Chapter 1: A Walk on the Beach
A girl in a black dress walks slowly out of her sprawling (now more than previously) house and sets foot on the rainbow beaches beside the shining sea beyond.
===> Rose: Introspect
TT: Note to self:
TT: The immediate danger seems to have passed. At the very least things are no longer literally on fire, and I seem to be in a suitable position to defend myself against any more of these so-called “imps”.
TT: In any case, it seems like this has provided me with an ideal opportunity to ponder my present circumstances, and inquire further as to how I am to proceed.
TT: To start with, it appears that this “game” that John has introduced me to is in fact anything but. The recent meteor strikes that have hit both of our houses, if not precisely caused by sburb, are at the very least highly correlated with it. That is without even mentioning the plotted trajectories of the remaining ones hiding in my basement.
TT: What the hell has mother dearest been working on anyway?
TT: The capabilities of this software, if that is really all it is, are nearly beyond belief. I am reminded of the old saw about sufficiently advanced technology.
TT: Which, given my standard choices in literature, makes this perhaps the most endearing quality of this circumstance.
TT: Then again, I should avoid getting too entranced by it all. Calling things “magic” is rarely a productive means of understanding them. At very least I need to remember the modern rejoinder that any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology.
TT: Thus, if I actually try to understand what is going on, I may be able to recover the secrets of teleportation, rapid fabrication and energy beams.
------------ Jaspersprite [JASPERSPRITE] began pestering TentacleTherapist [TT] ------------
TT: Of course. Let us not forget reanimation.
JASPERSPRITE: Purr purr purr.
TT: Hello Jaspers. I gather that you are supposed to act as some sort of mystic spirit guide on my journey?
TT: I will take that as a “yes”, I suppose. What can you tell me about the meteors coming down towards Earth? What do they have to do with the game?
TT: I’m sorry, I don’t speak cat. Do you think you could be a little more specific?
JASPERSPRITE: Hi rose :3
TT: Well at least you can talk.
JASPERSPRITE: I am sorry rose. I dont think that i am supposed to talk about that.
JASPERSPRITE: Maybe you can just see the big bath tub here.
JASPERSPRITE: Or you could just go back inside and stay warm and dry.
TT: Jaspers, as much as I’d like to simply explore the psychedelic wonderland that I have found myself in, there are meteors falling towards Earth as we speak, and I would very much like to know how to stop them.
JASPERSPRITE: Please rose the world here was made just for you with plenty of posts to scratch your head against.
JASPERSPRITE: The Denizen of this world ate all the little fish and you need to bring them back by finding the little bits of string that make then what they are.
JASPERSPRITE: Then we can eat the tasty tuna together :3
TT: Wait. I am supposed to clone to fish from their DNA?
JASPERSPRITE: It is something like that rose.
JASPERSPRITE: I am sorry there are all the ideas that the game is putting into my head and i am trying to tell them to you rose but i am just your cat.
TT: Great. Since I didn’t have any dead relatives to reconstruct, my guide is left with limited vocabulary. I guess I will just need to have more dead relatives next time around. What are your opinions on matricide?
JASPERSPRITE: Rose i dont think that is such a good idea.
TT: Don’t worry, that was in jest.
TT: But I do need to know about the meteors. What is causing them?
JASPERSPRITE: Well the meteors are caused by The Reckoning. When the black king finishes clawing at the other it will trigger the meteors.
TT: Jaspers, are you saying that it hasn’t occurred yet? That is excellent news. Perhaps we can still intervene.
JASPERSPRITE: No rose that is one thing that you must not do.
JASPERSPRITE: If you claw up the time sofa the game will sprits you with its spray bottle.
TT: Come again?
JASPERSPRITE: I am sorry rose.
JASPERSPRITE: This is like dunking my head in the tub.
JASPERSPRITE: You are a Seer of Light. Cant you catch these fish yourself?
TT: I’m a what? Never mind.
TT: Hello, gamemaster? Anyone out there?
TT: I’d like to issue a bug report. It appears that my instruction manual is too busy pretending to be my dead cat to do any, well, instruction.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose 3:
TT: Right. I apologize, Jaspers. That was uncalled for. But I really do need to know what is going on here. What happens if I stop the reckoning? No wait, I mean what happens if I stop The Reckoning?
JASPERSPRITE: It is bad.
JASPERSPRITE: If you break the games time string or if you slip out the door of the house and dont play anymore the game will put you in a Doomed Timeline.
TT: I see. That does sound suitably ominous.
JASPERSPRITE: It is a big nasty dog that the game sets on you if you claw up its nice timeline or if you get stuck in a tree and cant finish.
TT: I see.
TT: So if my cat to English dictionary is working properly, the game strong arms you into trying to win by murdering you if you don’t cooperate. Is that accurate?
