Like God Full Throttle

Inspired by Bedlamite by Puscifer.
Open with a notice of discontinued cooperation on XXXX with the GOC.
Anomaly is a method of passage to a separate layer of space overlaying portions of Earth and opened by intentionally reviving a species from extinction while within its geographic bounds.
Multiple tribes exist within the anomaly's bounds but the largest organization of humans are the central cult centered around the "Drinker". The Foundation supplies an narrow intelligence construct (NIC) named Fan_PattRec.NIC to identify species present in XXXX and interpret data should they be disconnected from base command.
The nature of the overlapping space draws immediate attention from multiple players but mainly the foundation and goc, leading to a joint exploration expedition to make contact with the cult and establish a permanent station there.
Bright sent to lead Foundation team and Uche Nwaokocha leads the GOC force. They make contact with a separate tribe before the cult. They express reverence towards the Drinker.
Contact with the cult is made and they are welcomed warmly. The Drinker personally meets with them and gives them a tour of their portion of "The Vineyard". Offers them meed which they take for testing. Jack Bright's other name is "Testing". When asked how he understands them, he remarks that their world is a noisy one and beckons a servant of his to bring for a radio.
The Drinker takes this as a sign of Bright holding a lower status in the group. Proceeds to treat him like he does his own initiate class. Jack doesn't correct him.
Cult is structured into a class system based on the number of harvest ceremonies they have completed. Initiates have yet to complete one while the others are referred to as seed-swallowers ranked by the number they have ingested.
Labor is divided according to rank where the initiates do manual labor while lower level swallowers tend to children and craft pottery, tools, and wicker baskets from reeds. Mid level oversees the initiates and the breeding, slaughter, and cooking of livestock. Higher level swallowers take on more specialized professions but much are employed in the brewing, growing, or refining of intoxicants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and aphrodisiacs.
Foundation and GOC teams settle in and are given feasts by the cult. During the feast, the Drinker has his "seed swallowers" bring out pots of food. He instructs them to demonstrate the heat of their beating hearts and they each light a fire underneath the pots by clasping their hands to their chest while holding kindling. Uche takes data on the anomalous display while Bright motions him to ask the Drinker about it. Uche does so only for the Drinker to reply by hitting on him. Uche attempts to get an answer but the Drinker just insists he is too sober towards life to get it.
After a day or two of exploration and collecting data with Fan.NIC, the GOC finds a tree-like green pillar atop a hill. They radio the Foundation team and spread out to inspect the surrounding grounds.
Foundation arrives to see a burst of light and the two groups convene to find one GOC squad missing. Their charred remains are found when the combined force pursue the source of the flash. Jack wishes to continue towards the flash's source but is stopped by Nwaokocha.
The Drinker arrives while visibly intoxicated. Asks them if they are there to watch the harvest before their cradle. He sees the bodies and laughs before confirming that yes, they are there to watch the ceremony.
The team watches as his initiates bring libations and various fruits. A bound and gagged tribe member is brought out and escorted to the tree where a rug lies at its base. The cult proceeds to free the captive and present them the gifts.
The captive eats and drinks with increasing ferocity until they lie back against the pillar and stare up at the glowing lines decorating its trunk and branches. They rise from the ground and reach towards the nearest branch where a fig materializes. Light bursts forth from the previous direction and sears the floating captive out of existence right as they grab hold of the fruit.
The fruit falls the ground where it is collected by the Drinker. The initiates line up before him as he peels apart the fruit and places a seed on each member's tongue. Upon completion, the drinker pulls out a bottle and places the fig's remains inside.
Nwaokocha's crew report that they can receive a radio signal from outside following the ceremony's completion. Uche clears them to attempt contact with joint command and pulls Bright aside as the cult goes back to their compound.
