All right, I think I’ve completed my obligation to narrate actual happenings for a while, so. If you’ll indulge me.
There have always (for our particular given value of the word “always”) been areas of the October that are closed to us, because, man, something really fegged this ship up at some point in the past. One of the auxiliary reactors is critically damaged and is venting into space; Alan confirmed this as best he could on EVA, but the readings were too hot for close inspection. (Warhawke says that despite the damage, the reactor’s stable, and alarmist as he is, I’m inclined to trust him if he actually claims something about his detested vessel isn’t a threat.) Two of the peripheral crew modules are in hard vacuum; again, Alan-on-EVA scouted them from the outside and salvaged anything of value he could find, and the single frozen corpse he discovered inside one was moved to cold storage in the ship’s morgue. (Captain Bansemir campaigned hard for a burial at “sea”, but Nurse Kant — the one remaining member of the medical staff — insisted we keep it, even after a full examination, just in case we might not know what to look for yet.) And the room which should house the main armory is sealed and locked down tight, its door damaged beyond repair and its walls impervious to everything we are able to throw at it, up to and including Mister Bunny. That there is its own style of worrisome.
Coming in above and beyond all the rest, however, is the particular problem of Deck Twelve, now known to us as the Labyrinth.
When awareness first returned to us, one of the Captain’s first orders was for a shipwide sweep, to gather as much data as we possibly could about who we were, what we were doing, trivial miscellany like that. Things were proceeding reasonably normally until the sweep unit lead by Midshipman Jones made the mistake of attempting to approach the primary holographic recreation deck. Holographic recreation decks have always been standard appointments aboard our mysterious parent organization’s more well-appointed ships-o’-the-line, or so I’ve read in the fragmentary logs. Unfortunately, niggly little errors and corruptions would tend to creep into the holographic imaging protocols with extended recreational use, so the decision was eventually made to assign an entirely separate and hermetically-isolated A.I. to the recreation deck, so that the crew could frolic about in the midst of their wildest dreams without, say, interrupting the functioning of a holographic computer interface (such as the LOLCat).
With me so far? Good. So, the Captain’s up on the bridge, monitoring the sweep over the October‘s internal sensors. The moment Jones’s team disembarks from the transit system to Deck Twelve — where the October‘s holorec is located — the entire deck vanishes from her screens. Some sort of massive EM flux or something. Whatever it was, it caused the scanners to go totally Cyrillic whenever anyone tried to train ’em on that deck. Seeing his contact with Command evaporate, Jones does the sensible thing and ducks his team back into the transit system and asks Captain Bansemir for advice. She hems and haws for a bit before ordering the squad in to do some firsthand recon.
Jones’s team vanished into the static without a trace and never emerged.
Well, Alan wouldn’t stand for that. The Captain was all for sealing the deck off, at least until the rest of the sweep was finished, but under protest she allowed Alan to lead a rescue squad in after the ill-fated sweep unit. Norway was in it. So was I.
…it wasn’t pleasant. It started out pretty normally until we tried to loop around and re-establish contact with Command, whereupon we found that we just couldn’t find the transit platform again. Every hall we went down twisted us back around to another hall that looked exactly like the first one, and damn if that didn’t start creeping us out. Norway was the first to posit that, somehow, the holofields were… leaking out of the recreation berths and corrupting the halls surrounding them, twisting them into an impenetrable maze.
And that’s about the time we saw the first flagstone. A minute or two later, we were making our way along a passageway that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in some sort of Tudor fortress. There were arrow slits along the walls, from which spilled an unhealthy blue light. Norway peered out one once, creeping into the “hand” of his auto-ambulatory home for a better look, and promptly cautioned the remainder of us not to do the same. I believe his exact words were “For the love of your own goddamn mothers and all the angels in Heaven, do not look out there.” We were inclined to trust him.
After that, things started getting really weird.
To make a long story short, we eventually found Jones, minus his entire squad, holed up in a ready-room that had somehow escaped the worst of the holo-leakage. He was babbling incoherently to himself, and while Alan did have the wherewithal to get an audio log of Jones’s rant, we have yet to be able to make heads or tails of it. Kex ran stats on the disjointed babble, and the two most repeated concepts, the ones Jones referenced more than any other, were as follows: “Labyrinth”… which made sense; and “Entity.”
We lost Jones, despite our best efforts. Nurse Kant had him up in the infirmary, running tests on something she called his “large-scale quantum tissue disruption” when he simply walked out of the restraints she had him in. Alerts were called in, but since the entire security staff consists of Alan Tengrew and maybe a couple of other guys he can round up from time to time, there really was little hope of catching him. Eschewing the transit system entirely, he worked his way through the unsecured pedestrian passages that Warhawke is so fond of and made his way back to the Deck Twelve platform on foot, whereupon — according to the security footage — he cried out in an unfamiliar tongue (later discovered to be Aramaic) and cast himself back into the holorec sector. We have seen nothing of him since, and we have no reason not to fear the worst.
The only problem? We don’t even know what “the worst” is.
Anyway, the situation has only declined since. After Jones fed himself to the Labyrinth, the bulkhead between the Labyrinth and the transit system locked and sealed (itself?) and has been totally impenetrable ever since. Any access to the Labyrinth since that date has been via the deck breach beneath Conduit C, and that entrance is always ruled over by terrible visions and magnoholographic guardians who — thanks to cutting-edge shaped magnetic field technology — are more than capable of kicking our asses for real. That’s bad.
What’s worse? It’s spreading. Shortly after Deck Twelve took itself offline, we started losing more and more space to the sensor static. Eventually, it claimed the vast majority of Thirteen, which used to be one of the October‘s primary cargo decks, the contents of which we never managed to fully inventory before we lost access to it. We haven’t lost all of Thirteen… but we’ve lost enough that there is a definite “clear” area, and then a sort of no-man’s land which alternately sinks into and emerges from the static like wave-washed beach sand.
When the static clears, it leaves stuff behind, stuff apparently salvaged from the claimed and subsumed cargo deck. Eerily enough, and this to me reaches crap-your-pants levels of eerie, it’s almost always something that one or the other of us has been really really wanting at the time. Hence, here, the security breakers Captain Bansemir wants me and Alan to fetch.
It’s baiting us. The whole thing is laughably simple; for all its trappings of technology, this is nothing more than a plate of food laid out underneath a propped-up box, and there is obviously someone holding on to the string tied to the stick that holds it up. It got Jones and Jones’s entire sweep squad, and we have no idea what it’s done with them or to them. And the more stuff we find we need to keep the ship functioning, the more of us it will take.
We don’t know what it is, but it lurks amongst us in the heart of the primary holorec. It has perfect control of the sealed-off hologenetic A.I. It may in fact be the sealed-off hologenetic A.I., driven mad by being asked to reproduce one too many implausible fantasies. And then again, it may be something else entirely. Its motives are inscrutable, its methods devious, and for better or for worse, it is coming with us, wherever it is we are going.
It is the Entity.