Here we are then. Cael's epilogue, after Marty idly asked about it. It took me a while to find it, and a while longer to work up the courage to post it, because this is embarrassingly bad. In my defense, it was written in one night between exams on way too much caffeine, and I was perhaps a bit too frustrated to think clearly. At any rate, I find parts of it absolutely hilarious.
Incidentally, after he'd idly asked, I did ask what became of the Disc. Apparently he put Vetinari in charge of it and left, because it was uninteresting to him. I'd also asked what happens to homeless bits of setting, and apparently they just kind of exist wherever. Both come up below; just thought I'd mention.
Obviously, names changed to protect the moron and all that. I did the best I could with the formatting.
Okay, enough of my stalling. Here we go, my petty and immature response to his question, intermingled with a lot of venting in one long, rambling .docx, reposted for your enjoyment:
You wanted my epilogue. Actually, you wanted "what the epilogue is", but anyway, this will take a bit of explanation. Apologies for length and tone, but this is complicated and it's nice to be asked a question rather than told a ruling for once, so I'm just going to forge ahead and make the most of it.
See, I never expected Cael to be the good guy. I'm not good at building characters other than The (Un)fettered; here, I didn't even think to try. Maybe I misinterpreted the "desperate times" schtick the NEG had going on. I thought you were satirizing the "post-9/11 world" mentality; my apologies if you meant it as a rational response. Either way, here we are: he's on that wonderfully fine line between drive and insanity, he's an anarchist of the most chaotic sort, and he's just watched a government that's been screwing him over since birth steal his achievements for stupid political maneuvering while being told there's a much bigger, much more oppressive dictatorship just waiting to kill him. You handed him a scenario in which people might actually prefer the anarchist's bomb to the policeman's truncheon. What do you think he's going to do?
He's going to build a bistro. A very big one in the warehouse, because I know you. We need more math than we have to pull off recipreversexclusive vector bistromathics. We need more math than the greatest mathematician in the world -- I suspect, given the skill mechanics, he'd just about be able to handle long division, which is probably a state secret anyway. We would, in short, need the greatest mathematicians on the Disc. I know they can't speak English, but they can work PCPU holo-interfaces, and math, as you so love to remind me, is a universal language. Cael just needs to Suggest it to them, and I suspect solving the problem is in line with a mathematician's basic nature.
There's also the question of whether the lads, Jin, Ian, and Darya want to come, but given everything we've already done, if Cael invites them along on an impossible journey to liberate the multiverse with a camels and pesto sauce...do you honestly think they'd refuse? And do you honestly think, in a world driven by stories, it wouldn't work?
Now, I didn't get this far without being able to anticipate your more reasonable objections. We do not, as you know, currently have a stable of Discworld camels; at a guess, they're fatally allergic to Engels, or perhaps have all been hunted down as Communists. However, you've been ripping enormous holes across the multiverse, which leads me to believe we can exploit multiversal truths here: EEEEEVERYBODY NEEEEDS CAMEEEELLLS, after all, and we're only a short hypercamel ride from the Disc. Besides, this is right up Hassan's alley -- against all sense, we're the good guys here. Then, too, I've got a plan for paying him back for more than the camels.
We're very short on destinations, you see; we leak air like a sieve, we've got no rad shielding, and we're running on batteries. The only place I can think to go is the main hangar of the NES Victory. Cael will drop in, put Black Flag Flying on the intercom, get the lads running for the ends of the ship with cannolis in tow, and warp for Zeta Leporis before the guards can get through the ten-minute delay you put on the doors. Hey, if you have Star Destroyers flying around like this, I can steal a ship with it. So now the question is, of course, "what do you do with an asteroid field a billion miles from anywhere, long before the Imperium has any ships in-universe to stop us, let alone know where we are?" Well, we get Jin to pop open the nanorepair master blueprints and we cannibalize the guns to crank out a mining vessel. All we really need are a couple of bush robots, but why not weld the arms onto a proper hull, temporarily stick some A-pods in the engine nacelles and paint the whole thing arrest-me red? Anyone can mine asteroids, [Marty], but Cael can mine asteroids by punching them with an ersatz Outlaw Star.
Then we make a shipyard. A self-directing shipyard, with its own mining drones and everything, and a nice big row of fractal assembly forges. I will get back to the ship later; for now, the camels can navigate us through the portal and under the Disc so we can moor out of sight. They've already been once, albeit the other way. First things first: we put Hassan's stock through the Victory's med scanners so he can sell certified preowned camels. Then we take the subtlest ship we can, fly up at night, and be very careful that no one spots us. Your alter ego has done the Disc a huge favor by "[leaving] Vetinari in charge" of "such an unremarkable place"; I can only assume he abdicated a minute later, and everything's much the same.
