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The C Team (Commander OC Insert)

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It happened suddenly. One moment I was lying in bed about to go to sleep, the next I was seated...
Recruitment | Doc #001

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It happened suddenly. One moment I was lying in bed about to go to sleep, the next I was seated in an auditorium watching an orange-haired catgirl walk up to a podium. To my left and right were hundreds of people in the stadium seating, maybe over a thousand.

Then, the catgirl on the podium spoke.

"For the record, you are all technically dreaming. I am the Architect, an extra-dimensional being looking for volunteers to help unfuck several worlds. Each of you has a red badge pinned to your shirt; if at any point during this presentation you decide you want out, you can simply remove it and return to your regular sleep cycle."

I couldn't help but look down. As it turns out, there was in fact a red badge pinned to my pink shirt. I fidgeted with it a bit, but didn't take it off. I wanted to know where this would go.

"Putting it bluntly, the omniverse as a whole is a lot grimmer than I would like. There are several worlds where entire populations are massacred on a regular basis, and plenty of others that are horrible in other ways. As the omniverse is infinite in scope and my reach is finite, I cannot save everyone. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try anyway."

...That sounded an awful lot like something I remembered hearing back in school. Don't remember from who though.

"Cutting to the point, if you accept recruitment, your mind will be harmlessly copied. The additional yous will be grouped up into teams of five, loaded into self-replicating machines, and deployed to various worlds in dire need of assistance."

I couldn't help but look around. About one in five seats that had been filled at the start were now empty.

"Now, you may be wondering why I've chosen your world in particular to recruit from. By sheer coincidence, much of your world's fiction almost perfectly matches the inhabited worlds in one of the more troubled multiverse clusters I have access to."

I blinked. I actually hadn't been wondering about that. In retrospect it was an entirely valid question, and though the Architect's answer was definitely weird, it made a fair bit of sense.

"Right, I think it's time to end the monolog. Everyone interested in further details, please stand."

About half the people seated did so, with me joining them after a second. A bit later, I found myself in a smaller conference room with ten other people, counting the Architect.

"Right. You wanted further details, I'm really bad at explaining things but can answer questions. So ask away."

One of the other women at the table asked "What are you, really?" gently fingering her cross pendant.

The architect turned to her and answered,

"Janessa, that's a fair question. Although I don't like thinking of myself that way, I am a creator deity by most sensible definitions. I've made enough universes and civilizations to have lost count entirely, though your homeworld is naturally occurring. I am not the god you worship, nor connected to him in any way aside from hating his guts."

"Why?"

"Have you ever read the tale of Job? According to your own book, Yahweh is a remorseless monster. I have encountered and killed versions of him before, and I have absolutely no remorse about doing so."

"I want out."

Just like that, Janessa vanished. The Architect sighed.

"Thought I'd properly set up the selection machine to filter out the strongly religious; going to need to figure out the source of that glitch later. That aside, does anyone else have questions?"

A young man with Eastern European features and a short haircut raised his hand. "I have several questions."

"Ask away, Fedir."

"Are the missions you send us on going to be dangerous?"

"Yes. I fully expect that you will encounter and combat multiple world-ending threats during the course of your travels across the multiverse. That said, the chassis I'm planning on fitting you with is not only armed, but can produce a self-replicating military-industrial complex that expands at a very fast exponential rate. There will be a training period before deployment to make sure you know how to use it properly."

Fedir thought for a moment, but seemed to have forgotten the other questions he was going to ask. So in the meantime, I put my hand up. A second later, the catgirl turned to me.

"Susan, you have questions?"

I nodded,

"Will we be able to contact our families during the mission?"

That actually prompted a frown,

"I wish that were an easier option. Unfortunately, you are native to a Template Reality. I can't directly interfere with those, with any attempt just branching off a low-amplitude copy of the world. I'd rather not multiply my workload any more than strictly necessary, so the best I can do is regular dream chats with your local versions and loved ones."

I blinked, "Oh."

That... That wasn't what I'd hoped for. Better than nothing, but still. In the meantime, Fedir seemed to have remembered his other questions,

"You already answered how much help you can provide our homeworld; very little. But I would like to know if there are any rules of engagement you expect us to follow."

The Architect nodded,

"Most of it's basic stuff; don't target civilians, don't kill people who surrender without a damn good reason, try to leave people better off than you found them. But there is one thing of note: Unless it's absolutely necessary, don't destroy the local's ability to sustain a civilization without external support. This doesn't mean you need to stay hidden and can't interfere with their culture at all, but I'd ideally prefer not to get stuck propping up an untenable civilization in perpetuity."

