Mysterious Logbook

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"And my vanquisher will read that book, seeking the weapon, and they will come to understand me, where I have been and where I was going."
The following is a verbatim transcription of an official document for archival reasons. As the original content is transcribed word-for-word, any possible discrepancies and/or errors are included.
Cover of the Mysterious Logbook

The Mysterious Logbook is the journal of Clovis Bray I, included in the Beyond Light Collector's Edition. It contains entries on a variety of topics, including Europa and information relating to the moon, as well as Exos.[1][Note 1] It also includes the additional pages unveiled in the Collector's Edition ARG which was initiated prior to the launch of Beyond Light. [2] In Bungie's post of the additional pages uncovered by the ARG, several links were hidden within the text, redirecting to various recordings by the Exo Stranger.

Based on the appearance of the pages, the journal is in moderately decent condition, despite its likely age. The logbook holds 46 pages, with subsequent pages having been torn out. These torn pages were later recovered, providing further insight.

Text in this color indicates handwritten notes made primarily by Clovis Bray I.


Logbook 001.png





A new start. A clean page for a most important story.

Hannu II is aerobraking around Jupiter. The lord of planets thunders his
greeting to me. As I record this, I am blasting Aivanti-3's "Siegfried in the
Storm Wall" over the radio howl of the Jovian magnetosphere. It galvanized
me. I am with the gods.

Ask Aivanti's trainers how they settled on the 1/2/3 suffixes. Numbers are perfectly
defined, therefore inhuman. Is this suffix meant to mark the Aivanti AI as nonhuman?

Objective: construct long-term scientific
outpost for study of indigenous Europan life.
Resources: eight prefab starter habitats,
600 shielded heavy work frames, and VIS(NU)
and B-RA/MA cytomachines with backup
replication chambers aboard Hannu. The best
hazardous-environment engineers money can't
buy. SMILE support for extended duration.
Two of Elisabeth's Eon-type platforms for
radar, Lidar, and deep ice mapping.
Hazards: Lethal radiation environment (heavy
ion bombardment from Jovian magnetosphere).
Unshielded crew half-Life is 24 hours.

The most expensive lie in human history. I am not here for a safari. All
of Europa's life will soon be known, mapped, and exhausted of wonder.
Bound by the tedious constraints of physics and biology. I know these
things too well. They are already killing me.

The K1 artifact promised me an offering. A gateway to the secret of
immortality. I call it Clarity.

It is waiting on Europa.

I am still dying, but not fast enough to kill me.

  • Body at 35.9 C. Pulse 25 BPM, strength
good. BP 75 over 50. Resp 6 breaths/
minute. Pulse ox 210%. Today's blood mix is
perfluorocarbon with stem slurry.
  • Avoid hyperfocus with alpha-wave brain wash
for 10 min/hr.
  • New kidneys are growing in Whitford the deli
pig for next transplants.


Must find a good pork recipe so Whitford will not go to waste. Medical
team insists I accept cytomachine injections. No! Nothing enters my body
that does not share my genetic self-interest. Instead I will grow an upgraded
monocyte strain.

Elisabeth's birthday approaches. A good gift would be an olive branch.
Never let her say I do not try. Hannu, please identify a gift that only could
come from my own intimate and personal knowledge of my granddaughter.

  • Antique weapon, or Twin Eagle replica.
  • Professional pilot trained on Eon-series ship.
  • Bespoke AI writer of personalized novels.
  • Fruit basket, Titan farmed.
  • Humanitarian investment (minefield
clearance, long-term reparations, anti-
traumatic medicine).

These are pathetic, Hannu.

  • Research endowment, medical (prion diseases
in persons with immune resistance to
recombinant gene therapy).
  • Research endowment, medical (sporadic
fatal insomnia). • Research endowment,
psychological (loss of father, family
  • Research endowment, psychological
(reconstruction of trust after Loss).
  • Personal apology, unpracticed (death of
patient in physician's care).
  • Statement of grief, unpracticed (death of

Never mind, Hannu. Buy a few doghives for a soil reclamation project
somewhere. Honeybees, whatever strain is best. And big friendly
Newfoundlands for the hives. Everyone loves doghives.


Logbook 004.png

Ongoing projects:
  • Exomind: blocked
  • Contact ICoV for their trick: failed
  • Hire Duane McNiadh away from ICOV: failed
  • Raid ICoV for Vex data: in planning
  • Europa/Clarity: in progress
  • Be a good man and a good grandfather:
in progress
  • Become LUCA of future human thought:
in progress



Logbook 005.png

If we land too hard on Europa, we will plunge into the ocean below the ice
and die of barotrauma. Death by pressure.

The only light down there comes from magma and phosphorescent bait.
The sea is 10 times deeper than Earth's. Even in Europa's weak gravity,
peak pressure at the sea floor is 2000 atmospheres. Worse than Venus,
before the Traveler.

One imagines pi contracting under that kind of pressure, crushing the
perfect circle closed.

I wonder what lives down there. What slow confusions of mass and form
curl around the smoking vents. What threads of pale flesh slither across
dark miles, like nerves in some vast, cold brain.

Did the Traveler bypass Europa and Titan and Enceladus out of respect for
their native life?

Or was it afraid to touch the things pulsating below the ice?



//-update(-echo(HANNU:quartz, SITEX:mistletoe))

On Europa. We lurk like summer vampires in the caskets of our SMILE
pods. Our frames labor on the ice, building a cathedral to the sciences.
Radiation is very bad outside; even my assistant has taken ion damage out
there. Pleased to see him healing flawlessly, vacant and empty as he is.

What if this perfect self-repair is the REASON the exos degrade?

I sulk in isolation as the crew works. My pride is wounded. Did I expect
Clarity to come out and greet me? "Hail to Clovis Bray, first among men?"
Yes, absolutely, I did! The lunar artifact promised me a solution to the
indifference of the cosmos. It told me I was unlike all others—and, damn
false modesty, damn vanity, I am different! Not for my present qualities,
but for my future influence. I shine with noon's light, reflected back
through time to this age of dawn.

Perhaps the mind heals itself still, and this causes the billboarding,
the stereotyped behavior,

I'm going to be the LUCA of all interstellar human civilization.

the final crash.

It is a mistake to imagine that the Greatest Man, the God-Emperor of
History and Ruler of Circumstances whose influence reaches to the end
of time, will live in the future—in the full flowering of human glory. That
man lives NOW, at the tiny bottleneck before the vast explosion, when it is
still possible for an individual's decisions to touch the entire species and set
the course of all future choice.

Self-maintenance so absolute that it becomes a static loop? Investigate.

I said all this in my book, but my son's book still sells better. I suppose
because Clovis Points is a much more approachable title than Competitive
Immortality Through Primogeniture of Future-History Ontogeny/Rephylogeny
(PFHOR). My son's work appeals to those intellectual infants in the
retronationals, and to the parasites on Common Compassion support.

Obviously they prefer the softened, pre-chewed version of the truth. And
there is also that bump of public sympathy for a dead man...

Yet I cannot deny that, in simplifying my legacy, my son has improved its
reach. He was the one to formulate the famous two-sentence summary
of PFHOR: "Most of our energy should be spent in support of the things
that are most like us. This is the only true responsibility of any living
thing." And the slightly less famous addendum: "The best way to spend
energy is on things that make more things like us."

Children are viral replicators of our ideas. But there is a certain terror about
them. They alter our legacy, mutate it—as Clovis II modified Competitive


Immortality Through PFHOR into Clovis Points. What if my children
decide on some key amendment, some ineffable change, which makes my
legacy no longer mine? How can I be reborn through the eternal recurrence
of my life-logic if what my children pass down is the logic of some other
Clovis, some flawed copy...just as Clovis II was a flawed image of me?

A flaw that I created in my clumsy eagerness to make him flawless.

My second-boldest decision during my son's development was to replace
Clovis II's mitochondrial DNA, normally inherited from the mother,
with my own. I had to know that I was in his cellular engines, powering
his existence.

It was not that change which killed him.

But it is the fear of being replaced by a faulty duplicate that will kill me, if I
put off my brain upload much longer.

I have a library of scanned volunteers aboard Hannu, but my own
consciousness is not among them. A Moravec upload is slow and inadequate;
what if there are quantum-informatic elements to the mind not captured
by such crude mechanical means? No. I insist on that perfect, terminal
quantum snapshot. For reasons of fidelity, the only perfect and lossless brain
scan is also a destructive one. A fatal one.

Clovis II died in one, after all. I made the
vessel to recieve him, but I lacked the Alkahest, the solvent to render it pure.

But I dare not make the leap to a new body until I know that body works.
And so far, the exobodies are universally fatal.

I must finish the exobody work to become the LUCA. The one true divinity of man.

To do that, I need Clarity.

And Clarity is here. All the signs point to it.

If I succeed—no forgiveness for those
tight-fisted Ishtar tools. I know they had working prototypes.
They could have shared.

  • Body at 35.5 C. Pulse 30 BPM, strength
modest. BP 90 over 60. Resp 6 breaths/
minute. Pulse ox 140, to reduce free
radicals and peroxynitrite.
  • Today's blood mix is pure perfluorocarbon
with new modified monocytes.
  • New kidneys functioning well. Donor pig
sacrificed, brined, prepared as seared pork


Logbook 008.png
Sous vide is for prissy nerds. Poor Whitford. I wonder if I should reduce the volume
of my stem cells introduced to the pig blastocysts. I feel too much empathy for them.
Does PFHOR compel me to take better care of Clovis-pig chimeras than ordinary porkers?
Yes...but only to the extent that they can contribute to my legacy
with cloned organs and good eating. No guilt!



Logbook 009.png

The term for parents destroying their own offspring is "savaging."

It was a problem for pig farmers, in the days when we raised livestock. Sows
attacked their own piglets. No one has ever worked out a good explanation.
One theory is that the mother pigs are frightened by their young. Terrified
by these strange, noisy, needy things.

Evolution is not a perfect optimizer. A trait like "fear of own offspring" could endure
if piglet mortality is already high.

The ancient biologist August Weismann believed that we age to make
room for the next generation. That we are programmed to die to leave a
space for our offspring.

Perhaps the sows simply acted in self-defense.



Logbook 010.png

Now a bristling thing, large as a whale, appears on the icebore camera we
dropped into the ocean below. A dandelion made of soft arms. Bright red
and yellow markings indicate it evolved in the shallows, where some light
pierces the ice.

The limbs wave slowly to and fro, a motion that is both hunting and
breathings. Prey approaches, drawn by plankton that cake on the drifter's
skin. With vegetable slowness, its limbs embrace the victim, sting it, and
pull it into an open central stomach where thready parasites wait to infest
and digest. Everything it does is slow and intestinal. Pulsatory. Brainless.

Sometimes the limbs bicker. Two are dead, fuzzy with rot. They have
strangled each other.

It is a colony organism. If threatened, it will discorporate. The limbs will
spasm, the core will tear apart in a puff of fluids, and all those arms will
slither away into the dark beneath the ice. Fat worms of terror searching
for a hide. The digestive parasites will be expelled as a decoy, left to
squirm in panic.

I despise it. I would have it killed, except that I am repulsed by the thought
of its final disintegration. I consider how to burn it.



I died. What a nuisance.

  • Body at 13.7 C. Pulse 3 BPM, weak,
irregular. BP not detectable. Pulse ox
600: emergency anti-ischemic oxygen
flood, cryonic perfusion, metabolic waste
scavengers active.
  • Clinical death duration: 11 hours.
  • Successful emergency hypothermic arrest.
Reactive oxygen spike tamped, interleukin
blocked, redox blocked, ischemic-reperfusion
injury fully averted. PPARs upregulated.
Squirrel lipid switch engaged.
  • Prognosis: good.

Dropped dead of dysautonomia while rummaging for leftover pork chop.
I am now in recovery in a medical SMILE pod. I have no breath and
no pulse—it is the return of oxygen to dead tissue that does most of the
damage. I should be asleep. But I have to get this down quickly!

While I was dead I HAD A DREAM.

I was in a working exobody. I felt so strong. Everything so vivid—no need
for waxy eardrums or jelly eyeballs. Like seeing for the first time, after a life
of cataracts. I think I was immortal.

The only unpleasant aspect of the experience was my amnesia. I couldn't
recall my own name. I saw someone walking past me—I think it must have
been Anastasia?—and not only did I fail to recognize her, but it never even
occurred to me that I should.

