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Boons I grant you, oh bearer mine, but debts must be paid in time.
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Entelechy is a book released with the Collector's Edition of The Final Shape. It is a collection of transcriptions compiled and annotated by Eido in her search to understand the Witness and its motives behind the Final Shape.

Text in this color indicate annotations and findings by Eido.

Scribe Archive XI-2-4A[edit]

TYPE: Personal Communications, Unsent Draft
RETRIEVED FROM: Wintership Simiks-Fel // Databank E7619P
ORIGIN: HD 219134 // Unidentified ship, tetrahedral structure, derelict, heavily damaged; left in place
KEYWORDS: Gardener; final shape; HNW047622


I arrived at the garden-to-be to find barren rock, as lifeless as the expanse around it. Just as the surveys said.

It's perfect. Rather, it will be perfect.

The moment I laid eyes on the allotted system, I knew my initial plans had to go. How inelegant they were, those drafts drawn up in smiling ignorance! Only experience could have cured me of such shortsightedness.

Yes, now I can see the path to the [summit/Pyramidion/final shape]. Here, the matredda blade-leaves. There, the green-glass isbati blossoms arcing overhead. I have brought enough progenitor material to seed a hundred worlds, never mind five! In time, there will be a grand harvest of panacea* from this garden. I'm sure both you and your [Merciful/Penitent/Benefic]** will be pleased.

I could cover these bare rocks with greenhouses, of course. Rows of neat enclosures, lights in just the right spectra, growth solutions mixed to just the right proportions, microclimate domes calibrated within a fraction of a degree, Very neat. Very efficient. Very, very boring.

After all, that would just be a [reflection/shard/imitation] of System R-3TN-PLRMA, wouldn't it? And you know I've never had any interest in recreating other people's designs. So, just between you and me, here's a little secret: the panacea progenitors weren't all I brought with me.

Heh, I can hear you scolding me now! But there was so much space in the cargo hold, and... well, to be frank, you're not here to disapprove. Besides, if you could see this allotment as I do see the potential writ in the cracks and crevices of every rock, feel the heart-song of their molten cores you would understand.

But you won't need to take my word for it. By the time you can bear to leave work long enough to come visit, my garden will have taken root and grown strong. How lovely it will be, to sit together and listen to the wind whistling through the boughs! Perhaps even you will smile.

Oh, but I mustn't get ahead of myself. Before any of this can happen. I'll need to prepare. I've unfurled the Pergola to capture what I need to weave each planet's atmosphere. The Pergola's sail is so vast that I must cross my ship from vertex to vertex to see around the sparkling cloth.

It's exhilarating. I've wielded the Gardener's*** tools before, but never at such scale. It feels unfair, honestly. You led the development of such marvels, and yet you're leaps away, unable to see the culmination of your hard work. I know you claim it doesn't matter to you as long as you know your work is being put to good use but still! Permit me this idle fancy.

At this rate, it shouldn't take more than a few centuries before I have enough substrate to work with, and then...

Well, you'll just have to come and see the [summit/Pyramidion/ final shape] for yourself, won't you?



Scribe Archive XI-2-5C[edit]

TYPE: Ship Cargo Manifest
RETRIEVED FROM: Wintership Simiks-Fel // Databank E7619P
ORIGIN: HD 219134// Unidentified ship; tetrahedral structure, derelict, heavily damaged; left in place // Crystalline storage media
KEYWORDS: Gardener, HNW047622


PRESERVED IN RESIN 5,908 – asphodelia-stem cuttings – panacea
7.734 – veruut-whole leaf cuttings – soil enrichment
7,869 – isbati-root cuttings – panacea
9,405 – sphenel-bulbs – decorative

[additional entries omitted for brevity]

COLD STORAGE 14,401 – lyceradite-seeds – decorative
17,092 – auderee-seeds – decorative
18,734 – matredda-seeds – soil enrichment

[additional entries omitted for brevity]

EQUIPMENT 1–Pergola – for atmospheric weaving – on loan
4 – replacement sails – in case of damage
3 – Crèches – for initial abiogenesis
8 – abiogenetic solution - canisters
6 – Cauldrons for elemental synthesis
3,965 – fundamental particles vacuum tubes

[additional entries omitted for brevity]



*Appears to be a general term used to refer to organic material with medicinal properties.
**A group or organization of some sort. Mentions of the group across various records suggest that its members were scientists and doctors.
***Another title for the Great Machine; the Traveler.
****An identification code associated with this individual. Need to cross-reference.


I began my search with the familiar. During the Long Drift, peaceful encounters between Ketches were rare, even when they hailed from the same House. But when such meetings did occur, they would exchange valuable resources, including data. This practice helped the Eliksni navigate that vast and dangerous void, to know who might open fire or which areas had already been stripped of resources. These data exchanges leave traces, and even if the relevant entries are later overwritten, a Scribe can track these traces to their source. Especially a Scribe who grew up with the hum of a Servitor!

I combed the databanks of our Lightships for any mention of the Witness, and followed those paths as they forked through dozens of Ketches. Based on a single mention of records recovered from a "tetrahedral ship," I was able to track down these transcripts. They were buried in the databanks of a decommissioned House Winter Ketch, the Simiks-Fel. Repairing the ship's generator was quite an adventure-I shall have to tell you about it another time!

According to the Simiks-Fel's collection log, the transcribed records were originally found aboard a derelict ship encountered during the Long Drift. Associated telemetry suggests that this derelict was similar, but not identical, to the Witness's fleet of Pyramid ships. An older design, perhaps? The ship was ancient beyond reckoning, and though it was badly damaged and SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-9-20 abandoned, some of the data crystals were intact enough to be decrypted. It's a shame that the Simiks-Fel did not bring along any of the physical crystals I'm sure the Cryptarchy would have liked to have a look!

