Comic 684 - Climb the steps

Posted on 15th Dec 2017, 2:36 AM in Ghosts
Climb the steps

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Author Notes:

Morgenstern 15th Dec 2017, 2:36 AM edit delete
You see if you can recognize any of the cities in the distance.

They are not of your world.

You try to wake yourself up. You pinch yourself, you mentally command yourself, you slap your cheeks. Nothing.

Not seeing many other options, you begin climbing the steps upward.

Waiting at the top is the un-thought, the absence between, the dreamless sleep

N i l.

"Great," you mutter bitterly. "Guess this is the part where you take over my brain, right?"

Nil does not speak. It cannot. It blanks portions of your thoughts, making you aware of things no longer occupying space. It drives you to seek what was lost, stringing together evidence from the surrounding ideas, to grasp what it is trying to convey. Once you've grasped its message, it lets you have your missing thoughts back. It is an incredibly confusing and frustrating process, but that's the closest it can manage to communicating with you. You're sort of used to it, somehow.

"No," Nil basically says. "I would like to negotiate. That is an act you take enjoyment from, yes?"

"Sure," you say, throwing your hands in the air. "Let's fucking negotiate. Whaddya wanna negotiate about?"

"Your species plays at a culture," Nil begins, "with rules, soft and hard. It pretends that there is order to its monotonous existence, purpose in its perpetual confusion. In this make believe structure, you convince yourselves that you are superior to other, more primal inhabitants of your rock."

"Sure," you respond. "You bring me here just to shit on my society?"

The fragments of Nil flutter, briefly. "You have broken codes unwritten, the laws that you feel separate human from beast. You have, in your own mind, wronged one like you... one named Caius. You harbor emotional resistance when you consider your more recent acts regarding him."

You want to deny it, but you know there's no real point in lying to Nil. "Yeah, I... I kind of screwed Caius over. Yeah."

"You have similarly violated these imaginary codes in your dealings with the red."

"The..." You stop, having to think about that one for a second. "Oh, you mean that screwy nurse. Yeah, I... I guess what we did to her was pretty messed up, too. ...Sure."

The crown-like mass above Nil's head seems to spin a moment faster. "I will not pretend to understand why the red is in the form it is, or why it seems to value your same human guidelines... but it does. You have broken your make believe rules in your treatment of it."

You sigh, silent for a second. "Where are you going with this, pal?"

"The one called Caius walks the border between being... and not being. As far as the physical restraints of your causality know it to be, he will soon cease existing. In short... Caius is going to die. In the infinite branching paths sprawled out before this now, there is no outcome in which this is not certain. His death is inevitable, and as you comprehend it, soon."

You stare at Nil for a long, hard moment. "...Alright. And you want... you want to negotiate about that."

"Yes," Nil basically replies. "The death of your species, on an individual scale, is a construct I can artificially circumvent if circumstances provide. Circumstances here, now, provide. The one called Caius will die, this much is certain. I can render that outcome obsolete."

You nod, slowly. You take a deep breath. "And lemme guess... to do that, you need my body. Right? That's what all this was leading up to."

"To undo the penalties of his physical death, I must conduct magic. I cannot teach the practice to you in a sufficient time frame. I must facilitate the act myself, via your human shell."

He doesn't actually say magic. He... doesn't actually say anything, really, but what he inhibits from your thought process is something about dimensional layers and geometric implications on time-space, and really, magic is the closest thing you can pin to it.

Nil continues. "I have left in you a side route, an alternative entrance... one that will make our forming immediate, but one that only you can agree to. Grant me your body, and I will save Caius."

"Can I talk to anybody else about this?," you ask. "This is kind of a big decision, Nil."

"In a manner of speaking, you are already collaborating with the red. It is present in your mind, and will weigh in on your decision... whether you, or she, is wholly aware of it or not.

Do this, and you will--in your own admission--correct mistakes made in your code against the red, and against the one called Caius.