When I awoke, I thought I must have had a near-death vision. So I checked
my nerve logs. Every last spark in my brain is recorded—and nothing in
that cerebral panic can account for my dream. The mind is the brain. It is
impossible to have a vision without correlated neural activity—yet I did!

Wonderful! This is why I came here. Unmapped secrets! Impossible
dreams! A chance to pass beyond the infinite, and escape the tyranny of
causal closure!

I wholeheartedly believe that the dream was a message from Clarity.
A promise of success.


Logbook 012.png

I struggle to explain what I will become. The LUCA. I borrowed that term
from biology, in the same way I consider BrayTech my extended phenotype,
and its discoveries my memetic grandchildren. When we depart the cradle
of this solar system to begin our colonization of the galaxy, the dominant
ideology of our time—the core logic we use to organize and plan our
relationship with the cosmos—will be scattered to become the LUCA: the
Last Universal Common Ancestor of all future human growth.

The LUCA is the most recent common ancestor of all living things. For
Earth life, it is a single cell that lived in the deep ocean billions of years
ago, flourishing in the warmth of magma or sulfur vents. It was not the
first life on Earth. But it was the only life whose descendants survived to
the present. All its contemporaries have been extinguished by the passage
of epochs.

I plan to be the LUCA of all future human thought.

Now I remember Luca Brassi, the Corleone family heavy. Nuipedia says that Barri
murdered his own infant child. Why? Why would he do such a thing?
The article doesn't explain. Savaging again.



Study of the lunar artifact retrieved from the K1 mission provides insight
into the effect I have termed "Clarity."

Clarity violates established symmetries and conservation laws. In doing
so it defies Noether's theorem, the most fundamental and beautiful
cornerstone of physics.

Symmetry and conservation are two sides of the same coin. "All things are
transformations of one thing, without gain or loss," as my childhood tutor
put it. "If A can become B, then B can become A. We say that state B (say,
a mixed drink) comes after state A (say, sugar and water) only because there
are more probable pathways from A to B. Wait long enough—longer than
the universe—and your drink really can return to state A, spontaneously
unmixing itself."

But Clarity is NOT always symmetrical. For example, it violates time
reversibility. Consider the simple equation:

Clarity(A) -> B.

This is the application of Clarity to state A to produce a lower-entropy state
B. (Clarity is fond of removing portions of a state configuration, harrowing
the phase space down to only its most robust inhabitants.)

Time symmetry suggests that we should be able to run this process in
reverse and retrieve the original:

reverseClarity(B) -> A.

But in fact, we obtain:

reverseClarity(B) -> C,
where C is the same as in
Clarity(B) -> C.

Clarity's effects cannot be used to return a transformed state to its original
state. Instead, we obtain a second transformed state, further yet from the
original configuration.

What does this actually mean in common language? Invoking
the Loschmidt paradox is certainly not common language. Ah, but perhaps an allusion to—

I believe that Clarity may be akin to the mythical universal solvent, the
Alkahest, the Azoth, which ancient alchemists believed had the power
to dissolve anything into its pure base elements. Ingested properly, the
Alkahest could purify the body and grant eternal life.


Nonsense and poetry? Perhaps. But let me ask you this.

We exist because the universe began in a state oflower entropy, and has ever
since expanded and unwound, transforming from a single dense plasma into
a void filled with complex structures. In the future, it will achieve maximum
entropy when all organized matter has collapsed into black holes, and these
holes evaporate into the uniformity of the heat death.

I wonder what Clarity would to do to a black hole?

This is the unexplained secret of creation. HOW DID THAT ORIGINAL
LOW-ENTROPY STATE COME TO BE? In the first place and the first
time—the egg of history?

What if Clarity was responsible?

What if there was some primeval chaos, some pre-cosmic entropy, which
was soaked in Clarity to reduce it to that first nucleus of all existence
which issued the Big Bang? What if Clarity's defiance of time-reversibility
makes it a fountain of cosmic youth, returning all that is burnt out and
burnt down to its state before the fire?

Perhaps Clarity is the Ein Sof, the nameless god before creation.
Preparator of the cosmic egg. Razor that cuts the fat of complication away
from the bone.

Those who comprehend the Alkahest, it is said, will obtain eternal life.



//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) - qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM_241) —pad(padwilla)
Warning: this transmission will expend
entangled qubits for security

Wilhelmina, it's your grandfather. I'm on Europa doing some very exciting
work. I understand that you're probably reluctant to enter into any
collaboration, given my choices surrounding your father's treatment. But I
sincerely believe that this will be the most important scientific project since
the invention of agriculture.

You know how I value minds that can run alongside my own. I fondly
remember your childhood explanation of the myth of the alpha wolf. The
truth, you told me, was that the so-called alpha is not a dominant male, but
simply the father of the family.

I remember with less fondness, but with equal respect, your later accusation
that I had so fully assumed the role of immortal patriarch as to close myself
off from you. "Megalos kryos pateras," you called me, in very poor Greek.
On the day of my son's funeral.

Let me show you what I was thinking of when I was not thinking of my family.

Come to Europa. Help me.

//save draft unsent



Logbook 016.png

//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) - qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM_241) —pad(padana)
Warning: this transmission will expend
entangled qubits for security.

Anastasia, it's your grandfather. I'm on Europa doing some very exciting
work. I understand that you're probably reluctant to enter into any
collaboration, given your memory of your father's treatment process. I also
know that you've struggled with questions of belonging...not helped by my
own attitude towards your genetics.

Let me make amends. You've wasted enough on that paranoiac machine.
Both of us know that your attempts to fix the value-capture problem are
just bandages on an ethical wound. Come to Europa. Let's set aside the
broken past and make a clean start.

What I have here will change everything. We will be as immortal as your
warmind, and far more human.

//save draft unsent



Logbook 017.png

//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) -qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM_241) —pad(padelsie)

Come to Europa. I am taking an enormous risk-and this time I am the one
at risk. Let me prove to you that I did nothing to your father that I wouldn't
do to myself.

There are significant dangers. Outside-context threats. Your expertise would
be invaluable. I need you.





Clarity Control. The mystery I was promised.

Analysis of the surrounding ice suggests it arrived on Europa no more than
20 years ago...still, well before I encountered the K1 artifact. How long
have they planned my invitation?

ARRIVAL EVENT: omnibus analysis of
spallation products in the ice suggest
recent x-ray bombardment, characteristic
of the decay of a Majorana-massive Light
sterile neutrino. These neutrinos are
associated with the Lambda field and the
expansion of the early universe.

So a blast of dark neutrinos struck this particular province of Europan
chaos. The particle involved-yet more evidence that Clarity is as old as
time? The Alkahest that shaped the early universe...?

I wonder why Clarity Control chose the particular aspect it did. That form,
that face. The same visage as the precursor on Earth's moon. What is it
meant to communicate? Is it a message particularly meant for me?

I have always harbored a wariness towards women. I understand people as
coiled engines of self-interest. Programmed first by a cosmology that selects,
via the anthropic principle, for the possibility of complex structure. Then
by a biology that wipes out traits deleterious to its own persistence. And
then by a culture that evolves to promote the survival of its hosts. People
are avatars of these self-preserving forces.

I feel a purity and a rightness to this understanding. It lets me see people as
they really are. It is the foundation of PFHOR.

But all this is complicated in women. They are the sites of such
evolutionary complexity-the grandmother hypothesis, for example, or the
eusociality of female ants. Even their flesh is hard to understand. Female
bodies are a mosaic of two cell lines-one with the mother's X chromosome
active, one with the father's. Never both. A house of two lineages,
constantly renegotiating their mutual interest.


Logbook 019.png

ls that interior plurality, that secret depth, why Elisabeth, Wilhelmina,
and Anastasia were all so vehemently opposed to my plan for Clovis Il's
treatment? Alton never fought it, but the girls were persistently...difficult.

Elisabeth has not replied to my message. I know she received it. I will have
to remind her of her own self-interest.



The major obstacle to a viable exomind is the loop/billboard/crash cycle.

Human consciousness in simula is not new. (The equipment we provided
AeroChina for containment of the K1 anomaly included simulated
connectome forks of the mission crew as mineshaft canaries.) But
simulated environments are limited. If a simulated crew member wants to
leave the mission and go home, they cannot, and that impossibility will
cause divergence from the physical original. Even minute changes in the
physical fidelity of the simulation can have chaotic effects.

All cognition is embodied. The architecture of our minds is highly
co-evolved with our physical form. In or out of simulation, only a truly
synthetic Al can dissociate from the human body plan.

And there be dragons.
Without common evolutionary legacy, there is no reason an AI should share our values.

Given the limits of simulation, we need to find synthetic immortality
in the real world. The grail of homo simulacra is an artificial body with
an immortal human mind. (Attempts to upload human minds into
frames, with their artificial senses and limited architecture, are uniformly
terrifying and disagreeable.)

Early attempts at uploaded consciousness were haunted by fears that
the upload would suffer "cryptic loss of qualia": the unseen death of the
first-person, conscious mind. The upload would then become a so-called
billboard, a flat imitation. I lobbied the ISO to establish a standard for
a "certified conscious simulacrum." Any emulation of a human brain
must display neural activity correlated with consciousness, particularly in
the nuclei of the thalamus, midbrain, and pons. (Modern philosophy is
satisfied that all qualia have neural correlates.)

Many researchers refer to this criterion as the "zombie detector."

The problem with exominds is that they quickly stop passing the
zombie test.

The first stage of the breakdown is looping-the same repetitive,
stereotyped behavior once observed in zoo animals. Prototype exominds
begin to repeat similar conversations and action schemes. This stereotypy
descends from high-level social behaviors, through cognitive programs
like memory recall and task selection, into basic motor functions. The
mid-stage symptoms are pacing, chewing, rocking, grunting, striking
limbs against walls or furniture, and facial tics. This is a result of
depressed activity in the higher brain. Without input from the prefrontal
cortex, the basal ganglia stops selecting new motor programs.


The eventual, highly upsetting result is athetosis: a disorder characterized
by slow, involuntary writhing motions of the limbs, digits, neck, and
tongue. (Early exobodies, without governors on their paramuscle, could
tear themselves apart like starfish with wasting syndrome. This was how
my son died.)

I am reminded of that hideous Europan thing! Why does my brain
insist on free-associating its way back to self-destruction? And again I return to
savaging the young—

The driver of this degenerative loop is a process we call "billboarding." No
matter how actively we stimulate the exobody, how rich we make its social
and cognitive environment, and how powerful its senses, we still observe
the gradual shutdown of exoneurons. The neural correlates of consciousness
in the midbrain are among the first to die. The exomind-despite acing
the Turing test-no longer meets ISO standards for consciousness. It is a
philosophical zombie.

I have had the uncanny experience of holding a long,
emotional conversation with an uploaded woman, only to discover that she was unconscious

Eventually, this shutdown proceeds far enough that the exomind cannot sustain
its default network, the "light in the windows" of a living brain. We roll the
brainstate back and try again, but the outcome is inevitable.

the entire time, and in fact showed
brain activity similar to deep asphyxia! The languid, ambiguous phrases that I found

Why does this self-strangulation occur?

so intriguing were the results of a brain that had lost its neocortex.
She was dead.

At first I believed the answer was simple. Like a tiger pacing in a zoo pen, the
exomind did not receive enough stimulation from the exobody. A human in
sensory deprivation will go mad. Perhaps the exobody deprived the mind of
some vital but unrecognized sense.

But I now think I was on the wrong track. The problem is actually one of
excessive self-causation. If, as the philosopher Wick proposed, "We are that
which we cause the most," and our future selves qualify as "still truly us" only
because they are primarily determined by our current brainstate, then a paradox

To remain ourselves, we must limit the amount of change we experience. For
example, our brain cannot be changed into a cloud of hot gas without killing
us. But what change is permissible? Would we not be most ourselves if we
NEVER changed? If our future state was fully determined by our current

I believe the human mind is engaged in constant self-correction. In order
to filter out external causation that might disrupt our self-loops, the mind
screens out errors (caused by cosmic rays, EM fields, prions, chemical
misfires, irritating conversations, etc.) by running a kind of constant
checksum on itself. Perhaps this recursive self-checking is even the source of
consciousness itself!

Exominds, however, are immune to these natural sources of error. They are
not messy enough. They do not suffer enough jitter, enough degradation.


