Dec 09, 2022 4:24 AM
the bureau of concordance's invariants aren't

The Ensemble is a very ordinary, predictable thing. There's a series of frequencies, corresponding to the real numbers, and each frequency operates by its own internal rules dictated by its numerical structure, and they don't interfere with each other, and if you're here, you already know that that's a lie.

The Ensemble appears to be an ordinary, predictable thing, because we keep it looking ordinary and predictable. Our current frequency, for example, is not actually in the Ensemble; you'd maybe think of us being at -i, but it's best to throw out your preconceptions about how any of this works. -i looks like it's a frequency at all because it has an incredibly watertight reliquary; other interferences might not, and if we're lucky we're the ones who can make them. -i's reliquary is solid enough, in fact, that we've made it our base of operations.

Being an interference, -i has some very nice properties. Interferences on the Ensemble's primary chord don't affect it, because it's far away from all of that, so we can avoid the incredibly arduous process of building a reliquary for an interference from the inside. It has very little in the way of native physics or life, and the way it behaves can be shaped entirely by its reliquary. We've designed it to be habitable, with a constant uninterrupted supply of power and air and geometry and additional office space, in a way much easier than finding the exact real frequency of an infinite office building and then switching frequencies if we ever want to change the thermostat.

Now, if you'll follow me, you'll see...

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...not that. This isn't what's supposed to happen. Uh, this isn't a demonstration of how you should always expect the unexpected. This is genuinely not what was meant to be behind this door.

One moment.

Verdant breach, fourth interstital, noonday, repeat Verdant breach, fourth interstital, noonday.


And then alarms go off on every floor, and the staff of -i, who were hoping and prepared for rather a more quiet shift than this, spring into action.


The alarm interrupts Sophie Gray's nap. She shouldn't have been napping in the first place, but she doesn't really care enough to stay awake staring at a spreadsheet, calculating p-values or something. She's a biochemist, her expertise alone sufficient for a job at the Bureau of Concordance, assigned to research a protein with inexplicable spatial properties isolated from a rare plant endemic to the Amazon Rainforest, a job she quite enjoyed. Now that her research is in its final stages, she expects to be out within a week or so, returned to her normal life, all memories of her time at the Bureau erased. She would miss working here if she could even remember "here".

Sophie Gray doesn't know what "verdant breach" means so she opens her official Bureau-issued handbook and turns to page 134.

Verdant breach: Unspecified interference with the reliquary. Consult your supervisor.

She groans, walks away from her cubicle, and opens the door to the meeting room.


Kat is deep in thought trying to solve the tricky problem in spatial geometry before her. Some interference decided to resonate and change all its angles by one degree this morning, which would have been fine except the relevant reliquary was already running as far into hyperbolic geometry as it could and is now one degree into being uncontained. It's more annoying than anything else, the whole thing is still in a state where it can be remotely rearranged, it's just her first five ideas are not actually adding enough range to get the reliquary back to stable.

When she hears the alarm, it takes her a moment to parse it as something other than an alarm that's somehow shaped like four pentagons surrounding the vertex of a dodecahedron, and actually tries to undo the rotation she was testing to dismiss the alarm. Nope, it's an actual alarm in the room she's sitting in, that was a thing.

Verdant breach alarm, too. Oh dear. That's not because of her thing, is it? She checks and can't see anything possibly Verdant about the shape rotation she's doing. She tabs over to the chat, looks like it's time to be in the meeting room right now, and then back to the reliquary clairvoyance to make sure that the situation with the angles isn't going to immediately degrade if she looks away for five seconds (on the face of it, it's not, but it's an interference, of course it's going to degrade as soon as she looks away).

Oh well. Less important than a Verdant breach. To the meeting room.


The breach, as it has manifested so far, is a spatial one; a door that was meant to connect to some place is now connecting to some other place, namely no other place. As such, it's the spatial term that's taking the brunt of the response right now. As well as people running around and doing emergency-response coordination in and around the meeting room, there are scries to sensor data, field agents, Elsewhere, and the other quarter of the spatial team over in +i already, poring over the last day's data to see if any indications of what is happening.

All but one of the entrances are facing heavy use; the unused one is the Euclidean one, useless except if space fails and there's a need to leave in a hurry. The people of -i who are least trusting of space - that is, the entire spatial team - are not all too happy about this state of affairs, but it's the best of a bad situation. Euclidean space is pretty useless for architecture.

