The Ghosts of Eden

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Session 30

Session 30 - Wednesday 30th March
Bishop's Folly creatures do not have DNA as we know it - different
sugars. It takes Robert a long while to work it out. It isn't a double
molecule, but might be triple. The natural wildlife on Gaia does not
display these characteristics. This has not been reported anywhere -
probably weren't around when Felix was there. Robert does not get any
further in the time available - it is probably a major research project
to unravel this.

The crew decide to not to submit their original (faked) report to
Trilon but instead to submit one sticking to the "Systems failure"
story and claim they were never on board the Karelia. Robert thinks his
discovery is easily important enough to be worth major kudos within
Trilon or, failing that, Forethought. Robert offers to put everyone's
name on the paper. Antonio points out that, since we are all at the
same institution, putting everyone's name on the paper would still only
count once for the RAE. Antonio suggests naming the big thing with
teeth in the hole after him in lieu of his name on the paper. Robert
says it would be tricky since they would need to catch one and give it
to a museum. Antonio says anything big with teeth will do.

More files on the inquiry are uncovered. The New Worlds was looking for
(according to Charmian) an object with very low mass in the asteroid
belt that they had detected at long range... made of ice? if Galcarb
got an ice asteroid they would get the edge on Trilon which already had
a colony on Paradise.

All Charmian remembers from the collision is the asteroid suddenly
appearing in front of them. After the cockpit camera goes blank
Charmian got a liferaft and the hull is supposed to have been breached.
The ship was destroyed but Trilon ships detected the distress beacon
and searched for debris and a couple of weeks later they picked up the
life-raft (why did this take so long?) should have detected its beacon.
When they found the life-raft its course suggested it had not come from
the wreckage. Did something grab the liferaft, switch off the beacon
and then let it go. Various other small anomalies occurred. The Board
of Inquiry concluded that the impact effected the power systems on the
life-raft. Life-rafts only have minor propulsion units - insufficient
to take it far. Privately other members of the board think Trilon was
involved. Trilon has a reputation for a long period for trying to keep
systems in a monopoly. Bengtsson and Charmian had an alternative, and
unrecorded, theory. Even after they start a sexual relationship she
never changed her story. Galcarb did try and search for the "ice"
object (but not in depth to avoid alerting Trilon), made some guesswork
heuristic calculations about orbits but didn't find anything. Was the
big low mass thing a big hollow ancient object with mind-control?

Berthier has seven planets and an asteroid belt. People now live on the
asteroid belt. Robert is in favour of having a quick look for the
asteroid. The Trilon colony is called New Bali and there is an OTS
above it called New Bali High. We dock early in the morning on the 30th
March and send in our report. All agree that DNA stuff from Gaia should
go through Komiko. 
Paradise is a Midgarten I world with reptiles; Robert thinks they
should go down and explore. Andi refuses. Robert claims trauma and need
for R&R. He suggests all sorts of psychological side-effects for
himself and Andi. Antonio agrees that Robert and Andi should have a
medical. This is put on Komiko's credit card.

The doctor thinks Robert is physically very healthy but the metabolic
anomalies have increased. He suggests Robert take a proper holiday for
a fortnight on a beach without a shrimping net. He agrees to mention
this to Andi. The doctor says that R&R on Berthier would be stressful -
there are lots of things that can eat you. Physically Andi is a bit
undersize - not been exercising enough recently. Andi also has
metabolic anomalies; the doctor thinks there might be some virus
involved. Her leg is almost healed and the doctor thinks she's lucky
considering the lack of physiotherapy. Antonio and Miho also get
checked up. Antonio has some recent scars but is otherwise in superb
physical health. He has a slight raise in metabolic stuff, the doctor
reckons whatever Robert and Andi have, Antonio's had a minor dose but
this is entirely off the record because the doctor thinks it is more
than his reputation is worth. Miho also has metabolic anomalies
although not as serious as Robert and Andi. The doctor thinks the
entire crew could use some relaxation and some sex. Robert suggests
that the shagging problem could be fixed with Komiko's credit card.
Andi refuses.