Make your choice."


Boredone 15th Dec 2017, 3:14 AM edit delete reply
First up.. Would he granting Nil his body be PERMANENT? Or just temporary?
WalkerOfSorrow 15th Dec 2017, 11:56 AM edit delete reply
This needs attention. If we/Macland can negotiate a relationship where Nil gets to come out every now and then, then there's no need to decline and no need for Macland to be Nil's permanent property.
Auron 15th Dec 2017, 3:20 AM edit delete reply
Please Macland? But also try to get Nil to agree to make everything not go to shit. Also find out what it wants.
rufiangel 15th Dec 2017, 3:27 AM edit delete reply
If Nil takes over Macland, does Macland disappear, or does he just share the 'human shell' with Nil?
Guest 15th Dec 2017, 3:29 AM edit delete reply
Maybe we should try to get what Macland thinks too...
Blue_Elite 15th Dec 2017, 4:10 AM edit delete reply
Remember that those Nil take over force others to receive Nil. Macland is in a unique position to exercise money and power to subjugate people to such a process. To quote Grizwald: "Them soldiers had t' be put down. They was tryin' to force other people to watch th' stuff, tryin' to put that dreamless sleep shit in other peoples' heads. They wanted to spread it, an' they was doin' it by force. ..."

What I'm getting at is this is much more than losing Macland vs. losing Caius. If we're going to negotiate, we need terms. There need to be restrictions on what Nil is allowed to do; and possibly discuss a sort of... sharing.
We might be able to use the angle that currently the red is looking to remove Nil. If xe's willing to be reasonable/generous, maybe that doesn't HAVE to be an outcome. Some goodwill would be a great start in that direction. Scratch my back now... and I'll scratch your non-existent back later, that sorta deal.
Guest 15th Dec 2017, 4:33 AM edit delete reply
Ask Nil

Is carpenter one of yours?
Dragon_ANGL 15th Dec 2017, 4:34 AM edit delete reply
I don't know if it'll be possible, but can we manifest a Jane, Caius, or (Jane's) Red into the dream via the blood connection?
Nayru9572 15th Dec 2017, 4:43 AM edit delete reply
Btw, MM, this Nil landscape's beautiful. Good job on it.
Archon 15th Dec 2017, 5:24 AM edit delete reply
Decline. This agreement is far too open ended as-is, and risking selling out humanity for one life is hardly a good deal.

Especially when the terms of exchange are so vague.
Rending death obsolete? "saving" Caius?
Without a guarantee that the terms will fulfill not necessarily the letter, but the spirit of the agreement, this is a bad deal.
rufiangel 15th Dec 2017, 5:27 AM edit delete reply
I think it's worth getting more information about everything before we make a decision here.
Cuttlefish 15th Dec 2017, 7:52 AM edit delete reply
It wouldn't offer if it didn't stand to gain. As much as it hurts to say, we should go into this with no faith that Nil's offer will ever be acceptable.
rufiangel 15th Dec 2017, 8:13 AM edit delete reply
Of course it wouldn't offer if it didn't stand to gain. There's no way accepting the offer would have inconsequential results. I think what I'm saying is, to learn exactly *just how bad it is*.
WalkerOfSorrow 15th Dec 2017, 11:58 AM edit delete reply
Too many people are speaking against this. Rufi's point is good, we need more information.
Frission 15th Dec 2017, 9:58 AM edit delete reply
I like how Nil has like a shadow crown over it's head. :3
Madd 15th Dec 2017, 11:25 AM edit delete reply
I think this can only end badly. So lets not agree with Nils terms. We don't want a Nil infection on the loose.
lil Joshu 15th Dec 2017, 12:21 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
Now that Nil is willing to communicate and seek consent instead of just hop in where it likes (life or death struggles being an exception). Communication may be viable.

That was, previously, the problem I personally had with Nil, was consent. Nil also must have the stipulation that it will never do anything to a sapient without their consent again (and repeated consent for more invasive actions will be necessary.)