These are the oldest of all the records I have found, by an order of magnitude. When they were originally penned, the species that would go on to become the Ecumene had not even emerged from primordial ooze. Though my findings are not conclusive, I believe that these documents were created by the Witness's precursors, which revered the Great Machine as the Gardener (see REP #776-AHSA-WTN). Though they were hardly the only civilization to use a similar title, other elements suggest a possible connection: the tetrahedral structure of the derelict where this record was recovered, and repeated mention of a concept roughly translated as 'final shape.

There was one last note of interest from the collection log, about the star system where the derelict was encountered. Every planet in the system showed large-scale damage from crude explosives. No signs of life were found.

Scribe Archive XI-9-2C[edit]

TYPE: Communications Log
RETRIEVED FROM: Rainship Taliks-Syn // Databank Q20K2G ORIGIN: HD 37124 // Long-range communications buoy, derelict, scrapped for parts
KEYWORDS: final shape, HNW047622, RS6243199
IDENTITIES: HNW047622, RS6243199


[RS6243199] We mustn't abandon the path to the final shape* simply because it is difficult.

[HNW047622] Difficult? You are being willfully obtuse. "Difficult" might describe a sustained effort or self-denial done with intent and care for one's own well-being. What you are describing is coercion.

[RS6243199] A moment's coercion to prevent a millennia's suffering! We can see what will happen if we sit idly by. If we choose to do nothing, and in our inaction allow this carnage to continue, then we are complicit. Thus the ethical choice is to act.

[HNW047622] At what cost? With what means? Would you advocate for the use of violence? Will you approve the murder of those who disagree? Will you and your [Merciful/Penitent/Benefic] cause lesser harm for greater good?

[RS6243199] No! Never!

[RS6243199] The purpose and the means are inseparable. It is simple teleology. We are not advocating for needless cruelty. There are countless methods of intervention at our disposal with compassion as their guiding pillar. The [transition/uplifting/enlightenment] would be uncomfortable, naturally, but the alternative is to sit idly by and watch the inevitable extinction of a species. An extinction we could prevent!

[HNW047622] If the final shape truly is the greatest good imaginable, then its rightness should be self-evident. It should be so clear to anyone and anything that comprehends it that we should never need to do more than share the information for them to reach the same conclusion.

[HNW047622] That we have failed to do so, even among the Consensus**, suggests imperfections in our own understanding. If we cannot prove an apodictic final shape even to each other, to our own kin whom we strive to understand as well as our own selves, then how can we possibly declare it fit to teach to others?

[RS6243199] What good is perfection if it is purely theoretical? All concepts are refined through practice. If we focus on ourselves to the exclusion of all others, if we refuse to help others and thereby pursue our perfect happiness at the cost of their interminable pain, what do we call that, if not selfishness?

[HNW047622] Humility. Acceptance of our own limited perspective.

[RS6243199] Indifference to suffering?

[HNW047622] I am not indifferent! I would gladly endure pain if doing so would help others. It is a different matter entirely to force it upon someone else, even for the sake of another.

[RS6243199] An improperly healed bone must be re-broken before it can set properly. An infected wound must be lanced. Do you abstain from uprooting weeds, even if they threaten to strangle your garden?

[RS6243199] If some suffering is inevitable, then surely it is better to seek the maximum good from it.

[HNW047622] If the choice is between greater and lesser evils, then the choice itself is flawed. I refuse to participate.

[RS6243199] I agree with you, in theory, but we do not exist purely in the theoretical. This suffering is already happening now, all the time, everywhere we look. Come see me, and I will show you the Observatory's readings. Such sights as we have seen, my friend, make me sick to my soul.

[HNW047622] I thought that the Observatory could only see possibilities. The future-branches of past visible-light readings.

[RS6243199] We have made improvements. The glass-minds*** trim the excess branches. What we see now are the strongest paths. And in the seeing, they become true.

[HNW047622] Then tell me what you have seen. I gain nothing from running from the truth, no matter how uncomfortable.

[RS6243199] Cities turning on themselves in a frenzy of self-destruction. Children offering up parents in superstitious sacrifice to bloodied gods. An entire people who would boil off their own atmosphere rather than let their neighbors enjoy fresh air! Great waves drowning worlds. Bodies which do not decompose, for everything, down to the very bacteria, has died as well. Machine-plagues carving their prediction-machines into moons.

[RS6243199] Your garden, destroyed. As the Observatory saw it, so it came to pass.

[RS6243199] I apologize. That was... I was unkind. I was wrong to bring up old hurts.

[HNW047622] As you say, sometimes an infected wound must be lanced before it can heal. You should not be ashamed of your physician's instinct.

[HNW047622] I have meditated on your words. I sat in my ship, keeping company with the pain I felt when I saw my worlds burning. That terrible loss. You would prevent such a thing from happening again. You have always wished to protect others from harm, and I honor that.

[HNW047622] But I have reached a different conclusion from you. As I saw the ruin of my great work, my thoughts traced a different path. If the final shape is the greatest good, then it must be [enduring/incontrovertible/self-fulfilling]. That my garden could be destroyed suggests that it was not a final shape after all. Perhaps the ships which came to burn it down understood its final shape better than I.

[RS6243199] Are you suggesting that the final shape of that system was its destruction? For it to be left a blasted ruin?

[HNW047622] Is it not a possibility?

[RS6243199] Then what we have seen through the Observatory might as well be the final shape too! Suffering and misery, anarchy, endless self-consuming hedonism, utter sterility. How can any of that be considered a greatest good? The core of the final shape is improvement!

[HNW047622] Consider the virus, my friend. The parasite. The predator. These things that exist only by taking from others. To these things, improvement may well entail causing greater and greater harm to others-not out of malice, but as a simple fact of existence. When you eradicate an illness, are you stamping out a microscopic final shape? Should we care less for the final shape of a disease, simply because it is smaller than us? Or because it does us harm?