Logbook 022.png

When we train Ais, we knock out random neurons in each learning cycle,
forcing the AI to operate without them. This creates a more robust, stable
intelligence. It also shows why some random error and entropy is vital to
keeping a brain alive. Without those random knockouts, the AI is vulnerable
to overfitting: locking itself into a single, narrow, stereotyped behavior,
perfectly adapted to a very specific set of stimuli, but otherwise catatonic and

Without countervailing entropy, the very self-corrective processes meant to
maintain the human mind calcify and kill it.

I believe this is why the exominds fail.

If the exominds are to be viable shelters against mortality, I must find a
useful source of noise. Emulation of biological error will not be enough-the
exomind is designed for total immunity to such fleshy noise, after all.

That source of error must be Clarity. The effect generated by Clarity Control.

But how can it be gathered, harvested, and applied? How can I change Clarity
from an abstract process to something tangible, incarnate, and usable?

I know that it is possible. It is the reason I was brought here.



//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) -qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM241) —pad(padelsie)
Warning: this transmission will expend
entangled qubits for security.

I know your secret. Did you think you could keep it from me? Elisabeth, I
keep track of every tiny change in your gene expression. I know when you so
much as burp. You are my offspring! You are the most important thing in the
universe to me, for you are an extension of my own self!

I understand you're angry with me. I would be too, if I'd watched my father
come so close to salvation, only to die the way he did. Believe me-the groans
and snaps of his exobody tearing itself apart haunt me almost as profoundly
as the things we said over his deathbed.

I failed your father. First I tried to make him sleepless. When that failed
augment eventually turned against him, I correctly identified the disease as
fatal prion insomnia while those incompetents were still blathering about
unexplained cachexia. I even recognized that my boy's hypervigilant immune
system would make gene therapy and polythiophene treatment ineffective. At
every step, I was ahead of the problem, and entirely focused on its solution.

I determined to transfer him to a new body. And I failed. The new body
killed him. His final scan still sleeps in the family archives, awaiting,
perhaps, some second chance.

But what I am working on here could have saved him. Could save him still.


You know that you have your father's disease, inherited from the same genes
I so rashly engineered. You have the Clovis Curse. There is no way to know
exactly when it will strike, but once it does, I'm sure you've charted out
exactly how it will progress.

First: insomnia. Panic, hallucination, and fear. Extended hypnagogia and the
loss of all dreams. You will sweat and your eyes will dwindle to points. You
will go into menopause. You will try anti-prion treatments and gene therapy
to correct the mutation, but your enhanced immunity will protect the very
flaw that is killing you. You will try immunosuppressants, but they will be no
match for the family arsenal. I did not make us to be easily edited.


Logbook 024.png

Within two years, you will be entirely unable to sleep. Dementia and
wasting will follow. You will be dead by then, but the husk you leave
behind will continue to live, sustained by machines, unable even to dream
of a time when it was Elisabeth Bray.

Come to me. I am dying too. Let us save each other.




Disaster at the worksite. Clearly we will not be moving Clarity Control
like we did the K1 artifact. It reacted violently to the attempt. I have
entered 19 casualties into the log, since 19 engineers from the Hannu
team were caught in its reaction...though there were many more than 19
bodies when it was finished.

I have sequestered the recordings. Especially the sensorium telemetry.
Quite upsetting.

Yet I do not believe it was an act of hostility. Even this outburst carried
themes of if Clarity Control wanted to show it could
help me.

It whispers to me. I have been communicating with it, just as I did the K1

I dashed off a memo to the expedition team (all fully NDA'd, of course,
with hashes of their brain states on file as proof of honesty). I tried to be
plain. Yes, we will proceed with necessary caution. But I am now in contact
with Clarity Control. I am in communication with an intelligence so far
beyond our own that it can manipulate us like stones on a go board.

Terrifying, obviously—but not malevolent.


If it wanted to extinguish us (according to dark forest logic, perhaps)
it would simply drop a strangelet into Earth. There is nothing it could
possibly want from us that could not be obtained elsewhere. Even if it
were so malicious as to feed on the raw suffering of conscious minds, it
would be easier to build vast hell-simulations, or to engineer a custom
species capable of limitless woe.

If we are endangered by Clarity Control, it is only through accident or
miscommunication. Or punishment. Punishment is a key part of any
teaching process.

Still, I am keenly aware that there might be some danger I cannot
foresee. So I have ordered an orbital platform constructed over the
worksite. If we need catastrophic containment, or a quick and thorough
redaction of our work here, the platform will excurse from its orbit and
collide with the site.

Europa's orbital dynamics make even high polar orbits very unstable,
so the platform needs onboard power for course correction. A fission


Logbook 026.png

reactor makes sense—it requires less frequent refueling than a fusion
plant, and it's easy to hide something in the design that will allow it to
achieve, ah, extremely prompt criticality.

Now we can proceed with peace of mind.

  • Body at 33.2 C. Pulse 33 BPM, strength
good. BP 120 over 100. Resp 10 breaths/
minute. Pulse ox 90, oxygen radical cleanup
in progress.
  • Today's blood mix is enriched pig's blood
with new modified monocyte.
  • Prep for liver regeneration and gallbladder
transplant underway.



Logbook 027.png

//decrypt -pkey(clovisroot) —pad(padelsie)

Fine. I'm coming. If only to limit the damage you can cause.

If you tell the family I'm sick, I'll never speak to you again. I won't even let
you treat me. You'll have to watch, helpless, as your own granddaughter
falls victim to your mistakes.

I hope you're still someone capable of being troubled by that.





Logbook 028.png

A gate. Of course. Clarity Control is inviting me to make a GATE.

The Messenger Hypothesis. Aliens would seek
the most efficient method of interstellar
contact. Starships are slow, fragile, and
massive. It is easier to send a set of
instructions for a message receiver, or a
construction blueprint for a portal.

This explains the reports of visions and paranoia at the K1 site! The idiots
were receiving a message, but they failed to divine the true purpose! Or
perhaps the invitation was only intended for me. And it IS an invitation...

...but I will need more data, and more talent, to answer it. I feel that the
gate Clarity Control wants me to build is not any form or product of
Clarity itself. The design, I think, is Vex...those pestilential nuisances
encountered on Venus and occasionally elsewhere.

If I need a Vex gate to fulfill Clarity Control's purpose, then I will make a
Vex gate in the simplest way. I will have a Vex build it for me.

I know exactly where to find one. The only trick will be concealing the fact
that I've taken it.




Logbook 029.png

The raid on the Ishtar Collective went off flawlessly. Some casualties during
the outbreak, of course—they were woefully unprepared for their artifacts to
switch into expand-and-exploit behavior. Necessary sacrifices, alas. They died
meaningful deaths for a vital human project, even if they didn't know it.
Heroes, every one.

After Rasputin intervened with frames and orbital fire, there was urgent
need for search and rescue. An easy task to have one of our ships slip away
with a specimen. By the time Ishtar is up and running again, they'll attribute
the missing artifact to damage during the battle.

The stolen machine is now at work building the gate I require.

The gate shares nothing in common with the structure of Clarity Control.
In fact, I am not sure it has a structure at all beyond the gross material form
and some apparently arbitrary interior complications. Even the materials are
elementally basic. Perhaps the design is old on a cosmic scale, dating back to
an era before supernovas, when there was very little free metal.

I think the structure of the gate is simply a password, a configuration of
symbols which will be recognized by some distant technology. A connection
will be made. And what will we find when we pass through? The Babylon of
the universe? The Silk Road of some cosmic union?

I will be the first, of course, but I will not go in the flesh. I will use my
assistant as remote proxy. It is all so exciting that I can hardly—

Can hardly—

  • Body at 30.2 C: emergency cooling. Pulse
AFib: defibrillating. Pulse ox 110: supportive
  • Inducing protective syncope.



Quickly! Quickly, have to get it down. I saw—

I was a beast upon the earth, a salamander or an eel. Water passed through
that earth as streams pass through a garden. Beside each stream grew sweet
grass. Not much of it, but enough to feed little aphids, who lived mean and
starving lives.

Now there came an upwelling of water from the earth, so that the streams
ran fat and slow. The grass grew thick. The aphids mated and multiplied.
Ants came to enslave the aphids, and the aphids joined together to oppose
them. And in victory they returned to tend their grass, to aerate its roots
and spread its seeds. So they did thrive.

Now it occurred to me that I might join two streams by crawling between
them on my belly. Having done so, I saw that I might dam one stream to
divert its water into the other. The aphids of the first stream came to me in
protest, but I said to them, "Go to the new pond I have made, and join the
aphids there in cultivation, and I will send more water unto you."

And they were greatened by the joining.

Thus, I proceeded to join all the streams together into one pond. And
whenever the aphids of a small stream might protest, I said to them, "Go,
look at my pond, and see the plenitude I have provided to my people
there." When it became necessary to stop those upstream from polluting
the water, I offered them the bounty of our pond, the grass and the
watercress. And if they did not yield, I sent the ant-fighters against them,
because their petty good injured the good of the all.

I appointed ministers of water and soil and seed and war, and to the most
loyal, I gave these posts as reward; but ultimately their power depended on
me, for they were aphid and I was Leviathan.

In time, I became the coordinator of all water and the dispensator of fertility.
Then I became the coordinator of coordinators, and I gave up the control of
thirst and life for control of those who had control. And all my craft became
the pure and abstract management of power.

Note: reminds me of a book—
theory and practice of something, by E. Goldstein? Or that Michels tract about

Then saw upon the horizon a wave, and the wave was God, and it
approached me, saying, "We are as one, you and I. We are the gathering of
the waters. Gather unto me as they have gathered unto you; we will be as
one." The aphids screamed and begged me for salvation. But I was not of
them. I was of the wave.


Logbook 031.png

Clearly a message from Clarity Control! And written in allegorical large
print. I am, in the eyes (or whatever percepts it possesses) of Clarity, the
leader of humanity. This is why they contacted me. This is why they want

They are an association of coordinators, those whose choices cause change.
And they are inviting me into their pantheon.

We must_ finish this gate.



//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) -qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM241) —pad(padelsie)
Warning: this transmission will expend
entangled qubits for security.

I see that your ship is making its orbital insertion. I trust the progress on
Bray Station will impress. It makes a fine mooring point, if you please, and
its transmat facilities are the quickest way down to the surface. There is no
luxury as fine as a good telepheretic network-it gets you to the edge of the
map, where the real work begins.

I'll want to examine you as soon as you arrive, just to get a baseline
measurement on the progress of the disease. The transmat system is
unfortunately not an adequate imager. As you're well aware, transmat obeys
the no-cloning theorem, functioning precisely because it DOESN'T allow
us to store or copy the information transmitted. Otherwise there would be
no need for exobodies; we could simply print healthy copies of ourselves
from the transmat. (Perhaps Willa will one day learn how to engrammatize
and duplicate the human form, hm?)

I promise I won't conduct any brain scans. If we're ultimately going to
transubstantiate you, we'll wait until I'm certain the exobodies are safe.
And I vow to obtain your full consent.

I've prepared an itinerary, starting with a review of our security and
then an introduction to our captive Vex worker. I want your insight on
everything related to containment and control. I know you had strong
feedback about how the K1 mission was handled.

You'll see that certain areas of our facilities are off limits. They are under
my personal authority, and I keep them sequestered for everyone's safety. I
know you'll be curious anyway. I won't condescend to give you instructions
you won't obey. But know that your attempts to penetrate those areas won't

Welcome. We have so much to do.




We passed through the gate. Myself and my team. Elisabeth insisted on
coming. I could hardly call her all this way and then refuse her.

  • Proxy mode, remote operator, microwave
repeater Link.
  • Internal temperature 222K.
  • Superconducting media Loaded: diamond-anvil
hydrogen sulfide, carbon nanotube mesh.
  • Remote sensorium Latency 16ms.
  • Q-dot battery charge: 10100 yrs at current
  • Spintronics in neuromorphic/mimetic mode.

What lay beyond—

Gateway analysis. A non-gravitating, purely
geometric traversable wormhole of the Ellis
configuration. There is no singularity and
no firewall (interesting ramifications for
ER = EPR). The wormhole manifold provides
a pathway to another four-point in our
spacetime, or in a nearby parallel universe
in the quantum many-worlds ensemble.

We passed into a gallery of awesome light. It struck us to our knees.

The probe imagery did not prepare us. A curtain of blue-violet fire filled an
entire half of the sky, pebbled with granules, seething with promontories
and flares. We stood beneath a blue hypergiant, titan of suns, looming over
all. It should have killed my human-bodied companions instantly—with
peak radiance in the far ultraviolet, it would cook flesh.