The "pretend rules" of society are actually very real rules.

Rights exist by the mutual respect of those rights. All sapients desire their free agency, and therefore to have that right must respect the free agency of others. Extenuating circumstances that cause exceptions will often be dealt with harshly and then, if other sapients are gracious enough to review, and if on review agree that situations did warrant the violation, may reinstate rights of the one who has committed the infraction (this process may be formalized, but even in an unorganized society, it will still happen, just organically, because it IS the natural effect of things), they may be allowed back into situations of the mutually respected rights. However, even in spite of the reinstatement, the one who committed the fraction main gain permanent ire and distrust towards them, however.

This is not a make believe situation, but is an inherent result of self-awareness and state of sapience.

Rights in the presence of multiple sapients is just as much a force of nature a gravity in the presence of mass.

If Nil thinks these rules are "make believe", Nil is deluded and ignorant of the nature of reality, and needs to be brought up to speed. These things are just as much a fact of the configuration of nature as gravity, albeit requiring a more complex atomic arrangement for the force of rights to be invoked.
lil Joshu 15th Dec 2017, 12:33 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
Further, it should be pointed out, that as a parasitical lifeform, Nil is more subject to these rules at most, as it is the nature of life -before- it becomes sapient to seek the extermination of parasites for their bettered survival. This this type of agreement of rights is even more vital to an inherently parasitical lifeform, such as Nil, to instead establish themselves as symbiotic instead of parasitical.

Nil must understand and grasp this if it desires to survive and receive mutual respect in a universe with other sapients. And that is a leap it will have to make (and may be currently nearing the edges of.)

That said, the fact that as a parasitical life-form, and a mental-based one at that, and it does not already understand this basic fact, does not bode well for it, and it will have much to prove.
Twyll 15th Dec 2017, 12:29 PM edit delete reply
Are we sure Nil isn't lying to us? Can he *show* us this inevitability? His definition of "dying soon" might be " dying in, like, a hundred years or so."
lil Joshu 15th Dec 2017, 12:37 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
Also, with a nurse's medical knowledge and with blood powers, stopping the bleeding and stitching Caius up, and being able to re-direct blood with powers means able to use alternative routes to get blood where it needs to go (there may be severe bruising as certain areas may get reversed blood flow that damages capillaries) and assistance triage should save Caius. The tools at our disposal indicate that if someone is alive after bullets, they can stay alive after bullets. The only problem is if they die during bullets.

Seriously, we could squish a vent with blood and make syringes fly. That level of control with blood alone jumps up medical options verging on immortality when it comes to physical damage. All we need to do is make sure the blood is contained and keeps moving, then the body can eventually heal. If we could stimulate stem cells, that combination would allow regrowing from practically a single cell back into a full organism wolverine-style (albeit taking a lot longer).
lil Joshu 15th Dec 2017, 12:44 PM edit delete reply
lil Joshu
ALSO! Caius has blood connection! We have medical knowledge! We can externalize things (assuming we have some extra pudge to spare? We aren't as skinny as Macland, so we should be able to spare a few pounds?)! Externalize missing flesh into Caius, no Nil magic needed! (We may need to eat a few gallons of icecream after this.)
Espylacopa 15th Dec 2017, 1:23 PM edit delete reply
I'd be interested in trying this too if it were possible but even if we could repair/replace the damaged tissue Caius may have lost too much blood already.
Mochi 15th Dec 2017, 2:05 PM edit delete reply
oh for fuck sakes, this has been stated countless times and i'm getting sick of parroting it.

jane doe cannot externalize material from the red from anything except her own body. she cannot grow meat from a blood pool. she cannot grow things out of other people. anything jane doe pulls from the red must be externalized from HER OWN BODY. PERIOD. also, doing so is a TRAUMATIC EVENT. it involes BREAKING HER PHYSICAL STRUCTURE. a thing she CURRENTLY CANNOT FIX.
Blue_Elite 15th Dec 2017, 2:13 PM edit delete reply
We have power, but no control. Trying to fix an axe wound in the shoulder resulted in teeth among other things... where the wound was at. That then also put EARS in our CHEST.
If we tried to help Caius with out current level of control, I'd say Deaglan Camp will comparatively look like the very model of good health by virtue of being even somewhat recognizable as a human.

