Kuang Xuan's Logbook
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Kuang Xuan's Logbook is an untitled lore book included in the Collector's Edition of Shadowkeep. It is the personal log of Kuang Xuan, commander of the K1 project, and details their discovery of the Anomaly, their attempts to study it, and its gradual warping of Kuang's psyche. As such, it ties into the Revelation lore book released with Shadowkeep. It includes many details of Golden Age culture and sociology, hinting at the massive changes the Traveler's arrival instigated in human society.
Our true enemy left something buried here, to watch and to whisper. I have gathered these clues—the logs of a doomed Golden Age expedition. They had no idea what they'd found. Their encryption will be no match for your Ghost. Learn what you can, swiftly. The Hive, too, are fascinated by this power—and whatever fascinates the Hive means death. Discover what they plan, and we will silence their prayers forever!
That sounded like the old Eris, didn't it? The things that hurt us return, again and again. But we do not face them alone.
Clarity in action,
K1 Commander's Personal Log—Cdr. Kuang Xuan (AOC-272-431-220-0512/SCC)
Expect nothing and you will be prepared for anything.
That was the lesson my master taught me, over and over, in the simulators at SUECABAO. She was a third-stage anagami monk of the Tibetan Neo-Vibhajjavada-Theravada school (a new and unorthodox presence in Tibet, but one with ancient Indian and Sri Lankan roots). If they need anything but air and meditation, they do not admit it. Why did she teach me so well, then? If she needed nothing from anyone? I used to wonder why she tormented me so; I graduated second in my class, but first I came closer to failing out than anyone in my cohort.
I think it delighted her to unsettle me. Here I was, young Kuang Xuan, fresh from the House of Wisdom and not even sixty, charged with so many facts and figures and contingencies that my fingertips tingled. I thought I knew everything, and she was very good at proving me wrong. I still rub at the joints of my fingers, where the hard switches in the simulators used to strip my skin. (My aunt caught me doing it before New Year's Eve dinner and, thinking I had a rash, banned me from doing dishes.)
The House of Wisdom, my master would tell me, excels at mathematics and logics; Islam gave us algebra, and our digits are Arabic. This is why the shura-certified commanders are the finest pilots in the solar system. But zero belongs to the Buddhists. This is why you must expect nothing, Kuang Xuan, and so be prepared for anything. The most vital skill of a sati-certified commander is that inner nothingness, like the quantum vacuum—empty and yet saturated with possibility.
Unlearn your expectations, Xuan. And so learn readiness.
Tomorrow we will begin the dig. I don't understand the "extra-spatial" activity we detected, or the Clovis Bray scientists who speak of transmissions that "propagate through Calabi-Yau sixspace." Maybe no one understands it. I have no expectations. I am prepared.
Still I wish I were not afraid.
Tomorrow we start drilling.
We found it!
EM triangulation led us to a lava tube beneath Site Three—when the drill broke through, it destroyed a rock formation, which I regret. But a morsel for geologists is nothing compared to the article itself.
Tanis was right. It can't be described without diminishing it. A black sphere—nothing could be simpler—and yet it is awesome, unspeakably complex, compactly infinite, full of as many things as it could possibly contain. We cannot spend long near it. Its electromagnetic flux is too subtle to burn through the fieldweave in our suits or cause any real harm, but we can't assume it'll stay that way. If the field spikes, it could force our nerves to fire, even drive us into seizure. High-Tesla magnetic fields do strange things to the mind.
Our priority is to shield the article. Then we can begin study. If Dr. Yan's physicists are right, the EM transmissions are just a side effect of the object's true purpose.
Where does it come from?
The surrounding rock is flood basalt, rich in potassium, phosphorous, and rare earth elements. It could be as old as the original impactor which blasted the Moon free of the Earth. Or it could be as young as the Ocean of Storms. Either way, it means the article arrived before the Traveler. Is there a connection? Could it be a beacon that led the Traveler here?
If I had my way, we would encode the question in topological thoughts and broadcast it to the Traveler. But that would mean going public. And the terms of our agreement with Clovis Bray demand secrecy.
Do we have an ethical duty to break that agreement? If we have discovered a clue to the Traveler's origins, certainly yes! Clovis Bray has buried its war against the Vex under a sarcophagus of secrecy and "existentially compromising information hazard"; they could do it again, here. Nowhere outside the retro-nationalism of the North American Empire does any private organization have such sweeping, selfish authority over knowledge which should belong to the whole human commons—and at least the Twin Eagles are voluntary society, answerable to higher law! Clovis Bray reeks of the old unregulated capitalism.
But I will not be the first to break trust. I will not start the cycle of defection.
