Knowing stuff is a relatively new phenomenon.

  • The Darkness


1 Week Later - Doc-Danger - Alien Planet (Orbit)

We are coming up on the Khen Warper Party. They’re a big group. Also, they’re in big trouble.

Some Warpers travel in huge badass spaceships. Some jump in large space stations. There’s also warp capable space cities. I’m not really sure what the difference is between the three. It may be aesthetics.

There’s also Warpers who jump around alone, or in small groups. I’ve seen mechsuits, aquariums, aquarium-mechsuits, diving bells, crappy little jeep things, and the classic door to somewhere else.

There’s also Warpers who jump with just the clothes on their back. Or, less. I’ve run into the odd naked dude. Also, a lot of Warpers are robots.

There’s a lot going on out here. Sometimes the diving bell has a little dude driving it. Sometimes the diving bell drives itself, and the little dude inside is just its lunch. You learn assumptions are pointless.

When the Khen Warper Party travels, they take their entire planet with them. This is not common. Technically, it's not that hard to warp a planet. It's just hard to find a planet full of people that want to go in the same direction.

Right now, Khen’s willing to go anywhere, but they can’t. A Halfman is looming in orbit, holding their western continent in place. If they warp, they’ll leave it behind. Cracking their world. Killing everybody on the western continent, and most of everybody else. If they don’t warp, the Halfman will eventually get bored, and kill them all.

What a dick.

I’ve had a couple throwdowns with Halfmen, and it sucks. I nearly died every time. We’re going to try something a little different here.

I put The Rumor in neutral and ghost by him in stealth mode. Fox erases his brain stem as we float past.

“Cosmic drive-by.” said High Roller. “I guess we’re fucking gangsters now.”

Khen warps away. We follow in stealth mode. After a dizzying amount of jumps, they park themselves in the ass end of somewhere. I don’t know if that many jumps will hide them from the Halfmen, but I know I’m fucking lost.

We orbit Khen protectively for a long time. You can’t be too careful. Actually, I can’t take it anymore. We’re being too careful.

“I think we got him, guys.” I say. “How long are we going to wait here?”

“It’s been 40 minutes.” says Fox.

“I know that.” I say. “I asked how long we were going to wait.”

“Longer than 40 minutes.” says Fox.

“For fuck’s sake! We’re on a schedule! Have you and Eve got this?” I ask.

“Yes.” says Fox. “Please leave.”

I grab High Roller and go shopping for knowledge. The Man in the Mask simulation comes with us. Apparently, I’m still overconfident.

We warp down to Khen. It’s pretty chaotic. Everybody’s freaking out, running around. I guess that’s to be expected after a Halfman attack. Or, maybe it’s always like this. I’ve never been here before.

High Roller is poking around with his True Sight. Looking for high concentrations of data cubes. I brought him along because he’s more patient than me, so tends to get things done faster.

“Let’s get this done.” says High Roller. “I don’t want to miss the party.”

“What party?” I ask.

“I dunno. There’s gotta be a party somewhere.”

Fair enough. I’m down for getting this done in a hurry. That said, I’m not sure how I can speed things up. He’s literally doing everything. I try to wait patiently faster.

“Got it.” He says. “Got a couple its, actually. Lots of info around here. What now?”

“Now we steal it.”

High Roller clutches his brow. “Fuck. This never works.”

He’s not wrong. We’ve done this a dozen times, and never profited from it. It should be easy. Using True Sight and The Call to Nothing, we make a copy of the data cubes and supporting equipment. Then we use the God Machine to crack the encryption, and all their secrets should be ours.

Unfortunately, the God Machine is too good at finding patterns, and gives us infinite interpretations of the data. It’s super confusing. We’ve never been able to make sense of it.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just buy these secrets?” asks High Roller. “You know, do them a service, and they pay us in knowledge.”

“We did do them a service, and they are giving us knowledge.” I say.

“Yeah, I meant more officially. Like, with them knowing it’s happening.”

“I dunno. That sounds a lot like school. Let’s just see what they got.”

I open Pandora’s Sandbox. It’s a virtual reality where we go to get stupid. High Roller and I are constantly trying to improve our God Machine algorithms. So we can see truer, call more nothing, and warp faster. Some of these new algorithms are a bit dicey. We created Pandora’s Sandbox so we could test them in a virtual environment that’s less likely to turn us inside out.

It’s less likely to kill us because it’s a virtual reality. But, it’s still possible, because it’s made of information - just like real reality. It’s theoretically possible for us to accidentally make a virtual reality that’s more real than real reality. Which would defeat the purpose of our safe space. I try not to worry about.

In any event, I made something there that’s ready for the big leagues. I pull him out.

“Say hello to Piratebot.”

“Hello.” says High Roller.

“Yaar!” says Piratebot.

“This is a stealth op.” I say.

“Yaar!” says Piratebot.

“Better.” I say.

“What am I looking at?” asks High Roller.

“He’s a mash-up of the Universal Chatbot and Leviathan. We’re going to leave him here to keep an eye on things.” I say.

“He’s going to protect Khen?” asks High Roller.

“No.” I say. “He’s going to spy on them.”


“See, our heists never work because we have no context for the secrets we steal. We can’t just steal Khen’s most complicated technical knowledge and expect to make sense of it. We need to start by stealing their basic secrets, and then steal our way up to the tricky shit.

“Piratebot’s going to use True Sight and the Leviathan Protocols to look over Khen’s collective shoulders. Watch everything they do. Then, he’s going to use that as training data for the Universal Chatbot Algorithm. We should end up with a scholarbot that knows everything that Khen’s collective intelligence knows. Then we can just ask him for the secrets we want, and he can explain them to us in any detail we require.”

“Hmm.” says High Roller. “Well, he doesn’t look like a pirate.”

Piratebot starts poking his own eye. I smack his hand away. “It doesn’t matter what he looks like. He functions as a pirate.”

“Does he?” asks High Roller.

“Hmm. Good question.” I turn to Piratebot. “Are you functional? Are you able to do the task I just described?”

“I dunno.” says Piratebot. “Let me try.” He freezes.

I wait. High Roller waits. The Man in the Mask waits.

We keep waiting.

“Are we waiting for him to do something?” asks High Roller. “Or, is he broken?”

“I’m not sure.” I say.

We wait some more.

“So… Eve’s pretty cute.” says High Roller.

“Yeah, well, behind that cute face she’s probably a hideous space monster who’s plotting to consume us.” I say.

“In fairness, everyone’s hideous if you look behind their face.” says High Roller. “But, I see your point. We don’t know her very well. Should we have her kill the next Halfman? Prove her loyalty to the gang?”

“How would that prove her loyalty?”

“Well, she wouldn’t kill them if they were her creations. Would you kill your creations?”

I look at Piratebot. He looks at me. I jump. Jesus! I thought he was broken.

“Okay!” says Piratebot. “I think I’m functional. It’s hard to tell. I got a good look at everybody, but I didn’t learn much. They’re all freaking out and doing tons of drugs.”

High Roller nods. “That’s the party I was talking about.”

I rub my head. “Yeah, okay. You may need to hang out here for a while, until things calm down.” I look at High Roller. Shrug. “In the meantime, take us to wherever the happiest people are doing the funnest drugs.”

We warp.


About the author

Doctor Zero


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