The question and answer session went on for a bit longer, before the Architect broke it up.

"Right, I'm going to get you all grouped up into teams now, before sending you to training. This is your last chance to back out, because after this point I will have to branch you to continue."

No-one in the room backed out. In fact, Fedir very emphatically said "I wish to continue."

There was a momentary flicker, before I found myself in a waiting room with two other women, Fedir, and a middle-aged black man I didn't recognize.

The Architect's voice rang out over the speaker in the room. "Right, we're getting training set up now. It'll take a few minutes, so you might as well introduce yourselves."

Fedir went first. "Right, I am Fedir Boyko, Master Sergeant of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. I was sleeping in hospital when contacted, after having been severely wounded by artillery. Before the war, I was a pianist."

One of the other women went next, her red hair combined with a lightly tan skin tone to produce a striking effect.

"I'm Anise Richards-Smith. I worked as a logistics planner for the US postal service for ten years before this. In my spare time, I used to paint. I'd gotten pretty good at it too." She then gestured to me. Oh.

"Right, I'm Susan Chai. I... honestly I'm a massive sci-fi and anime nerd without much in the way of practical skills. Heck, before this I was working as a mechanic. I'm not sure why the Architect picked me."

Fedir thought for a moment.

"I can think of a few reasons. The Architect did mention that we would be sent to universes near-perfectly mirroring fiction, meaning your detailed knowledge of such will likely prove a crucial source of intelligence. Also, being a mechanic is very much a valuable practical skill."

I turned to the black man. "So, who are you?"

"I am Khaled. I was a civil lawyer in Spain for decades, though I retired two years ago. In later years, I started a book club. I do believe there is one more member of our group who needs to introduce herself."

The blonde in our midst seemed slightly nervous,

"So, I'm Janet, no surname. I'd just been hired as an engineer at Raytheon the day before the Architect contacted me. I... I pirated a shit-ton of old video games."

Shortly afterwards, the door opened. A woman with pointed elven ears greeted us.

"Right, I'm Ruby, and I'll be showing you five how to work the equipment we're giving you. Follow me, please."

Multiverse Improvement Foundation - Commander Briefing Document #001
Technology Classifications and Reality Solidity Scale

Due to the nature of the multiverse, not all technology works in all worlds. The Reality Solidity Scale measures the sturdiness of the local physical laws, in order to establish what technologies will work where. This classification scale is only concerned with realities that can support conscious life. Cleaning up those that cannot is not a task for Commander recruits.

Technology Classifications
VIOLET (Mundane): VIOLET technology is guaranteed to work in RS-2 or higher worlds, while usually functioning in RS-1 or RS-0 worlds. This is achieved by being extremely minimalist in terms of the phenomena exploited to function. As such, VIOLET technology is usually used as a framework to build another category of technology on top of.

BLUE (Physical): BLUE technology relies on consistent physics similar to a very common "Base Ruleset" to function. This means that it is a reliable and high-performance option in high RS worlds, but has significant trouble at RS-2 or lower. It cannot be relied on to function consistently in RS-1 worlds, and doesn't work at all in RS-0 worlds.

GREEN (Specialized): GREEN technology requires certain deviations from the "Base Ruleset" in order to function, but these deviations are rather broad and tend to pop up in RS-4 through RS-2 realities with decent regularity. As such, there's an automated system installed in the Commander Unit which will inform you of which GREEN technologies (if any) will function in the current reality.

YELLOW (Hybridized): YELLOW technology works anywhere (aside from certain examples of RS-6), but at a cost: it incorporates redundant VIOLET, BLUE and RED systems built into the same footprint, so that if one cannot operate the others can take over. This means that under most circumstances YELLOW technology is rather inefficient. However, in RS-3 worlds, all subsystems are able to function to at least some degree, giving most YELLOW technology a noticeable performance boost.

ORANGE (Esoteric): ORANGE technology requires an extremely specific set of physical laws to function, and as such only works in a very small number of worlds, universally ranging between RS-4 and RS-2. Given the limitations on its use, ORANGE technology is primarily useful to the natives of a given reality. Co-opting a local ORANGE technology during a deployment is a viable option, but it shouldn't be part of longer-term planning.

RED (Arcane): RED technology functions by "pseudo-magical" principles. It briefly taps into whatever local magic is present on startup, then alters that energy until it is suitable for operating the device. As this requires some form of local magic to function. RED technology cannot operate above RS-3, and doesn't reach peak performance until RS-2.