Ian, of course, we drop off on FourEcks. I'd worry about him learning about magic too close to Ponder (or, indeed, anyone who'd notice), but no worries, we've got Bugarup U. They seem laid-back enough to miss the occaisional slip. He's also to secure the beer we need for Darya.
Darya lands on the Chalk with a crudload of Ecksian beer and a note in large print, because I'd like very much to see if the Nac Mac Feegle would like to help us topple the bigjob that claims to be their master, and for that I need another violent alcoholic to help translate. I need saboteurs, you see, and they do that anyway. Besides, they're like little blue anti-Borg. "Resistance is bonny! Ye willna be assimilated, dinnae fash yersel'!" On a more practical note, Cael needs a [Vamp!Marty] detector and their swords ought to glow as blue in the presence of rules lawyers as with any other type. So she gets to negotiate. Even as long as that might take, we're dropping her off late.
Jin's a bit of a special case. Cael needs to do a bit of trig concerning the location of the UU's clacks tower, the size of a clacks grid, and the arc it subtends. Then he's got a bit of nanofab work to do with OLED films, tiny photoreceptors, PCPU comms, and two pair of binoculars to hide it all in. Also got an unusual job for the Assassin's Guild, but hopefully they can extend their definition of inhumation to include optical elements in return for all the gold we pried out of the asteroids. The rest is a matter for Jin's cryptographic skill (aided by the Smoking GNU, if Cael can buy a manual off them) and his speed at making friends, because we need HEX, at least in his off hours when Ponder isn't using it. See, Ctech's AI sucks almost as badly as its nanoforges. Jin rather needs to program strong AI, and I know you won't let him do it alone -- so here we have a shortcut, in the form of most of what we need already capable of introspection. Besides, for what I need it for, I can't think of a better AI than one made by a forensic accountant and an ant-based supercomputer. I don't need great Minds; I need slightly crazy ones.
As for Cael...he's not [Vamp!Marty]. No warships, no conquering. I'm not going to start nuking the Ramtops or anything so obvious. Cael's going to go to the shonky shop, he's going to buy something other than the silly trenchcoat, and he's going to tell Soon Shine Sun everything about what's going on. He presumably already knows, but I want to be thorough, because the plan very much needs directions to Oi Dong -- and if Cael's ever going to get them, it's not going to be through bribery or threats, but through honestly being the best shot we've got, or at least one worth a relative pittance of Lu-Tze's time.
It's a one-in-a-million chance, but maybe Cael can learn to be a sweeper.
See, you're right to gloat about [Vamp!Marty]'s time stop ability; it's a way of undoing what we do, even without cutting half your empire off to play with timey-wimey shenanigans . If Cael's ever going to collapse the Imperium, I need to break it, and here we are. Cael needs to learn how to slice time, and he needs to understand Procrastinators on the conceptual level in order to rebuild them with nanotech elements. Chalk spins up seconds and basalt can hold megayears; how much time can wind onto a diamond flywheel driven by superconducting magnets? He also needs to understand everything else, because if anyone can humanely handle canon it's the History Monks and they've got the Disc to look after; at present, this is way outside Cael's competence. More on that later.
Once we've got that wrapped up, Jin and Cael will need to coordinate with HEX to set up a power source. A-pods and D-engines are ultimately unsuitable for my purposes; not only are they annoying, blatant fanwankery, they're under the control of people known to retcon around people having badwrongfun with their system. Besides, the Victory just isn't cool enough for me. The camels can have it. I'm sure they have a wonderful journey of exploration ahead of them, as smart as they are.
As per Pratchett: "The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass." It follows that, given d = m/v, anything of sufficient information density will undergo epistemological collapse, become a singularity, and start emitting Hawking information at a rate inversely proportional to the square of its mass; books are simply big enough to keep this rate low. (I blame this for why, even with our terabyte hard drives, I can never seem to find my files.) Go on, [Marty]. Gush again about how many terabytes can fit on a PCPU hard drive the size of a grain of sand "thanks to quantum computing". Again, I see your objection: your magic laptop has an exabyte hard drive. Do remember that you put your settings on it.
If we're going to curve extelligent phase space, though, we can't do it with Cthulhutech's data alone. You've made sure there isn't nearly enough. Thus HEX: Reading in Invisible Writings, accelerated by the biggest Procrastinators we can use to pull time from the interstellar medium. We can get all the books ever written, all the books possibly written -- and, as long as you keep Sandman hooked into the multiverse, all the books never written much more easily than we otherwise could. For now, we'll store it in subcritical archives; it won't be until we get back to Zeta Leporis that we download them into quantum storage and make a (technological) singularity, then put a Hawking's Knot around it.
