Failure States

3

Dad always told me to keep a journal, with this thing in my head that should have been easy. But, if I'm right, this needs to be seen. Don't forget me.
Day: 1
XR-1198: T=90
A scar, on the world itself. That's the only way to describe it, as I gaze around this blasted heath. I'm in Scotland, I think, the smell of heather and cold air and far away sea spray on the breeze as I behold, nothing. An echoing void ripped from the world, so terrible and impossible it hurts to even try and perceive it.
XR-1198: T=70
I descend a slope toward it, picking through thorns, thistles, and many other plants as rugged combat boots crunch twigs into the soft loam beneath my feet. then I cross the border, and with a terrible sense of vertigo I nearly plunge in, feeling a gentle, soft tug into the abyss of unbeing before me. My name is Charlotte Bains, and my job is to see this. So I take another step, and fall in.
XR-1198: T=55
Instantly I'm ripped apart, falling in a dozen directions, pulled asunder. I scream but nothing except a mocking blue mist emerges from a dozen mouths across my body as the nothing rips at my reality, thin edges of entropy clawing into my bones like the fangs of predators. I have to keep looking, I need to remember, to see this. It hurts, not just physical pain, but mental and soul deep pain, I see incorporeal forms ripping free with terrified screams as they are swallowed by the nothingness like a ravenous maw, I feel pain worse than any memetic intrusion or cognitohazard as the void tears at those very concepts. And then it's over. I'm floating in a place that is not a place, I can feel the sheer unreality of it pressing down on me, but here there is an equilibrium. I can see a city, twisted former towers and hollowed out shells barely recognisable as the void takes its time with it, like a gourmet savouring a feast. There, in the middle a mote of light. I move without knowing how, walking on nothingness until my feet touch tarmac. It writhes unnaturally under my feet and flashes into foul black mists that are sucked away into the surrounding eternity of nullity that surrounds this place.
XR-1198: T=10
I cant say how far I've come when I reach the light. It's a boy, a young one too, crying and screaming and begging in the middle of the city. Alone. I can see grief and rage on his features as he holds onto something in front of him. A statue… No, a body. Petrified in an instant, her face shock and determination. His mother? I feel something, a buzz at the side of my head and curling text and images superimposed over the scene, identifying the boy and his mother.
XR-1198: T=0
I sit up, screaming, the helmet on my head cracking against the top of the pod that I'm in. I feel blood leaking from psychosomatic injuries on my body as I slump back onto the floor and let the roar of that nothing place fade away into unconsciousness. Sometimes I hate this job.
Day: 2
"Wake Up", the usual morning wakeup call here at Outpost 16B. My roommate is an annoyingly happy girl with an equally annoying name "Beth". She can't be more than 23, just old enough to have cleared the training needed for this place. Oh, I didn't say. 16B is sited on what the researchers call a "electrically sensitive reality tear". Basically, it's a reality warping anomaly that mostly reacts to brainwaves. The project here is to use Authority volunteers like me and my roommate here to see through the tear. The project heads have tried to, in their words "tune" the effects so we go to realities close to ours, and realities which have recently suffered Omega events, world killers.

I don't understand the whole thing, but we got put through a lot of training for this. I have some kind of metal implant in the side of my head to let them record what I see in the tear, as well as maybe a year and a bit of intense training on how to cope in the situations we might find in a place like that.

My watch is buzzing, I look down and finally notice the bandages on my body some still red with blood. The last trip must have been a bad one, what did they throw me into? Either way, it's time for debriefing so with some grunts of protest and offered help from Beth, I make my way to The Commander's office. None of us know his real name of course, that would be too easy, so we just use The Commander, or, Square, though… That one never to his face. Either way, I'm face to face with the most stereotypical Authority Military Man you've ever seen, clean neat pressed uniform just so, clean shaven, a jaw so square you could probably use it to measure for building, and of course, a buzz cut of shocking red hair.