BLACK (Demiurgic): BLACK technology works anywhere, but not because of compliance with local laws of reality. Instead it forcibly bludgeons the local reality into compliance with its function. This makes BLACK technology incredibly dangerous. As such, its use is tightly restricted; barring multiverse travel and communications, special authorization is required to deploy any BLACK technology not part of the Commander Unit's critical systems.

NOTE: the MIF is not the only source of BLACK technology! If a BLACK artifact of non-MIF origin is encountered during a mission, it is to be immediately reported to High Command! Examples of BLACK technology include Progenitor artifacts, Class P or Class T Mana, and most devices produced by Firmament entities.

The Commander Unit makes use of primarily YELLOW technology in its design. However, the brain, safety ejector, primary fabricator, communications node, and conservation-breaker core are BLACK technology. To prevent damage to realities you are deployed to, critical damage to the Commander Unit will trigger the safety ejector to send the brain back to the deployment hub, followed by the self-destruct of all remaining BLACK systems.

Reality Solidities
RS-6: Restricted: Some realities are extremely firm in terms of disallowing even normally un-problematic technologies, such as basic warp drives and quantum computing. Extremely limited use of BLACK technology is permitted to circumvent these restrictions, though this should be kept to the absolute bare minimum; the sheer rigidity of these worlds' physical laws renders them incredibly brittle. Aside from that, all VIOLET and most BLUE technology will function without issue.

RS-5: Total Physicality: These realities operate under what can generally be described as "base physics", with no exceptions or special privileges. VIOLET and BLUE technology function normally in these realities, though some BLUE technology may need its settings adjusted. Some RS-5 worlds may support certain GREEN technologies, but it shouldn't be relied on.

RS-4: Modified Base Physics: These realities mostly operate on "base physics", but they have some specific exceptions or quirks that allow for otherwise impossible technologies to function. One of the more common inclusions is a coterminous plane that enables the local Faster Than Light engine, often referred to as hyperspace or subspace. VIOLET and BLUE technology function as expected in these realities, and some GREEN technology can be expected to work. Many RS-4 worlds support some sort of locally-specific ORANGE technology.

RS-3: Flexible Physics: The highest RS level under which something reasonably describable as "magic" can operate, these worlds are still largely rooted in physics. VIOLET, BLUE, RED, and a wide variety of GREEN technology work just fine here, though the performance of RED technology is often significantly below peak. An RS-3 world that doesn't have any ORANGE technology is the exception rather than the norm.

RS-2: Partially Physical: At this point, the presence of magic is starting to considerably distort the laws of physics. As such, BLUE technology may prove unworkable, though VIOLET technology is unaffected. Support of GREEN and ORANGE technology is erratic. RED technology is highly reliable and effective in these environments.

RS-1: Narrative/Conceptual Logic: In these worlds, the familiar laws of physics are entirely subordinate to another set of rules, which can generally be described as magical. RED technology is the most reliable non-YELLOW option in these realms. In the event of Narrative Causality rendering mission completion infeasible, the use of BLACK technology to brute force the matter is likely to be authorized.

RS-0: Dream Logic: The absolute bare minimum of reality before a world tumbles into the void, these realms are incredibly surreal from the perspective of individuals from high-RS worlds. RED technology is only reliable if "jump-started" by BLACK devices, and nothing else can be relied upon. Use of BLACK technology beyond jump-starts is to be strictly minimized, so as to prevent long-term dissolution of the world in question.

RS-i: Illusory: These worlds are a special case; for whatever reason, a world at RS-1 or RS-0 is 'pretending to be' a world at a higher Reality Solidity, for lack of a better term. If an RS-i world is encountered, all restrictions on BLACK technology are released for the deployment duration, and all native inhabitants of the world are to be evacuated as quickly as possible, consequences be damned. The world in question is then to be permanently demolished with a Firmament Dissolution Warhead, under direct supervision of High Command. Under absolutely no circumstances are such weapons issued to Commanders.

NOTE: Isolated pockets of low-RS space inside otherwise high-RS worlds DO NOT COUNT as RS-i. Initiating RS-i protocols in these circumstances is grounds for disciplinary action.
 
So what is it about RS-i worlds which make them so despised? Just the fact that the world might be delicate and 'collapse' with all too frequent possibility causing an apocalypse or just straight up killing off the natives?
 
So what is it about RS-i worlds which make them so despised? Just the fact that the world might be delicate and 'collapse' with all too frequent possibility causing an apocalypse or just straight up killing off the natives?
D: At best, they're dangerously unstable. At worst, they're actively malevolent.
 
Just ain't for me. Too much info dump, makes my head spin reading it. Like the original isekai format though.
 
