The 10K Travel Logs of the Deeper Covenant
Yang Band
Image from Steve Bowers
The Yang Band, the final destination for the 10Ka.t travellers

The 10K Travel Logs, also known as the DC-diaries, are a collation of messages between members of a travelling group that crossed from the periphery of the Deeper Covenant to the core over millenia. The idea for the journey was born in 5940a.t in the DC system of Cebol. At the time it was a periphery system of the terragen sphere during the post-ComEmp era. In this year (measured by Nexus Coordinated Time) the neighbouring system to Cebol received a nexus link. Only three lightmonths distant the link gave the sophonts of Cebol easy access to vast reaches of the terragen sphere. The average radius of the Nexus during this period was ~3700ly and it occured to one sophont (records are unclear as to who specifically) that a traveller going from the periphery to the core, travelling at relativistic speeds for more than nine-tenths of the time, could reach the ancient Covenant system of Yang in time for the dawn of 10,000a.t.

The idea grew amongst a group of friends who slowly became enamoured with it. None had travelled more than a few light years at most but all intended to venture further among Deeper systems at some point. With the nexus now on their doorstep they could spread out to points all along the Outer Volumes, each sophont starting at a different point and heading inwards towards Yang over four millenia. Plans were made, refined and implemented. In 6000a.t. each departed via lightway through the nexus, arriving in a terminal system and beginning their long journey to their ancestral home.

These are just some of their logs.

Sender: Alhum
Timestamp: 6021a.t,
Origin: Ooluhuloo, 3584ly from Yang

[Message contents compiled in summary textual format. Visual, virtual, memory or interactive modes available upon request]

Hey everyone! I've been meaning to put this message together for a while but I've kept so busy at this first stop, it's fantastic! To think I nearly backed out last minute...

I'll start with the journey; it was a 16ly hop from the terminal wormhole system. I'd logged my intent to travel in advance and there was a craft waiting with a dozen others looking to make the crossing. It was a nice sleek data ship, Needle we christened it. A boostbeam got us up to nearly half C before our solid core amat drive lit up and pushed our velocity up further. There wasn't a lot of thinking space to go around so Needle's public virch was set to low milliRil clockrate. I spent most of the time making friends with the other passengers, getting to know the region as it were. After a week (subjective) we arrived.

The customs in the Ooluhuloo orbital band (there's only one) are quite different to home. Small group minds are the norm with most people spread across five bodies (the number five has some special cultural significance for most but I'm having difficulty translating the reason). I requested engeneration in a local clade type but wasn't quite keen on the cognitive rewiring to be a group mind. The engenerator politely built four remotes that run a simm. Most minds I've met don't mind and seem pretty happy that a traveller is making that much effort to fit in. It's a bit taxing having the remotes constantly streaming to my exoself but if I ignore them they continue on automatic.

On the subject of clade I'm really enjoying this squid/merfolk form (yes I know it required a lot of somatic-map engineering to make my mind fit, it's still enjoyable). The habitats here are optimised for amphibious lifestyles, they're mostly toroids with a deep river running around the whole ring. A network of bridges suspend dry spaces above but "dry" is a relative term. Fountains, waterfalls and aqueducts are everywhere. The rivers are teeming with life, carnivorous role play is popular here and yesterday I dived in and joined in on a lunch-hunt. There's biobot fish everywhere that you have to chase and eat live. I only managed to catch a couple, turns out working with remotes to catch prey is less coordinated than a group mind. Still, they were very tasty (at least once I tweaked my taste buds).

There are a hundred or so habs here, each one has a slightly different environment. There's even some mer-To'ul'hs in a high pressure hab. I hope to see them all before it's time to move on, if only to catch some lunch.

