Wednesday, April 28, 2010

[Mythos XIV] A Building, Though Unleased, May Yet Be Not Untenanted

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to use entheogen drugs in a crowd setting, and the bigger the crowd, the less of a good idea it is.

Now add to the general badness of tripping in crowds by making the crowd about 10,000 strong, with about 2500 celebrants and the rest a mad and motley crew comprising a media circus of a dozen network satellite vans, a couple of dozen police squad cars with more officers starting to arrive by the van load, and the rather surprisingly large "local" population of Aspen Hill's "immigrant community", most of them outside the thickening police cordon, getting more than a bit raucous and agitated as they were generally rebuffed in their attempts to cross the cordon and join in solidarity with their compadres, half of whom were protesting the unfairness of Home Depot filing trespassing charges on day-laborers seeking unscrupulous drive-by employers, and the other half having a fairly impromptu "confab" with their Higher Power under the influence of a mild overdose on Salvinorin A, one of the most potent psychedelic drugs known to man.

At this point in time, the 2500 were about half-way through their trip, which in normal circumstances would mean that in about another three to five minutes they'd emerge from the hallucination and dissociation stage of the drug, and would be about as coordinated as the average alley drunk for the next five minutes, and thereafter be completely normal to all intents and purposes.

These were, unfortunately, far from normal circumstances.

In the basement of the former defense-contractor campus, a hole in the wall was enlarging by the moment. A crew of bank-vault burglars were cutting in from the outside, working from within a 5-foot concrete storm drain pipe, through which flowed -- at the moment, though this could change -- the three-gallons-per-minute flow of one of the lesser headwaters of the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek. During rainstorms of sufficient force, or duration, this concrete pipe carrying a small buried stream could entirely fill with water, in which case a containment pond offset and upstream could absorb overflow, and both cool runoff from hot asphalt of the surrounding neighborhood hilly streets as well as settle out sediment that otherwise would eventually clog this conduit.

What did the bank-vault guys want? Nothing in particular; they had simply been hired because they had the equipment, knew their business, and had been paid fairly well. Ordinarily they would have taken months or even years to dig their own tunnels to an ordinarily-inaccessible side of a vault known to be chock full of easily fenced loot and significant quantities of cash. Yet they had come to this job on a fairly spur-of-the-moment basis and were just making a hole in materials that were rather difficult to cut without explosives. Others would come along and strip away anything of worth, though there was no known vault full of lots of cash and valuables, so they were just making a doorway.

That they were very close indeed to making a gateway to another world, they could not know and did not suspect.

There was a vault in the basement, but hardly a safe full of valuables. Rather, it was full of computer chips from a supercomputer which had intentionally and repeatedly been exposed to a very minimal-aperture Schrödinger gate, operated only within a large and extremely well-shielded Schrödinger cat box.

This vault was hardly of extreme security design. It wasn't much more than a coat room that happened to have cinderblock walls; it wasn't intended to store the EPROMs and field-programmable gate arrays for very long, only until the chips could be destroyed.

Destroying the chips was not something that would be done inexpensively or easily. Part of the mechanism of the Schrödinger gate-in-a-box was that it left the wave functions uncollapsed, permitting a lot of contemporaneous spacetimes to co-exist. A sort of probabilistic "rhetorical conflation of irreconcilables" had to exist for the gate to open. How is this physically achieved? I'm profoundly glad that I cannot tell you because I simply do not know, other than that it has been rumored to have something to do with counter-rotating streams of hypercooled pseudo-matter, Bose-Einstein condensates, laser cooling, and stimulated emission of coherent entangled neutrons.

Exposure to the gate leaves the chips somewhat disentangled from our timespace and somewhat entangled with the particles that the aliens fire to re-etch the circuits on the chips we expose to them. They're trying to embed new instruction sets into BIOS, and they don't care if they're working with EPROM; they're re-hardwiring at the atomic scale in a sort of transdimensional nanotechnological software attack. These really scary things from the ends of their own incomprehensible universes are very fast indeed, and seem to have a deep knowledge of nearly everything that is far beyond our own, and we're not entirely sure how it is that they can instantly detect a gate and as instantly launch a bewildering barrage of attacks at any technology we expose to them. The one thing they can't attack is the Schrödinger cat-box itself; the instant they observe that in any way (much less touch it), the probability wave functions collapse and the gate was never there. All praise paradox!

Yet improperly destroying the chips also collapses probability wave functions and whatever is overlaid on the chips... solidifies, I suppose you could say. What was an exceptionally hostile suggestion, as it were, becomes lethal machinery. It starts to work.

The bank-job crew finished their doorway in mere minutes, and laid themselves and their equipment down on their "bobsled" and rolled downstream towards the place where the pipe exited into a concrete culvert, open to the skies, about a quarter mile away. Even as they rolled off, an even dozen persons on bobsleds of their own rolled into position and entered the building.

It took them mere moments to secure the room where the new short tunnel opened, and as the next dozen arrived, the first dozen fanned out to secure the nearby halls and rooms and to explore.

Part of the exploration was the opening of locked doors, primarily accomplished by smashing any locks encountered. When they came to the door sealing the room full of contamination From Beyond, it had two locks, which was an invitation to prioritize opening that particular door.

