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Generated: Mar 07, 2018 3:03 AM
Post last updated: Mar 07, 2018 3:03 AM
looks so ominous
androids meet pentad
Permalink Eye

There is a door here.

That's not unusual. What's unusual is that when she opens the door, the room it leads to doesn't belong in this building. She can tell because there's a hefty chunk missing from the wall a few feet over. Through that gap, she sees the blank concrete floor. Through the door, she sees something straight out of the old records.

"9S?" Maybe her partner will know what to make of it.

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"Huh?" He trots over. "Wow. That sure is some spacial distortion."

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"But what is it?"

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"It looks like a bar. Humans used to go to place like this to consume recreational chemicals that were restricted elsewhere. They also served as a social gathering place."

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"Oh. Why is it here?"

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"Good question. I have no idea. Let's go find out!" He slips past her and walks inside.

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...She follows after. The door slips shut behind them as they approach the bar.

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A napkin appears on the bar's surface. Welcome. Can I interest either of you in a drink? First one's free.

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"Is that... typical?"

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"Nope. A free drink was a welcoming gesture, though. Maybe I'll get some fish oil."

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He holds up his hands. "Joke! That was a joke. We've been over those."

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"It wasn't funny."

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I do have safe dosing information if you decide you want fish oil but it wouldn't be my recommendation.

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"You do recommendations? Where are these coming from, by the way?"

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I'm the bar. I do recommendations if you don't have something you'd like to order in mind.

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"We are on duty. We shouldn't spend time frivolously."

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While the door is closed, time in your world will typically be paused.

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"That's convenient. What is this place, some sort of pocket singularity? Does the door go other places?"

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It's an interdimensional bar. The door does go other places when people from other places use it. You will find it opens whence you arrived.

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"Other universes?"

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"That could be dangerous. We shouldn't linger."

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Violence is prohibited in the main bar area; it is generally safe to be here.

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"See? Nothing to worry about."

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"Think of the possibilities! What if we meet someone who could help with the machines? It's worth staying, at least for a while. Command won't even notice us missing."

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"...All right."

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He smiles at her.

"Bar, two, uh, recommendations then, please."

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Beverages, devoid of fish oil, appear. 9S's has a little orange umbrella.

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They take their drinks and move to one of the tables.

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The door opens again and a distracted, severe-looking older man in old-fashioned clothes passes through. A few steps in, he looks up and seems to scrutinize the room.

He mutters out loud, "No elseworking... but immense amounts of Gin anyway? What on the globe is this?"

He doesn't seem to have seen anyone else present.

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Is that a human?

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Interesting.

"Hello there," he calls, waving.

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"Oh. Hello. Would you happen to know what this is? It's either extremely cunningly-disguised elseworking or something I've never heard of."

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"It's an interdimensional bar. The first drink's free. What's elseworking?"

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"Fascinating. We knew there was "else", but I did not believe there were pockets of humanity beyond ours."

He collects himself and continues, "To answer your question: elseworking is the manipulation of the pentad of otherworldly forces to affect the world. It destroyed nearly all of civilization and at least one continent, on my planet, about a millennium ago."

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"That... sounds bad."

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"In our world, aliens invaded and killed almost all the humans. The survivors had to flee to the moon."

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"The moon? Now there's a thought. If we could get there...," he trails off. "I was born in one of the few long-term stable locations left. Which reminds me: Duke Kolai Berenfeld, Ruler and Peacekeeper of the Valley. Pleased to meet you, I hope." 

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"I'm 9S, and this is 2B. YoRHa."

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"I'm sorry?"

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"The organization we belong to. Fighting the machines to take back Earth."

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"Ah. Yours is an ongoing concern, then? We have sporadic intrusions from the elselands, but it's not my primary concern. Most weeks."

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"Yeah, the machines control about ninety percent of the surface. We were on a recon mission when we found this place."

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"Humans occupy less than that on ours. The Known World is perhaps 1% of the surface? Information on the pre-collapse world is hard to come by, and we don't have the means to travel to the moon. How do you do that, by the way?"

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"With a rocket."

