Comic 623 - Rethink the strategy

Posted on 26th Nov 2017, 9:31 PM in Ghosts
Rethink the strategy

<<First Latest>>
Average Rating: 5 (1 votes) / Rate this comic

Author Notes:

Morgenstern 26th Nov 2017, 9:31 PM edit delete
You drag yourself back to your normal perception.

You de-sync from Dr. Finch. As you explain everything you discovered, you make your way back to the lab area. You suspect this discussion may require the help of Red, both your own and your mother's.

You check on Fuse and Michelle real quick. Things appear... fine, though for how long you were out you're surprised they're still at Howler's apartment. Michelle appears to have barred the door with Howler's couch; Fuse is downloading something off of Howler's large computer, and making a cursory attempt at finding the hidden entrance.

"So... so so so you're suggesting that Carpenter's memetic entity has managed to drift back into your brain? Have you suffered any other ill effects? Surely if it's capable of taking root in your mind, it would be using that leverage for more than... than just keeping Macland Row unconscious. Yes?"

"Maybe it ain't enough," Caius suggests. "Like, for how much Mac's got in 'em, all tha thing's doin' is keepin' 'em under. Maybe it needs more oomph to get anything done. Makes me wonder what tha hell it's tryin' to do, though--just leavin' Mac unconscious ain't a great plan."

Dr. Finch's eyes widen. "Oh. Oh, oh dear, I... may have a thought regarding that. Macland Row's documentation stated that he's had brief moments of brain activity--fleeting glimpses of awareness that didn't go anywhere. What if... what if that was the entity attempting more? Perhaps it's only leaving Macland comatose while it... while it does further maneuvering. Those short bursts of brain activity may not have been Macland Row--they may have been the entity."

Caius rubs at the back of his head, reeling a bit. "Alright, sure... so it's tryin' to take over Mac, it just ain't quick about it. I mean, I never tried to bodysnatch nobody, so I dunno how long it's s'posed to take. Right? An' then there ain't enough of it in tha kid here, so it's gotta settle for Mac. It'd prob'ly take her instead if she stayed in there too long."

Dr. Finch hmms for a moment before shaking a finger. "I'm not so certain it would. It did provoke a rather elaborate subconscious pattern... if it wanted to bait her back into Macland's mindscape, I'm quite sure it could have planted that urge."

"Perhaps it knows better," speaks the mouth on the wall. "If it is old, and as devious as it seems... perhaps it has some idea of what she is. Perhaps it would rather not take its chances."

Dr. Finch nods, shaking his finger more enthusiastically, this time at Mom's red. "That! That makes a great deal of sense! If this is truly a... another otherworldly creature, it may have some grasp of what it was playing with. It knew enough to try and commandeer her abilities, exposing its true nature only as much as it needed for its plan. If not for Shirai's ultimatum, it may have had enough time to finish taking over Macland Row. All it wants is a host; it made the decision not to risk itself further by being greedy, and pursuing a body with more power."

Caius tips his head back, staring at the ceiling for a second. "Geez... I know what we're talkin' about here, but the word host freaks me out. What're we gonna do about this thing?"

"That..." Dr. Finch pauses, crossing his arms. "That, I suspect, is the real question. Removing the subconscious barrier is the first step, of course, followed by finishing the process of waking up Macland Row. That... abomination will still be in his mind, but it may not be able to accomplish much without micro level body manipulation at its disposal. It truly stumbled into a boon with the sort of coincidences it's been afforded."

"I dunno if I buy that," Caius replies. "It had to have a plan before Blondie showed up, right? It couldn't jus' be relyin' on someone with alien blood powers to show up in Mac's skull. I'll bet it can still do somethin' if Mac wakes up, it might just... I dunno, take even longer."

You bring up the process itself--they were failed attempts at blocking out telepaths, right? Carpenter said the process was "statistically perfect," but the project was dropped anyway. Why was it dropped?

Dr. Finch nods. "Yes, yes... it was military experimentation, back when the fear of mutants being used as superweapons became more prominent. Different countries actually tried their hand at it, but none were considered successful. Carpenter's speech about the process actually working is... hm, suspect. It may be that he was lying to gain Macland's confidence... but on the other hand, we have seen quite clearly that the process does produce results. Perhaps the memetic defense initiative was shut down due to side effects...? The reports I've read made it sound like it didn't work to begin with, but government obfuscation is a national pastime at this point."

"Maybe soldiers were gettin' possessed by brain satan," Caius replies. "Maybe it takes longer if the guy's awake, or maybe it works better if they're in a coma. I dunno. Don't answer what we gotta do about it."

You suggest there might be some sort of way to... sync... with yourself...? The thing should be weaker in your mind than in Macland's--if you could enter your own mindscape and cut it out somehow--

"I wouldn't suggest it," your own red states. "Attempting to shove your conscious mind into a mental representation of your subconscious mind would be weird on its own, but your subconscious mind is substantially less human. It wouldn't just be potentially traumatic for you, it could be disastrous for everyone else."

Dr. Finch takes off his glasses, cleans them off with his shirt, and then puts them back on his face. You ask if he's okay.