I must keep my mind empty, and so prepared. But I have not found Tara in many nights of meditation. O Tara, twenty-one formed Tara, lead me out of pride and ignorance, out of hatred and jealousy, out of fanaticism and miserliness and desire and delusion.
Tanis thinks the article is a transceiver. She says this is the only way to explain how such astounding complexity and power could emerge from something so simple. The article does not generate its emissions internally. It is attuned to a distant source.
She thinks that source may be the Traveler's home.
If so, this cannot be kept secret. It would be an atrocity to deny this information to the human noosphere. It would be mass starvation of the mind, a betrayal of all the new thoughts and discoveries this little sphere could trigger.
But my training says that the scale of the stakes does not alter the correctness of principle. I cannot be the first to violate trust. Have not meditated. Very busy. Om tare tu tare ture mama ayur pune gyana puntin kuru soha. White Tara, seven-eyed Tara, grant me a long and ethical life, increase my wisdom: but please, do it quickly.
Many reports of insomnia. I have ordered the crew to open their sensorium telemetry for Dr. Bow's analysis.
Dr. Bow's report confirms my fears. The insomnia is worsening. Some of the crew with histories of successful antitrauma are now expressing PTSD from vivid retraumatizing nightmares. Bow suggests crew rotations, limiting exposures to 30 minutes in one shift, which is wise from his perspective and utterly impossible from mine. If this truly is the greatest discovery since the Traveler itself, then our lives and health mean nothing. It is a strange quirk of human psychophysics that we are willing to take risks to avoid loss—sacrificing ourselves to stop a fire or save a damaged ship—but afraid to embrace danger in the pursuit of gains, even when those gains could contribute a million times more to the common welfare.
I have set shift limits at two hours. When we return to Earth, I will request Dr. Bow's relief.
If Clovis Bray discovers the anomaly has negative effects, they will use their experience with the Vex to assert that they are the undeniable authority on safe interaction with the radically alien. We must learn as much as we can before Clovis Bray locks down access. I will have to risk some psychological crew attrition.
I must meditate—find some time, somehow, to say the 21 Taras. Not now.
Yan and Loftus are making progress on the "distant source" that communicates with the article. Their models describe the signal as a ripple moving through a six-dimensional manifold present at every point in our familiar four-dimensional spacetime. I almost understand it. But I am too much a creature of motion; too attached to the space I know.
I almost wish they would make less progress; then I could afford to go easy on them. But it is clear that a major component of their work is intuitive and driven by proximity to the artifact. I have been pushing their exposure limits, because I fear (that is the honest word) that Clovis Bray will seize the site. Soon.
Or perhaps they have already seized it. If Firewall is compromised, everything we do here goes straight to them and as long as CB knows exactly what we know, they will know how to censor and sequester our findings. We must take precautions.
What if this object is hostile? Even malevolent? Would they tell the world? Would the truth align with their interests?
Back from Earth. Time away gave me perspective. Sati analysis requires us to detach ourselves from narrow contingency so that we can remember the unconditional truth—how to act correctly in the great human context, not in the narrow particularities of a situation.
I was right to dismiss Doctor Bow and to dismiss an approach based on fear. I must open myself to the possibilities of the K1 artifact. Is it any surprise that it causes nightmares? The human mind evolved to suit a narrow set of circumstances. When we are driven outside those circumstances, we experience fear, anxiety, even terror. Of course the article terrifies us! Of course we have nightmares! How else could we process such alien contact, so far outside our evolved preconceptions? The Traveler speaks to us indirectly because it knows it must protect us from that terror.
When we shed that terror and consider the universe without any human expectations or any attachment to our temporal identities, what do we find? A pattern of selflessness. A pattern of good. The Traveler brought us so much and asked nothing in return. The Vex are not malevolent; merely amoral, unable to understand or care when they do harm. We cannot allow our evolutionary legacy of tribalism and fear to cloud our third chance at contact! We cannot come at this with closed fists! It would be a terrible error to treat the article as hostile merely because it is dangerous and uncomfortable.
I cannot allow my crew to suffer. But one way to relieve suffering is to understand and transcend it. We must trust in that flash of intuition.
I will meditate tonight, if I can finish with all the reports. I hail Tara who undoes the plots of foes—and so forth. Must go.
Must speak with Henson about what I saw—dark visitor—om Tara, cha tsal hla yi tso nam jal pa, hla tang mi am chi yi ten ma, k n nay ko cho ga way ji chi, ts tang mi lam ngen pa sel ma. Tara whom gods and titans heed, you may dispel any terrors that come in dark hours, you are proof against chaos, your beauty has power. I am not afraid!
Just sleep paralysis. A byproduct of overwork. Henson is more pragmatic than Bow, and perhaps more naïve.