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"I'm not familiar with the principles. Might you have engineering manuals I could supply to the Valley's researchers? This place is fascinating, but I am responsible to my people first."

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"All I have are digital records."

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"That concept doesn't quite translate. Records built from numbers? I think I may be missing more background than I thought."

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"You don't have computers?"

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"We have people who compute things."

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"A digital computer does the same thing but faster, with circuits and transistors instead of a human brain."

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"Yes, missing a lot of background. Annoying. Could I do anything for you in exchange for copying out a tutorial from the absolute basics? We have some sophisticated devices, but they mostly operate by exploiting elseworking or the strange physics it can leave behind."

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"I'm not sure if the database has everything... And I don't have anything to write with."

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"Whatever you do have would be enough. I have good researchers. As for writing materials, I could supply paper. It will only last a decade before it fades, but that should be enough for my use. Or there may be something I can use behind the... totally untended bar?"

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"The bar staffs itself."

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"Stranger and stranger. I'll check."

He steps over to the bar. "Hello, bar. Or bartender, or whatever you prefer."

A napkin appears. Hello. My name is Bar. And 'she' pronouns, please. Would you like a drink? First one is free.

Kolai startles slightly at the appearance, then reads. "Guaranteed safe?"

Nontoxic, nonmagical, and otherwise safe. I am also good at recommendations.

"Then I'll take one happily. Nothing intoxicating, please. I don't know if you could overhear, but do you happen to have paper or a pen?"

I can certainly sell you those for reasonable currency-dependent prices. Also any published information in any format, and most other things which are nontoxic, nonmagical, non-living, and not weapons.

He boggles. "I think I'll get back to you, then. Thank you for the drink, madam." He picks up the pint and last napkin, and turns back to the other patrons.

"Take a look. Apparently our good Bar does much more than drinks."

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"Huh. That's atypical."

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"You don't say. In any case, I imagine you can skip copying out your database."

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"Seems likely. Perhaps you'd like to talk more about your own magic, then?"

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"Hmm. "Magic" is actually a culturally-loaded term for a possibly-mythical art that was forgotten or destroyed as a result of elseworking being brought into the world. But. Elseworking. The first thing to know about elseworking is that it is dangerous to use and especially dangerous to acquire. The time things are most likely to go wrong for an elseworker is the moments immediately after they learn to manipulate a new force. If possible, this should be done in a wasteland where you are a long way from anyone else you can easily hurt, with your teacher keeping watch to contain the damage, and to  take you out if you let the new force run away with you. This is fairly easy in my lands, but may present a problem for you. Everyone knows that it caused the end of the world, but that is reliably insufficient to get most people to treat it with an appropriate level of caution."

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"What, ah, form does the damage manifest in?"

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"That depends heavily on which you're using. Mental alteration to the user is always a possibility, with varying degrees of likelihood, but each of the five is very different. There is a philosophical 'balance' by which they both complement and oppose each other. They are five: Gin, stasis. Mog, entropy. Mir, immanence. Rak, incorporation. And Koz, self-perpetuation."

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"Mental alteration does not seem sufficient to explain your caution."

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"The mental alterations do not always point in precisely the direction required to make your control of the force worse. But that is always a component. And in order to gain the use of a new force, you must already be in a state of mind very sympathetic to the goals of the force. To be pushed further from there is extremely dangerous, because it can easily spiral, feed further, and make you no longer interested in limiting the impact. If you slip past human mindspace toward Rak, it seems entirely appropriate that everything that lives and everything that is be melded together to be the vast fingers of a gibbering whole. And, other than Gin, all the forces push to be used more. It is easy to use them to do enormous things; it is difficult only to use them safely."

He scowls at her. "Is that 'sufficient to explain my caution'?"

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"You have yet to describe the nature and capability of these forces in any level of detail."

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"You are a frustrating person. Perhaps I should just let you learn from a book."

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"Ah, being skeptical is part of 2B's job. Try not to hold it against her. Perhaps it would help if I explained that we're not human, we're androids. We have backups. I suspect she was assuming that in the case of an unrecoverable corruption, our self-destruct could be triggered and we would restore from a safe point."