The two argue on whether they should capture the Drinker. Uche argues that they still don't know the full scope of what the Vineyard can offer humanity and sites multiple extinct species they have already encountered. Jack argues that the Drinker just torched a human being to get a piece of fruit and that they can just cap a bastard and take his land. Jack makes a joke about how their sponsoring organizations seem a little flipped from their usual behavior concerning this. Uche says he doesn't find it so funny. Jack then jabs that they could sit down to talk about it but laments that they don't have a chair to do so in right now. Uche confronts Jack on his disruptive behavior and points out that XXXX is perhaps the only anomaly that the GOC might consider protecting. Uche makes Jack promise him that he will at least make sure Fan.NIC makes it back out and stuffs the construct into shielding around Jack's amulet. Bright agrees to Uche's surprise.
SCP Overwatch command returns their call with confusion, reporting them to be almost 2000 km away from their entry point on the Ghaggar-Hakra river. They are eventually patched through but joint command cannot confirm the exploration group's present location overlapping the outside world. Uche presses on this matter, mentioning that some bearing on current location is mathematically necessary if they can give them a distance from entry. Joint command refuses to continue that line of questioning and sides with Bright on taking out the Drinker. Jack jokes about Uche being surprised by the withholding of information, asking if this is his first time leading a discovery mission. Uche surprises him by answering yes and asks if they can interview the Drinker before capture.
Bright and Nwaokocha approach the Drinker's sanctum to find him mid orgy. He interrupts his intercourse while wedged between a male and female initiate and offers them silphium treats before exiting and greeting the two. He offers them various intoxicants selectively bread over generations and sexual partners, also selectively bred. He points to the slaughtered ibex in the corner in case they wish to use contraceptives.
Uche presses on how and when his cult came to inhabit the anomaly. The Drinker picks up a jug while remarking that he can show them how he came to be here before beckoning over a woman and pulling ibex intestines off of his penis. Uche replies that there is no need for that and inquires again on the cult's origins. The Drinker replies that he was just about to show him.
Bright takes the lead as Uche becomes more flustered by the Drinker's mix of serious answer, innuendo, and sexual offers. Bright starts to ask about sampling the liquid the Drinker keeps in his jug but is cut off when the Drinker pats him on the head and remarks that it is cute that they let their initiates talk like this.
Uche regains composure and asks about how large the anomaly is. The Drinker remarks that their cradle is far from alone but also far from company. Claims to have journeyed to another cradle once, just had to set his pace to the speed of life. Uche mentions that their drones have yet to observe a limit to the anomaly's bounds. The Drinker assumes drone to be what they call their initiates.
They leave and reconvene with their forces to discuss the plan of action. They decide to remove the Drinker from the equation first and then deal with the cult members themselves. "Only fight one variable at a time." They wait for night.
They infiltrate the grounds and find the Drinker passed out in his personal garden. Bright attempts to pull the Drinker's jug from his hand but finds that the Drinker's grip is almost incapable of being pried open, they are forced to use a crowbar. Uche administers a sedative to the Drinker as they do this.
Bright is handed the jug and the Drinker immediately awakens. He sings a song in Sumerian and the cult awakens from their collective stupor.
The extraction crew expedite their escape and start opening fire on the cultists that attempt to attack them. Bright brings the Drinker's jug up to his nose and sniffs it before he hears the Drinker lurches free and tackles him. The Drinker refers to Bright as "Daddy" as he bites at Brights face and tears flesh from it.
Uche deploys a taser to remove the Drinker from Bright as the remaining crew breach the compound grounds. The Drinker calms down from hysterical laughter as he is restrained in handcuffs. Bright focuses on the Drinker as his cultist rush between their team and the outer crew before erupting into a human bonfire.