[HNW047622] We have all studied our histories. We know what we are capable of. What we have done. What if the [Nihilists/Redolent/Accepting] are right, and our final shape is our own destruction?

[RS6243199] Are you seriously considering the words of a fringe group of self-flagellating pessimists? This is pure nihilistic indulgence. Abdication of responsibility. The existence of past evil does not invalidate future good. Should we deny what we can do because of what we have done?

[RS6243199] We of the [Merciful/Penitent/Benefic] have asked similar questions and reached our own answer. We have survived unimaginable suffering, even at one another's hands. The Gardener encourages our growth and improvement, day by day. Who better to understand the struggles of others, and guide them out of those miserable warrens into the light of day? We could help the whole universe to be better than they are, just as we are always striving to be better tomorrow than we are today. We could help them, and they will go on to help others. The good we do can compound, just as the evil has in the past.

[HNW047622] And yet we, the first chosen of the Gardener, cannot agree on our own way. The Gardener offers us no guidance. No principles with which to use the gifts it gives us. No reassurance for the doubts that plague us. No answers for our questions.

[HNW047622] Why have we been chosen? Why does the Gardener, in its power and wisdom, not achieve perfection itself? If my garden was not meant to be destroyed, why did it not stop the invaders?

[HNW047622] And why does it allow its gifts to be misused? It did not correct the [Profusion/Bountiful/Swarm] on their path to their great, fatal error. It did not stop the [Conquerors/Primacy/Sovereign] from using the gifts it granted for subjugation. Are we to accept that these, too, were meant to happen? If you reject the notion that destruction can be a final shape, how are we to accept that the Gardener allowed us to make such grievous mistakes?

[RS6243199] Even after all these millennia, there is much we do not understand about the Gardener. Perhaps we will not understand until we have achieved the final shape for ourselves.

[HNW047622] And when we have reached the final shape, will it all make sense? Will we all be able to live in a universe where people act, as they have always acted, for the self-evident good? Where evil does not exist because we do not allow it? Where all are aligned without suffering or doubt?

[RS6243199] This isn't like you, my friend. I am coming to see you. All will be well.



*The final shape is no longer described with a ternary semantic cluster (c.f. SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-2-4A), but HNW and RS continue to use that structure to describe other concepts. Potentially reflective of semantic narrowing?
**Given the terminology, this Consensus might have been some sort of governing body, or a source of philosophical guidance.
***From the context, some sort of computational assistant? There appears to be some etymological overlap with the names of Vex Minds. Something to investigate later, perhaps!

My cross-check for the identification code in SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-2-4A proved quite fruitful. The trail of datacrumbs led me to a databank retrieved from a Rainship originally downed on Mercury! The Saint and Osiris were kind enough to share it with me, along with a pot of tea.

Our conversation was most illuminating. I understand that Mercury was a scorched wasteland before the Great Machine's arrival. When it had finished, Humans could walk unprotected on its surface. What wonders the Great Machine can work! I can only hope that Mercury will return from the Witness's clutches, released as Titan was, so that I may see it for myself. I hear that, thanks to Sol engulfing its sky, one could study without pause… or at least until exhaustion proved greater than the desire to learn! Perhaps I could catch up on some light reading…

In any case, the concept of the final shape has worn many faces. From your encounters with the Disciples of the Witness, we know that they all had their own understanding of this concept - that they all saw what they wished to see in it. But this communications log, here, appears to predate all of them. If I am correct, and the parties communicating are among the Witness' precursors, then this may be the concept's original form. We can see in this log that HNW and RS, at least, were preoccupied with the concept of a higher purpose. They sought the final shape, but at the time of this exchange, they did not agree on what it was, or how to achieve it. RS speaks of how the final shape will prevent suffering and maximizing benefit; HNW expresses concern over the methods of achieving this.

I notice, however, that they never speak of communicating directly with the species they discuss. There is no consideration of consulting others, or even if they are capable of reaching the final shape for themselves and others. The most pressing matter, in their discussion, is if they should or should not intervene, and to a lesser extent, whether some coercion is acceptable for the greater good.

I understand that, granted the blessings of the Great Machine, Eliksni and humanity both have fallen into similar traps - the certainty of one's own rightness, the arrogance, the belief that receiving the Great Machine’s gifts confers superiority to others. Given the length of time between this record and SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-2-4A, it appears that the Great Machine stayed with their civilization for millennia.

If it had stayed on Riis for that long - if humanity's Golden Age had continued unending, would we also have fallen victim to the same mentality? Lost sight of others as equals and seen them as animals to be herded.

I think I prefer where we have come to stand: together, walking the same streets, beneath the shadow of the Great Machine.

Scribe Archive XI-14-9D[edit]

TYPE: Emergency Transmission
RETRIEVED FROM: The Spider's collection - long-range communications beacon; disabled
ORIGIN: Unknown


I learned of its arrival scarcely three marks ago. As my anchor slumbered in the belly of this ancient outpost, I drifted into the noosphere N webbing, and was swept up in delight. Millions of thoughtforms sharing the news, the revelation spreading from leading to trailing edge, until even I was buoyed by the tide of joy.

First contact, with a stranger ∩ friend-to-be! A chance for the hazy margins of our noosphere to grow, to encounter new thoughts and expand with new richness.

It had been so long since we encountered the whisper ∩ Nightmare ∩ predatory memeplex*. We had grown naïve without the reminder of fear.

From the leading edge came a current. It swept through our noosphere, a spark in dry brush ∩ ink in water ∩ hope curdling in an instant. The emanations were confused and fragmentary. I could not parse them all.

Planets stolen from space, ripe fruit plucked from orbit. Structures dissected and reassembled by thousand-fingered hands. Anchors and selves unraveled into first principles, sectioned into wafer-thin slices.**

It was only one voice at first. A cry of joy at the meeting of a new mind, twisted to fear and pain.