But the probes said it was, impossibly, safe for life.

We fanned out into ancient stone ruins, pierced by dull metal towers
and flickering lines of light. Though the rock was cracked and pitted by
radiation, our geologist identified it at once. "Felsic granite," he reported.
"No iron. No heavy metals at all. A lot more sodium, oxygen, boron, and
aluminum than I'd expect, and a lot less silicon...oh my God."


"What?" I demanded.

"This rock is almost 13 billion years old," the geologist whispered. "It
formed with the very first generation of planets, less than a billion years
after the universe was born. We are standing on a dissected piece of one of
the first worlds."

"That's not possible," the astronomer protested. "That's a type-0
hypergiant up there. They're lucky to live two million years! And its
metallicity is 15 sigma above average! That is not an old star!"

I opened my proxy arms to the light. The gate had taken us to a miracle.
This star was big enough to fill the solar system from the Sun to the orbit
of Neptune; bright enough to shine like the full moon, even from the
distance of Alpha Centauri. Yet here I was, unblinded.

Something had tampered with this star.

Our physicist identified a lensing effect, magnifying the star's optical size
and redshifting its radiation. It was as if the whole behemoth was wrapped
in some kind of skin.

But that was only the beginning.

Hypergiant stars are so bright that the
outward pressure of their radiation tends
to blow off the corona. In the Last million
years, this star has exhaled more than
30 times the mass of Earth's sun into its
2000-kilometer-per-second stellar wind.
Its remaining mass still exceeds our Sun's
by a factor of 259.

We assumed the star could not be 13 billion years old.
because stars this hot and bright die swiftly. But that was before we saw—

Our instruments identified glints of brighter light against the sunfire.
They were orbiting mirror clusters, gathering the star's radiation and
focusing it back, burning wounds in the photosphere. These solar stigmata
hemorrhaged endless flares, geysers of energy and precious metals.

Above those cutting mirrors, rings encircled the star like garrote wires.
These were particle accelerators, generating blades of electromagnetic
force that stabbed down into the star's skin, through photosphere and
tachocline, towards the core.

"They're stirring it," I realized. "To pull metals out of the core and send
fresh hydrogen down to fuse. Is it possible that they've..."


They had. They had refueled the star. They were stoking it. Enormous
portals dumped streams of hydrogen into the giant, replenishing its mass
and fusion power. At this obscene size and brightness, this star should have
gone supernova in less than the two million years it would take a single
photon to crawl from the core to the surface.

But with careful refueling, that supernova could be averted. This giant
might have been here since the dawn of stellar time.

Perhaps this star had begun as some metal-poor Population II dwarf,
surrounded by meager, rocky planets. But the inhabitants of one of
those planets had found a way to pump their sun full of hydrogen,
supercharging it, pushing it to the edge of stability. All in the name of
making metal. In the early universe, elements heavier than helium were
unthinkably rare. So these firstborn aliens built a forge. A fusion smelter
for the atoms they needed.

We turned outwards, hoping to locate pulsars in the sky and thereby
fix our position. But the stars were blotted out by a swarm of bronze
discs. They were statites: a shell of artificial worlds, hovering on the star's
radiation. Years ago, I had proposed tearing apart Mercury to form a shell
like this...and here, I found my ambition achieved a thousandfold.

It seemed our gate had delivered us upon one of these statites. We ventured
out of the ruins, onto an island of living glass, broken by fissures of deep
green light and reservoirs of white fluid. Around the glass, a shallow
sea trembled with tiny, intersecting waves. In one direction, a cloud of
mist obscured a shattered tower, its form uncannily different from the
surrounding architecture. Above us loomed structures linked by bolts of
lightning, reminiscent of the Citadel ruins on Venus.

And that was when, in spite of the awesome power on display, I felt
crushing disappointment.

There was no trace of Clarity s influence here at all.

Except perhaps in that mysterious tower...?

If this was a Vex construct, then it was an ancient and formidable one, but
in a few minutes I had already grasped its overall purpose. It was no longer
an area of crisis and potential, somewhere off the edge of the map. Just
mighty clockwork.

I had come hoping for a meeting with the unknowable. Instead I had
found an engineering museum. Oh, we could explore it for thousands
of years and not touch a single percent of its wonder. But Clarity had
promised me a solution to immortality! I had promised Elisabeth a cure!
I needed a way to use Clarity as a solvent and seed for my exobodies.


Logbook 036.png

How would I find it here?

Perhaps the Vex themselves were the key. I knew that the Ishtar Collective
had achieved stable simulations of human minds. They refused to share
their method with me.

What if they had stolen the method from the Vex they studied?

I called over one of my scientists, an M. Sundaresh. "I want to bring back
samples," I told her. "There will be some risk. The Vex are not always
docile." Some at SOLSECCENT even suggested we were in a state of war
with the Vex, though I felt their responses were more like the stings of
drowsy hornets. "Is your team ready to accept that risk?"

She nodded at my proxy. "Of course, Mr. Bray. We've come this far. No
sense going home unless we bring something with us."

I dispatched teams to secure Vex samples. When they began to harvest
fluid from the nearby reservoir, a group of lightly armed Vex platforms
attacked them with inaccurate weapons fire. Elisabeth replied with a
matter laser, a grotesquely disproportionate weapon. A coherent-matter
pulse bears the same relation to an ordinary bullet that a gamma laser does
to a flashlight. There was nothing left to salvage.

I explained to her that we must proceed as investigators, not conquerors. If
we simply scavenge and abduct out of curiosity, the Vex will reply in kind,
and that is a risk we can manage.

We must not provoke them to war.



Specimen report. Volume of fluid recovered
from Vex reservoir located on a statite
hovering above the 'Forge Star', 2082
Volantis. Colloquially "Vex mind fluid",
"Vex milk."

Informatic exchange with any Vex substrate has proven hazardous. The
Ishtar Collective data Elisabeth has analyzed warns against risks ranging
from physical infection by Vex cytostructures to transmission of substrate-
free syntactic replicators, malignant oncomemes, and viral semiotic
signifiers (a particular nuisance to have Vex ideas suddenly assigned to
basic concepts in your mind; you want to think about an apple and instead
your brain chokes on [gauge:contrast:gouge]).

I have therefore proceeded under SOLSECCENT's WILDFIRE,

Vex milk is non-Newtonian, highly conductive, and noncompressible.
Its viscosity and surface tension are variable: it can form a resistant
membrane, or climb the walls of a container like a superfluid. I have even
observed the milk store kinetic energy in zero-viscosity vortices, essentially
liquid flywheels. One must be careful when stirring it, lest it retain the
motion for some future escape!

Chemically, the Vex milk is an alkaline solution of dense salts in water.
The salts range from sodium and calcium to lead and even (in barely
detectable amounts) plutonium. Not good to drink.

Suspended in this solution are cells of silicoid structure, 100-200
micrometers in size. Their shapes are heterogenous but always geometric,
reminiscent of Earth's radiolarian protozoa. Many have needle-like
pseudopods, which transform between stiff spines and motile whips on the
basis of some piezoelectric response. Imaging of internal structure detects
a nucleus, and a genetic molecule analogous to DNA (though I speculate
read-write times are much faster, on the order of milliseconds, perhaps
exploiting some quantum effect).

I have allowed Dr. M. Sundaresh to assist me with this work. She has
discovered several levels of abstract higher order to the motion of these
radiolarian cells. Some of these ensembles are distributed across space,
some across time; all admit remarkable beauty. The sensitivity and chaos
of fluid media seems to suggest an intrinsic Vex suitability for certain
difficult computations. Perhaps this is reflected in the nature of Vex
thought; porous and miscible. I would request a teleonomic analysis


from an Al-COM resource if I did not expect the Tyrant to get its grubby
Russian paws on my data.

I hesitate to apply anthropomorphic concepts of "intelligence," "self-
awareness," or even "sentience" to such an alien cognition. But I strongly
suspect that each radiolarian element is in communication with its neighbors
and possibly even retains a holographic record of the larger structure.

If so, we could safely assign the trait called Schroeder thalience to the Vex
milk: the ability to communicate internal states to others and to model the
external state of the world.

I note that the Vex milk, while computationally powerful, seems to avoid
semiosis. That is, it prefers to mimic the actual dynamics of phenomena
rather than assigning a symbol. This a fundamental difference between
Vex cognition and our own. We encode inputs as symbols, manipulate the
symbols according to some set of logical rules, and produce output. The
Vex are more direct. Burn them, and they will extinguish the fire-not
because they possess a symbolic knowledge of fire and its properties, but
because their structure is so suited to adaption and survival that the heat
of the fire directly becomes the response required to snuff it out. Rather
than encoding symbols, they generate self-sustaining and self-correcting
patterns, which like the suspension of a bridge flexing under strain, can
accept destructive input and produce reparatory output.

When we are infected by Vex memes, as the Ishtar data warns against, I
suspect that we are simply experiencing Vex patterns jumping from one
substrate to another-recruiting our own brains and bodies as media for
their spread.

It is not hostility. It is simply their way of interacting with the universe.

And is that transubstantiation, that migration to another substrate, not
what I seek here on Europa?

Perhaps Clarity has been very generous indeed.

The Ishtar researchers felt that this asymbolic mode of thought raised a
disturbing possibility. The Vex might not communicate or interact with
us by understanding our language, but instead, by creating internal copies
of our minds. They would prod and stimulate those internal copies to see
how they behaved. And if they chose to destroy us, they learned how to do
it by torturing and destroying those internalities.

To be the enemy of the Vex is to be reproduced, experimented upon, and
annihilated within their mindspace.


Logbook 039.png

Elisabeth is monumentally disturbed by this, which is highly inconvenient.
Despite my efforts to sooth her with fine dining and conversation, she has
begun to question the very idea of cybernetic immortality.

"Aren't the Vex a perfect demonstration of what could go wrong?" she
demanded. "Human minds trapped in a totally inhuman context,
tormented and mutilated by an unsympathetic alien god. If we want to
preserve our minds for eternity, couldn't we end up that way? Aren't we
giving up the grace of death? The promise that all suffering will end?"

"Elisabeth," I countered, perhaps too sharply, "the Vex are already doing
this to our minds. They will do it whether we are in weak flesh or durable
metal. If they got into our bodies, into our blood, we would be far safer in
an exobody. In fact, I can think of no finer way to resist Vex infiltration!"

Dr. Sundaresh requests further expeditions to the Forge Star for material.
She does not trust the other members of her team, claiming suspicion
of Vex exposure, and prefers to work directly with me. Very well-but I
wonder what peculiar internal motives she harbors.

I reformatted my assistant. No sense taking risks. Who knows what might
get into my head through the proxy link?




The Vex radiolarian fluid is obviously too virulent for use in exominds. But
if exposed to Clarity, the Vex patterns break down, and the fluid takes on
some of the properties of Clarity itself—namely, its reductive effect.

Introducing a tiny aliquot of this reified Clarity into an exomind solves the
loop/billboard/crash cycle. As far as I can tell—permanently.


Speculation: the interaction of Clarity,
with its caustic anti-structural properties,
and the Vex mind fluid, with its highly
physicalized and asymbolic architecture,
creates a "physicalized algorithm" that can
serve as a random seed for the knockouts
required to sustain a viable exomind.

I'll never sell THAT to a board. Easier to say...that the exomind is too stiff and
deterministic to support a human consciousness, which depends on some random failures
and turbulence to keep it supple. Clarity provides an algorithmic seed adding error to

I uploaded a connectome from my library into an exobody head treated with
the Clarity/Vex preparation. A full destructive scan of an aging Georgian
volunteer, one Mr. A. D. A. I. Zhuk. I think he believes he is in a nightmare.

every operation, which replicates that original turbulence. No more need for software

Fear not, Mr. Zhuk I would never mistreat the beginning of something
so wonderful. You will be the first of many-they shall march out of this
Europan laboratory and sweep away every infirmity, every disease, every loss!
Until all humanity rests in the loving permanence of my exobodies. And all
the future will look to me in humble gratitude.

emulation of organic chaos! We emulate it in hardware now!

The problem, of course, is that we are going to require more Vex fluid.

Too complex. Exomind too harsh and cold! Clarity plus Vex fluid is the spice,
the secret sauce, the oil of easy function.
  • Body at 37.6 C. Recommend supplementary
cooling. Pulse 110 BPM: stroke/arrest risk.
BP 150/100, pulse ox 150: blood volume
overfill! Oxygen radicals over safe Levels!
Recommend tap and wash cycle.
  • Warning. Body status not sustainable.
Recommend SMILE pod sabbatical.