The blaze consumes the outer crew and the extraction team is forced to back up further into the compound. They take refuge in the orgy room after Bright is hit by a thrown javelin. They hold the room for several hours until Uche confides with Bright that their ammunition is running low. He breaks down and begs Bright to decide how they should proceed. Bright laughs that he is missing far too much blood to be an effective leader and admits that Uche is actually very competent and he'll find a solution that he can either sleep with or learn to.
Uche eyes the Drinker's bottle and picks it up. The Drinker snaps to attention and stares up at Uche while drooling. The guards at the door remark that they are on their last clip as Uche approaches the Dinker and asks him what his liquor does. The Drinker replies "whatever life can live with and whatever life can live for" and Uche brings the bottle to his lips and drinks.
Uche hunches over before growing size and luminosity. Bright has to take shelter as Uche crashes through the roof leaving him and the Drinker alone together. Bright looks over to see that the Drinker's legs are crushed by a stone from the ceiling as the cult leader beckons him. Bright crawls towards the Drinker as Uche's radiant hand reaches through the opening in the roof. The Drinker reaches towards Bright as Uche plucks him up.
The cult stops their attack at the sight and begins the cheer. Two members are shot with the last rounds the guard crew have only to continue walking up to them and hug them and catch fire. Uche hoists the Drinker aloft before flinging him towards the ritual tree. Uche takes up the jug of the Drinker between his gargantuan finger and thumb and crushes it. The cult goes despondent in response while they attempt to claw at the soil for a drop.
Bright is falling unconscious as he witnesses Uche hunch back over and the cult burst into flame around them. Uche reaches towards Bright only to stop just shy of 963 where his eyes grow wide. Uche cups his hands before his chest as a bonfire flickers to life in it. He cradles the flame to his pectorals like it is a child as his form fades away and the bonfire gets whisked away onto the wind.
Bright awakens to find himself alone in the ruins of the cult's compound. He staggers through the smoldering bodies in search of survivors before he catches sight of a bright green and glowing figure lurking in the rain forest beyond.
Jack gives chase after the figure as his radio chimes back from Overwatch command telling him to stay put and wait for rescue. He continues on despite fading warnings from the Foundation as he moves out of radio range. He comes upon the ritual tree where the Drinker's body lay smashed against its trunk. Bright cradles the Drinker's head in his hand looking into his still open eyes when the Drinker mouths "I know who you are". Bright drops the head and it rolls off the rest of the body only to remains motionless.
Bright takes shelter against the ritual tree and attempts to seal the wound in his chest. He uses his remaining survival supplies in cauterizing the wound. Night comes and the temperature drops. Without options, Bright gathers kindling and mimics the seed eaters which creates a flame. He uses this to build a campfire and falls asleep against the tree. He wakes to see a pair of beetles mating atop his leg and brushes them off. He rises before noticing the green figure waving at him across the clearing.
Bright gives chase towards the figure and trips over corpse of the Drinker being consumed by ants, noting that it has moved since his sleeping. Fan.NIC falls out of 963's protective cover and into the infested corpse. Bright grabs hold of it and rises to see the figure waiting to face him just half a meter away.
Bright reacts by grabbing hold of 963 and spinning it in his hand as he puts space between him and the figure. The figure doubles over in silent laughter in response before wiping a tear from their face and slapping Bright which sends Jack flying.
Jack Bright watches multiple biomes pass by as he flies by. He soon passes through a blinding aperture. He hears "LIVE." in his head before he strikes a sand bank at a fatal velocity. His last sight is his hand still holding Fan.NIC.
Close with a discussion between the O5s about what to do with Bright's knowledge of XXXX. O5-1 assures them to trust in Penrose and reminds them that information cannot be destroyed on a level as fundamental as Jack Bright.