Miho decides to paint some trains. Antonio goes to look for indoor
soccer which he plays "aggressively but badly". Robert finds and exotic
fauna appreciation society. Robert takes Clarence to visit them. Andi
and Miho decide to hack Trilon for details about mysterious asteroids.

Andi easily downloads the public records on the New Worlds incident.
The incident took place in the asteroid belt. An electronic signal was
picked up when the ship was hit. Two ships were dispatched and the
Trilon Starburst, crewed by Klaus and Ekaterina Berghof, picked up some
bits and two weeks later picked up the life-raft. Trilon also went
looking for the Asteroid and found nothing. All corporations in the
asteroid belt have been obsessed for decades with finding this mystery
asteroid, every so often survey teams or other ships detect something,
but in different orbits. Wishful thinking might be contributing this.
Every-so often (every couple of years especially after some sort of
reshuffle) management send people after the ice asteroid and ships get
lost - although more often they just get bored. Remote probes also get
lost. Colloquially the asteroid is called the "Watcher in the Darkness"
which even has its own symbol - a circle inside a triangle.
No silicon carbide has been found locally, nothing to suggest any local
Ancients sites.

The Berghofs are still around, currently gathering ice from the outer
system. Antonio suggests an in-system jump to Persephone (the outermost
planet). This has a ring system and one large moon. While the crew
consider whether to go and talk to them they establish that Andi has
the key to the gun cabinet and there is insufficient room in the hold
to store a space plane. They decide on taking the fast route to
Persephone. Robert is taken out to dinner by the Exotic Fauna people.
It's established that Clarence might be female and that he wasn't
successfully mated on Beekhu. There is some graffiti on the station.
Robert notices that the Watcher symbol appears in several places, often
paired with the phrase "It's watching" or "The Watcher is watching
you". The Exotic Fauna people, when asked, say its nutters from the
asteroid belt; nutters who think there is a malevolent thing watching
and interfering with them. They email the Berghofs to say they are
coming and then wait seven hours for the email to arrive. After some
discussion they decide to take some alcohol as a gift.

As the ship gets into orbit they get a challenge from a vessel asking
what they are about. After some confusion this is resolved. It takes a
couple of hours for the ship to get into the right orbit and for the
Berghofs to come off shift. The local manager gets slightly freaked
because he classifies the ship as light military and observes that it
is not on his books. They dock with the ship.

The Berkhofs are early middle-age. Robert and Antonio listen in on
comms. Miho explains that they are chasing Ancients' stuff and are
interested in the salvage work they previously undertook. Andi senses
that the woman is frightened, the man is resigned. They have been asked
about it before.

The Watcher is now well known on Ahluic (no rumours about the Watcher
before the accident). The symbol is something some exec thought up.
Never been any rumours relating the Ancients to the Watcher. Ask if
they know why its called the Watcher. Five time he and his wife have
been sent out to see this thing. He thinks there is a malevolent ghost
out there that wants to destroy people. He and his wife have been lucky.

After a bit more probing, Andi and Miho invite the others down and
break out the Jack Daniels. Most of Galcarb folk just joined up with
Trilon during the collapse; some of the managers got killed. Galcarb
management had a reputation for being mean.

Robert mentions, apropos of nothing, some bad news might follow us from
Asterion and that it wasn't our fault. This does not help put the
Berghofs at their ease. Ekaterina remains tight-lipped, alcohol begins
to relax Klaus.

Antonio expresses his scepticism to Klaus while Andi and Miho occupy
Ekaterina. Antonio's thesis is that the Watcher is a name for "things
that go bad in space". Klaus disagrees; 1 in 20 people do not come back
from looking for the Watcher. Antonio agrees this is unlikely. There
have been no sightings for over a decade. Klaus saw it once (his wife
glares at him), it nearly caught them but they got away. They recorded
the co-ordinates, spread it around and now everyone who knows avoids
it. If they don't bother it, it won't change its orbit again. It's
haunted, if you go looking for it, it will kill you. It tried to get
them, they turned the engines on and it got away. They felt it working
on them.

The crew let them go and send a strong commendation to their boss.
After some discussion they decide to go to the asteroid belt and try
and hack some systems to get the mystery object's co-ordinates.