Sender: Bettleheim
Timestamp: 6000a.t,
Origin: Twin Star Cooperative Beta, 3600ly from Yang

[Message contents compiled in summary textual format. Visual, virtual, memory or interactive modes available upon request]

Do we really have to make it to Yang? I'm kidding of course but I've only been here a month and I'm in love with it. I expect I'm the first to arrive at a Covenant system as there is a DC culture around the red dwarf companion of my nexus linked system. It only took six months to cross the one and a half light months between them (the pace was leisurely and the beamrider shuttle quite spacious).

TSC-Beta is home to a relaxed polycentric political system with a few hundred major groupings (not all exclusive) amongst the small population. It shares an S2 aivisor with the nexus linked primary, hence the name. It's a vibrant archipelago of habitats. There are no real bands, just dozens of habitats on very different orbits. I've spent much of my time with a population of vacuum adapted vecs. Their template history can be traced to a Heterocephalidae provolve clade (though records seem unsure if there was some tweaking to the animal population beforehand). They have an origin celebration that I have been privileged to take part in. In my new vec body I joined a group some three hundred strong in being shuttled to a cluster of asteroids herded in close proximity for the festival. We split into six teams, each taking a major body. There we tunneled with the aim of creating an elaborate architectural artwork out of our lump of rock.

No automated equipment is allowed. The clade is eusocial and for the purposes of the contest differences in caste (a vestigial physical and mental dimorphism in their modern version) are exaggerated. I played the role of a male worker and was optimised for fine detail mural work. I followed the designs laid down by our female supervisor, my workmates were more than happy to fill me in on the contexts of the historical scenes we were carving. Some of them traced all the way back to old Earth and a location known as the Horn of Africa (local archives were patchy and I couldn't find an instrument of that name). Others followed the myriad colonies set up through the history of the Terragen Sphere. There were many extinction events but overall it seemed like there was always at least one colony alive and prospering, or least there was in our narrative.

After several megaseconds of work, halfway through the competition, judges were sent into the tunnels. The panel was a mix of sophonts from other clades that had been offered the role at random. They scored the works of the various subteams and totalled up the whole. Our team was third out of seven so far (one team had splintered after a megasec of working together) and delightfully our subteam was the highest. Consequently our female assumed the role of queen and nascent networks in our minds expanded to link with her. I stopped being a mural worker and became a consort. Me and two other males would mentally copulate with the queen every few hundred kiloseconds. A passionate mixing of memes and memories that served to gestate new artistic inspiration for the team.

I'm back in my prior body now and happy to report that we came second overall! The asteroids will be slowly moved to a larger museum cluster where they will stay for the edification of future generations. There's no prize to speak of but I'm the proud owner of a second place ribbon token and a consort award. I'm told that these will be well regarded if I encounter any related clades.

I yearn to stay but I must go. The distance to the next Covenant world is far and our time limit so strict. Farewell my beloved team, goodbye my sweet Queen. Onwards!

Sender: Chittak
Timestamp: 6040a.t
Origin: interstellar space near [REDACTED], 3574ly from Yang

[Message contents compiled in summary textual format. Visual, virtual, memory or interactive modes available upon request]

Sorry I'm only just messaging now, turns out that [REDACTED] is a high privacy culture. I knew that in advance (I think) but didn't quite realise the extent of it, or maybe things had gotten more severe in the time spent travelling. I'm sure I asked those questions but I can't remember, in fact I can't remember anything specific about my time there at all. I do know that it was a fun experience. It might be hazy but I catch myself subconsciously wiggling my snout when thinking about it so it must have been good.

I'm heading to my next destination now. The [REDACTED] of [REDACTED] were kind enough to give me a singleship. It's a bit cramped but I've got a few centimeters between my rump and the casing of the stasis pod. Speaking of which the only firm data I appear to have taken with me is on my behind. There's a scattering of tattoos there, all writing in flowery script. I know they are names and looking at them brings feelings of fondness but I don't recognise the language (presuming I spoke it). Whether or not they were friends, lovers or even offspring I don't know.

I arrived at [REDACTED] via lightway and appear to have spent nearly 14 years there. I'm behind schedule so will be skipping the next Covenant system to make up for lost time. Entering stasis now, see you all at Yang!