rating: +2+x

NOTICE FROM THE FOUNDATION RECORDS AND INFORMATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

By order of the Ethics Committee, the following unredacted entry on SCP-XXXX has been kept on file in defiance of the Ghaggar-Hakra accords with the United Nations Global Occult Coalition. Distribution of this file to those not authorized to view it carries a penalty of immediate termination.

— Maria Jones, Director, RAISA

Ghaggar.png

Entry point for the joint GOC and Foundation expedition into SCP-XXXX during the Ghaggar-Hakra river's dry season. Entry accomplished by revival of the Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis).

Item #: SCP-XXXX

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Access to DNA samples from extinct specimens is restricted to laboratories complaint with the Ghaggar-Hakra accords. Following the confirmed extinction of a species, all samples of its DNA that are viable for cloning or other forms of replication are to be remanded immediately to the SCP Foundation or Global Occult Coalition.

Description: SCP-XXXX is a separate layer of space overlaying approximately 7.2% of Earth's terrestrial surface centered around its major rivers. Entry into the anomaly is accomplished by reviving a species from extinction while within SCP-XXXX's geographic boundaries. Use of the region's sole exit is limited to one person per month by order of the O5 Council and the Ethics Committee.

SCP-XXXX is universally hospitable to life regardless of the age in which it existed. Due to varying climate and evolutionary changes across planetary history, SCP-XXXX is separated into various biomes with self-contained climates. The method by which the various atmospheric pressures and compositions are kept separate are currently inexplicable but seamlessly crossed.

All flora and fauna that exist within SCP-XXXX are non-anomalous aside from their anachronistic existence in the modern day. Such species include those still existing outside the anomaly including Oryza glaberrima (rice), Elettaria cardamomum, four species under the family Bovidea, two species under the genus Psilocybe, and Homo sapiens.


Addendum XXXX.1: Entry Negotiations

Date: 2045/05/21

Attendees

Global Occult Coalition: Under-Secretary-General D.C. al Fine

S.C.P. Foundation: O5-1, Ethics Committee Chairman Aloysius Ames


<Begin Log>

O5-1: Per our initial agreements, this meeting is recorded and kept on a mutually accessible server.

D.C. al Fine: The United Nations recognizes and thanks your Foundation for extending this invitation to us. It is most unexpected.

A. Ames: Our recently enacted charters requires the indulging of certain information to the wider anomalous community.

D.C. al Fine: Regardless of if your help is willful or not on the part of your executive branch, it is appreciated.

O5-1: And your help would be appreciated. We do not have the sway with the Indian government that you do to land the necessary logistics for a proper exploration expedition.

D.C. al Fine: And the anomaly?

A. Ames: Joint access. Although entry is subject to informing the participant that we do not know yet if it is possible to exit it.

D.C. al Fine: Yet? Do you really expect…"

O5-1: We're only required to disclose certain information to you, Madam USG.

D.C. al Fine: Dr. Ames, would you remind your colleague here that to disclose and to confirm are two very different things?

A. Ames: And our new charter only requires us to disclose, Madam USG.

D.C. al Fine: (sighs) Ok. Putting aside the issue of exiting, what about space inside the anomaly?

A. Ames: Given the expanse reported by your drone data, I don't think divvying it up will be an…

D.C. al Fine: You misunderstand, Dr. Ames. The United Nations intends to classify the anomaly as an "off the books" UNESCO world heritage site.

O5-1: You mean you want to preserve the anomaly?

D.C. al Fine: The GOC is an organization at the control of an ever evolving assembly. Do you really expect us old folk to make the best decisions in times that we've hardly experienced?

A. Ames: Let's not jump to-

O5-1: (interrupting with a chuckle) Thank you, Doctor, but the USG is quite correct, given your very presence here as evidence. So, my fellow geezer, how shall we deal with virgin lands unlike our fathers?

D.C. al Fine: Given the… uncertainty of exiting the anomaly, we can actually offer a plethora of Clarks to your one Lewis.

O5-1: And here you chastised me about not adapting.

D.C. al Fine: Humans of high skill are far from the endangered species list. The contents of this anomaly? Not so much. To quote the Secretary-General, the anthropocene requires a re-calibration of our values just as much as it does our economies. With that in mind, we move to preserve any established flora and fauna within it.

A. Ames: And does that extend to hominid life?

O5-1: Our drones have reported tribal encampments inside XXXX.

D.C. al Fine: So you do actually disclose! Well, the Assembly still maintains a seawall around the Sentinel Islands, we will protect any land that nature has granted to any creature capable of having a stake in it.