It takes 200 hours to get into Ahluic. Robert works on his Nobel prize.
Miho trawls the Ancients databases and anything they have on space-
faring legends for relevant stuff. The eye in triangle crops up at
nearly all the Ancients sites except Asterion (but not seen any
symbology at Asterion) and Neubayern. It turns up on Eberhaven, Beekhu
and Earth. The symbol first appeared shortly after Charmian turned up.
The manager in charge of the search, Georgia Fox, is no longer here.
There is one other asteroidal body with a similar anomalously low
density - Prometheus.

Karelia has a double insert, Ekaterina has a single insert, Klaus has a
triple insert with mutation on it.

Robert is in favour of Andi rigging herself up with a "brain zap" or at
least steering on sensors which go into alarm mode in a difficult to
ignore fashion.

They enter the belt on manual and dock at an OTS type thing. Andi finds
an almost perfectly circular orbit about 20 degrees to the ecliptic.
This information has been updated a couple of time. It has been at 15
degrees and 5 degrees to the ecliptic. It hasn't an official ephemeris
but is given a similar code, BCX-10-154, and flagged with the
triangle/circle symbol. Andi tries to take a peek at it on passive

The crew agree to set off a failsafe auto-pilot that will steer the
ship away from a potential collision that will take a few minutes to
over-ride: a set of manual switches which any one person can over-ride.
Log in the black box what we are doing and why. Should we also log all
our results? Should we be logging these already? Are we logging stuff
already? We probably have everything backed up on the ship. The crew
sends Karelia a bank account number and we email all the rest of our
stuff to Antonio's mum and Andi's parents with instructions to forward
to Komiko if anything happens.

We head off to find the asteroid, about 0.3 of an AU. Takes about 18
hours. Everyone is in space-suits:. Andi is in a purple suit, Antonio
in red, Miho in blue and Robert in green. Andi and Antonio have their
helmets off but handy in order to operate computers. Andi continues
checking sensors. Andi detects something using optical sensors. Antonio
sets a fly-by trajectory, not an interception. Andi checks again, can't
find it. Antonio turns round and reverses our course. Andi checks
behind and can see the thing. A potato shaped object, several miles
across with a black albedo.

With a good view, Antonio tries a new course to fly-past about 1/2
million miles astern of it. Andi works on try to see it but then loses
it. Tries active sensors and sends in some drones. Send one at best
guess of a collision course and one at second about 20,000 Ks, so they
don't both hit it. We agree that if they've still not spotted it in
half an hour then we turn round again. Andi is getting disheartened but
Antonio is fine.

Miho gets the sense that the geography has changed. We suddenly see it
dead ahead. We head down but the proximity system steers us towards it,
we are accelerating towards the asteroid with 2 minutes to impact.
Antonio cuts the engines and starts the override.

The drag must be alien tech, eg Gravitics or some kind of electro-
magnetics. The ship's velocity stabilises to a point where it will miss
by about 200 metres. We record the whole thing and stream data to
Ahluic. The ship veers to the side off its course parallel to the side
of the asteroid, tilts up so scanners pan across surface and the
velocity drops. We still feel no gravity. All now have helmets on.

A crater its "teeth" move sideways to reveal a cavern beneath. Robert
is really excited. Miho looks in the omnivue. We feel about ? gravity,
air bags of some sort extrude from walls to hold the ship in place.
Robert films something dropping. Robert then films some thing of
different masses. Something forms a hollow tube to the airlock.

Every one except Robert decides its time to leave the ship and he wants
to go anyway. Miho takes the Omnivue. Antonio has a plasma rifle (light
anti-tank device) and a handgun. Robert has a first aid kit and
sampling gear. Andi has a pistol. The airlock cycles: pressure 1/3 bar,
near enough pure oxygen. We see a long squidgy corridor with a texture
like a mattress.

We close the spaceship behind us. Walk about 100 yards and the corridor
opens into a room. At the last bit is a diving board extending out over
an incredibly deep swimming pool full of 'treacle'. Robert and Miho get
onto the diving board and try to sample it. The stuff folds away,
forming a hemisphere beneath them. Robert thinks it might be an
elevator. Antonio and Robert go back to get something to drop down the
hole, but the tube has closed up.

