has slight bumps along the trunk.
The trees are definitely not constant. Now and
then a leaf falls to the floor of the room, and while no-one is looking
some of the branches definitely seem to have shifted slightly.
Pat says that they have taken some recordings of this room, but have
never seen a leaf leave a branch, and that no leaf ever lands on the
Kalida's tree is one of the ones that goes a long
way up towards the top of the room, and has a trunk about 3 meters in
diameter. There are no branches within reach.
Mich asks Kalida if she's planning to climb the
tree. She says she isn't, but Mich is welcome to if he
likes. He politely declines.
Multi-spectrum scans don't reveal much more.
The trees are a uniform grey in color, but it does seem like they're
pulsing slightly. It's slightly audible, but they are all at
slightly different rates. There doesn't seem to be a pattern to
Sir Misha looks down. The floor is covered by
layers of leaves, forming a flatter floor than the shape of the room
itself. In the center of the room, it might be as deep as ten
Kalida studies the color of the trees, and thinks
she notices a slight difference in the shade of grey in places.
Mich agrees now he looks at it carefully. Not
only is it not quite even, but the shading is moving. The color
of the tree is actually moving or changing. There is an ambient
glow in this room, as in the others, and it's definitely not an effect
of different lighting.
Kalida asks Wulf what usually follows this room.
Wulf says there is at least one corridor, maybe
another room or two, and then it is likely they would be at the
statues. Some of the corridors might be long.
It is 19:00. Kalida is determined to try a