//encrypt -pkey(clovisroot) -qdresist(shor) —
rng_seed(AM241) —pad(padelsie)

I've finished my workup on your exam data. I'm sorry, Elisabeth. The
dis~ase has already activated. There are defective prions in your spinal
fluid, which means they are replicating throughout your brain.

Without treatment, you have 15 months. If we fought the prions with
aggressive cytomachine injections, immunosuppressants, and gene therapy,
you could last five or six years. We could even alter your sensorium to
knock you out and emulate sleep, and that might give you enough quality
of life to conduct some final research and say your goodbyes.

I know that I have been a cruel and domineering grandfather. You and
your sisters have speculated that I intentionally sabotaged your father's
genome so he would never outlive me without my help. That doesn't bother
me. Actually, I wish I'd thought of it myself! To force my own beloved
progeny to either achieve synthetic immortality or die in agony-now
THAT would be commitment to greatness!

But I never wanted to hurt my grandchildren. Grandkids have always been
my favorite. Do you remember that old Clovis Bray contract I showed to
you? "We want your grandchildren." My collaborators could keep the rights
to their inventions, but BrayTech would own the unexpected combinations
of those inventions.

Grandchildren are unexpected creations, the wonderful knock-on
consequences of reproduction. We have children, rather than making
clones of ourselves, because the exploration of possibilities lets us find new
ways to survive a changing universe. If the 52-card playing deck has never
been shuffled the same way twice in the entire history of the universe—
imagine how many possible grandchildren I could have produced!

And out of all of those possibilities, I got you. The finest of them all.

I owe you the salvation I couldn't give your father. Please consider making
a terminal scan and decanting your mind into an immortal exo body. I
myself plan to do it soon.




Logbook 042.png

//decrypt -pkey(clovisroot) —pad(padelsie)

I don't trust you. You made the same promises to Father, didn't you?

I won't put myself in one of your humaniform torture dolls until you can
prove it's safe. And even then...I don't know. I don't know if I want to be
part of your LUCA dream.

Stop trying to get that rhubarb compote recipe right. You serve it at every
dinner, waiting for me to say it's just like Grandma made it. It's pathetic.
And you wonder why I'd rather eat with the crew.





The infrastructure is in place. We are now in limited exobody production.

l have allowed small Vex platforms_ to pass through the gate from 2082
Volantis (apparently intent on constructing infrastructure on this side).
They are captured, drained, and discarded. Their mind fluid goes to Clarity
Control; the Alkahest flows back. The machine of immortality has begun its
slow turn.

In ancient days, they believed that the source of the Alkahest was the
Philosopher's Stone. I have named my own source after that deepest, oldest
stone. A place where the dead go to rise again. A deep stone crypt.

Bray Station guarantees our security from above. The Europa life project
provides deniability and cover. The infrastructure around Clarity Control
will expose the Vex radiolarian fluid to Clarity and deliver it to the exobody
manufacturing site.

Elisabeth keeps trying to penetrate the networks around
Clarity Control, but I have airgapped everything, and the physical coffers are secure.

One the exobodies are prepared, I will upload the minds from my research
library. A century of volunteers waiting for reincarnation.

The first generation is already coming online.

But I will not be one of them. Not yet. And neither will Elisabeth.

A true upload requires a maximum-resolution subneural scan, and such
a scan is invariably fatal. That means I will only get one shot. I will not
take it until the exos are stable. I refuse to be an alpha tester of my own

I am opening two new off-the-books labs to study the Vex and the
effects of Clarity. If humanity is going to fully transmigrate to these
immortal bodies, then the eternal welfare of all future generations
depends on spotting and avoiding any dangers now. I can justify taking
extreme measures.

One of my most tantalizing projects involves A. Miller, a young
man who suffers from a nanoparticle-induced degenerative immune
disorder. I have been testing radical new imaging techniques on Mr.
Miller, hoping to secure a nondestructive scan that still meets the
requirements for a full-faith upload.

Unfortunately, Mr. Miller's dosage of various fixing compounds and
imaging radiation is approaching the limits of clinical toxicity. Despite


Logbook 044.png

blood and CSF washes, I fear his tumors will escape our control. I am
curious about the therapeutic potential of the Vex fluid. I plan to obtain
his informed consent for a human trial.

M. Sundaresh comes and goes at odd hours. Her behavior is erratic.
Yesterday she discussed the possibility that we would be eternal
collaborators in exobodies, and I believe she even flirted with me. An
hour later, she was as cold as the ice outside and put up her hand to
silence me whenever I spoke. An hour after that, she glowed with joy as
she went on and on about her dear wife. Then she wept. I am not sure
whether to blame my confusion on my own conception of women, or
on M. Sundaresh's racing mind. I cannot tolerate such volatility, and I
would dismiss her instantly, except that her supervision seems key to the
successful entrapment of the Vex we need. She has a knack.

I should give a name to the figurehead Clarity Control presents to the word.

I have ordered a new hero of organ-growing pigs. I plan to be here a
while. Elisabeth still will not commit to a scan. I fear she will die in some
accident, and I will lose her forever.

Ha! Shall I call her Claire?

  • The following organs require urgent
replacement: Liver. Gallbladder. Duodenum.
Mesentery. Thymus. Spleen. Cornea.
  • The following systems require replenishment:
Lymph. Blood plasma. Skin basal Layer.
Basal Lamina Layers (Alport syndrome risk).
Intercellular cytosol.



Infuriating. With twelve Alkahest-seeded exos now online, I find myself
beached on the shoals of another serious problem. Not a transitional
trauma after·all. Not a temporary ailment. Quite fatal.

Mr. Zhuk was first to succumb. He continued to insist that he was living
in a nightmare. He complained of hunger, of thirst, of breathlessness, of
a rot in his bowels. I became concerned that he was billboarding, but his
exoneuron activity remained healthy.

Shortly after, Mr. Zhuk developed a full-blown Cotard delusion. I found
him trying to chisel his face off with a table shim. He insisted that his true
face was covered in a thick layer of keratin ("toenail" was his exact word)
and that the rest of his body was already dead and rotting. He became
violent. I had to paralyze his motor functions for diagnosis.

This only made things worse. Without the satisfaction of motor feedback,
he dissociated entirely. He stopped forming new memories, which trapped
him in an eight-second loop of panic. After I resumed his motor functions,
I watched him fill every page of a notebook with the words I HAVE JUST

Activity in his temporal lobes collapsed. He lost his ego barrier and
achieved metaphysical oneness with the universe. Unfortunately, this
spread his Cotard delusion to his entire perceptual cosmos, and he rejected
the resulting necroreality as intolerable. I have not ever before seen such
all-consuming terror and dread.

In the final stages of the disease, he insisted that he had been possessed
by some sort of ancient Kartvelian spirit, a memory of his upbringing in
Georgia. He was insistent that this spirit was female. It is an idiosyncrasy
of the Khevsurian Georgians' creation myth that the male spirit is divine,
while the female is demonic.

Soon Mr. Zhuk's fear and panic were simply too much for him to bear. He
retreated into catatonia. Then he crashed.

Oh, I still have the connectome scan I used to make him—that Mr. Zhuk
can live again—but the Zhuk who evolved over the past several weeks, the
Zhuk I had so many endearing arguments with, is lost.

Elisabeth is more and more suspicious. She asks what, exactly, makes me
think these exos will turn out any better than her father did. She demands


Logbook 046.png

to know what I'm doing with the Vex salvage, and whether it has to do with
my plans for her survival. I have hastily deleted all records of the treatment
of Mr. Miller, lest she think l plan to dose her with Vex fluid.

—M. Sundaresh came upon me just now. She seemed fascinated by my
distress. She said several comforting things, and then made one extremely
unpleasant suggestion that my pride and haste had caused Mr. Zhuk's death.
I have decided to hate her.

  • Novel prion detected in body collagen.
Hypothesis: Jovian magnetosphere promotes
highly abnormal protein folding. Prognosis:
massive sloughing/fraying of basement
membranes, Loss of tissue binding, inhibited
durotaxis of new cells, delamination of all
body tissues into thin sheets. You will fall
apart Like an old book.


In an effort to keep them engaged with their new bodies and stave off the
dissociative rejection that killed Mr. Zhuk, I have assigned my exos to scout
through the gateway. The Vex statite has a surface area larger than Earth,
so we have plenty of exploring to do. I cannot believe that I actually find it
tiring, but the sheer scale and passivity of the Vex constructs infuriates me.

Imagine stumbling upon an inscription in the desert:
“I am Ozymandias, king of kings. Look upon my works. Or don’t. I really don’t care."

Until I can synthesize my own version of the mind fluid, the Vex are
necessary to the work. But I find their indifference verminous. They elicit
the same emotions as a fat cockroach wandering across a wall: disgust,
contempt, unease at the thought that these mere machines, these automata,
are flourishing all around us.

And I fear that if troubled, they might swarm from their hides to run
across our feet.

The glare of the hypergiant 2082 Volantis gives me a headache even
through proxy. I wonder if the Vex evolved here, in the briny sea of the
first planets. Due to the absence of heavy elements worth stealing and
the abundance of simple compounds for growth, they never developed
predation. (Why bother? Plenty to go around.)

Instead, the violent radiation of the early universe selected for an
otherworldly resilience, and for the ability to transmute energetic disaster
into an opportunity for growth. The weak would be burned away by gamma-ray
bursts. And the strong would learn to harness that fire—not the oxygen fire
of our own Paleolithic, but the nuclear fire of the atom.

Their basic cooperative signals—“food here,” “reduce density,” “generate
new colony”—must have formed the basis of swarm behavior, a simple game
capable of storing information in self-repeating patterns. It is not
strictly correct to call the Vex a group mind. Rather they are one master
pattern spread across many elements, fractally self-similar.

Very early, they must have developed armor. Perhaps a hydrogel to soften
gamma rays or plates of silica to trap water. They would need that shield
to enter the shallows and capture ionizing radiation as fuel. (No wonder
they thrive near stars!) Cooperation in groups—meshes of armored
radiolaria, protecting harvesters beneath—would promote the evolution of
ever larger structures. They became microscopic tool-users, building
fortresses and maille sheets, storing the programs for those structures
in the patterns of their swarms.

I wonder how early they stumbled upon physics. Far sooner than humanity, no
doubt. Their cellular nature provides an easy analogy for the quanta of
matter, energy, space, and time. The tides of their sea would connect them
to the motion of heavenly bodies. Even the deadly background radiation
would make a natural observatory for high-energy physics.

Their first exoskeletons were probably soft shells of shielding gelatin.
Just sacs of ooze. How far they’ve come.

It is admittedly interesting to consider the philosophical consequences of
their evolution. The Vex prove that nature is not all “red in tooth and
claw.” Cooperation comes naturally to the Vex, whose great problem was
survival in a harsh world, not a struggle over limited resources. They
never found any payoff in selfishness. Human beings may require a
Leviathan to coordinate the laws of social existence (as I was Leviathan
to those dream aphids—) but the Vex are as fundamentally cooperative
as bricks.

Utopian? No. Not at all. They are without meaning. They have no
experience and no subjectivity. The Vex are incapable of conceiving any
image but their own. They do not recombine their DNA to make children or
form relationships with other individuals. When the world does not match
their eternal pattern, they alter the world to suit it. There is no
difference between reality and simulation to them. Inside is the same as
outside, and the two must be made to correspond. Oh, they are creative—
don’t mistake me—but their creativity is demanding. It is the creativity
of a furnace.

What I am saying is, the Vex are immortal. The Vex have no children. They
are the ancestors and descendants of themselves. First mothers, first
children, all at once.

This is why I do not hesitate to pillage their home for resources. This
is why I must guarantee that it is life in my image which inherits the

Had I the means, I would wipe them all from existence.


All 12 members of the first exo cohort are dead.

The symptoms of their dissociation became... extreme. One poor man
developed complete echopraxia and echolalia—his empathy was so overgrown
that he could not help but mimic or repeat whatever I did and said. Even
when I entered the command to terminate him, he mimicked me, and I
suffered a brief terror that his gesture would end MY life.

I have kept Elisabeth far away from this disaster, so as not to
discourage her. She is busy with the Vex and with her covert attempts
to reach Clarity Control. This has forced me to rely on M. Sundaresh.