World 1-1
World Profile
Reality Solidity Level:
RS-3
Green Technologies Viable (Non-exhaustive): Supernatural bio-enhancement, psionic mental interfaces, time dilation, growth/shrinking, low-radiation matter transmutation
Notable Orange Technologies: Compound V enhancement serum
Closest Fictional Match: The Boys (TV Show)
Match Accuracy: High
Unit Deployed: Commander Nine (Crew: Fedir Boyko, Anise Richards-Smith, Susan Chai, Khaled, Janet)
Insertion Point: Lunar Far Side

After going through training together, the five of us had been downloaded together into the quadrupedal robot we'd be commanding operations from. From there we were placed in a drop pod, and loaded into the Causal Weighting Engine.

Ruby's voice came through the speakers into the capsule as the machine spun up.

"Remember, all Vought International personnel are to be treated as combatants for the purpose of Rules of Engagement. That company has got to go."

Fedir replied "Affirmative." and we all followed up with similar statements.

"Also, since we're using Causal Amplitude Manipulation to overlap a countable infinity of near-identical worlds and let you save all of them at once, communications will be very spotty until you come back."

I replied "Got it."

"Happy hunting, Commander Nine."

Then the Causal Weighting Engine fired, and suddenly our sensor feeds showed the lunar surface two thousand kilometers below us.

Janet noted, "Landing computer shows all systems nominal. We should be touching down gently in twenty minutes real-time, since this isn't a combat drop."

Sure enough, we touched down gently on the moon's surface only twenty minutes later. We passed the time mainly by slowing down the computer running us, so we experienced the landing process over about forty seconds.

As soon as we landed, the first orders of business were getting a unit printer running, and starting resource extraction.

As I watched the first GREEN-class factory take shape, something occurred to me.

"I know the fabber on the Commander basically runs on 'because I said so', but how does the stuff in the factory we're building work?"

Janet answered almost immediately;

"Aside from some specialized stuff? It's basically a bunch of different takes on a bunch of nanomachines collectively acting as a 3d print surface. The version we're using here uses quantum energy teleportation to power the nanobots and send them materials to work with."

Janet looked so happy as she got to explain some of the awesome tech we were working with.

"The spray is liquid coolant to keep things from overheating, mixed with replacements for the nanobots that die on the job. BLUE requires specific mixes of elements for production, but still gets to use Energy Teleportation. VIOLET can't use Energy Teleportation, so it has to deliver materials and nanobot fuel via the spray."

The newly built factory was quickly put to work making engineering rovers. The factory was swiftly followed by an automatic miner and a power plant - both using Energy Teleportation, and the latter exploiting matter transmutation to constantly recycle its nuclear fuel for effective mass to energy conversion. From there base expansion was easily handled with little intervention from Anise required to keep things on track. That meant we had some time to plan, without needing to massively speed ourselves up.

Khaled called the meeting to order.

"As I see it, there are quite a few major issues that need fixing, apart from everything to do with Vought International. Much of the world is ruled by truly abusive dictatorships, and even outside those places there are systemic injustices that we have some ability to correct. It will lead to the deployment necessarily lasting multiple years, even after removing Vought from consideration. All in favor of committing ourselves to this course of action?"

All five of us raised our hands. Khaled nodded,

"In that case, we still need some way to deal with the superpowered individuals produced by Compound V. Does anyone have any ideas?"

Fedir signaled that he wished to speak.

"While studying the weaponry archive, I discovered an interesting piece of RED technology, called a Garbler. In summary, it emits a variable-focus beam that disrupts various supernatural fields; the end result is that any unprotected target trying to use those fields has their control absolutely shot to hell as long as the beam is on them. I am fairly confident that it will work on the local superhumans."

I noted, "I'd really prefer something that just shut their powers down with no risk of collateral damage, but I suppose that will have to do for now."

"This is war. Unfortunately, collateral damage is not entirely avoidable."

Everyone around the table looked a bit somber at that.

Anise spoke up, "We're invading the Earth. I'm... I'm having trouble justifying that to myself. And I really don't want to go down the 'it's for their own good' rabbit hole."

Khaled spoke up. "There is an option there. If we broadcast our presence, lay out clearly which countries and organizations we have issues with and why, and stick to that list, we make ourselves a known quantity. We will still scare people, that is inevitable. But it is quite likely we won't have to fight everyone at once. Keep the list of governments deposed limited to the worst dictatorships, remove Vought, and stick to non-violent methods in other situations. Note that non-violent doesn't mean we can't be rather forceful about it."