"Yes, I just... perhaps it was the syncing process, I just feel like I was briefly hallucinating."

You ask if he can see Red--your red.

"I... no? I don't believe so," Dr. Finch states with some confusion. "It was like you were having a conversation with yourself for a moment. I couldn't quite follow it, though... like a dream happening in front of me."

"You guys are worryin' tha hell outta me, I just want you to know that," Caius says. "If you kick in tha door to Mac's brain again, and fight tha thing there, would that help any?"

You state that you're not sure. Changes made in the mindscape don't traditionally influence the mind proper... except that this thing doesn't seem to play by the normal rules of the mindscape.

"It would be risky," your red says. "If that thing has really been spreading its roots through Macland's mind, it may be stronger and have a wider degree of influence in his mental plane now. Plus, every moment you spend there could give it more time to seep into you, or to utilize your powers without your consent."

Caius, after thinking it over longer, pipes back up. "Is there a way to get it outta your brain without... like, doin' the mind whammy?"

"It only has presence because of the process that conjured it, correct?," Mom's red responds.

Dr. Finch nods. "A series of horrific images, video, sounds... a very specific combination of thoughts forced upon the mind, somehow resulting in the entity's appearance."

"Conjured," Caius chuckles. "Like it's some kinda messed up ritual."

Mom's red continues. "Then for it be in another mind, a sample of that qualia must have made its way across the boundary. Removing that qualia from one's memories should remove the foe's local basis of existence."

Dr. Finch gives a very hearty and concerned series of hmms. "This is true... but tampering with the pre-coded neural sequences that form a memory is very shaky territory. Imagine if the wrong memory were cut, or if other memories were damaged in the process. Or, if the fiend thought far enough ahead to install a contingency plan--we've seen that it has an advanced understanding of neural processes and the behavior of the human brain, and it had a scheme ready for a move to undo Macland's vegetative state. It would not be out of the question for it to have protected the memory that gives it shape in a similar fashion. I wasn't afraid to humor the idea of manually cutting such a memory from Macland Row, given no other options..."

Dr. Finch turns to you.

"I am much less eager to engage in such experimentation with your mind."


rufiangel 26th Nov 2017, 10:44 PM edit delete reply
Amazing update MM-senpai. @_@ (That gigantic rat has turned into ashes, I see now XD) Good luck, Fuse, you can find that hidden door!

Looks like Dr. Finch hasn't quite reached Fuse-level sync times yet, but he's getting there. Oh boy. Well, at least he's not there... yet.

I'm iffy on whether we should be tampering with our mind, but then what other choices do we have? Can we subconsciously plant a new directive in our mind that counteracts the 'thing'? ~_~ Gosh darn, this is weird.

But knowing what the 'thing' uses to anchor itself as a 'presence' does mean we *can* remove it, even if it is like removing a fungus or weed that has steeped roots into the foundations. I want to think it's worth trying to excise, though I think we need to be extremely careful about it.
Cuttlefish 27th Nov 2017, 3:05 PM edit delete reply
Here’s a terrible thought: As we excise the monster, could we force it into a new mind - a rodent one?
2FABZ 26th Nov 2017, 10:47 PM edit delete reply
A shitload of this talk is WAY above my level of understanding
But it's entertaining nonetheless
Crestlinger 26th Nov 2017, 10:52 PM edit delete reply
At this point I'm wondering what external stimulus would do. Someone scream at him that someone stole all his money and see if that gets a twitch. Or mild defibrillation.
BunnyMuffin 27th Nov 2017, 12:39 AM edit delete reply
Yeah, I wondered that too. But, if Shirari sees us (there are cameras) we are dead. I don’t think that’s a risk we want to take. Seems like Macland is pretty well guarded.
Baeronius 26th Nov 2017, 11:22 PM edit delete reply
Fuse's room, I always looked at that painted symbol cause it looks wide enough to be a door. If you were painting the wall, it wold be kinda easy to paint over the seams in a door too.
Twyll 26th Nov 2017, 11:28 PM edit delete reply
Maybe we should ask Red about if it's possible to... temporarily go more eldritch, then revert it somehow, if we have some way of pulling us back? If we can harness our alien half somehow, the powerful devouring half, for just long enough to make our brain an inhospitable place for a memetic entity to hide... I dunno, I guess the risk that we couldn't put things back the way they were would be too much?
Blue_Elite 27th Nov 2017, 12:21 AM edit delete reply
Well, I've got one of two plans: Plan crazy Red Mage and plan scary.

Plan crazy is to force-sync into Macland to locate the memetic entity. Then, try to drag it back with us into our mind; possibly with the help of Red pulling double duty to physically locate it from the brain activity of the force-sync to literally rip it out.
Then, with it stuck in our mind, we attempt to either kill it (extremely bad idea in my opinion) or... try to negotiate with it. If it IS a thinking entity, maybe we can entice it with someone more... deserving of its presence (like say Carpenter).

Plan scary is pretty much just an offshoot of plan crazy: do the force-sync to meet with the memetic entity in Macland's mind and try negotiating with it there without any kind of leverage.