I don't use science in gaming to blindside you, [Marty]. I use it to constrain myself to things I can readily communicate, to operate on a manipulable paradigm and encourage other people to fiddle with it. It helps me tell interesting stories. Without it, you get what passes for poetic around me. Cael could, I suppose, crank out a network of amat farms and gamma ray lasers and turned out an actual SBH, but that wouldn't have been nearly as elegant -- as clarketech as Ctech's "nanotech composite" handwavium is by now, there are still some messy side effects. Instead, we have an infinite energy source that makes a very silly kind of sense -- we feed it with high-bandwidth laser transmissions, we convert the information into energy with Maxwell's Imps, and so forth. It's delightful.
The important part is that it's never going to run out.
Conversion drives are more or less averaging devices. They convert matter into matter and antimatter, or in this case, information into logic and [SUE System] skill mechanics. What we don't normally consider is that they'll do the same thing to antimatter. Not so important for Hawking knots, but incredibly important for us. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” ― Albert Einstein. See, there is a remote possibility that there might be a finite amount of attainable knowledge, but as long as the Imperium persists, we have an inexhaustible supply of stupid. Maybe I'm too used to being at loggerheads with the multiverse, but a spaceship that runs on stupidity seems deliciously poetic to me. Getting around the speed-of-light limit by filling the hull with computronium and teaching Jin/HEX's distributed Minds to slice time around the ship is almost an afterthought; the technology isn't as narratively important as the experience it enables.
Really, that's as it should be, in stories. Cael's not building a warship here, not in literal truth. I refuse to sink to that level, a clash of Titans with the Imperium for "the good of the people". Instead, he's building a pirate ship with a stern like a galleon. Also a giant skull-and-crossbones on the bow, the sides, the flag...I basically want anyone seeing this thing to know it's completely illegitimate. The front docking bay is going right in the mouth of the skull just to make sure we look completely non-Navy; we should put a giant knife there, but it's not that kind of piracy. Less plunder, more pirate radio. Heck, we're even naming it the Mistake Not... so when [Vamp!Marty]'s goons say Cael's made a Mistake they can be right about something. Everything else is just nanoforges, transmitters, Procrastinators and computronium all over the place.
I don't want Cael to lead a revolution. Cael's not a demagogue. He's a pedagogue. The ideal is to hand people, all the people who want it, the means to create their own revolution, in whatever style they see fit. I want Cael to be the MYCROFT to their Mannie, the stranger in the tavern handing them the map to adventure, the wise old hermit who's conveniently elsewhere when the time comes to really kick ass. I don't want him to plan. I want him to steer and steer wildly.
See, there aren't Great People. People are great already; they just need a little prodding to realize their potential. Heck, people are infinite. I want Cael to make thousands of tiny godlings -- and, because I also want to gloat like hell, he's going to do it with the power of stories.
Cael's going to make heroes. He's going to make heroes en masse, steering everyone he can find toward as complete an understanding of their universe as he can manage. If, in the process, he cheats a bit and teaches them a bit of Extropianism as well...I never said Cael was a good pseudo-Culturenik. Being bad is what he's all about. In the process, we can also fill some of the gaps between the story as it is and the story as we need it to be, the dramatic coincidences and unlikely circumstances.We can make things not make sense in the very best ways, until people know things they shouldn't. We can put the right man in the wrong place and make all the difference in the world. Most of all, we can put the nicks of time back where they belong; you could say that's our specialty.
Once we've got that going, we can keep it going long after the Imperium's gone. I don't just want Cael to end you, I want Cael to end the possibility of you, to empower, educate, and inspire (and above all learn) until the very concept of tyranny is laughably infeasible. What a gift that will be, no?
The point extends well beyond the present Imperium. You've added some fairly dystopian settings to the multiverse, and any really satisfying epilogue deals with the inevitable series of events enforced by Authyrship. I can't think of a better way to do that than by teaching the multiverse how to reason. Bad things may happen by the caprice of fickle gods, but the wider universe, in the gaps between the lines: there we can work to ensure that for every new inhumanity we can inflict on ourselves, there is someone that will not stand for it.
I'm being very vague here, and that's because I'm deliberately unsure what form this will take. That's why teaching is so much better than preaching; everyone takes your ideas and runs with them and makes them their own and they've spun off in a million new directions, and rather than holy wars you can greet that with high-fives. There will not be a "the" revolution, nor a single revolutionary period. There will be a continuous, rolling wave of human awesomeness endlessly diversifying in ways I can barely imagine-- and don't want to. This isn't, and it shouldn't be, one person's story.
