Tabernacle

"Why am I interested in both baseline medicine and baseline violence? Both are symbiotic fields. War produces casualties, and thus demand for medical advances. Perhaps the inventor of medical equipment may subconsciously thank the weapons designers that produce their consumer base. But this business sense underlies a fundamental axiom: To know something is to know the ways it can be destroyed." -Observer Riaz, Personal Journal

The New Passenger

Sivad Drachir had a customized body assembled from the outpost's nanofabber within a few hours. Unlike the humanoid nanocolonial work-shell that Riaz used, Drachir preferred a workshell with significant biological components on it. It superficially resembled a classical baseline, complete with working "extras," but contained a computronium-laced nervous system, nanorecycling, and sophisticated repair system. A few dummy organs existed in his chest, to give the illusion of a baseline chest cavity. Even the skeleton would be hard to tell apart. Riaz wondered exactly what else was indistinguishable from a real baseline.

At first glance, Riaz assumed that Drachir had enjoyed fieldwork with baselines. Judging from the personality profile that Andart had sent, it seemed consistent with his work history and experience. He had been involved with two previous terranova hypothetical history experiments, and about half a dozen virt world simulations. He was certainly qualified for the position.

Once the body was done, Sivad Drachir's uploaded mind downloaded into it. Drachir's skin complexion changed to a ruddy one, and his bowl-styled hair turned dark brown. He started breathing, and his chest began methodically rising and falling. The outpost had its own atmosphere, but it was primarily non-combustible coolant gases used to maintain an optimal temperature for the computronium present throughout the structure. While Riaz did not need to breathe, nor did he image that Drachir needed to, he assumed that it was a necessary gimmick for his baseline disguise.

So, you are Sivad Drachir? Riaz auxed to the new arrival.

Yes, I am. Riaz, I assume? the new arrival replied.

Correct. As you probably already know, we're in the middle of a live experiment, Riaz added. Two primary alliances in a world war, and it may go nuclear at some point. They've developed nukes and long-ranged missiles prior to hostilities breaking out.

Have you considered intervention yet? Sivad inquired. The last thing that we need is another world blowing itself up. The second live exercise I was at did just that. Hell of a waste. As much as I love baselines, they can be quite violent.

I have considered intervention, but I'm more interested in watching to see how this thing ends. If it looks like it will go nuclear, I will intervene.

What sort of arsenal you have on this station, anyway? Enough to make your point to the baselines?

Enough to make those nukes look like firecrackers. But you could be precise enough to blast a fly on the roof of a house while leaving the structure almost untouched. There's orbital slugs, electromag-scramblers, and quite a few other weapons. Plus, the station is armored enough to withstand anything they can throw at us. This station also has the primary aux relay for the system, connected directly to the terranova's node.

Both of you, could you get back to observation? If you are going to intervene, you certainly have permission to do so. Just follow protocol, and decide the circumstances you need to make contact, Andart's aux message echoed through both their heads.

Sure. I have some additional processing equipment I've queued up in the nanofabber. It's non-essentially, but it's something I enjoy while observing.

Fine by me, Riaz thought as he returned to his observations.

For the next few hours, Riaz observed some looting, raping, and massacring by the aggressors on the Hindustani front. After they had pushed through Kashmir and over the Himalayas, the defenders became increasingly desperate. However, the logistics on the invaders were already taking their toll. There was always the chance that the defenders would use tactical nukes. If so, any following escalation could lead to all-out nuclear bombardment. He began to prepare the outpost's own arsenal in case such intervention would be necessary.

Riaz already knew who would be getting the worst of it. The aggressor nations had certainly deserved a lot more than the limited intervention and bombardment he would be initiating (at first). But for now, it would be time to process the data. He auxed his new coworker, and inquired if he could see the data he had collected.

How is your data gathering on the African front going? Riaz inquired.

No response came.

Hello? Are you there? he asked again. Is your LAN aux functioning?

With that, he directed the post-turing ai in the station to locate and contact Sivad. They located him near the nanofabber, but were unable to make contact with him.

Andart? Can you contact him? Riaz asked the archai.

No response. The post-turing ai informed Riaz that the link with the computronium node in the nearby world had been severed. They were unable to open a new one, due to some override command that Sivad kept inputting.

At this, Riaz realized something was very wrong. Sivad was not responding, waiting around the nanofabber, and trying to prevent him from reestablishing contact with Andart. He considered for a moment that Sivad's personality may have been compromised. Or his entire personality was a ruse to get close to something here. The fact that he had just deployed the weapons could have caused Sivad to draw him away from the primary controls.

Assuming the worst, Riaz retreated to a part of the outpost that held objects he kept for situations like that: the archaic small arms collection. Against a posthuman bio-cybrid, even archaic weapons could still do a number. The walls of the orbital outpost were built fairly strong, and most of the equipment could withstand quite a bit of punishment. A few large caliber rounds would hardly do any notable damage to them.

That was why Riaz took the famous firearm with the nicest blend of compactness, power, and reliability: the classic Kalash Model 47 rifle, with the only modifications being hardier construction by warchive nanofabber and being loaded with specially designed caseless rounds with a diameter of 7.62 millimeters. The Observer readied his weapon, and entered the section of the outpost to see Sivad's activities.

On the nanofabber was a half-completed biological shape that Riaz easily recognized: a baseline infant. Sivad's body was naked. In one hand was a carbon fiber knife, and in the other was a small mutilated baby head missing an eye. In the low gravity of the orbital station, Riaz noticed parts of mutilated baby floating around the room. Sivad grinned for a moment, and then began masturbating into the baby's now emptied eye socket. He then gnawed in it a bit, biting some skin off the top of the defiled head and licking his lips. Some flecks of blood flew off the end of his tongue, forming near perfect spheres in the low gravity environment.

I process better when I'm doing this, the posthuman replied. Don't worry. They never were alive, technically. While they look real, they're just nanofabber products. But I have had the real thing enough to know it tastes just as good.

So is this, Riaz aimed the firearm. Open the channel to Andart, and tell me what you're doing.

I'm just doing what I can to help save this galaxy, a grin crossed the cannibalistic necropedophile's face. I doubt your master ever told you, but I expect not.

Tell me what you're doing, or I'm going to riddle that meatsack body of yours with this, Riaz steadied his hands around the weapon, ensuring the bastard was a safe distance away.

I'm going to crash this station onto the terranova, and then taste some of the real thing before my assistants arrive, Sivad licked his lips. And then, I will-

That was as much as Riaz could take. He blasted the body with the rifle, and ensured he shot Sivad in the brainpan, chest, and key joints. He emptied two full magazines into the monster to ensure he was dead. More spherical blood drops floated around the outpost afterwards as Riaz tried to determine what Sivad had done with the controls.

The nanofaber's queue showed some of the items he had made lately, such as the imitation baby sex-toys, and the knife. He had locked out everyone from using the aux links on the station (including himself, strangely enough). Most disturbingly, he had altered some of the orbital stability and propulsion systems on the outside of the outpost. In short, he had set the outpost to crash onto the world below, with no way to change course or even call for help.

The peculiar thing was the code and algorithms that he had used to lock the system were unlike anything a posthuman or mere post-turing ai were capable of. It seemed an archai had done this, but now was not the time for analysis. The station was certainly capable of surviving reentry, but there would be difficulty altering the trajectory. Based on current projections, they would smash directly into the center of Eurasia.

Surviving reentry was one thing, but surviving landing was another. Unless he could redirect the station to a nearby ocean, the landing would be pretty nasty. Without any sort of external propulsion or stabilization, it seemed to be impossible for a split second. That is, until Riaz had an idea on how to change that.