"Agent Bains." He notes, you can hear the clipped nature of his dismissive attitude in his voice, he doesn't like being assigned to this windswept rock, can't blame him really. "Agent, your last mission was a success, congratulations, your next mission is in 24 hours, so make sure you rest up. Dismissed." And that's it, in and out, as curt and short as always. Sometimes I hate this job.
Day: 3
"Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt." The usual morning wakeup call. It's nice not having a roommate to wake me up in the mornings though. I can't imagine what that would be like. I shake the sleep out of my head and get into my coveralls, ready for the test. It's a short walk to the lab but that's probably for the best, this is a small outpost after all.

XR-1131: T=90
The sky is on fire. Burning with rolling clouds of ruddy light that spread over it, incinerating clouds as hunks of metal and rock fall like the fists of an ancient burning god. I'm on a shoreline but it's hard to tell where, steam from the boiling oceans makes a fog that obscures a lot. I can just about make out something in the distance a spire of smooth black material, it must be enormous because it's miles out at sea and I can see it from here.
XR-1131: T=60
I've been walking along the coast for a while, the spire doesn't seem to get bigger or smaller whichever way I go, I came across what looked like a beached ship, the middle of it looked melted through. I'm going to stay away from that area just in case.
XR-1131: T=40
Nothing for it. I found the remains of a fishing village, seemed abandoned but there are boats here. I'll take out out to the spire.
XR-1131: T=10
I can see it close, it's right there in front of me, clear as day. It's made of something solid, there's no seams or joints, but it's pulsing, I can feel it when I look at it now, like it's trying to send a signal, like whispers in my mind. Something's coming, the water ripples in front of me and the boat shatters, and I feel blood, and
XR-1131: T=0
I wake up. I can hear the few staff assigned to this base working to get me out of the pod and disconnect the helmet as I fall asleep.
Day: 4
"Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt." Shut up alarm I'm up. Not that it matters, no one to see after a mission after all, The Authority set this base up to run on minimal staff so we get debrief via PDA watch. The wonders of technology eh? I guess I'll spend today talking with the researchers and technicians about what we can improve, I might hate this job sometimes but making these missions more comfortable, and faster, has to mean something. Maybe I'll get to chat to the new guy they apparently brought in?
Day: 5
Time to wake up I guess. It's quiet this morning, my alarm didn't go off but that's ok. Aside from me this base is fully automated. I'm just the one agent who drew the short straw and got sent here.

I head down the corridor to the lab, an office and some other rooms pass me by. I always thought that was odd, why build offices and extra labs and stuff when this place is automated? But that's bureaucracy for you I guess. I strap myself in and… Nothing. the pod is dark, no lurching decompression, no heat or light, nothing. I try to open it but it won't budge and then finally it creaks open like it's weighed down with a dozen years of rust.

The outpost seems dark. That's odd, there should be power here? It's supposed to draw it from geothermal power but that can't be right, I'd have heard alarms if that broke. I guess I should go check. Down down into the caves I go then.

It's warm down here, and oddly lit, like monochrome white and grey light everywhere. The mission said the anomaly was somewhere below the island so maybe this is because of that? Either way, gotta keep going and going until… What's that noise? Like, tapping in the dark? It came from the left, well it might be the problem so I should check it out.

Oh god.

This isn't just a tear any more. I can feel it as I step past some invisible boundary and memories flood back like they were half there all along. Beth, Square, the researchers, the new guy, the staff and technicians. What's happened? The last one to have a run before this was Beth, something must have gone wrong, she didn't look through the rift, she tore it open. Stupid stupid girl did she not follow procedures? I can feel their memories mixing with mine, like this place is full of them, it's hard to think. I can feel Square's grudging decision not to transfer to a better decision, Beth's eagerness for her first mission, the research team's curiosity as they observe the other worlds through my eyes. It's too much. I need to stop this, whatever is down there is causing this and unless I can stop it then this place built to stop world killers will become one, a dead and barren abandoned world.

Sometimes… I really hate this job.

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