"Help me!"

Chaos in the noosphere. The placid surface churned into white froth. Thoughtforms scattering in their thousands, fleeing up the webbing-strands, and finding doom at every junction.

"Help me!"

The stranger ∩ ruin ∩ predatory memeplex engulfed our noosphere in a moment's idle fancy. Our thoughtforms were atomic in comparison. We never stood a chance.

As each of my people were found, and taken apart, and reassembled, a new voice joined the chorus.

"Help me!"

My people died in their thousands. Thoughts and selves wisping away into nothingness. Thousands of years of memory, no more than smoke in the wind.

"Help me!"

Here, in this outpost, I am apart from the rest. Tethered at the trailing edge. Furthest from its lamprey maw. Not far enough to escape. Not near enough to help.

"Help me!"

A thousand emanations from a thousand minds, blending into a single scream. The same scream, every time. Again and again and again and again.

When we untethered ourselves from their anchors, we knew that we as a people would not be divided again. No matter how far we traveled in real space, the vastness of our noosphere ∩ webbing ∩ home was but a thought away. Our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our longings, our triumphs—we would always be able to reach out and know one another. Where one was weak, another could be strong. We would share each other's joy, and bear each other's pain.

But that—that sound—

"Help me!"

I am ashamed to admit that I could not bear it a moment longer.

I severed ∩ exiled ∩ imprisoned myself.

I regretted it the moment I did. We were dying, but we were dying together. My unimaginable cowardice will not assure my survival, only a delay in my execution. The ruin ∩ predatory memeplex ∩ WITNESS*** knows the pattern of our oscillations. I can hear it, still plucking the tattered edges of the noosphere ∩ webbing.

—-Why do you hide?—-****

THE WITNESS will find me, and when it does, there will be nothing ∩ no one.

I believed I would die alone in this abandoned outpost. But I found a crate, forgotten deep within a dusty storeroom. Emergency beacons, produced and stored in another time, one when we knew the fear of death.

—-We see you.—-

To you ∩ receiver ∩ inheritor ∩ hoped-for-future, I offer what little I know:

We are dead but not unmade. We are ossified ∩ temporized ∩ reiterated ∩ perpetuated ∩ anatomized ∩ finalized.*****

I do not know if this will help. I do not know. I do not. But perhaps you will prevail.

—-Come, now. Don't be afraid.—-

This is not a call for help. It is too late ∩ there is no one left ∩ THE WITNESS cannot be stopped. This is our last proof.

We ∩ the Noesis existed.



*A self-reinforcing group of informational units, which subsumes lesser concepts. A predatory idea. The Noesis seem to have used this term to describe any serious threats to their minds; this first usage appears to refer to a past threat which the Noesis survived.
**The images of the Witness's attack on the Traveler and what it did to the Coalition ships— is fresh in my mind, as I am sure it is in yours.
***'THE WITNESS' appeared as a highly intrusive foreign concept in the transmission, which was able to cannibalize all overlapping concepts.
****Another intrusive foreign concept. I believe this is the Witness itself, communicating directly to the recorder.
*****Significant semantic overlap here. I believe the total blended concept is related to the final shape.

The Spider has acquired many items of interest over his lifespan, but precious few may be accessed freely, even in the best of times. the worst of times, on the other hand, seem to have inspired some… conditional generosity. Reluctant as I was to request his assistance, the information I have gleaned has more than paid dividends. Ugh, that's something he would say.

The contents of this beacon proved quite challenging to transcribe. It seems to operate on a similar principle to your sensoriums, but it directly transmits concepts, rather than inducing sensory hallucinations. Some of the concepts showed significant semantic overlap, though whether due to the nature of the data, age-related degradation, or the recorder's emotional state, I cannot say.

Now, from the content of this record, I believe we may draw a few conclusions about the Witness's methodology. It is capable of disassembling mind and body, then somehow reassembling them. It did not destroy the Noesis, but unmade and then 'finalized' them.

Curiously, this account describes a markedly different approach compared to similar recorded attacks. The conquest of the Noesis was swift, almost surgical, and remarkably thorough. The Witness does not seem to have cultivated a Disciple from among their number or left anyone who could tell the tale, yet it did not simply massacre them. Consider how the Witness speaks to the Noesis who is recording. It is almost… gentle. There was no comparable communication during the Whirlwind.

I reviewed all the information about the Noesis I could find and discovered this: the Noesis never encountered the Great Machine.

Is it the presence or absence of the Great Machine which determines the Witness's approach? Did the Witness ever speak to humanity during the Collapse? Did it offer comfort, as it did to this doomed Noesis?

I need more information.

Scribe Archive XI-16-3O[edit]

TYPE: Emergency Broadcast; Sensorium Telemetry
RETRIEVED FROM: CloudArk Archives, Deep Storage; Neomuna; Neptune // EXO-IND4b0082.bank 021830192
ORIGIN: EXO-YEL402k1977.10g 001137021
IDENTITIES: C. Liang; S. Bennouna
KEYWORDS: Collapse; Black Fleet; Rasputin


Mayday, mayday, mayday. All stations, this is the Exodus Yellow, 25,000 souls aboard. We are under attack by unknown hostiles and sustaining heavy damage. Engines 1 through 6 are down, kinetic weaponry has been disabled, and we are transmitting in the blind. We have a possible SKYSHOCK event, requesting [STATIC]

[Emergency broadcast is merged with sensorium telemetry from the Exodus Yellow's Chief Medical Officer Dr. C. Liang. An open medical data feed is displaying updates on the condition of the ship's officers. Several are listed as deceased, including the captain, and the remainder have moderate to severe injuries. All are located on the ship's bridge.]