Sati analysis: Am I rationalizing a significant and dangerous event because the local context has blinded me? Unsure. I will find time to meditate on it.
Yan and Loftus believe they can replicate the article's Calabi-Yau transceiver capabilities in a machine they've started to build. The redundancy appeals to me. Clovis Bray would privatize the Traveler if they could, and a second connection would let us continue our work once they move against us.
Alton Bray! Of all the instruments I thought they'd deploy for their first trike, of all the machines and maneuvers at their disposal, they choose an ordinary man. Even his implants were unremarkable.
He rebuked me for my secrecy; I told him that the "secrecy" of the project was the very reason I'd cut him out. He said it was not part of our agreement, as if that agreement hadn't introduced the virus of secrecy in the first place!
So I showed him what we'd done with all our secrets. I showed him the thing we'd built, the thing that Clovis Bray would now never be able to keep for itself.
Today we won, but they will respond soon.
Clovis Bray stole it.
That meat-suit Alton twisted the Site Two antenna into proof that we no longer need the article itself. He asked me why we want to keep suffering under its influence, risking "unknown noetic effects" and "massive psychological attrition." He insists on pathologizing the experience of contact—as if every difficult discipline, from Buddhism to contract bridge, doesn't suffer attrition in its learners!
His corporation has designed a gruesomely overengineered containment system to hold the article. It poses more of a danger to us than the artifact ever did! Yet we have no choice but to install it. Then the whole containment system and its suspension will be hauled from the dig to a permanent Clovis Bray laboratory nearby.
Was it a mistake to show Alton the Site Two transceiver? I gave him the truth and he used it against us. What if they come after Site Two now? What if they insist that it must also be contained in a dodecahedron of Clovis Bray's armored secrecy?
My thoughts have become snarled and septic. No more prevarication. I must re-center myself.
I saw the dark visitor as I meditated. This time, I understood its purpose. It comes from within me. It is the messenger of doubt.
This petty territorial struggle with Clovis Bray—at a time when we should be united in purpose and method—at a time when so much of humanity's future could depend on what we do here—has changed me. Either I never grasped my master's lessons or they are not enough. Perhaps the truly enlightened do escape reincarnation and pass into transcendence—but what about those left behind? How will they achieve enlightenment, if all the enlightened have left the world in the hands of the selfish, the stupid, the short-sighted? Evil is not only the act of evil; it is the creation of circumstances which permit and promote evil.
Some concession to pragmatism must be made. Some preference must be expressed for the innocent over the malicious. How can I cooperate with Clovis Bray when that cooperation allows them to exploit and privatize our vital work? Who knows what secrets they hold that the whole human race deserves to share?
If I carry this logic to the extreme, I begin to doubt my faith in the intrinsic goodness of the universe. Cooperation and collaboration are the best strategies in the iterated prisoner's dilemma, but only until someone defects.
Then it is better to process by the principle of retaliation.
The Clovis Bray containment system is in place. The ferrofluid surface erupts into spikes when it self-tests, like something inside is trying to pierce its way out. In time—perhaps decades, perhaps millennia—the object's strange magnetic flux will burn through even Clovis Bray's incomprehensible outer armor. (I will never work with that hellish material again—if it degenerates, it would blast a new crater into the moon—but there was something awesome about positioning a simple plate of metal with the same engines we used to move asteroids!)
The canary systems in the Clovis Bray cladding have revealed something strange.
We experience hallucinations, insomnia, trauma, and powerful intuitive breakthroughs when we are near the article. Yet the canaries—the cells, organisms, and simulated copies of our brains in the cladding—are happy and healthy. Why are they untouched, while we are haunted? If there's some spooky effect at work, a violation of closure, why can't the SITA arrays detect it?
I think of a lesson from the House of Wisdom. We can never find God in our instruments because God is all-powerful, taking hold of our devices and displays to hide from us the knowledge of God's passing. This is the limit of science. It can find any truth in the world, but it cannot cut away the veil cast over our eyes.
I asked my master: "If the enlightened save the foolish at cost to themselves, won't there soon be only fools remaining?"
She told me that question was foolish because it viewed the work of enlightenment as something expressed in costs and benefits. She reminded me that the enlightened linger in the world to aid others in their enlightenment; these are the bodhisattvas, which are so beloved to Mahayana Buddhists. She warned me against the path of the selfish Śrāvaka, who seeks enlightenment only out of fear and need.
But I fear the fearful! I need to protect the future from the needy and selfish! If there were no one left alive, there would be no one to seek enlightenment. How can she sanctify the top of the mountain when we all begin down in the mud at its base? When they are those who would prefer to keep us in the mud and stand upon our backs?