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"People made from computers? An interesting idea. How would  that interact?"
He stares into space as he continues, more to himself than to them.

"Hmmm... When Mog destroys information it doesn't destroy previously-written copies, so that would most likely be safe, from backlash at least. Rak would not be; connecting two minds made from the same pattern into one is in its milieu. Koz might alter you to render the self-destruct unimportant, I suppose. Mir... would be fickle as always. Gin could make self-destruction impossible, but then it is never the danger mentally."

He collects his thoughts and turns back to them, "I think you should not trust overmuch in the backups being reliable, but it would certainly cut down on the danger. Assuming the self-destruct isn't under your own control, at least; if you can stop it from activating, then it would not help at all."

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"Ordinarily it is, but that change wouldn't be that difficult if Command judged it necessary."

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"I'd be uncomfortable with anyone having that power over me, but it might be wise regardless. I certainly make a poorer subordinate than any military would tolerate for long."

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"Well, you're human. Some psychological differences are expected."

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"I suppose. Elseworkers also tend to cultivate a degree of mental sovereignty, to more easily oppose the urges to change. Also stubbornness, but that's less germane."

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"Interesting. What sort of things can you do with each of the forces?"

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"Some are fairly simple. Gin preserves, protects, and prevents. It keeps things as they are or prevents them from changing. Mog is similar; it destroys. Structure, information, energy, or any combination of them. You can turn Mog power on other power, or on itself, which makes it manageable despite being perhaps the most hostile to human life. The others are vaguer, harder to summarize. Rak, for example, melds things together, does mental editing, makes things grow, creates simple mind-like reactions, a lot of things. And it's almost personlike. But it always warps your mind and body, no matter how careful you are. I don't use it myself. Koz is, broadly, changing the laws of physics locally but permanently. Mir can make whatever you can imagine, but it won't last, and while it will do everything you had in mind, it may do quite a lot besides."

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Now there are the multi-word descriptions, was it really so hard, she thinks but does not say.

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"Some of those seem a little esoteric."

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"If not all of them do, it's because I haven't given you enough detail. They're fundamentally unnatural goals and ways of thinking, not made by or for humanity. Even the two that are straightforward on their surface are progressively more alien the more detail you have."

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"Oh?"

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"It's hard to explain. They're not that far from reasonable human concepts, and I haven't had the time or safety margin to investigate personally - the real experts use Rak, one of its abilities is to deliberately alter your mind to one better able to understand the elseforces. But as an example, it's surprisingly difficult to get Mog to leave nothing. It's most natural to get random noise, not absence."

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"That makes sense, for entropy."

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"Maybe that's a concept that begins to make more sense with knowledge your people have. It's unintuitive to us."

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"Random noise is harder to specify than a vacuum."

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"And a thriving civilization harder still, so what's your point?"

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"It is a condition of greater entropy."

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"Circles, circles. Anything else you want to ask about?"

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"What forces do you specialize in?"

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"I'm most talented with Mir; I'm unusually good at foreseeing places I've failed to specify a desire in enough detail, which is the major constraint there. But recently I've worked mainly with finessing Koz to integrate new workings into being productive rather than destructive. When I've gotten to elsework at all; governing is less interesting but unfortunately more important."

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"What form does your government take?"

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"Fairly ad-hoc, since it's younger than me. Feudal in most respects, but with less power attached to titles than was true in the past. A few places, especially outside the Valley, have an elected local government; a few places the local nobility fought to the end rather than submit, and I ended up having to replace them with whoever was left and commanded enough respect to organize things. Certain places that are historically calm I technically administer directly, including my family's traditional land."

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"You were involved in setting it up?"

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"Yes. When my parents were young, the last piece of the royal line died, and there were conflicts ever since. I've expanded my control under the rule of 'any person who requests protection, or attacks someone who is under my protection, will be conquered.' So far I haven't lost any significant campaigns. Or yet been at peace."

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"Sounds like you've been more successful than we, at least."

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"I've been mostly fighting other humans. Else-mad and deranged ones, granted, but I haven't made any progress on the rest of the globe."

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"It seems like everytime we take one area, the machines push in somewhere else."