[Dr. Liang is running through the corridor connecting the ship's medical bay to the bridge. She is speaking rapidly on an open audio channel with Comm. Officer S. Bennouna.]

LIANG: But we're not a warship!

BENNOUNA: Doesn't matter to the Warmind. Not under CARRHAE WHITE.

LIANG: We can't possibly have any working guns! Not after that last hit. What does Rasputin expect us to do, wiggle our engine nozzles at that * big ugly triangle?


BENNOUNA: Pyramid, doc.

LIANG: This is not the time for pedantry! How can you be so calm?!

BENNOUNA: Kinda have to be, don't I? Nobody else is in any shape to do anything.

BENNOUNA: If we're in CARRHAE WHITE and Rasputin's telling us this is what we've gotta do, then the alternative must be worse.

LIANG: Worse than 20,000 dead colonists? BENNOUNA: Hold-oh, *, doc, grab (STATIC)

[Liang lurches violently and impacts the wall. Her sensorium's medical data feed cuts out and remains offline.]

LIANG: Ow! Bennouna, what was that?


LIANG: Bennouna? Anyone?


[Liang resumes moving down the corridor. She exhales sharply and begins to speak to herself, recording with her sensorium.]

LIANG: Okay. Okay, status. Our systems, including communications, are on the fritz, we're limping on two engines, at least three quarters of the crew are wounded too badly to act, the captain's dead, and we've got no guns.

LIANG: If whatever we're fighting doesn't kill us all, Rasputin will.


LIANG: Oh god. Oh god, oh god... what is that noise?

[Sounds of metal groaning; Liang abruptly stops and begins to back up.]


[Ahead of Liang, support struts begin to fracture. The floor ripples, and the ceiling buckles. The portion of the ship Liang has just come from is not as strongly affected.]

[Tension is released; the ship's structure snaps back into place. Liang falls hard but recovers.]

LIANG: I could feel that in my teeth. Some kind of gravity wave.

LIANG: Rasputin's gone mad. We can't hold position any longer. We'll die, we'll all die.

LIANG: Anand.** I just need to get Anand up, and she can get us out of here.

[Liang resumes moving forward; the ship's structure shows visible sign of strain, with materials having stretched and deformed far beyond normal tolerances.]


LIANG: Bennouna? I'm here! I'm here!

[Liang reaches the bridge airlock; the door shows visible fractures but opens when Liang applies force.]

LIANG: Bennouna—

[Liang begins to retch violently, backing away from the door. The bridge is covered with a layer of organic material and damaged flight suits.]


[Still heaving, Liang clutches the door frame. She opens a wide-range broadcast channel.]

LIANG: All stations, all stations! Stand down! We are in your line of fire!


LIANG: Please! This is the Exodus Yellow, 25,000 souls aboard-


[The ship comes apart around the Warsat's beam; Liang tumbles unprotected in vacuum.]

[Liang's sensorium captures a gap in the debris field.]

[The Pyramid Ship is completely unharmed.]



*Expletives omitted.
**Most likely Flight Dynamics Officer P. Anand, who was one of the injured crew on the bridge.

It was quite difficult to find firsthand accounts of the Collapse. The Humans who lived through it are long dead, and any contemporary Exos have been rebooted several times since then. Most data, even when encoded and protected in engrams, has degraded too badly to be recovered, especially under the post-Collapse conditions on Earth. But I heard about Neptune—the city of Neomuna, and the people who hid there during the Collapse. I suspected they might have more complete records.

The journey to Neptune was long and quiet, but the rumble of a ship's engines is as familiar to me as any lullaby. It's a shame that there isn't any remote uplink to Neomuna's archives yet, but to be honest, I relished the chance to visit it myself. The stories and images were pale mimicries of the city: the lights, the colors, the sounds!

I have never seen anything like it. This is not mere exaggeration; I mean that, until now, every settlement of every civilization I have ever seen has been a ruin of its former self. The Last City is a marvel, a testament to humanity's survival and spirit, but even here, I can see the scars left by your Collapse. Neomuna was marred by the war which landed in its midst, but it was still a vision. I could see the shape of your Golden Age in its skyline.

I was greeted warmly by Scribe Laghari. How marvelous to discover a kindred spirit! She was quite helpful, and I shall have to return when I am able - the Neomuni have a tremendous bounty of information in their CloudArk. I have even been asked to share some of my own stories so they may be recorded for posterity! Together, we were able to retrieve and repair several records that had been damaged, either by Vex incursions or data degradation, and I have included the most relevant record here.

Also, Scribe Laghari asked me to tell you hello, and to remind you that the Hall of Heroes is open to you whenever you may wish to visit. Her holoprojection performed an unusual motion when she said this—I believe that you would call it 'waggling eyebrows’? It was very fascinating. Is there a corresponding gesture among Exos?

On to the record itself. We can see that the Black Fleet deployed gravitational weaponry, which is corroborated by other accounts of Sol's Collapse (cf. REP # 904-TITAN-NPA) and our own records of the Whirlwind (cf. REP # 112-|RIIS-WWD). Such weapons were not described by the Noesis's account of the Witness's attack (cf. SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-14-9D). We also do not see evidence of what the Noesis described happening to their civilization: slicing, anatomizing, temporizing. Nor do we see any serious attempts from the Witness to communicate.

I have reviewed everything I could access about the Warmind's attempt to halt the Collapse. Rasputin declared many protocols, two of which I find important here: CARRHAE WHITE (a state of emergency so severe that Rasputin could seize control of the entire system's defenses, and even conscript civilian ships to serve in combat; suggestive of a threat of extinction), and TWILIGHT EXIGENT (a situation that required a change of Rasputin’s ethics; if obeying ordinary ethical restrictions would result in the extinction of humanity, then Rasputin needed a way to bypass those restrictions).