<End Log>


Addendum XXXX.2: Entry Log

Date: 2045/07/07

Location: Joint XXXX Base Command, Northern Rajasthan, India

Exploration Forces: G.O.C. Provisional Exotic Environment Survey Crew "Clever Girls", S.C.P. Foundation Provisional MTF Unit Theta-209 "Magellan's Leather"

Team Leads: U.N. Security Council Liaison Colonel Uche Nwaokocha, S.C.P. Foundation Senior Researcher Dr. Jack Bright


<Begin Log>

Feed opens from Bright's head mounted camera as the two units assemble in front of a bulbous sack of reflective plastics and off-color artificial placental tissues. Bright pans the camera around to show Colonel Nwaokocha tapping their foot to the sight of the surrounding joint site security team dismissing a herd of cattle. The Colonel summons a Lieutenant with a moment of eye contact and a motion of their head.

Nwaokocha: Do a sweep for their herder and amnesticize, tell the medical crews to go ahead and induce while you are at it. We have an itinerary to keep given the brevity of the dry season this month.

Lieutenant: Roger that.

Nwaokocha turns back towards Bright as the medical crews disengage the remaining gestation peripherals.

Nwaokocha: Well, Doctor, any last w-

Bright: (interrupting) I can't have those.

Nwaokocha: I'm going to take that as a sign of your hope in our retrieval.

Bright: I'm supposed to be the funny one.

Nwaokocha: And I'm supposed to be leading my own troops. I'm not adjusted to soldiers who don't answer to the Hague.

Bright: And I'm not adjusted to researchers so concerned with bureaucracy on the stoop of Terra Incognita.

Nwaokocha: They can't afford the price of cowboy science like you can.

Bright: Then take the cattle as your sign. I'm here for a unicorn.

A Foundation researcher uses a scalpel to break open the surrounding sinew of placenta before a G.O.C. medic cuts open the plastic underneath. A newborn rhino spills onto the floor still connected to the birthing bag via an umbilical cable. The two crews approach the scene followed by Bright and Nwaokocha as the medical crew readies to sever the cord. The Colonel addresses the team over the sound of the newborn baying.

Nwaokocha: Svalbard today and, with hope and our goodwill, Ghaggar tomorrow.

The Colonel motions to the doctors who sever the umbilical cord at the command. An aura of light forms around the medical crew and the luminosity overwhelms the camera as it envelops the expedition team.

<End Log>


Addendum XXXX.3: Expedition Logs Part 1 of X

Date: 2045/07/07

Location: Entry Destination "Camp Origin"


<Begin Log>

Feed opens to a lush empty river basin amid general confusion as survey crews rush to bring gear back online. The colonel's voice is heard as they join the security crew in attempting to ward off an approaching herd of Indian rhinos responding to the crying newborn. The colonel flashes a strobe light as they back away and grab hold of the resurrected rhino.

Nwaokocha: Just give them the damn thing!

Medic: We haven't finished post natal care th-.

Colonel Nwaokocha pulls the infant from the medic's grasp.

Nwaokocha: I know this may be hard to believe, but life can operate just peachy when humanity isn't around to fuck something up about it. The kid will be fine.

The colonel prostrates themself before the herd. Nwaokocha leaves the baby on the seasonal grasses jutting from dried mud and motions Theta-209 to back away. Colonel Nwaokocha remains prostrated until the herd retreats with their newest member.

Nwaokocha: Apparently we don't fuck everything up.

Bright: Give us time.

The colonel grabs hold of Dr. Bright's shirt collar and escorts him away from the group.

Nwaokocha: Considering your terrific attitude towards our retrieval, I'm going to approach this with the same expectation of reprisal from the higher ups that you have.

Bright: None?

Nwaokocha: Always good to start on a common note.

Colonel Nwaokocha turns Bright to face the G.O.C. survey crew as they pitch up tents and set up a radio pole.

Nwaokocha: Those people have endured IED blasts to scan for proof of genocides. They've been arrested and tortured by authoritarian governments for grave robbing evidence. They have all attended a colleague's funeral. That bureaucracy you complain about is the line that separates them from everything they find repugnant in our species. If you have qualms with my survey crew then you should take a lesson from their book and lay. It. To. Rest.

Nwaokocha releases Bright with a push forward. Doctor Bright falls onto his hands and knees before staring back up at the survey and MTF crews seeking shelter together from the heat of the sun overhead.