If we want to use blood and mind powers, we have to LEARN to use them first. With all the terrible events going on, we haven't had the time to do that and have just been winging very basic abilities.
Macheman7 15th Dec 2017, 1:20 PM edit delete reply
...Fuck /that/. This thing wants to be 'externalized', and in exchange, it ~promises~ to fix Caius. No. We have no guarantee that after he saves Caius, he won't just turn around and eat the world.

But, hell. Let's listen to him talk for a minute-
Macland: Use trained business bullshittery to keep Nil talking, and have him explain what he'd get out of this deal.

Overall though, Caius would say his life isn't worth bringing that guy into being, I bet.
Archon 15th Dec 2017, 1:37 PM edit delete reply
I would like to note that the mere act of offering Macland a deal is important to note, and the contents of that deal moreso.

One. Nil wants a body, Maclands happens to be convenient. It is likely that Nil could simply take the body through force, or by making Macland suffer every night until they submit.
However, Nil isn't taking it by force.
Nil is offering Macland a deal.

This implies that Nil either has something more to gain from this deal than is initially apparent, or taking the deal will simply save Nil time and effort in obtaining a body.

Two. Nil is offering to "save" Caius. They are also offering a way to render Caius's death obsolete. Note how they don't say that they will prevent the death of Caius, but rather that to undo the penalties of his physical death, implying Caius would be resurrected.
Note how Nil does not elaborate on what this will do to Caius.

Three. As mentioned in point one, either Nil receives more than outright stated, or Nil wishes to try the easy road first. More importantly, it is correct that rules and laws are an artificial construct. However, whether or not it would break this contract with Macland is a relatively moot point due to how open-ended the agreement is.

If it wants Macland to accept this, I want to see three things first.

1. Closed contract. Nil will elaborate on what it intends to do with the body, with acting outside that elaboration to be considered a breach of contract.

2. Proof of authority. I want to know that if the contract is broken, the consequences will be unpleasant to say the least.

3. That although fulfilling the letter of the terms is optional, fulfilling the spirit of the terms is not. Caius would be restored to their state immediately prior to their current injuries, Caius would not instead have these injuries postponed until a later date, and Caius would be restored as a ordinary, albeit heavily genetically tampered with, human. The genetic tampering in question is the genetic tampering resulting in Caius turning out as Caius, and will not be tampered with in turn.

I believe that covers everything.
Mochi 15th Dec 2017, 1:59 PM edit delete reply
i hate this. i hate that i'm being forced to choose between unleashing an elder god and saving my favourite character and to be honest, i kind of hate matt a little for forcing this choice. kind of hate myself, too, for getting so invested in what is ultimately a pretty trivial thing in the long run.

i've spent most of today just kind of... angry about the whole thing. it's taken a long time to actually be able to write a comment that's not just a string of expletives. it's been... pretty hard. if this were solely up to me, there would be no second thoughts and no hesitation. if this were a game i'd hit "yes" without even thinking. but, i'm not the only one who gets a say.

regardless of any consequences, my vote is set. i don't want to lose caius. he might just be one person, but... he's my favourite person. i'll do whatever it takes to keep him alive.
Blue_Elite 15th Dec 2017, 2:28 PM edit delete reply
The key here is "negotiate." Nil has given his open-ended part of the bargain, now it's our turn to reel it in and set boundaries so that the arrangement can be somewhat acceptable.

As long as Macland is blooded and Jane has a means to threaten Nil, that means we have leverage. So it's possible we can avoid getting completely screwed and still save Caius.