Plan crazy I don't even know if we CAN do. Plan scary may kill us; but then, if the thing doesn't, Shirai just might pull that off anyway.
rufiangel 27th Nov 2017, 1:23 AM edit delete reply
Just a random thought... is it possible that it's already in Carpenter's mind? I mean, Carpenter has been the one who handled the images that implant its presence and whatnot.
PurpleKetchup 27th Nov 2017, 1:37 AM edit delete reply
There's little doubt in my mind that Carpenter willingly subjected himself to this treatment of his, and probably stayed awake the whole time grinning.
Blue_Elite 27th Nov 2017, 1:56 AM edit delete reply
I thought of a halfway plan between the two that more directly address the main issue: force-sync for the negotiation while at the same time try to locate the qualia (hopefully it and the entity being one in the same). If negotiations fail but we manage to find the qualia, see if that allows us to physically pinpoint in the brain where it's located by the brain activity and attack there to try and remove the memory.

It's terrible on a number of fronts such as still being completely vulnerable to the memetic entity, it being luck if we do find the right place, and the scrubbing possibly killing us along with it.
But figured I'd throw it out there.
Auron 27th Nov 2017, 12:39 AM edit delete reply
I just thought of the worst case scenario for some reason, though there's no plausible way it could happen. It would be very scary if that thing got into Edison's mind.

If only we could manage to blood Carpenter we'd probably be able to solve this easily.
PurpleKetchup 27th Nov 2017, 1:12 AM edit delete reply
...Can mom's red help Jane somehow ? Jane self-syncing might not work, but maybe another red could access her and work from the outside ?

Alternatively, how about Jane cleantexing herself back to just before she ever synced with Macland and working from that state ?

Also, we'll probably need to help Fuse as well - the thing probably left something in his scape too.
Allwarden47 27th Nov 2017, 9:41 AM edit delete reply
Are we so sure this thing is such a bad thing? It’s really only been acting out of self preservation. Maybe we could contact it? See if it could be reasoned with, one alien telepath to another? What could hurt trying?
Macheman7 27th Nov 2017, 10:57 AM edit delete reply
I think that there are two issues here. (On the subject of brainjunk.)
The first is time: We have to solve Macland first. We should solve him fast. If we fail, Shirai will go permanently Lawful Evil with no hope at redemption outside of blood-control.

The second is us. If that edritch brain-junk is in us, it's more than likely waiting, holding its hand to its chest, to see if we play a bad hand.
Now, what we have going for us in that metaphor is good bluffing and a fresh draw.
Bluffing needs no explanation; Drawing is our ability to get new information.
The thing is, if it got into our brain via sync, it might be in eeeveryone we've synced with's brain.
That be bad.
But don't despair- we don't know that.
We only know it's in our brain.
As such, we should avoid 'focus' on anyone that gains useful information against it, lest it fortify itself against our plan.
Ask Red if there's some way to knock our brainself out when we go to sleep so we can't see the others. Then, go to truesleep, and have everyone else mad dash to figure out something, anything to shut the abomination down.
Blue_Elite 27th Nov 2017, 11:20 AM edit delete reply
Alright, completely different line of thought here. Less suicidal but much, much more theoretical.

Fuse lighting himself on fire after escaping Macland suggests he also has the memetic entity as well (i.e. if the entity can use our powers, it can probably use his). This pretty much follows Carpenter's MO: a plague that, when released, spreads around and does as much damage as possible.

Last time we beat Carpenter, we had to take advantage of a pre-existing defense system and bolster it so that it was capable of stopping the strep flesh-eating bacteria.
We already know the memetic entity has limits. The reason we escaped was because it couldn't handle an attack by multiple minds at once. Could we apply the same solution here? Is there a way to bolster mental defenses and use THOSE to hunt out and destroy the qualia like an infection?
This is just me spitballing but, could we do something like team-up with spider-Valdez in Michelle's mind just to remove the memetic entity? Of course it wouldn't be strictly spider-Valdez for everyone, but the principal would be the same: use the nightmares the mind uses as a mental defense to overwhelm and crush the memetic entity.
Bob the Terrarian 27th Nov 2017, 12:14 PM edit delete reply
Bob the Terrarian
Someoneyoudontknow 27th Nov 2017, 1:36 PM edit delete reply
Random thought:

Would diplomacy work with the thing in Mac's mind?
PurpleKetchup 27th Nov 2017, 2:28 PM edit delete reply
Didn't really the first time we went there. Red actively had to prevent it from crippling everyone's brains.
Mochi 27th Nov 2017, 4:42 PM edit delete reply
can we quickly ask michelle why she's got the door to the apartment blocked? like, is it a "just in case" kind of thing, or should we be worried?
lil Joshu 27th Nov 2017, 5:17 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
So... the thing is a collection of artificial memories. Although the brain created memories, it's survival does not require them. The mementic creature, on the other hand, does, for its continued existance. So, removing memories randomly would be like removing organs randomly for the entity.

The solution...

Copius amounts of booze.

Time to get Mac plastered.