The article is gone. We have shifted our work completely to Site Two. I think that Clovis Bray has made a mistake and that their efforts to isolate themselves from the artifact will also cut them off from any progress. This is how we will beat them! By confronting the alien truth of the object directly, we will achieve the powerful intuitive understanding that Clovis Bray's instrumental approach cannot attain.
Yan and Loftus are certain that the Site Two antenna receives exactly the same transmissions as the original alien artifact. But we still have no idea how this stubbornly four-dimensional object accesses the six extra dimensions of the Calabi-Yau manifold. Our antenna, like the artifact, simply shuffles its internal state through an apparently arbitrary series of gravitational and electronuclear permutations. These unified-force events were probably common in the early universe, but they have no real significance now. Yan theorizes that they are like a password, recognized by some strange network that exists in the Calabi-Yau manifold.
What if the Traveler came to us because of this artifact's summons? What if we are now in direct contact with the Mother-of-Travelers, the source of the Light?
I have retained Firewall to monitor and limit exposure to the artifact. We must proceed by the principle of calculated risk.
We are settling into a routine of exposure and rest. This had yielded several insights, which the science team insists on referring to as "excursions":
- An interesting proof that life arises to maximize a system's energy capture
- A mathematical framework for reconciling separate systems of causality
- A sonata and accompanying dance arrangement
- A recipe for a synthetic meringue
- A list of stars, significance unknown
- Exact solutions to a number of difficult mathematical problems, including eleven perfect cuboids
- A novel Grand Unified Theory, with certain apparently unnecessary equations which we're working to understand.
This is only the beginning. Once Clovis Bray understands how valuable our methods have become, they will try to infiltrate the team. I have prepared contingencies. Isolation and rigorous discipline will be our watchwords.
Success cannot make us complacent. I've intensified our safety protocol for antenna exposure. In addition to the weekly and random physicals, we'll snapshot everyone's vitals from their internal safekeep when they enter and exit the chamber.
In the beginning, we listened to the antenna's signal as audio. But this is ultimately an arbitrary transformation; there are so many ways we could choose to render the mathematics of the signal into a form humans can sense.
As the theory of intentional two-way contact has taken hold among the scientists, many of them have elected to try the rich immersion approach, offering the antenna many sensory modalities for its choice of how to communicate. Audio, direct-to-cortex hallucinatory video, subdermal haptic feedback, and ambient EM exposure are popular. In more extreme examples, scientists have wired their interoceptive and kinesthetic faculties into the loop. There have even been experiments with protocols to alter gene regulation under the signal's influence.
I have forbidden direct neural input, which is an unacceptable noetic risk as well as a recipe for seizure disorders. But my belief that we must embrace all channels of communication remains firm.
Instead of meditating last night, I retook my final sati assessments from SUECABAO. I faced the whole array of modern ethical rigor: spinal-flash decisions, test-to-failure moral clarity escalations, Korosec conflicts between global deontology and local exigency. And I couldn't make the same choices. I placed my own crew before strangers, the innocent before the guilty, the enlightened few over the greedy many. I failed the exam.
I would disappoint my master terribly, if she could feel disappointment. But I do not disappoint myself.
There are fierce aspects to the Buddhas. My school never taught them. But I know of Mahākāla and Palden Lhamo and the others who go out and destroy the obstacles to enlightenment, and now I wonder whether I should have prayed to them instead of Tara.
I realized yesterday, as if struck by a thunderbolt, that I must meditate in communion with the antenna.
It is lonely. It is impossibly, inexpressibly sad, beyond the capacity of the human limbic system to experience. But it is content in its loneliness, and in its beautiful sadness. It is the light of the first sunrise after your lover leaves forever. It is the acceptance before death. Transcendence lies not in the denial of attachments and limitations but in the complete understanding of our confinement and the tautological tyranny of existence. The final stage of Buddhism cannot be attained. There is no escape from samsara for it is as closed as a lock. Heaven is invaded and its territories are afire and all its mountains have been shattered into thrones.
It is magnificent. Majestic. Majestic.
When I remove myself from the moment and consider our behavior—our cultish isolation and secrecy, our fixation upon the antenna as the source of meaning and purpose in our lives—I see an expedition compromised by the noetic effects of an alien object.
Why do I not abort the investigation and return to Earth?
Because the most powerful noetic influence in the universe, the true coin that all deception and deceit must counterfeit, is the truth. Everything we have been granted here is true. That is why we behave as if we are compromised by an alien influence: Revelation is the most powerful influence of all.
There is no veil over our eyes.
We see clearly now.
I have almost realized the next step of my journey.
WHEN YOU HAVE NOTHING YOU ARE CAPABLE OF EVERYTHING.
SHE WILL BOW TO ME.