Bright: Always good to start on a common note.

Doctor Bright springs back up from the ground and dusts himself off.

Bright: Game plan? First item was tribal contact.

Nwaokocha: Your Foundation's data says 52km due east. One thing first.

The Colonel waves a hand to the survey crew.

Nwaokocha: Fan online?

The G.O.C. team gives the thumbs up and a member runs over with a rectangular device in hand approximately the size of surveyor's palm. The researcher hands off the object to the Colonel who turns back towards Bright.

Nwaokocha: Put this in that… cage of yours.

Bright: Pardon?

Nwaokocha: That aluminium neck-piece of yours. Containing your abnormality. Put this in there along with it.

Feed pans down to show the protective aluminum casing around SCP-963.

Bright: What is it?

Nwaokocha: Our black box recording device, essentially. It will analyze and upload all collected data streamed to it from the survey crew's findings whenever we make radio contact with joint command.

Bright: You've tested radio in here?

Nwaokocha: We got busy after your Foundation extended the olive branch of XXXX's file. We'll have two way radio contact for the next 72 hours before it cuts to one-way from the outside.

Bright opens the pendant's protective shell to expose it's golden form. He starts to slide the machine into the carriage but stops before contacting SCP-963.

Bright: And you're only telling me of this now?

Nwaokocha: I meant what I said back there before entry. You gave use the legend, we'll give you the compass. We're here to map this together.

The Colonel approaches the Doctor and presses on Bright's hand to force the recorder into the choker. The closure snaps shut as Nwaokocha forces it against Bright's chest. The feed pans back up to face Nwaokocha.

Bright: 52 kilometers?

Nwaokocha: Due east, and we got less than 12 hours before command gets the first upload.

<End Log>


Addendum XXXX.4: Expedition Logs Part 2 of X

Date: 2045/07/08

Location: 63km west by southwest from Camp Origin


<Begin Log>

Video opens to the survey crew setting up a radio relay. Beyond them is a thick jungle marking the end of the floodplains biome where the team entered. The feed moves to focus on the rumbling foliage where Colonel Nwaokocha emerges alongside Theta-209. Behind them is an individual of male sex dressed in a skirt fashioned from bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) leaves and hog tied to a mango tree branch. Dr. Bright runs towards the captured native of SCP-XXXX.

Bright: Are they injured?

Nwaokocha: One of yours is. Saul!

A member of Theta-209 winces and grabs their left hip as they approach.

Theta-209-Tango: Sorry, doctor.

Bright: Don't apologize. You ok?

Theta-209-Tango: Yeah, sutured up already. Got something out of it though.

Theta-209-Tango opens their hand to show an iron spearpoint.

Theta-209-Tango: Threw about ten of these before we could even locate them.

Bright: Someone's been busy here. This has been brought above iron's recrystallization temp which is quite a feat for a mud forge.

Nwaokocha: Your profile didn't say anything about practicing metallurgy.

Bright: I have an anomalous amount of free time behind me. But we have something…someone more important to attend to.

The camera turns towards the captured individual who turns their face away from Dr. Bright. The subject is of noticeably smaller stature, approximately 135 cm in height. Their body is covered in a coat of thin, brown hair and their spine possesses a slight forward curvature.

Bright: I'll need to document facial structure.

Colonel Nwaokocha approaches the captive and signals a member of the survey team to join. Nwaokocha crouches down to the prisoner as the surveyor readies a camera array.

Nwaokocha: You'll be safe, we won't hurt you, and I'm sorry.

The colonel grabs hold of the subject's face and forces it to turn towards the video feed to expose its flattened visage, wide nose, and protruding mouth. The individual weeps as cameras flash. Nwaokocha releases their head the moment the GOC researcher gives a nod.

Surveyor GH-12: Fan's got the data.

Green light flashes out from the creases in Bright's pendant enclosure.

Surveyor GH-12: Fan's best guess is Homo rudolfensis but that is only at 37% certainty. We'll get working on the full genome map.

Bright lifts SCP-963's enclosure up into the camera's view.