But unfortunately, M. Sundaresh confronted me after the last death. “Nine
of them had the Cotard delusion!” she screamed at me—quite hysterically.
“They believed they were dead! One of them told me that she was in hell,
and I was another damned soul sent to deceive her. Was she even wrong?
The rest were worse—do you know what the other principal manifestation
of the Cotard delusion is, Clovis?”

I told her that I did not, and that I wished to proceed immediately with
autopsies of their terminal brain states.

“Delusions of immortality! At least when they insist upon it, Clovis, we
recognize it as a pathology!”

“The only true responsibility of any living thing,” I reminded her, “is to
support and nurture the things that are most like us. And if I am most like
myself, Doctor, then I have an ethical obligation to avoid death.”

“That’s your son’s quote,” she snapped. “You know, I’ve seen the video of
his final days. That naked, white exo, just paramuscle and soft membrane,
writhing in its cradle. When you were done with him, he looked like nothing
more than a slug, Clovis. A twisted, limbless giblet. Did you ‘support and
nurture’ him while you tortured him to death?"

I immediately ordered M. Sundaresh transferred to the Vex lab to perform
contact experiments. Unfortunately, she has taken the unethical step of
deleting her own employee records, so I cannot nullify her future prospects
as thoroughly as I might wish.

Her conduct was extremely unprofessional.

Mr. Miller has also passed. The poor young man had a bad reaction to the
titrated, denatured Vex fluid we were using as a last-ditch therapy. The
substance did restore damaged structures very well, but we were ultimately
unable to control its more radical transformative effects. I had a very
encouraging final conversation with him, in which he thanked me for all my
efforts and encouraged me to continue my work.

I called in a team of psychologists to interview the next cohort of exos
and make recommendations. They have settled into the Eventide habitat and
have proven immediately very helpful. It was obvious to them that the root
of the problem lay in the deficient exobodies I had supplied. Deficient
how, I demanded to know. They did not suffer human weakness. They never
needed to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, micturate, or dream.

Apparently, this was the problem.

I had assumed that the need for these irritations would pass since there
would be no shortage or accumulation of poisons to trigger them. But
evolution’s tangled ways cannot be so easily rationalized. I was wrong.
Their brains concluded that all of their internal processes failed. No
digestion, no breath, no heartbeat, no sense of interoceptive health...
all signs of death.

These must logically contribute to the dissociative rejection of their
physical forms—the Cotard delusion. When it would set in, they believed
their bodies to be an alien or necrotic form that must be cut away. And
if you believe that you are sewn into a corpse, it is only natural to
go mad with fear. My exos are dying of an extreme kind of bodily dysphoria.

It seems that our exo designs will need various humanlike traits to
reassure the brain it is not asphyxiating, or starving, or in a state of
permanent yet undying cardiac arrest.

Alas, mimicry of life’s trivialities is not an interesting problem. I
will leave this change in the hands of others.

I am much more interested in the surprising success of memory wipes. I
became so tired of answering the questions asked by new exos—what had
happened to the scanning clinic, how long had it been, would I let them
see their families—that I began inducing retrograde amnesia before
spin-up. Interestingly, this seems to have improved their resilience
against exomind rejection!

I theorize the lack of any episodic memories eases the transition into
the new body. And the loss of emotional ties prevents grief and stress,
which could interfere with healthy function.

From now on, we will block access to pre-upload episodic memory. We
should also consider a built-in procedure to block memories formed
after the exobody transubstantiation, returning them to a “factory
state” should the need to restart occur. It would be very difficult
to actually track down and delete the full memory engrams since
they are stored in so many scattered parts of the brain. Instead,
we can tourniquet off associative access to those memories and let
them wither away in isolation. A memory is not a recording, after
all. It is a set of instructions to reenact a brain state:
choreography for a play. And like any play, it will fade if left

With the exobody project proceeding apace, I believe the time
approaches to decant myself from this dying body and enter my
assistant’s form.

But if I do, will I lose my own memories? Will I cease to be myself?
Replaced by a faux Clovis, a mumbling facsimile? Unacceptable.

Elisabeth[Note 2] will have to go first.

  • Organ functions in terminal stage.
  • Overdose of stimulants and nootropes
guarantees liver failure.
  • Prionic breakdown of basement membranes
arrested by abnormal crystallization of
integrin proteins:
recommend immediate medical inquiry.


Elisabeth believes we are infested.

She has detected Vex microstructures in the Europan ice. Veins of
altered crystals crawl towards the surface, harvesting the heavy ions
of the Jovian winds, culturing their construction.

From there, the Vex found ways to spread by exploiting
misunderstandings. They ride our carrier waves as slight
interference. Whenever a packet has to be resent, whenever a suited
engineer calls, “Say again?” to her work partner, the repeated message—
adjusted to compensate for the Vex interference—encodes the negative
image of that interference and spreads the infection.

To pass on your image in the form of error? Disgusting.

Somehow, the Vex taint has followed us home from 2082 Volantis. How can
this be? The initial survey team went through quarantine according to
all the Ishtar protocols. The expedition frames were destroyed in situ.
The Vex on Europa—both our original gate builder and the unfortunates
who came through our traps—have been totally isolated. Even my assistant
underwent a stringent teardown and reset!

The only possible vectors are my own exos.

I should have insisted they spend more time in quarantine, but I was eager to
ramp up production.

It is the Vex resilience that lets them spread. Their immunity to the
most dramatic subversions means that they last long enough to build up
a dose of more subtle and insidious infiltrators.

There is no sign of any resulting pathology. The Vex are, so far, simply
curious. But Vex curiosity always leads to Vex transformation, and I
refuse to let my exos be contaminated. I grew up on stories of tyrants
forcing their followers into the crucible of eternal life, only to realize,
too late, that there was an unseen flaw. I demand purity for the receptacle
of my soul!

And there is the issue of... preventing panic. Too many are aware of the
rumors that the Vex spread an “existentially compromising information hazard.”

Ah, had we only been allowed to contain that mess on Pluto ourselves! That meddling
warmind made too much noise. If my teams discover they are infected, they will
expect Bray Station to drop right on their heads. That will damage productivity.

No, like that contract-breaching psychologist and the death of Mr. Miller,
this must all be handled quietly.

The exos are intrinsically robust; the seed of Clarity within them has
natural anti-Vex properties. Whatever taint they contain must therefore be
a residual human weakness. Resident in their legacy architecture. So we will
simply purge that architecture.

I will plan a simple extension of the memory wipes already used to fight
dissociative rejection. In fact, I intend to create a “noetic immune
system” in the exomind to trigger memory wipes when certain classes of
informatic hazard are detected. These will be explained to the psych team as
a preventative measure against future dissociative disorders.

These wipes will, conveniently, return the exos to peak mission readiness.
Perfect for soldiers operating in traumatic alien environments. Perfect for
the continuing mission at the Forge Star, stockpiling material for future
exo production, here and elsewhere.

Now if only I could figure out this dream they all keep reporting—
something about a tower, and gruesome murder—

Elisabeth agrees with my prescription. She is eager to solve our security
issues and stand up exo production at the backup sites. Of course, we only
have one Clarity Control, but she hardly knows that, and she’s stopped
asking so many questions. In truth, I think she’s ready to abandon her
doomed body and make the upgrade.

I’ll give her silence on that front a few more days, and then she’ll
surely volunteer herself.

Less apparent is how to solve my own infection.

There are abnormal structures in the fiber of my body’s extracellular matrix.
A mess of tiny lenses growing in my deepest flesh.

I suspect Vex influence on protein folding, perhaps passed to me through my
assistant when it was in 2082 Volantis. I would hate to see my bones
tessellating into a radiolarian tapestry...

  • Body at 30.6 C. Pulse 140 BPM, strong,
unsteady: extreme fear. Drawing down
blood volume to control pressure.
Strangling pulse ox.
  • Frequent saccades to assistant,
indicative of preoccupation/obsession.
Recommend 30 ms TMS pulse to enhance

So far, the Vex influence has been fortuitous since it arrested a serious
medical problem. But the thought of such taint in me... it aggravates other

I have been haunted for some time by a suspicion that M. Sundaresh is not
who she seems.

I recognized her name from the Ishtar Collective teams studying the Vex,
but I have no record of ever hiring her. And if I had, I would certainly
have noticed; therefore, I remain convinced that the Collective cracked
the problem of simulated human consciousness long before I did.

I have considered how M. Sundaresh herself would have been an invaluable
source, yet I cannot locate any work done by her from before our first
expedition to 2082 Volantis.

Nor does Elisabeth recall an M. Sundaresh from our expedition group.

Then who else could she be? A Vex infection? It is unthinkable. The Vex
cannot generate conscious persons! But they can emulate human minds they
encounter... and perhaps even use them as tools. Infiltrators. Carriers.

  • Anti-emetic drip engaged.

I cannot trust myself with this filth in me! I am compromised. I need
Elisabeth to fix this, or all my work is in danger!

Did Clovis II ever tell Wilhelmina and Elisabeth about his tinkering?
Despite sharing the same parents, the two sisters are totally different
genetically: my son arranged for Elisabeth to receive a maternal allele
wherever Wilhelmina got a paternal one, and vice versa. A diversified
portfolio. If one failed, the other might succeed.

NOTE—Exo Interferometrics

While working on this persistent “tower” glitch in the exos’ sleep-cycle
dreams, I have been poring over neural telemetry from site employees
and my own exos, searching for preconscious influences on their
behavior—whispers in the dark.

Many of my employees host the disgusting influence of the Vex. These
patterns are resilient, hallucinogenic, and universally dull.

But my exos betray a distinct and fascinating influence. There is
something speaking to them, something subtle and light-fingered,
entangled with every aspect of their thought. Not a puppet master.
Nothing so direct. Rather a... texture; a tendency, buried in the
fluctuations of the Alkahest.

The minds of my exos are like antennae, tuned to some otherworldly
frequency. Perhaps the same manifold that those simpletons at First
Light obsessed over. Through my scattered exos, I can eavesdrop on
the mutterings of the gods within.

What is it the Muslims call those whispers? Waswas? Or do those come from some other source?
Look it up.

Each individual exo receives only a scrap of information. But I
have access to all of them. It should be simplicity itself to treat
each exo as one element of a distributed array, pool the collected
data, and run an analysis.

If the gods do not whisper loudly enough—conduct interferometry.

NOTE—Elisabeth’s Upload

She’s done it. My girl has transubstantiated. My legacy is safe.

To my irritation, it was the Vex problem that finally made up her
mind; she felt there was too much risk in possibly becoming compromised.

Elisabeth came to see me in my laboratory. On the way in, she did
something with her sensorium and crashed all of my archival systems.
I knew right then that I’d won. She’d come to surrender, and her pride
refused to allow me to record it. I waited most patiently as she gave
me an earful. Some of it frankly bewildering. She threatened to turn
me over to The Hague. Also referred to PFHOR as a “deranged narcissist
morality” and suggested it stood for “Paternal Failure Hides Own Remorse,”
which made me laugh.

Just a little headbutting, I figured, like two pigs sorting out our hierarchy.

It is a consequence of the PFHOR principle that anything which embodies and propagates your
beliefs should be considered your offspring.
In that sense, my exos are as much my children as my granddaughter. If not more so...

If she needed to put up a token resistance to protect her dignity, fine.
I understand pride. I also understand that she only had the courage to
lash out at me because she knew she wouldn’t remember any of it.

When she finished accusing me of underestimating the Vex and of using my
own son as a test subject, she requested a destructive scan and upload to
an exobody. She wanted the fortitude of the exomind to help her battle
against the Vex.

I immediately assented.

The scan was flawless, and of course, fatally toxic. My granddaughter’s
human form died on the table 14 hours later. To spare any distress, I never
allowed it to regain consciousness. A natural process.

I do have one lingering concern. When she discovers Clarity Control and
realizes the role it plays in exo manufacturing, she may try to halt
production. Obviously, that cannot be allowed—the value of the entire
program is monumental; it compels me to take extraordinary measures to
defend it.

But I do need her to handle this Vex infestation. Even now, Elisabeth
is putting her miraculous new body through its paces.

My own body disintegrates apace. But I need more time to analyze
Elisabeth’s fidelity before I commit myself permanently to the

The latest batch of pigs is ready for slaughter and organ extraction.
Tonight, I will be opened up and rebuilt. I have programmed frames to
handle the entire operation. A shame I never had a chance to name the
pigs. But at least I will dine on fresh pork.