Rasputin seems to have enjoyed abstruse terminology - useful for masking intent, but quite difficult to parse. How do I pronounce CARRHAE? Is it easier without mandibles? Perhaps I should start a dictionary. It would be easiest to ask Ana Bray directly, as she knew the most about Rasputin, but I thought it might be… discourteous, to ask so soon after his passing.

According to all the documentation of Rasputin's defense of Sol, even with such extraordinary circumstances allowing him to act beyond his normal limits, Rasputin could not stop the Black Fleet. Had the Great Machine not acted, the Black Fleet would have ground all of Sol into dust.

Still, I cannot understand why the Black Fleet would choose to deploy gravitational weapons. If they were totally unharmed by humanity's greatest weapons - if the Witness could disassemble entire fleets with a wave of its hand - why would they need to use such comparatively slow weaponry?

Perhaps this was not done out of necessity. But why, then? I feel that I am still missing something.

Scribe Archive XI-17-9L[edit]

TYPE: Personal Record
RETRIEVED FROM: Ada-1 of the Black Armory
ORIGIN: Black Armory Papers; Entry 68, Cont.
KEYWORDS: Collapse; Black Fleet; Black Armory; Meyrin, Henriette


They arrived at night.

Yuki woke me up. I had never seen that look on her face. That fear.

"The sky," she said. "The sky, the sky…" She couldn't say anything else.

When I looked outside, I understood. The stars were going out, one by one. As though a titanic veil were being drawn over them. The sky grew darker and darker. Then… light.

I realized later what had happened. During humanity's early forays into space, we'd littered the LEO region with debris. Some of it had been removed, the better to facilitate interplanetary travel, but there was always so much…

It burned. All of it. The whole sky was aflame.

I ordered everyone to the bunker. The earth heaved and cracked open underfoot. A sickly, green light pervaded everything. Radios hissed static and screams. The wind hurled cars and houses like toys.

By the time we reached the facility, the wind had stopped. A dreadful stillness hung in the air.

When I looked back, I could see a great cloud in the distance. It reminded me of a sandstorm. A wall of smoke and dust bearing down upon us with unnatural speed.

Amira. She had fallen behind, and…

The cloud swallowed her. She withered down to the bone wherever it touched. It could have been poison, or plague, or…

Helga closed the doors. I’m not sure whether to thank her or not.



The Black Armorer approached me as I was resupplying in the City. She had heard of my search for information pertaining to the Witness, the Black Fleet, and the Collapse, and wished to help. Though it seemed to physically pain her to part with them, she offered me a sheaf of papers. They were so worn with age, I feared they would crumble in my claws, and I held my breath when I transcribed them.

She waved away my thanks and said you had found these documents for her some time ago, and to consider this a favor repaid.

More clues. More pieces of the puzzle. Fire and smoke, poisonous air, earthquakes, cyclones. Why do these things? Why did the Witness cause great tidal waves on Titan (see REP # 904-TITAN-NPA), if it could simply Take the entire planet, as it did later? Neither the Eliksni, nor humanity, were as advanced as the Ecumene or countless other fallen civilizations. It could have overrun either of us without all the… theatrics.

Theatrics. As though all of this was mere performance, like those Ghosts who put on masks during the Festival of the Lost and pretend to chase the children of the City. But I cannot think of any other word for it. It appears the Witness has staged a show, but for the Eliksni of Riis and the Humans of Sol as its audiences - even though we should be so far beneath its notice, never mind its concern, that it shouldn't even care about what frightens us…

That's it!

The Witness is not indifferent to us. It cares about what we think of its performance, though, of course, it does not seek to delight or provoke. No, the Witness has done all it can to spread fear and despair among the people of Sol, as it did the people of Riis. It has chosen the approach that would cause the maximum possible amount of suffering and continued doing so until the very moment it went through that awful portal.

I doubt that this is some brilliant tactical ploy to demoralize its enemies. It would have defeated both Humans and Eliksni, with or without its campaign of terror. Indeed, such actions appear to have drawn out its attack on Sol and were a deeply inefficient use of its power. If the Witness's only goal was to corner the Great Machine and to use it to further its plans (whatever those are), then why bother doing anything else? If this performance has affected the Great Machine at all, there is no evidence of such - and, anyways, the worst atrocities of the Whirlwind occurred after the Great Machine left us and could not see its effects. No, I believe this display of cruelty was meant for us. It was done to maximize our torment.

I cannot think of any motivation to ascribe to this except malice.

Scribe Archive XI-21-4B[edit]

TYPE: Bridge Audio Recorder
RETRIEVED FROM: Reef Cryptarchy Archives; 10 Hygiea ORIGIN: ARCO475B71 // Arcadia-Class Jumpship, Golden Age; discovered partially integrated into 31 Euphrosyne; no pilot was recovered with the ship // Data heavily degraded, partial restoration successful
KEYWORDS: Collapse; Black Fleet; Darkness; Taken
IDENTITIES: One [1] unknown [u.1].


[Distant roar of ship engines]

[u.1:01] Come on. Come on, you bolt-bucket, come on!

[Engines scream, sputter, and cut out]

[Loud metallic clang; rapid, labored breathing]

[u.1:02] That's it, then.

[u.1:03] Every last newton I could squeeze out of this old bird, and it's not enough. There it is, the Darkness, coming right up behind me.

[Rhythmic creaking]

[u.1:04] Ha. Ahaha. Our guns, our ships, our silent god… useless. Useless!

[Another loud metallic clang]

[u. 1:05] Centuries of progress. Where did it get us in the end?

[u.1:06] What good are you? We're dying out here, you big, stupid ball! Do something!

[Labored breathing]

[u.1:07] No. No, no, I didn't mean it. Please don't be mad. Don't leave us.

[u.1:08] We'd be dead anyways, right? If you weren't here. Right? Please, tell me I'm right.