Bright: This isn't just a recording device, is it?

Nwaokocha: We call it a narrow intelligence construct, or NIC. We isolated specific neural pathways associated with pattern recognition in its making. It can do the work of an entire lab via pure simulation. First time you've seen one?

Bright: … Yeah. We have our data, right?

Nwaokocha: About as much as I am comfortable extracting.

Dr. Bright moves towards the prisoner who lurches and starts undulating multiple syllables of unknown meaning. Fan.nic glows with the prisoner's bellows.

Nwaokocha: That's new.

The colonel kneels beside the subject and readies a pocketknife. The subject calms as Nwaokocha brings the blade up to their bindings. The colonel motions towards themself.

Nwaokocha: Uche. I. am. Uche. You?

The colonel points towards the prisoner as they saw through the rope tying up their feet.

Captive: Tham! Muhadre simbala ewe Tham! Pahadme! In nonell Muhadre simbala ewe Tham un Mala un Revan in valan hileen!

Fan.nic: Tham! Drinker knows me Tham! Graceful! Tell not Drinker of knowing Tham, of Mala, of Revan, not dwelling orchard!

Surveyor GH-12: Confidence reads at 28% Sumerian with 21% Sanskrit. The "other" category keeps growing though.

Nwaokocha: Items of interest?

Surveyor GH-12: Muhadre, or Drinker. Seems to be a proper noun.

The colonel cuts the prisoner free who immediately bolts into the undergrowth of the jungle beyond.

Nwaokocha: Saul!

Theta-209-Tango: Yes Colonel!

Nwaokocha: Tracker still active?

Theta-209-Tango: Online and showing them to be booking it towards the southwest.

The colonel turns towards Dr. Bright and pulls out their radio transceiver. Nwaokocha stares Bright in the eyes as they talk into the receiver.

Nwaokocha: Come in Camp Origin. Theta reporting in. Initiate external linkup for final update before exit contact.

Receiver: Patching through… You're live.

Nwaokocha: Colonel Nwaokocha of the Ghaggar-Hakra expedition reporting in. Currently at the border of our first biome transition. Fan's at over 8,000 distinct anachronistic species and counting. We've made contact with native hominid life. Subject indicated reverence or fear towards a figure known as "Drinker". Subject freed and currently at a velocity of 4.8 meters a second towards the southwest.

Radio: Acknowledged, Theta-209. Seek additional subjects and confirm presence of existing civilization or tribal hierarchy. Rendezvous at the exit contact point within 96 hours.

Nwaokocha: Order confirmed.

Bright advances towards the colonel as they pocket the radio receiver.

Bright: Exit?

Nwaokocha: I'll let you know when we get there, but yeah, command thinks they've found a way out. We have four days to find a drunkard before that, though. Ideas?

Bright: If you were tied to a branch by a kind of ape you have never seen before and you're reaction was to beg them not to talk to someone else, would you run towards that person upon release?

<End Log>


Addendum XXXX.5: Expedition Logs Part 4 of X

Date: 2045/07/09

Location: 108km northwest of Camp Origin


<Begin Log>

Feed opens to show a wide, muddy river spanning a width of 142 meters before giving way to a chaparral1 biome on its western bank. A steppe biome and mountains beyond it are visible in the background.

Nwaokocha: Once we cross then using scouting rigs will be an ease.

Dr. Bright turns to face the colonel as the collective crews plop onto the ground for a moment's respite after four hours of sleep and 18 of travel on foot. A lone surveyor launches an aerial drone to scout ahead as the rest collect their breath by the riverside.

Bright: And the river?

Nwaokocha: We'll prep some buoy probes and scout downstream. This will be a goldmine for Fan if it's freshwater.

Bright kneels down to the riverside and dips his right index finger into the rapidly flowing current.

Bright: Crossing it, Uche.

Nwaokocha: Colonel, please, and we have more than just drones when it comes to buoys.

Bright: And yet Tango is Saul.

Nwaokocha: What was the name of the surveyor who photographed our first hominid find?