JASPERSPRITE: Yes. And it goes out to get a new kitten 3:
TT: That is just perfect.
TT: I need to figure out how to win this blasted game while trying to save Earth, or they will simply replace me with someone more pliable.
JASPERSPRITE: Well just a different you.
JASPERSPRITE: But actually winning the game might help :3
JASPERSPRITE: I am not supposed to say rose.
JASPERSPRITE: But you seem to have an itchy collar.
JASPERSPRITE: But if you win you get a new frog as a prize.
TT: A frog.
TT: Of course, how could I have missed it?
TT: That would easily be adequate compensation for the destruction of my world.
TT: A world which mind you, has a great number of frogs already on it.
JASPERSPRITE: No rose this is a special frog.
JASPERSPRITE: It has umm it has many homes in it.
JASPERSPRITE: Maybe all of them.
JASPERSPRITE: It is a very big frog.
TT: What? Does this frog support a world on its back?
TT: And wasn’t that supposed to be a tortoise anyway.
JASPERSPRITE: Not a world rose bigger than that.
TT: A solar system?
JASPERSPRITE: Yes!! One of those.
JASPERSPRITE: The frog is a universe.
JASPERSPRITE: A universe all set up for you and your friends.
JASPERSPRITE: Based on your personalities.
TT: Well, that might just work out then.
TT: If the integrity of the timeline prevents me from saving my world, I can at least create one to evacuate to.
TT: Very well Jaspers, I will try to complete this game. What do I need to do next?
JASPERSPRITE: Well you coul-
TT: Quiet. What was that?
JASPERSPRITE: Rose what are yo-
------------ TentacleTherapist [TT] decaptchalogues the Thorns of Oglogoth ------------
TT: I can hear them murmuring to me.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose dont.
JASPERSPRITE: The horrorterrors are not to be trusted.
TT: So they are real? I had always thought them merely an intriguing fiction.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose stop they are very dangerous.
TT: Jaspers? Why are you suddenly so insistent on this point?
TT: My cat never seemed to mind.
TT: And my sprite… well he is usually much more enigmatic.
TT: Is there a good reason why I should not at least hear them out?
JASPERSPRITE: They are bad rose.
JASPERSPRITE: Dont they make your fur stand on end just thinking about them?
TT: Hmm… to a degree, yes. They seem almost designed to have that effect.
TT: Perhaps that is why I find them so fascinating.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose no.
JASPERSPRITE: Why would you be scared of them for no reason?
JASPERSPRITE: You are a seer. You should trust your instincts more.
TT: That is an interesting point.
TT: My instincts have been selected to keep my ancestors safe.
TT: If the horrorterrors have plucked some leaves off my family tree, it might explain my trepidation.
TT: And yet, as far as I can tell, the evidence suggests that the horrorterrors are not a thing that could exist on Earth.
TT: Though I suppose this whole game makes a mockery of my past assumptions.
TT: Did they truly haunt the lands of my ancestors?
JASPERSPRITE: You are smart rose. I am sure that you can figure it out :3
TT: Back to being enigmatic, I see.
TT: Well, there are other hypotheses.
TT: They could be merely projecting images to align with my own fears.
TT: This would merely mean that they were trying to intimidate me.
JASPERSPRITE: Do you really want to talk to them while they are hissing at you?
TT: Perhaps not.
TT: Then again, you intimated that these were actual horrorterrors, as in the actual things referenced in my books, and not simply other entities imitating them.
JASPERSPRITE: You made the sticks from your books.
TT: Of course. But how to I reconcile this with the fact that I am pretty sure that they cannot exist in my universe?
TT: …my universe.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose? What are you thinking?
TT: Jaspers. You said that if we win this game, we would create a new universe.
JASPERSPRITE: Yes rose. That is The Ultimate Reward.
TT: Right. This would create another universe.
TT: Am I correct in assuming that my universe was also created in this manner?
JASPERSPRITE: Where are you going with this?
TT: Because, as you said, the new universe would adopt some of the traits of the players who created it.
TT: And if their universe came from another, over many generations they might evolve.
TT: I might have instincts not just from my ancestors, but from ancestor universes.
JASPERSPRITE: So the horrorterrors ate people from other places too?
TT: Thought the universes would evolve to protect the propagation of new universes, rather than individuals within those universes.
TT: So the horrorterrors might not be a threat to me individually.
TT: They might just make it hard to win the game.
JASPERSPRITE: But if they make you lose what happens to earth?
TT: You seem to be very insistent about my not talking to them, don’t you?
JASPERSPRITE: I dont want anything to happen to you rose.
TT: That is very sweet Jaspers, but please allow me to finish my train of thought.