To the meeting room chatter. Being a hyperbolic rat's nest in active use, with an unlimited list of "temporary" patches "to fix later", space in -i is not particularly organised even on good days. Finding an actual problem with space faces some roadblocks.

...about this anomaly, is that anything there?

No, that's Paul's hack, meant to... 


...disjunction reported, 3'oclock vertex on the fourth interstital now pointing fiveways...


...literally no way that is it is possibly doing that, I can see the radiances...


...been out for a week, I know it was low priority but...

And twenty conversations besides, all happening at the same time.

At the front of the meeting room setting up the largest screen is the Head of Space, as always wearing that cloak showing the stars and a full-face vizor. When enough people have came in that further delay is more costly than the rest of the team having to catch up on the fly, the Head of Space plays a synthesised chime to signal that it's time to speak and get everyone on the same page. Discussion dies down a little; it obviously doesn't stop, there's still so much that has to be said and so much has to be said now, but it just enough that it's possible to hear what they have to say.


On the inscrutable-feelings side if it is her thing causing this they'll figure it out pretty fast! The Head of Space will figure it out pretty fast. It's not actually her thing, probably, but she can't quiet the inscrutable-feelings about that.

The seats are filling up quickly, but there are still some left so she gets one that's only just not one of the good ones right next to the microphone. She's not quite getting comfortable in it in case, like, the biotic department comes in and they all want to sit together.


By the time she enters the meeting room, the other present employees are already engaged in active discussion. Sophie focuses in on one conversation, worried that she might have missed something important. She recognizes some jargon she vaguely understands, though most of it is unfamiliar technobabble to her. She sighs, finding some comfort in knowing that she wouldn't understand it even if she came earlier.

Sophie scans the room, looking for anyone in a similar position as her, just as oblivious as her. There's no one. Not surprising; -i's main function—at least to her knowledge—is research and development focusing on spatial phenoms and interferences. She's only here because the protein she was researching bent space.

The chime plays right as Sophie finds her seat.


The Head of Space speaks with a slight metallic twang, just enough that it doesn't sound quite like their unaided natural voice. The speech is short, because nobody knows anything about what's going on, though collectively people do know a little more now than literally just that it's a Verdant breach. 

  • First signs of space destabilisation date back to ~1000 local time, about three hours ago. They're completely within normal variance and probably wouldn't have been noticed if we weren't looking very carefully back over things.
  • First actual anomaly 10 minutes ago, here. Remained as a latent space distortion beforehand and activated when the path was used. Verdant breach reported immediately afterwards, per protocol. 
  • Another two anomalies in the meantime! Here and here. Mostly paths that are rarely used this time, seem to have spontaneously opened. Here and here. 
  • Nothing unusual detected with the internal plexus currently (this is not reassuring because there is obviously something at all wrong with the internal plexus).
  • If you look at the screens behind me, there are the current measurements! If we go above that yellow line there, we run away through Euclidean space. 

Now, as for what specific teams are doing -

  • Fourth anomaly here! This is what it looks like when an anomaly happens. This is what it looks like just before an anomaly happened, if anyone noticed that then systematise the process.

Now, as for what specific teams are doing - 


And then the Head of Space calls out some teams, points out where some duplicated work is happening - Modelling has a quarter a script to detect ten of the last two anomalies from this interference and Sequestration has an eighth of a script, and so on - and points out some priority background tasks for pairs of hands given that a lot of people here are, just, like, random people who happened to not be working on the structure of -i and might not even be cleared to look directly at the internal plexus.

This is still, at its heart, a verdant breach with unknown characteristics, so the ususal protocols that teams follow for verdant breaches (as seen in your handbook, and your team has its local things-to-immediately-try). One important thing for ordinary reliquary-engineer people is to check that everything else is still safe in its reliquary. (Between them, teams handle somewhat more reliquaries than they have people, and if there is ever any slack in the system the Ensemble will cheerfully throw additional interferences at them until this is eaten. Statistically, interferences that you're in charge of handling aren't more likely when you're having a good day, but try finding a supervisor who agrees with that. Regardless of why, this means that checking all reliquaries in an emergency is somewhat of an involved task.)


Sophie taps Kat's shoulder.

Uh, does this happen a lot?
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