Robert lowers himself off the edge of the diving board, stuff folds
round him like a bubble, so Robert lets go. He goes down 20 feet and
then sideways and then stops. Then Andi moves next to him with membrane
between them, then Miho. They wait for Antonio who, after some
deliberation concerning plasma rifles, gets in too.

They all drop down. Robert thinks he's inside he's inside a gigantic
organism. Possibly inside some sort of reticulum. Gravity feels towards
feet for all us but we're all oriented differently. We get footage of
gravity working in different directions. Antonio tries to walk towards
another bubble and can get within about 3 feet. Suit lights reflect off
the inside surface.

After a while, we arrive at a nexus where red, yellow and white strands
meet to form a pyramidal structure (a bit larger than the one outside
the Louvre). All end up oriented the same way at one of the bases to
the pyramid, which is dark and forbidding. It looks organic. Suddenly
it lights up like phosphorescent bacteria to reveal an enormous eye
surrounded by tentacles. Robert thinks there is fluid pumping into it
and it's being woken up and pumped up. The eye is not a pupil in the
regular sense, the iris/pupil is a collection of multi-faceted eyelets.

"Greetings! I have been waiting for you!" The voice conveys a sense of
great age. Robert, Miho and Andi say hello, Antonio decides to restrict
himself to name, rank and serial number. "I have been waiting for your
kind to contact me for some time. I am the Sentinel for this sector."
Antonio hears it in Italian. "I am the last of the governors for this
sector and my time is passing. Already most of my brethren have
advanced to become pure energy beings."

The Sentinel is looking for people to replace him. It thinks it is what
we would call an 'Ancient' and has been waiting many thousands of
Berthier years (roughly 2 Earth years). It watches over roughly 100
light years worth of stars and six sentient races. The Ancients ensured
no one race disturbed the balance; they call themselves 'managers'.

The Ancients effected the development of races to ensure adequate
governors to succeed them. He will give us 'the tools'. The Sentinel
will grant them to us; it involves a certain amount of training and
will take a short while.

Robert asks about Bishop: apparently he failed to survive the transit;
he was quite badly injured. Antonio wants to know if he has a choice:
Antonio can choose to leave. Komiko was not conscious and had to be

When the Ancients transmuted into ultimate energy beings, their ability
to interact directly with the sentient races would have been limited so
it came to their attention that it might be an idea to create new
governors. Since they didn't want to put all eggs in one basket, they
decided to use several experiments, of which we were one. The meddling
enhanced the development of six potentially sentient races with
separate experimental protocols for each.

On the world we now know as Earth, the chief supervisor disagreed with
the experimental protocols and made unauthorised changes to the human
genome. When his actions were discovered, the transgressor was made to
help undo his damage but he was not really contrite and many
individuals bearing the amended genome survived, spread over the planet.

When his further treachery was uncovered it was too late to undo what
he'd done. Instead, a specialist team was sent in to take over
management of human development. Despite being captured and
incarcerated at least once, the transgressor waged a guerrilla war
against this team.

The Transgressor was not the only one to dispute policy among the
Ancients. There were some who championed the Eber as future successors,
seeing as they were more advanced. Eventually, civil war broke out
among the stars between the 'establishment' Ancients and the Eber and
their Ancient allies.

The Sentinel lost contact with the Eber systems but evidently the Eber
were bombed back to the Stone Age. The War also had a disastrous effect
on Ancient society, causing many to release their physical forms in the
Final Transformation. The Ancients galactic civilisation collapsed.

With this, the 'salvage team' on Earth became fatally isolated.
Divisions also appeared within their ranks, both over many old issues
but also policy toward the humans. The Transgressor apparently
exploited these divisions and, with the help of misguided individuals,
set about slaying his opponents.

The last message the Sentinel had from Earth was nearly 2500 years ago,
when the last handful of the salvage team were planning a further
offensive against the Transgressor. The Sentinel does not know who
eventually triumphed, or whether all the Ancients are now dead. But he
fears from our information that the Transgressor himself may still be
active among the Human Race.

He would look like us. The Ancients made them like that.

The Sentinel suggests we explore galaxy slowly.

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