TT: How do I test this evolving universe hypothesis?
TT: If the universes were evolving, they might develop other traits in order to ensure their further propagation.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose dont-
TT: Like blackmailing their participants into trying to win.
TT: And selecting easily manipulated children as their players.
TT: Destroying their worlds to isolate them and force them onwards.
TT: And sending sprites.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose please.
TT: Making sure you follow the right path.
TT: Talking you into winning at all costs.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose please believe m-
TT: And taking the form of dead family members.
TT: Or beloved pets as the case may be.
JASPERSPRITE: Rose im sorry please dont leave me.
TT: I see how it is.
TT: There’s tuna in the fridge, Jaspers. Why don’t you have some?
JASPERSPRITE: Dont leave me alone here.
TT: I don’t want to, but I need to know the truth.
TT: I’m sorry Jaspers.
------------ TentacleTherapist [TT] blocked Jaspersprite [JASPERSPRITE] ------------
TT: But I have work to do.
Chapter 2: Discovery in the Tower
Note this is an AU. No inter-universe trollian, so John is still GT.
Hours later, but not many:
The girl now resides on the top floor of the great tower that has been made of her old home (a thought which provides her no small amount of pleasure). Her newly minted acolytes surround her, but her attention is reserved for the task before her on the table. Her concentration is shattered, however by a faint beeping coming from her headset. A look of annoyance flutters across her face for an instant before she shakes her head, letting out a small sigh.
===> Seer: Answer
---------- ghostlyTrickster [GT] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] ----------
GT: hi rose!!!
TT: Hello John. How is the Land of Wind and Shade faring?
GT: oh? lowas? well ok I suppose.
GT: everything's covered in oil though.
GT: it has the salamanders pretty upset.
TT: That is starting to sound like it would be related to your quest.
TT: I imagine that you are heroically attempt to vacuum it all up and gently clean it off the wings of small birds.
GT: heh, sorta. i guess it’s more complicated than that though.
TT: I can imagine.
TT: Well, I suppose it is good that someone is trying to complete their quest.
TT: Please do let me know once you locate the source of the problem.
GT: rose, aren’t you working on your quest too?
TT: No. I have no particular interest in blindly following the game’s directions.
TT: Besides, I have more important work to do.
GT: oh? like what?
TT: Well before you interrupted me just now, I was in the process of vivisecting an ogre.
GT: what? why?
TT: Well I don’t think it likely that the ogre would tell me what it’s made of if I merely asked nicely.
GT: well no, but that’s not the point.
GT: that’s not the kind of thing that heroes do!
TT: Huh. And here I thought that all of the turtles were calling me a hero of light.
TT: Alas, I suppose that they were wrong, and I shall need to play the villain in this piece.
TT: I may need to work on my maniacal laughter.
GT: see! this is exactly what i’m talking about.
GT: you are dangerously close to going off the deep end.
TT: Calm down John. I am just having a little fun. I am not actually going to go grimdark or anything.
GT: really rose?
GT: you seem far too enamored by your new dark wizard outfit.
GT: and now you’re going around dismembering ogres?
GT: this isn’t what the good guys do rose.
TT: They’re just trappings, John.
TT: I take on these affectations because these tools are efficient.
TT: We don’t have much time to save Earth, and I intend to use every tool at my disposal.
TT: They’re not going to make me suddenly turn into someone else.
GT: just tools?
GT: what about the wands?
TT: They’re not so bad, John.
GT: they scream as you use them!
GT: you alchemized them from your books on horrorterrors.
TT: The horrorterrors aren’t actually so bad either.
TT: I had tea with them.
GT: are you serious?
GT: how does that even work?
GT: how do they even reach their mouths through all the tentacles?
TT: Oh. They live in a hyperbolic space.
TT: Their surfaces are much bigger than they should be given their size.
TT: The tentacles only appear clustered like that when interpreted by a Euclidean-adapted visual system.
TT: Crazily elusive angles, indeed.
GT: you say that i can’t even trust nana, and you’re having tea with those things?
TT: It was only polite.
TT: And I wouldn’t say that I trust them exactly.
TT: Don’t get me wrong, they have been informative.
TT: But I am still trying to crosscheck their data against other sources.
TT: And they have been somewhat elusive about a few topics.
GT: well good.
TT: That is a good thing now?
GT: because we’re going to figure out what they’re hiding.
GT: and it’s going to break their stupid spell over you.
GT: and you’re going to join up with all of your friends and we’re going to go win this game together.
TT: Oh, my hero!
TT: Coming to save me from this wretched mire of depraved sorcery that I have sunk into.
GT: yes! exactly.
GT: now, what didn’t they want you to know about?