Sender: Delmor Then Suinelgasto
Timestamp: 6019a.t
Origin: New Modal Absurdity Cluster, 3583ly from Yang

[Message contents compiled in summary textual format. Visual, virtual, memory or interactive modes available upon request. NOTE: This account concerns virtual environments of varying compatibility with the Ril. To access the comprehensive account see the attached list of required cognitive modifications.]

Where to begin. I can barely access half of the memories of my time here. By the external clock it's only been two years, but subjectively it's been many more. How many exactly? I can't say. The concept barely makes sense.

I'll start with the facts. The New Modal Absurdity Cluster is a lone A-brain (yes it's not a cluster, I don't get the name either) housing a single virch. Other than the beamrider and lightway stations it's the only artificial satellite. Unlike most cybercosms its residents are not free to spawn any private virches and conscious modifications to the environment is heavily restricted. Said environment is bizarre; its physics model, dimensions, features and even the forms of its citizens are in a constant state of flux. It is programed to alter itself based on the experiences of its citizens as they are transcribed to an inaccessible layer known as the nooscape. Thoughts, feelings, concepts and memory all mingle here to affect the "Prime virch". As I'm sure you can immediately see this creates all manner of feedback loops as the resurging mix of memes from the nooscape spawn similar, but distinct experiences in the Prime, which in turn feed the nooscape.

I've spent time in dreamlike zones that conform to reality in so much as there are three spatial dimensions and most objects are distinct. The first area of Prime I arrived in was a forest of trees on an infinitely angled landscape, each leaf a slightly different expression of the concept of colour. For a while I was an endothelial cell in the intestinal tract of a galaxy sized worm. I send this message after a period of formless dissolution in a void of other sophonts. I've come out mostly intact, this is a covenant system and I've been assured that if the angelnet monitors detect severe distress they will pull the sophont into a safe environment for emigration, but many of my memories do not originate from my worldline. I also seem to have picked up a surreal lust for Riemann surfaces, I may have that removed at my next port of call or may see where it leads.

Of the culture here I can say little. There doesn't appear to be a stable society or grouping. Most sophonts I've encountered I haven't been able to comprehend, my ontological systems report extreme differences in toposophic position. I've come to believe I'm the most stable sophont here. I've not met anyone who has remained a distinct entity for any meaningful period.

I'll have to take more time to collect my thoughts. Psychometric diagnostic is reporting good health but I don't know what to do with these fragmented memories. Hopefully the next location will give me some time to forge myself anew. I'll say skiTAchya for now, though I have no idea what the word means or where I picked it up.

Until my next transmission.

Sender: Estheron
Timestamp: 6004a.t
Origin: Urtence, 3596ly from Yang

[Message contents compiled in summary textual format. Visual, virtual, memory or interactive modes available upon request]

It's empty! Four years as a light beam zipping across space and what do I wake up in? A habitat with just one other occupant. There's no one else in the entire system. Se was waiting for me outside the engenerator clinic, in an empty circum-hab promenade. I introduced myself thinking the locals must be shy or maybe I'd arrived in the middle of a communal sleep period. But no it was just this being. Introduced hirself as "It; the Herm It". Then se burst out laughing and didn't stop, apparently it's a joke in an old Anglic language but I think it's more likely they've made some bad modifications to their reward pathways. I left hir and wandered off in search of someone else but once I got beyond the curve horizon of the clinic there was nothing but mattercache tanks and empty space. The hab had only built the section around the clinic for me (who knows where It lives), the rest of it was just material waiting to be turned into living space. I kept walking and got back to the clinic in a few hours. It was still giggling to hirself! I didn't even bother trying to talk to hir again. I just got back into the engenerator and requested transmission to the next stop. Just got time to send this before the upload, hope you're having a better time! Not a great start to the journey, can't wait to get away from this clown.

by Rynn (2018)

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