[u.1:09] Am I lucky or not? I can't decide. They’re all down there, fish-eyed, bloated, cold and blue. I was the only one who made it off the launchpad.

[u.1:10] But now I'm up here. I'm up here in this… this tin can.

[u.1:11] And I can see it out there, that ugly marble, it's just… it's just floating there! Do something!

[u.1:12] Why are you here if you're not going to help? It's your fault! It's all your fault!

[Metallic banging]

[u.1:13] Let me out! Let me out, let me out, let me out, LET ME OUT!

[Shouting, banging, and weeping continues for several minutes, before gradually stopping. Silence.]

[u.1:14] You should never have come here.



Once again, I am grateful for the circumstances of my upbringing. It is not as difficult for me to enter the Reef as it might be for others, and the Techeuns and Reef Cryptarchs generously granted me access to their archives. There is a great deal of information preserved here that was lost everywhere else. The Yang Liwei brought with it exabytes of data, intended for the benefit of the colonists it sheltered. Though they hoped to escape the shadow of the Traveler, they did not wish to lose their tether to the rest of humanity. All of that data survived the ship's transplantation to the Distributary. Part of it was copied onto the ships Marakel brought with her to the Reef, and of that part, almost all has survived in the Reef's archives to this day.

I must admit, I almost didn't include this transcript. I am no stranger to the disturbing and distressing; as a Scribe, it is my duty to record and pass on history. Even a history written by the survivors will have its dark corners.

Nevertheless, I found this recording difficult to listen to. It echoes the bitter words I've heard countless times before. From Eliksni who suffered the Whirlwind. Who saw the Great Machine leave us and cursed it for abandoning us.

But when studying history, discomfort often accompanies the information that is most crucial to understanding. That was what I needed! That discomfort, that echo of Eliksni lamentation.

The Witness does not need cruelty to win. It does not need to mutilate the Great Machine's creations. To inspire fear and despair. It does not even need to tempt you to use the Darkness, which it has claimed to be - though we know, from your experiences on Neptune, that the Witness does not hold as complete a dominion as it wishes us to believe. In fact, its cruelty has actively slowed and hindered its purpose. Had the Witness simply overwhelmed humanity and crushed all resistance, there would have been nobody left for the Great Machine to uplift. No Ghosts or Guardians to defy it.

I have spoken with Ikora Rey about the texts Humans know as the Unveiling. I have tried to reconcile it with how I understand the Light, and what I know of the Great Machine. My understanding is imperfect, but I have gleaned this much: the Winnower speaks of convincing you that it is right; of existence as truth; of predation and defection. Nowhere does it speak of malice, or hatred, or despair. It does not care whether you embrace it or curse it. It simply desires to win and, in victory, be validated.

But for the Witness, victory alone is not enough. It must ruin all the Great Machine has touched, from the smallest creature to the greatest planet. Destroy everything the Light has built. Drown hope in bitterness. The Witness would have us all curse the Great Machine, refute its gifts, and betray it, as the Black Fleet tramples us underfoot. It would make us all Eramis, sick with despair and crushing our own dreams.

You see it too, do you not? The record from Simiks-Fel. The communications from Taliks-Syn. These messages set down in hope, in optimism. Once, those who came before the Witness saw the Great Machine as their hope for the future. As we did. As you do.

They had hope once. They lost it. And now their successor, the great merging of their selves, the Witness, seeks to deny that hope any right to exist.

Scribe Archive XI-23-1C[edit]

TYPE: Communications Log
RETRIEVED FROM: Reef Cryptarchy Archives; 10 Hygiea ORIGIN: Core; Vex Minotaur; Sol Divisive; Black Garden // Retrieved by Prince Uldren Sov; decryption successful
KEYWORDS: HNW047622; final shape



My distant friend,

I hope you still have your communicator. Though our last parting was acrimonious, and it has been many centuries since I have last seen your message alert glimmering in the corner of my vision, I choose to believe you have not cut this last atomic line between us. I compose this message in secret. The rest of the Consensus would not understand; they do not know you as I do - did? - but they could. It is in that hope that I reach towards you now.

My friend, the Consensus has won. Yesterday, the Penitent* voted aye. The [Nihilists] and [Solipsists] have been destroyed. We will exuviate, and shepherd the universe to its final shape. We will prune away its dead branches and coax forth its full potential.

Even as I say those words, I feel the old doubts crawling through my thoughts again. But it has been long, and longer still, since you renounced the Consensus and set off into the cosmos. You have not seen the violence that visited our shores; a terrible reflection of that ancient history, which we believed was behind us. Though we were steadfast in our position and would have continued to argue it, however long it might take… there were dangerous elements. Subversives and defectors. We did not strike first! Nor did we choose our response lightly.

It had been so long since I wielded pruning shears; I had forgotten how. My hands shook. I could only imagine how you would have looked at me. But it is over now. What has been done, is done.

They were the last, and now we are all in Consensus.

If I wished to persuade you with words alone, I would not have told you this. You have steadfastly abhorred such measures since they were first proposed. I do not tell you this to shock or intimidate you. Nor would I withhold this truth, because I do not seek to persuade you with a lie, even of omission.

I tell you this because I respect you. Of everyone I have ever known, you have been fiercest in your compassion; most keenly aware of the gap between means and ends. If you return, if you join the Consensus, then I will know our cause is true. That, after all this time, we have finally found our apodictic truth. I will discard myself with no regrets.

I do not say this to put my finger on the scale of your decision, only to inform you of the situation. After our exuviation, we will no longer know the shape of your absence. What we are becoming will not be capable of doubt or dissent. It never will have been capable of such things. We will forget our pain, our strife, our petty grudges, our prejudices. It will no longer exist, and therefore will never have existed.

Do you understand?

There is not much time. Now that we are in Consensus, our progress is unhindered. The Veil unravels before us. The fundamental principles we have long hoped for are woven in its threads.