"Computer chips, old ones," said one man, turning it over a few times in his fingers. "Trash," he said, and hurled it into a bin full of others. It cracked as it hit, and that small change in state was more than enough to make the uncertain certain. Carefully maintained balances of probability collapsed, and the nebulous became sold, and the imaginary became real.

Out in the parking lot, 2500 protesters locked in the depths of their Salvia Experience suddenly all had the same dream within a dream. They jerked like hooked fish as their dream within a dream became a nightmare from which they would never escape. The entheogen drugs had put them in touch with a Higher Power, alright, but not a friendly one. It was whispering into their drug-enhanced temporal lobe with a data-rate far beyond any internet technician's dreams of bandwidth. Within minutes it would have re-written their internal operating system to the point where the machinery of their metabolism would begin producing new machinery, and once that happened, what had been human protestors would begin changing, metamorphosing through elaborations far more profound than in the life-cycles of insects. They wouldn't actually pupate, though, to emerge as some sort of butterfly of the occult. It was more typical of such cases that skin would first become rugose, then squamous, and then be shredded away by chitinous structures emerging from within, structures assuming shapes never before seen in this world, and probably not even in this universe. Those structures would, given time, assume proportions and geometry creating a transdimensional gate, one that wouldn't paradoxically collapse itself like a Schrödinger cat-box does to prevent itself from being observed.

No, once those gates were formed, observers everywhere would soon observe things like nothing ever before seen, things with shapes out of fever dreams, feasting on the madness and terror they inspired.

Forming those gates would take probably 24 hours. Long before then, however, infested victims would likely have plugged themselves into the global telecommunications network via the simple (simple for alien deities from other dimensions, that is) means of growing a modem in the neural tissues of the infested victims. Hey, how else are they going to download instructions for generating the structures to open gates?

Once they get into the telecom networks, and the computing networks, and the power grid, and the military logistics command-and-control systems, they don't need to open the gates to bring themselves entirely through for humanity to be well and truly fubared. At that point, we're all dead already, or as good as dead, it all being over but the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness. There are far too many humans, far too dependent on technology, to survive for long at all when the technology either doesn't work or has to be destroyed lest it work against us.

Yet remember: these implacable aliens aren't coming to devour humanity, body and soul and hearts and minds, we're just tiny little flecks of icing on the cake as they feed and grow strong on the universe itself. They devour order and shit entropy, and it won't be long before they've collapsed this universe to the conditions that evolved them, one vast lump of neutronium in such concentrated mass that it falls into a condition opposite probabilistic waveform collapse... a place that is their steppingstone of raw uncertainty into the next nice orderly universe to devour.

Still, we won't much care about the fate of the universe if these things first devour our civilization and then ourselves in the general case, or the more specific and immediate case of devouring us personally as a run-up to devouring civilization. No, first save civilization, and perhaps you can save yourself.

Not far away, a house with a rather hideous roof-line that resembled a barn-builder's attempt to craft a camoflaged radome peeled open that hideous roofline like an unfurling tulip. With a sound like the world's largest automobile crash air-bag, huge balloons inflated after being pulled aloft by rockets.

It would take another minute for them to reach the required altitude and spacing.

One of the local news reporters, acting as a network stringer, was telling the world that something strange was going on here.

"...As you can see, Robert, the protestors seem to be waking up from their trance. They seem confused, disoriented. It's like they've been drinking, which our colleagues tell us is an expected after-effect of consuming the Salvia drug. But Robert, I don't think anyone said anything about it making peoples' eyes glow green. I mean, really glow, really green, John, can we get a close-up on someone..."

A set of capacitors that filled almost the entire basement of the house with the radome roof were imploded and dumped a massive electromagnetic pulse into the balloon-lofted antenna grid. Every coil of wire and semiconductor in line of sight within 5 miles instantly stopped being useful electronics components. Within the near-field zone of about 1.5 miles, even in basements, transistors exploded into puffs of smoke. All forms of electric lighting went dark. Microwave ovens burst into flame or even melted as their klystrons re-radiated the pulse. Every car within miles stopped working, along with their entertainment electronics. This included not merely the cars in the immense traffic jam created by the protest and the media circus, but also about 100 police squad cars, 12 SWAT vans, and two Mobile Command Center buses. Also disabled: automatic alarm and anti-fire systems. Sprinkler systems erupted into action all around the area.

As a result, none of the ensuing confusion and melee was recorded; cellphone towers and network-television satellite links were inactivated for miles around, along with all landline telephone and data networks. This was, after all, the point of the pulse, to prevent anything From Beyond from getting into the global networks.

However, something remained to be done -- much indeed remained to be done! -- about the living, non-electronic, non-networked, but still demonically possessed, people just re-acquiring coordination after their bout with Salvia. A lot of them were starting to rise to their feet, and they looked unhappy indeed. Sort of, you know, undead, to tell the truth.

Beneath the main basement, well-shielded from the pulse that had knocked the local surface world back into the Stone Age, two dozen special-squad burglars loaded up their "bobsleds" in the 5-foot concrete storm drain pipe with all of the loot they had found. Old computer chips had no special value for resale on the espionage markets, but they contained enough rare earth metals (and in this case, also a plague of infestations of malicious software coded by malevolent alien gods) to be worth the bother, especially if you had about a ton or more of them. They began to push them upstream towards the extraction point.