TT: Well there’s one thing that’s been bothering me…
TT: The origin of sburb. Where exactly did it all come from?
GT: didn’t you say it evolved from the whole frog universe thing?
GT: or are you doubting that now too?
TT: Not exactly. The use of sburb in the reproductive structures of universes seems to be confirmed by all sides.
GT: ah ha! so we are in the universe’s, uh, reproductive organs.
TT: Yes, John.
GT: so the universe comes from other universes. what’s the big deal?
GT: i mean, you don’t really need to ask where any other biological organism came from.
TT: Well there’s little doubt that the game evolved. But evolved from what?
TT: It’s too complicated to be totally natural.
TT: Well, consider what the frogs need to do to reproduce here.
TT: It needs to create a universe.
TT: Wait for that universe to develop intelligent life.
TT: Somehow manifest copies of the appropriate software.
TT: Recruit teenagers to play said software.
TT: Get them to actually win the game.
TT: This is all quite complicated.
TT: Not even mentioning that the game itself has all kinds of irrelevant seeming intricacies.
TT: Now evolution tends to find simple solutions to its problems, and this doesn’t seem simple.
TT: I suppose that sburb could be a metaphor for some kind of task that must be performed in order to reproduce.
TT: But then why, are the frogs using us as a computational substrate for solving these problems, rather than just finding something simpler?
GT: so, what? it’s too complicated to have evolved?
TT: Well there’s too much complexity that doesn’t seem to promote survival.
GT: so where did it come from then? did somebody make it?
TT: Well that is the hypothesis. The question is why.
GT: well maybe they wanted to build a universe so that they could have some friends!
TT: Really, John? They wanted some friends. So they created a universe, and waited several billion years for life to evolve?
TT: Also, do you challenge your friends to lethal universe-inducing video games for fun?
TT: Well, I suppose you did, but not intentionally I hope.
TT: But would you suspect our hypothetical creator to have done so?
GT: well maybe not.
TT: Not to mention blowing up Earth in the process.
GT: fine rose, you win. they’re probably not trying to make friends.
GT: or at least they’re really bad at it.
GT: so why did they do it?
TT: What do they get from this competition? Are they trying to generate drama of some sort?
GT: that seems like pretty far to go just to make some sweet movies rose.
GT: but hey, wouldn’t it be cool if they were busy filming us?
TT: Yes, John, the thought of finally being a movie star is the only thing that could possibly compensate me for the loss of my homeworld.
TT: That and being constantly spied on.
GT: i know you are being sarcastic, but i think you actually like the idea.
GT: hmm… but it doesn’t really explain what the whole game is doing.
TT: Right. So what do we know?
TT: The universes find intelligent species to play this game.
TT: Ones that win spawn new similar universes.
TT: Ones that do not have their planet destroyed.
TT: What does this sort of thing?
GT: so you only copy the winning strategies.
GT: wait. rose. i know!
GT: it’s like a computer program searching for a way to win the game!
GT: well suppose you wanted to write a computer program to be really good at sburb.
GT: you have some basic strategy, but you need to improve it.
GT: you can run a genetic algorithm.
GT: you come up with a bunch of similar strategies and play them off against each other.
GT: the ones that win you make more similar to them and throw away the rest.
TT: That does sound vaguely like what we’re seeing. But is there any other evidence for this theory?
GT: oh, not sure.
TT: Well what else would you expect to be the case if this were true?
GT: well, uh, lots of computers use tree pruning to play games.
GT: try out a bunch of moves, kill off the ones that seem to be going badly and keep one or two good ones around.
TT: That…actually sounds suspiciously similar to what Dave has been telling me about timeline management around here.
GT: really? oh, cool.
GT: wait. isn’t sburb a little too weird for someone to want to solve?
GT: i mean what with all the aspects and quests and stuff.
TT: It could just be that the creators were weird. They liked games that seem bizarre to us.
TT: But some of that might be new. The universe may have evolved some since its inception.
TT: Perhaps it even started as a vaguely chess-like game and the complexities evolved later.
TT: Giving the players aspects seems like a good way to make winning easier.
GT: what else?
GT: right! if they’re doing this, they’re going to have to clean up the old frogs now and then to save space.
GT: otherwise they’ll run out of memory.
GT: wait. that’s horrible. are they going to delete us?
TT: On the other hand, the horrorterrors live in some sort of hyperbolic space.
TT: In such a geometry, space would be nearly unlimited. You might not need to worry about it.
TT: In fact, it might encourage you to build self-replicating programs as a kind of hypercomputation.
GT: so we’re just bits in some alien sburb playing software?
TT: That would be the going theory, yes.
GT: uh, rose?
GT: if we are here to play this game, do you think it’s two player?
GT: i mean what if there are some other kids on the other side?