Bright takes a lick of his drenched finger.

Bright: We're in luck and I have no idea.

Nwaokocha: How old are you, Doctor?

Bright: Eighty six and going on 21.

Nwaokocha: That's a lot of names.

Bright: … Why are you doing this? The whole overly polite "Doctor and Colonel" bit. You're just coating hostility in candy.

The colonel signals the nearby Theta-209 members to unpack the bridge buoys and waits for them to depart. Colonel Nwaokocha edges closer to Doctor Bright to put distance between them and the survey crew loading probes into craft to carry them downstream.

Nwaokocha: I'm sugarcoating you for them. Maybe you should think about the 57 young soldiers, engineers, and scientists accept this mission? We still aren't sure if there even is an exit.

Bright: Some people are ready to throw their lives away.

Nwaokocha: I wouldn't advise solipsism, Doctor. Look outside yourself and that choker. We can't afford not to. I like being able to recite the names I carry.

A member of Theta-209 falls from their bridge buoy as the waters around it muddy with the loosening of its anchor. The remaining members of Theta-209 hoist them out as the buoy is swept down river and around a bend.

Bright: Why did your superiors insist on me being sent?

Nwaokocha: Don't.

Bright: Why did you really put Fan into my pendant?

Nwaokocha: Doctor, don't.

Bright: Why did all these promising young minds strand themselves here?

Nwaokocha: OK! I get it! They'll never see a monarch butterfly back home. They'll never get to know a beach without plastic. But if even a shred of this place makes it out, someone else back home just might, Jack.

Bright: That's Doctor Bright.

Nwaokocha: This isn't productive to team morale.

Bright: And yet you provoked this.

Nwaokocha: I was just-

Bright interrupts them as he stands up and proceeds towards the nearly complete bridge.

Bright: You were just trying to fix another broken thing from our world. I'm not a thing.

The colonel rises and follows after him. Both cross onto the bridge and part through the working members of Theta-209 as they argue.

Nwaokocha: No, you are an old man. Someone who has witnessed clean beaches, butterflies on winds far more poisonous and industrialized than it. Progress happens one funeral at a time, Doctor, and you can't have one of those.

Bright: One mind bolted onto reality is still one mind. Still one ape still held to the one governing equation of biology. Energy in, then death and, if you are lucky, babies out. And I'm not lucky.

Bright jumps across the gap spanning the last block of open river. He falls into the shallows and waddles over to the bank as Colonel Nwaokocha leaps after him. The survey team and Theta-209 flock to the edge of their floated pier and watch their superiors wade across. The colonel quickly overtakes Bright and mounts the embankment before offering a hand to the doctor.

Nwaokocha: Please, for them.

Bright: You drop the savior act around me and I'll drop the doomsayer act around them.

Nwaokocha: Deal.

Bright grabs hold and is hoisted to dry land.

<End Log>


Addendum XXXX.6: Expedition Logs Part 5 of X

Date: 2045/07/09

Location: 168km west of Camp Origin


<Begin Log>

Camera opens to show the remains of a drone downed by an iron crossbow bolt lodged through its midsection.

Bright: Well, this looks even more refined.

Nwaokocha: We're on the right track then. Is it's SSD still intact?

Bright: Nope, it's leaking whatever that gooey black stuff they make hard drives out of these days is.

Nwaokocha: They didn't take it back home with them. Maybe superstitious?

Bright: We wouldn't be here if hominids weren't curious.

The video pans up to show the steppe biome an estimated 28km away. On its foothills are a dotting of stacked cylindrical structures carved into the hillside.

Nwaokocha: We should set up a forward camp here. We still need to evacuate Origin before advancing towards the exit and it will give us a chance to gather more linguistic data before contact.

Theta-209-Tango: We're not going to have time, Colonel! Drone five is picking up a group of hominids heading in our direction about two kilometers out.

Bright: See, curious.

Nwaokocha: Details on their numbers, armaments?

Surveyor GH-12: It's some kind of procession. They're carrying an individual on a palanquin of some kind. What spears they have look ceremonial.

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