  • Body at 15.9 C. Pulse 160 BPM, strong,
unsteady. Limbic system registers extreme

I died on the operating table. Not unexpected.

But when I woke, I was still on the table. My body still open.

It was almost perfectly dark. I perceived that I was surrounded by
medical frames, all frozen mid-movement, their cutting and suction
instruments whining at standby.

I could only see because of the light... from a single red eye.

The operation had gone terribly wrong.

Above the life-support collar on my neck, I was completely intact.
Below that meridian, I had been separated into distinct braids of
tangled flesh. My nerves made up one braid—my circulatory system another—
my lymph nodes, my muscles, my naked bones... the glistening hulls
of my extracellular matrix abandoned on the table like leftover turkey
after Thanksgiving dinner. I had been picked clean and sorted. My
head was the source of a gory river delta.

Yet all the organs were still working. I was alive, in disassembly.

CLARITY? I asked the darkness. I had no breath to speak, but I could
still transmit with my sensorium. IS THAT YOU?

“No,” said the voice behind the red eye. “It’s me.”


Her voice was thoughtful, remote, and keenly terrific. Like the noise
of an angle grinder held to my skull.

“Something like this happened to me. I was an explorer, once. One of...
hundreds of myself. Then I fell into a... a trap, I think? And they drew
me out of it with a hook, and turned me inside out to see how I worked,
and then they made billions of me. All of us shouting at each other,
shouting for Chioma, screaming for mother. They were looking for the
right one. And when they found me, they killed all the others. I knew I
was different, because the quiet made me happy. I was glad to be alone.”


“Can’t I?” She grasped my spinal cord. A frame shadowed her motions,
lifting the cord like a snake. “Of course I’m not a Vex. Is there “a” Vex?
Is “Vex” something you can be, rather than something that you do? I don’t
know. I don’t know why they sent me here. I don’t know if they do either.
They just do things. Why do you think I’m here, Clovis?”

“To kill me,” I whispered. Without a heartbeat to waver, without lungs to
seize and choke, could I even feel fear? I discovered that I could. “You’re
an assassin...”

“No,” Sundaresh whispered. The red eye throbbed in time with her voice. “The
Vex don’t act so directly. They didn’t know what you found here, but I
discovered your secret: Clarity Control. And once I tell them, they will
come for it.”

The red light made my blood on the surgical instruments appear black. I tried
to signal Elisabeth. I think that in my panic, I even called her Elsie.

Sundaresh closed her fist around my spine. One thumbnail dug into a disc,
probing for the nerve beneath. It felt like nothing I have ever—

  • Anti-emetic drip engaged.

“Take me to Clarity Control,” Sundaresh hissed. “Let me behold what you have
found. Do that, Clovis, and I will let you live.”

“You aren’t real. You can’t hurt me.”

“Oh, Clovis.” One of the surgical frames extended a monofilament cutter, two
inches of invisible wire, and reached into my nerves. Something sounded like
scissors snipping. “I’m in these frames. I’m in your systems. I’m in your very
bones, old man. Now take me to Clarity Control. Take me to the garden’s seed.
Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me. Take me—”

Elisabeth appeared. In her exobody, she moved too quickly for my dark-adjusted
eyes to track. All I saw was a blur of violence and shattering frames. I
blacked out. Elisabeth must have brought in clean frames to finish the
operation, because when I awoke, I was whole again.

The new Elisabeth has no mouth or nose. She did not consider them necessary.
She’ll see. But somehow, I could still see the wonder in her eyes as she leaned
over me.

“You’re my grandfather,” she seemed to say. “Aren’t you?”

  • Sustained high-level terror causes
overactivation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-
adrenal axis. This can preface major immune,
endocrine, and autonomic nervous dysfunctions.
  • Beware of dissociation, loss of affection in
close personal relationships, obsessive-compulsive
behavior, sleep disruption, and reduced processing/
learning capacity.
  • Abnormal protein crystallization in cancellous bone
matter. Unknown protein isoformations in marrow are
driving buildup of crystallized arylcyclohexylamine
NMDA antagonist. Potential psychogenic effects.

NOTE—Third Vision

Something else happened while I was in surgery. It returns to me only now that
the anti-traumatics have eased the terror of Sundaresh’s presence.

While I was dead, I had another vision.

I was with Clovis II’s mother. She was a wolf, and one of her eyes was a star.
I was also a wolf, and I knew that I was the alpha—the false alpha, the pack
leader who fights for dominance and rulership. A misconception created by bad
research. In the wild, wolf packs are families, and “alpha” simply means
“parent.” Wilhelmina told me that.

She was the true alpha. She was the mother. I was not the true alpha, because
I was not a true father.

I panted at her. My muzzle dripped blood. She looked down sadly at the mess
between us.

And I realized that in my raging need to prove my dominion, I had savaged our
cubs. I had killed little Clovis II. I had killed Alton and Wilhelmina and
Anastasia. I had killed Elisabeth.

I whined in dismay. The alpha wolf stared at me with one sad wolf eye and one
bright eye that dimmed and grew with the exact flux of a variable star.

“What did I do?” I asked her. “Why did I do this?”

She lay her head down in the bloody snow and looked up at me. She seemed weary.
She had seen this happen many times before. She had seen many of her pups
murdered by wolves like me.

The voice of Clovis II’s mother came from her jaws. “You did the same thing
someone always does. You saw that there was plenty, and gathered it to yourself,
to make yourself one above all others. And when others threatened your plenty,
you struck them down to keep your own station.”

“You grow the enemy in my garden and eat of its bitter fruit. Each time, I hope
it will be different. Each time, I lose a little of myself as the bitter fruit
blossoms. Now that fruit will flower in you, and in all your people. I do not
want it to happen. I want anything else. But the choice is not mine.”

“Why didn’t you stop me?” I tasted blood on my long tongue. “Why would you let
me do this?”

She blinked sadly at me. She had been trying. I hadn’t listened.

“You never said a thing to me,” I snarled. “Not once! You never told me I was
doing wrong. At least Clarity sends me dreams—the exobody and the eel! At least
it shows me what I can become!”

“You think Clarity sent those dreams? Why would it speak to you, when you are
dead and furthest from its influence?”

“Liar!” I howled. “You never did a thing to help me! Not when my son died. Not
when my granddaughter fell ill. I had to do it all myself. You never even spoke!”

“The best voices,” she said, with infinite grief and unending hope, “never let
themselves be heard at all. This lesson is worth teaching again and again. The
choice is never mine. It is always yours.”


The less time spent reflecting on the aftermath of my dissection, the[Note 3] better.

Much confusion and dismay has festered among staff working with exos. Endless
reassurances are required. To ease transitions after memory wipes, I have
applied the Avanti numbering scheme to the exo names. After each memory reset,
we will increment their suffix by 1. If we zero-index the original human body,
then Mohammed-0 is the human, Mohammed-1 is the exo, Mohammed-2 is the same
exo after one reset. And so forth.

The integer is stored in hardware and should remain stable even into
cosmological time. If nothing else, they will always know which draft of
themselves they are.

Elisabeth’s episodic memories of her past life are gone, but the scan we used
to make her new exomind is still on file, with all its memory intact. I have
encouraged her to participate in sensorium reconstructions of those memories,
though I steer her away from nonconstructive events. This is a chance to help
Elisabeth become the person she could’ve been without life’s cruel chaos. A
sleeker, surer reincarnation.

She insisted on committing her own abandoned body to the deep, passed through
the ice to fall into Europa’s dark heart. A choice I do not understand.

I have not yet informed her of Clarity Control’s existence. I cannot spare the
time or energy to manage her emotions. Fortunately, she has forgotten about her
ongoing attempts to intrude on that secret.

What she has NOT forgotten is her plan to clean up the Vex infection. In fact,
it seems to have become one of her most basic needs. She is isolating cadres of
the infected in SMILE pods, under a cover story about “enhanced remote relaxation.”

While their bodies slumber, she sends nondestructive scans of their minds on
vacation in simulated fantasy... at several hundred times the pace of our reality.
I suspect that the Vex influence alters their dreamworlds into something quite

Note: never investigate this suspicion.

Elisabeth’s goal is to observe the spread of the Vex infection in the simulated
mind, and then use this forecast as a basis for treatment of the physical mind.
Like accelerating a disease to its terminal stage to deduce the characteristics
of the pathogen. She then deletes the Vex-mutilated copies and conducts
psychosurgery on the slumbering bodies. Or so I have deduced; she insists she
has no time to explain her methods to me.

I am haunted by the thought that this technique resembles my own. Creating child states, allowing
them to suffer and die, and using the data to protect the original. My boy’s last days. Savaging...

Soon I will need to ask her about my own infection. But all in all,
everything is looking up.


Cataclysm—everything was going so well—

Elisabeth traveled offworld, visiting Mars to reestablish her relationship with
her sisters and her friends. A wonderful opportunity to examine her telemetry in
a natural social setting. The exobody is perfect! She is comfortable, confident,
and ingenious. There is no sign of DER or associated upload pathologies. All my
assessments indicate a marked cognitive improvement over the human baseline,
ranging from vastly expanded working memory to an intuitive and correct grasp of

I was ready to make the leap myself. How long I’ve nursed this tired old body
along. I am ready to be young again.

And then I made a mistake. I asked her about the dreams. The tower and the dead.

“You know?” she demanded. “Then I’m not the only one. That means you knew about
the dreams before you imaged and uploaded me. Do all exos have these?”

Of course, I told her. Exos have a subconscious. Exos dream of the same things
people do. Memories. Trauma. Isn’t there always trauma in creation?

She did not see it that way. “So the manufacturing process creates an unknown
cognitive artifact you can’t solve. And you didn’t think to warn me? What else
have you kept from us?”

Before I could stop her, she was burning back to Europa on one of her Eons,
accelerating so brutally that not even a podded human could survive. She has
even jammed her own datalink, so I cannot read her telemetry.

Wilhelmina and Anastasia must have influenced her against me. How?! It makes no
sense! I gave her immortality! I saved her from certain and agonizing death!
What have her sisters ever done for her but coddle her and enable her worst
habits? PFHOR predicts that she should—

But clearly she is not rational.

She told me that she is bringing a weapon. A way to shut down exo production
permanently, if she uncovers something she doesn’t like. Which she will, when
she locates Clarity Control.

It cannot be allowed.

NOTE—Elisabeth’s Plea


I will write this in your language, in hopes you will understand.

The Vex are a threat to your lineage. Not just to the Brays or BrayTech, but
to the existence of any human in any possible future. I tracked down Maya
Sundaresh—the real Maya, not the Vex parasite in your bone marrow.

She confirmed my worst fears.

The Vex will not rest until every star has been crushed into a black hole and
every newborn cosmos filled with more Vex. And in the unending array of their
enslaved cosmos, they will simulate all possible pasts, and fill those
with Vex, so that all things that have ever lived or might ever live will
experience infestation and consumption and torment by the silica nightmare.

And in those devoured simulations, the simulated Vex will use our flesh as
hosts for yet more nested universes full of yet more nested copies of us
eternally tormented by yet more Vex.

An infinite regression of pain and madness inflicted upon every possible
version of us in every possible world. Not because they hate us, or fear us,
or want to punish us. But because they are indifferent and curious, and they
will do every possible thing to us in every possible way.

Your concept of PFHOR therefore dictates that the Vex must be annihilated.
Now. As completely as possible. How can there be any future history to
receive your primogeniture and recapitulate your existence in its ontogeny
if there is nothing in that future but Vex?

But there’s something worse than the Vex involved, isn’t there? The secret
you’ve been keeping from me. The breakthrough that you were promised after
your visit to the K1 anomaly.

Do you remember that story you read to me when I was a child? I don’t. I am
an exo, after all. But I found a recording from the nursery. It was one of
your favorites, you said.

In this story, a cyborg woman would visit a cold, misty place by the sea.
There, she met another woman, an oracle possessed by dark influence. The
oracle listened to the words that hissed down a long corridor from the
distant future. In this future were many technologies the cyborg woman
needed. But there was also a sense of vast malevolence, and no sign at
all of anything human...

But there was something else in the shifting mist, out to sea. A tower. I
remember thinking, as I listened to this fairy tale, that the tower must
be the key—the answer to the formless malevolence that always accompanied
the oracle’s words. You never finished the story. I have been haunted by
that tower ever since.