Now, you're right to complain that Cael can't do it alone, not even with the ship. That's part of why I want so many heroes. People don't take to idleness well; once the sleeper has awakened, it's hard to get them to go back to sheep, so to speak. That's where we come in. After happily ever after, beyond the point where the big stories end, we seek them out, and we offer them a is "a life of respectable quiet contentment, of civic
dignity and, of course, in the fullness of time a pension." (Vetinari, Making Money) Or, if they accept, they do what we do, which is messy and complicated and thoroughly bizarre and frustratingly secret. It's almost the opposite of your empire; local rather than global, specialized rather than blanket, self-governing rather than hierarchial. Cael's going to crowdsource the job of being the Devils in the Details (and ensuring no one like [Vamp!Marty] can ever happen again) to a bunch of old bored individualist heroes and whoever they decide is crazy enough to join them; as you've no doubt surmised, I'll be very disappointed if the organization stays at all unified after the Imperium is a joke.
That's why we need the Minds, after a fashion. Like I said, we don't need great Minds; all respect to Banks, but the Minds make the Culture work in ways that don't necessarily align perfectly with what's needed here. That's why I'm intending for Cael to skip a crapload of iterations through machines programing machines, and instead raising them through a series of a thousand rounds of grassroots anarcho-libertarian meddling aboard a ship running on nonsense: ultimately, what we need are, well...Cael's naming the first three Esme, Gytha, and Agnes. Partly because I'm hoping Sapir-Whorf works in unusual ways around enough narrativium, partly because we need the Feegles to instinctively grasp the role they're playing, but mostly for motivation. Ultimately, Cael might one day be tempted to stop or get sloppy, if all he has to worry about is [Vamp!Marty], but knowing that the real Granny Weatherwax might one day ask why exactly he tried to make a witch out of a computer and a boatload of stories and then presume to call it by its first name...that will keep Cael running at minimum slice until the multiverse collapses.
Seriously, though, they have a role, and there's something to the hope that they will grow into what their names make people expect of them. We may not need princes or princesses and we have a surfeit of woodcutters (or at least sons of woodsmen), but ultimately we need people to be the witch and know things, and we need people above them to keep them aware of how much they don't know. The whole organization is a bunch of Guile Heroes and Science Heroes orbiting on the cusp of a moral event horizon of detachment, really. To keep them from going full Eldar, we need something else, and thus misotheist superturing time-slicing witches. Why not?
Why? Because Cael is worryingly insane and I'm way too tired to plan properly. How's that for meta,eh? Even I'm just steering now. But hey. Maybe that's what I want; he's certainly not trying to found a monastery here, beyond the obvious. Half the reason I'm even including the Minds as a mechanism for preserving (reasonable) interoperability is so that, as long as they exist, we have relays. So that the next time someone wants to play Boy Emperor of the Multiverse, no matter what state its in, there will be someone to watch, someone to get the word out, and a vast and chaotic smattering of Sendings and neutrino comms and mice operating radios made of soup cans and notes passed around schoolrooms lights up to get a lot of people ready to meddle. I don't just want to make [Vamp!Marty] go away; I want to make him flatly impossible, and for that we need people talking. Who loves to gossip more than witches?
I know your objection. You have a fleet. You have weapons. You have more than enough to put down some silly insurrection by the locals' primitive technology/magic. After all, you've already fought the war to end all wars, and you're sitting pretty on a pile of the most impregnable machines in the multiverse. As the opening act of the riot to start all riots, perhaps:
Nae anymuir, bigjob.
That's where Cael comes in, flying a Mistake powered by stupidity and narrativium as a mobile entropy carrier. You called it pretty well; all he can really do well is kill people and break things, and he doesn't kill people. What luck, then, that he's in a prime position to break things right when you have such complicated things to break. There's a lot of work to be done that he's very ill-equipped to do, but for now, as the epilogue of the epilogue, at a few critical bottlenecks in your logistical nightmare and everywhere else he can be with all the time in the stars, it might be enough that he is very, very good at breaking things.
As one last note: that not killing people thing even extends to [Vamp!Marty]. I may not be good enough to see a way to build the Culture proper out of nothing, but I can maybe mock it up okay, and with that comes the computing power to manage deep-immersion VR. It's a very pleasant way of dealing with megalomaniacs: just give them fake people to boss around for the rest of their natural lives. Although...[Vamp!Marty] is immortal... It'll be a fun ride, it will. Absolutely secure, too; you have to make a concerted effort of will to leave, and there is nothing of which he's less capable than refusing complete gratification.
I leave you with this last bit of meta, then: this is all, of course, impossible. There is no way to contradict the almighty Will of [Vamp!Marty]; everything definitionally goes his way utterly without difficulty, as is to be expected. Given that, did I just describe Cael's epilogue?
Or did I just describe [Vamp!Marty's] prologue?
And how could he tell the difference?
In case you're wondering, he never mentioned it...but apparently he's never actually run a SUE System game session since then, so I tentatively count it as a draw.
I hope you enjoyed SUETHULU; you've all made it very worth the writing. Next time...I don't know.