And when we have completed the process and thrown off our lesser selves… we will be perfect. Even so, I cannot help but nurture this seed of heresy, the grit which I hope will be subsumed by the pearl: that what we become will be lesser, if it is made without you. How could perfection be lesser? Yet the feeling burns in my veins, so I must share it with you.

I confess this in selfishness. I do not want to forget you.




*This group appears to be the same as the [Merciful/ Penitent/Benefic] mentioned in SCRIBE ARCHIVE XI-9-2C. There is no usage of ternary semantic clusters whatsoever throughout the text.

I did not expect to find this. I pen these notes as I await my audience with Marakel in the Reef. As there are many matters which require her attention, the hours stretched on, and I searched the databanks for those old identification codes on a whim.

To think that this data was retrieved by Prince Uldren Sov. Is this what Humans mean when they say they feel someone walking on their grave? Though, in the prince’s case, that grave is empty. Would it be too awkward if I thanked Crow for an act done in a past life?

I apologize. I am rambling, and two different Techeuns have asked me now if I’m quite alright. Physically, I suppose, I am a little tired - this journey has taken me far, and I have slept perhaps slightly less than is ideal - but in truth, I feel deeply disturbed by this record.

I cannot clearly interpret my own reaction. It is too visceral. Overwhelming. Disgust and horror mix with pity. I even find myself feeling sympathy.

Sympathy! For someone who admits openly to murdering dissenters! For a people who purposefully erased their own history, as though not remembering those crimes would absolve them of it! For the minds that would form the Witness - for those who destroyed Riis!

And yet, in my horror, I am reminded of Guardians. After all, we do not blame Crow for the actions of the prince, nor should we. When Glint brought him back in the Great Machine's Light, Crow was born anew. As were Ikora, and Zavala, and you. It is as Ikora says, is it not? Grace and memory. The Light forgets.

Just as the Witness forgot.

But then I think, no! The Witness did not forget! It was not reborn; it did not choose unreasonable grace. It exuviated, in its own words, but it remembered where it came from. It chose what to forget, not to allow for new possibility, but to destroy it. A self-justifying teleology.

It is not just reality that the Witness mutilates. It has dissected and reassembled itself, its own memories, its own history. The Witness went from confronting the uncomfortable truth to erasing it. It is grotesque.

As a Scribe — as Eido — I cannot feel anything but revulsion.

Scribe Archive XI-23-1C[edit]

TYPE: Interview
RETRIEVED FROM: Throne Room; The Reef
KEYWORDS: final shape; Witness
IDENTITIES: Mara Sov, Queen of the Reef [MARA]; Eido, Scribe of the House of Light [EIDO]


EIDO: Marakel, I greet you in the Light.

MARA: Scribe Eido.

[She smiled when she said my name.]

// Several lines redacted//

[I hope you will forgive me; in my curiosity, I allowed myself to pursue a bit of a tangent. It is not often that my father speaks of the time before he found me. I have much to ask him, now!]

MARA: But you have come to inquire about another matter. I understand you are searching for all that you can find of the Witness. The stains it has left while passing through this universe.

EIDO: I have learned a great deal and understand very little. It is my hope that you will be able to render my conclusions clearer and more complete.

MARA: Show me what you have found.

[Some time passed. We discussed the documents I have included here, as well as others I believed redundant or only tangentially helpful. Marakel's insight is as keen as any blade; even in those minutes, my understanding multiplied.]

[At last, she sat back, and closed her eyes.]

MARA: I touched the mind of that being - that monster - only once.

MARA: I sensed its purpose. Not the purpose itself, but the idea of purpose.

EIDO: The final shape. What it seeks to achieve, with all the tools it has gleaned over the years. This… eternal, perfect thing.

MARA: The language it uses is illuminating. Peak. Pinnacle. Pyramidion.

MARA: The broad base of the pyramid, focusing and sharpening as it builds toward its highest point.

MARA: Self-improvement, or what that being believes to be self-improvement.

[Here, I began to realize something. Excitement rushed through me like lightning.]

EIDO: Dissecting, reassembling. Taking, merging. All those things point towards what the Witness sees as the final shape.

EIDO: It is not simple destruction, the march of entropy. The ruined garden.

EIDO: It seeks… compression. The combination of a chosen past and limitless future into a perfect forever. A state of being that cannot be anything else, because it is everything it could be.

MARA: Taxidermy.

[She had to explain the practice to me. What strange hobbies Golden Age humans had! The metaphor was quite apt.]

EIDO: But it cannot achieve this goal, can it? Not perfectly.

EIDO: What it does instead is mutilation. Its tools leave scars on reality. Great wounds that do not heal. It may preserve some elements, but it always botches the process.

MARA: It cannot accomplish what it envisions—its true ideal of the final shape — without the Traveler's power.

MARA: How it must rankle, to be forced to rely upon the being it loathes.

[She smiled without humor.]

MARA: I hope the Guardian is properly grateful for this gift, Scribe Eido. You have shown them more than an opening move; you have laid bare their opponent's guiding principles.

[I could not help but chirp with pride. I might have felt embarrassed, but Marakel seemed amused…then suddenly serious.]

MARA: Last night, I had a dream.

[I sat up straight.]

MARA: It began in nothing. Neither Light nor Dark; the absence of both. But in that nothing, I began to perceive an impossible something.

MARA: Stone hands clutching at the fabric of the sky. A mountain of screaming bone. A crumbling spire choked by kudzu. A great cancerous growth. Necrotic tendrils digging into flesh, which was earth. Darkness turned gangrenous, strangling the Light.

MARA: But I was not afraid. As I woke, I felt the lingering warmth of a campfire, chasing the chill from my hands.

[She leaned forward. Though I was the one who recorded her words, I believe she was speaking to you.]

MARA: It is not too late.