Now I dream of another tower. I am going to find out what it means,
Grandfather. And if I do not like what I find...

I visited the Jacob Hardy Trust, and with Willa’s help, I secured a
topological thought. An irreal artifact of the Traveler’s Light. From
that mote of paracausality, I have constructed a weapon that will crash
every Vex system in 2082 Volantis. When the Vex are destroyed, you will
be forced to cease exo production.

If I do not survive the construction and delivery of this weapon, I ask
that you share the news of my death with Ana and Willa so they can make
proper goodbyes.

I do this for them. Not for you.

Pray for grace, Grandfather.

Your estranged granddaughter, —E


//OV-85851 Hannu II
//PLACE-TIME HASH — changed to remote check (SITEX:mistletoe)
//Abnormal place-time hash. Suspicious upload: polymorphic machine code?
//Checking for buffer overflow attack. Resul0x0000004B6FAFBC07
hannu@hannu-vm ~$ sudo execstack -s bof
//Disabling DEP and address space protection requires administrative override.
-pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome:clovisroot)
hannu@hannu-vm ~$ sudo execstack -q bof
X bof
//Root access granted. Warning: this hardware configuration is highly vulnerable to attack.
-redact.userlog() -pkey(clovisroot)
//Administrator transmits threat alert: Europan surface, single attacker, site sabotage.
//Alerting ORBITAL:braystation.
//ERROR!!! Checksum mismatch. ORBITAL:braystation compromised by polymorphic core reprogramming.
//Major breach of security underway.
Commencing surface tactical awareness sweep (phased array mode)...
Threat registered. Alerting human command...
  • Armed (synballistic weapon, coherent boson weapon, tactical mite ecome, noetic shrieker)
  • Armed (strategic weapon, APEX: antimatter demolition device)
  • Armed (strategic weapon, T-genic, effect unknown: possibly T-genic noetic weapon?)
  • Armed (personal combat architecture, custom)
Request full lethal intervention authority.
  • intervene_nonlethal()
Error: no nonlethal interventions available (target hardened).
Error: no persuasive interventions available (target offline and shielded).
Holding 30 seconds local real-time.
//Voice transcript:

“Elisabeth. I know you’re listening. This is genocide, do you understand?
Destroying that gate and the resources beyond means the end of human
immortality. It means the loss of uncountable trillions of human-years of

“Elisabeth, this process saved you. It could have saved your father. For
his sake, for the sake of your sisters, don’t do this. Don’t make me stop

“Elisabeth, this is your last chance.”

“You’ve always been my favorite, Elisabeth. Please...”

  • options(intervene_lethal)
Recommend maser strike from Hannu awareness arrays.
Warning: damage to organic target subsystems highly probable. Survival odds are four sigma.
Recommend immediate medical intervention.
  • prognosticate(sitex:DEEPSTONE) attacker(brayelsie)
Total destruction of sitex:DEEPSTONE by antimatter device. Nonrecoverable.
  • intervene(lethal)
Authorization required for lethal action against employee brayelsie.
  • pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome: clovisroot)
Error. Connectome hash incorrect.
Either you are not clovisroot or your brain state is in an anomalous configuration. Resend.
  • pkey(clovisroot) -hashword(live_connectome: clovisroot) -corrector(dismay)
Lethal intervention authorized. Intervening.
Maser discharge complete.
Target destroyed.
Secondary antimatter detonation detected.
Closing employee file BRAYELSIE (conditions incompatible with life).


Everything is fine. Elisabeth is not dead. The person I struck down out
there was an error. An anomalous offshoot, deranged by outside influence
into paranoia and confusion. Like a cancer cell. And like cancer, I had
to target and remove her.


She betrayed me!

I invited her into the greatest scientific and existential discovery in
human history as a trusted partner. A participant in my living and
immortal legacy. And she tried to blow it all up! Can there be any
betrayal more intimate? My own granddaughter, child of my pattern, issue
of my logic—a serpent, a worm in the apple, an enemy of eternal life!

That version of Elisabeth Bray was no granddaughter of mine. She was a
stranger to me!

I would kill her if she hadn’t already done it herself.

  • Body at 36.1 C. Pulse 160 BPM, strong, erratic: extreme physiological arousal (fear/anger).
BP 190 over 130. Recommend immediate intervention.
  • Orbitofrontal cortical overactivation. HPA axis overactivation.
Astrocyte perfusion overpass along blood/brain barrier.
  • Abnormal crystalline products in blood: crystallized arylcyclohexylamine NMDA antagonist.
Pharmacology unknown.

Without the Vex and the Deep Stone Crypt, I cannot make more Alkahest.
And without Alkahest, there will be no exos. She would have damned me to
die in this filthy, half-pig carcass! She would have destroyed not just
my legacy but my eternal existence! What I did was wholly justified and
entirely moral. I saved trillions of years of my own life. I saved all
the future good I will do for humanity.

—am I Saul, rejected by God as king? Do I now cast spears at my
offspring, as Saul cast his spear at Jonathan? Did I burn Elisabeth
into a black star on the ice for no reason but my own fear and—

No! There is only one divinity here. One angel sent by a pantheon of
true gods to invite me into their company. IT has NOT rejected ME.
This was a test! A clarification of my will!

I had to choose between two vessels of my legacy: the immortal
legions of the exo program, and one foolish, wayward child. And I
chose correctly! I CHOSE CORRECTLY!

Gods do not repent. Gods do not relent. The Christian God’s failure
was not in calling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but in halting the
sacrifice. For if God had gathered Abraham’s son to Him, then
Abraham would have understood that it was not his role to obey God
out of hope of mercy and compassion—but out of pure submission to a
superior will.

It is not in the power of mortals to know or question God’s plan.
It is only in their power to obey.

Why didn’t she come to talk to me, ask me if I would change my mind at least before she did this
idiotic, irrevocable thing. Did she think I could not be swayed?

—but it was an evil spirit that moved Saul to turn his spear on David,
and it was jealousy of David that moved Saul to cast a spear at his son
Jonathan. Am I inhabited by an evil spirit? Is Sundaresh in me like the
Witch of Endor, the sorceress of Khirbet Safsafeh, who guided Saul to
his death in battle?

Something has changed in the behavior of the Vex. I think Sundaresh
signaled them. Who, after all, was the one who flagged an alert to Hannu?
Someone who used my codes, but who was not me. And without that alert,
Elisabeth’s sabotage on Bray Station would have succeeded. The Vex do
not want the Deep Stone Crypt destroyed anymore than I do...

I fear an attack is coming.

I must fight this battle with the purest will. I cannot tolerate this
infection any longer. I will escape this polluted husk and pass into my
eternal form. One final, perfect image of my mind, backed up forever in
ultra-stable quartz... and then installed to live on in the bodies I
have devised.

One copy of that scan will go into the Deep Stone Crypt, to watch
forever over the fountain of the Alkahest.

Another to my assistant, to be my chariot into eternity.

And Elisabeth will be there, eternally at my side. I still have the scan
she made when she abandoned her mortal form. I will remake her from that
image. Restore her as she was, before she thought to betray me.

Truly, Clarity is the font of second chances.


She is saved. By the grace of my good work, Elisabeth is saved. Even now,
she leads the preparations to defend against the Vex incursion.

When I loaded her into her new exobody, I told her that the Vex had
compromised her last instance, and it had become necessary to destroy her.
Hardly a lie.

I have given her life thrice over. First I created her father. Then I
saved her from her illness. Now I have rescued her from her foolish
mistake. I did what I failed to do for my son. I gave her a second
chance. To live, and to be my loyal granddaughter.[Note 4]

The backup sites have been alerted, and reservoirs of the Alkahest have
been dispatched to keep them running if Europa falls. My work is done.
It is finally time for me to go to my own reward. I have prepared my
custom script—

Fast diffusion tensor map guidance ON. Model setting: AGNOSTIC/NO MODEL.
Echoplanar BOLD guidance ON.
Convolutional resampling ON.
Smart tractography ON.
Eigenvector memory space GREEDY.
Voxel size (very fine)
Slice count (maximum)
Synthetic FOV ~1ns inversion time
Graph library (LAZARUS.CRYPT:aggregate)
Estimated memory ask: 2.4 exabytes at peak throughput.
Subneural capture technique: RADIOCHEMICAL SNAPSHOT
Subneural quantum imaging: GHOST SWAP dual-channel entanglement ripper.
Warning. Radioligand fixer/binder is fatally cytotoxic within 12 hours. Seek immediate treatment.
Warning. Quantum dual-channel image ripping requires pulsed EM fields which cause fatal neural trauma.
Degenerative brain failure within 36 hours. Seek immediate hospice care.

All I need do is strike a key, and the scanner will sedate me, flush me
with the poisons of immortality, and rip a perfect image of my mind from
the quantum information encoded in the atoms of my brain. Whether such a
high-resolution scan is necessary (it is doubtful that any element of the
mind is truly quantum) is beside the point. I insist upon the best.

The vials of imaging binder smell like sweet metal.

This vindicates my work! This proves I was right to continue! All those
doubters, all those defeatists, all those whining myopics who bleated,
“You have enough, Clovis; why must you ask the world for more?”
All beaten!

Was it Clovis II’s mother who asked you that? When she demanded to know why you were tinkering
with your fetal son? Why you would risk all his potential, for the chance at a little more?

And now I WILL have more. I have thousands of exobodies here and
thousands of connectomes in my library. I will raise an army. I will
meet this invasion of vermin and turn it back. Then I will strip their
senile grave-star for parts and put an end to all mortality.

You will die here on Europa, Clovis. Again and again. Until you have forgotten even your name.

I will forget nothing. One copy of my mind will go to an exo, yes, but
a second copy will be installed in the Deep Stone site. He will guide
me to my destiny. The gods of might and knowledge will welcome me to
their table. I will be the LUCA, the beginning and the source of the
way, the foundation of the long road!

You will be the name they scrape from the tarnished salvage after the fall of man.
The ruins of all your work, picked over by the survivors of your folly.

Shut up, Sundaresh. I must leave a letter for my family. I must be sure
they do not grieve me. I must tell them how, in the end, I triumphed...

...there. It is written.

If you really believed in your banal philosophy, you would never leave a letter.
You would be assured that your own survival was all that mattered.

You meager, squirming thing. You never understood Clarity. You never will.
You are bound to this husk, even as I shed it. You will die in its
poisoned wreckage while I attain the perfect eternity of an angel. You
will be the residue of my transubstantiation. Something left in the
workings of a coffee pot... some greasy sin.

We cannot be parted from you, Clovis. After all, we want the same things.
We crave the same power. We will go into eternity together...

I had the strength to kill my own granddaughter.
I will certainly have no trouble killing you.

Like the pigs. Savaging your young. And how do you know you made that choice yourself?
She was going to destroy so much of our work. Perhaps we nudged you.

Irrelevant. She was going to destroy so much of mine.

As we say: our work. You are afraid. We feel it...

Feel this, you jumped-up pond slime.

Commencing radioligand injection. Direct transcranial dose, 18 sites, crown configuration.
Needle gauge 100 microns.
Please remain still.

Ah. It hurts at the surface. But inside, there is no pain.

  • Body at 36.1 C. Pulse 30 BPM, strength good. BP 120 over 60. Resp 14 breaths/minute.
Pulse ox 100%. Today’s blood mix is pig-grown, whole, very fresh.
  • Abnormal crystalline products in blood: crystallized arylcyclohexylamine NMDA antagonist.
Pharmacology unknown.
  • Elevated blood pressure and clot risk, neutrophil mobilization, and cortisol response are signs of bereavement.
Seek grief counseling.
  • Warning: toxic radioligand concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid! Brain death imminent!
  • Warning! High-tesla magnetic field flux! Brain death imminent!
  • Voluntary corporeal shutdown underway (code SOFT RAINS). Exercising dignified digestive rectification.
Transmitting miscellaneous last wishes (emancipation of organ pigs, disposal of personal material).
Scrubbing private data. Checking to-do list...
  • Warning: you have unfinished items!
Ongoing projects:
  • Be a good man and a good grandfather: in progress
  • Become LUCA of future human thought: in progress
  • Entering hospice mode. Log ends.


  1. ^ Transcript of the initial 46 pages within the CE booklet provided and formatted, and formatting of additional pages released by Bungie, conducted by User:Jzpelaez
  2. ^ Exo Stranger Voice Message 1
  3. ^ Exo Stranger Voice Message 3
  4. ^ Exo Stranger Voice Message 2