Fedir noted "One way or another, we are going to end up fighting the entirety of NATO. We need to get rid of Vought completely, non-military channels are insufficiently thorough, they are primarily based in the USA, and they are going to invoke Article Five no matter what we say. We need a plan for how we are going to handle this."

I thought for a moment. "Honestly, if we're invading the USA anyways, we should declare war on the Republican Party specifically. If the thing we're going with is getting rid of fascist hellholes, well, the Republicans want to turn the USA into a fascist hellhole."

Everyone around the table nodded slowly at that. The logic made a certain terrible kind of sense, when you got down to it.

A couple weeks later, we had our speech prepared and our invasion forces ready. The people on Earth had definitely noticed us, which wasn't surprising since we really weren't trying to be sneaky about this at all.

Ultimately, we'd opted to simply give the script to a voice synthesizer, since none of us wanted to take the podium ourselves. So I simply sat back and listened as the broadcast began. Anyone with an AM or FM radio turned on right now would hear it, regardless of what frequency they were tuned to.

"People of Earth, this is the Ninth Army of the Multiverse Improvement Foundation. We come to your world to eliminate the scourge of autocracy, and generally improve living conditions worldwide. As such, we explicitly declare war on the governments of the following countries:

"Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Both Republics in the Congo, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Laos, Libya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zimbabwe."

"The situation with Israel and Palestine requires special handling. As such, we will be taking control of that region in its entirety and forcibly sorting out the mess. In addition, as Haiti is a failed state, we will be sending a humanitarian mission that will also assist in establishing a placeholder government."

"The following countries are not being invaded, but their governments are being put on notice to clean up their act: Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegrovia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Zambia."

"As Ukraine is currently being invaded by Russia, they are being given a temporary pass on notice to improve."

"In addition, the following non-governmental organizations are to disband immediately, or we will come down there and disband you ourselves: Vought International, the Murdoch-owned media conglomerate including Fox News, and the Republican Party of the United States of America. We have no illusions that this will not prompt war with NATO; though such is not the objective, we will prosecute it to achieve our goals if necessary."

"To prove that we are serious, a series of ten Gigaton nuclear warheads will be simultaneously activated at the Earth-Moon L3, L4, and L5 points. After that, there will be a twenty four hour period for the listed governments to surrender. Once that series of invasions has begun, there will be a further twenty four hour countdown for Vought International, the Fox media conglomerate, and the Republican Party of the United States to be dismantled. If such is not at least begun by the time the clock runs out, we will invade to the necessary extent to achieve our goals. We will not wait before sending aid to Haiti."

"Good day to all humans, this message will repeat once an hour - for a total of six times - prior to the announcement warheads being initiated."
 
World 1-2
With the high-energy transfers we were using, getting our first landers to Haiti was mainly limited by the need to not incinerate anyone ground-side during the process of landing; so that took a couple hours. At the same time, we also made sure to establish some basic orbital infrastructure over Earth: Teleporters made it quick and painless to move units from the lunar surface to medium Earth orbit, while also slashing the communications lag for our units.

The vast majority of the assets we landed in Haiti weren't even armed. The worst that we'd need to actually fight here would be gangs, with the main problems being sanitation, famine, and an ongoing Cholera outbreak. Couldn't deal with any of those by shooting them, so we mostly sent Mediators (humanoid interface units), Engineers, and assorted logistics units.

Yeah the local gangs tried to make us pay protection for the soup kitchens and placeholder medical facilities we were establishing, but a few riflebots lightly menacing them were usually enough to make them fuck off. Only encountered all of three no-name supers in the whole country, with all of them getting with the program in fairly short order. Especially considering that one of them was actively dying of Cholera when we found her, requiring emergency medical treatment.

There was a lot more work we'd need to do to help Haiti out, but as Anise and Khaled pointed out we really should get the local's input on infrastructure improvements and such. We were here to help people, not make every last decision for them. Couldn't help but feel a little hypocritical saying that when I thought about the USA, but planning to genocide entire demographics over something they had no say in was just wrong.

The situation was definitely tense, no doubt about it. But in Haiti at least, the situation was relatively peaceful.

Then we set the bombs off at the Lagrange Points (like we said we would), and most of the world started to panic. ESPECIALLY the dictatorships we'd already said we would invade. In retrospect we really should have figured that they would try doing something rash, since not all of them would surrender. In the case of North Korea, they set off a nuclear bomb in low orbital space, while also stating that they would blow up Pyongyang (killing all the civilians who lived there) if we tried invading them. In summary, they'd opted for a hostage situation.

Fedir immediately noted; "Even if they do not have another functioning nuclear warhead, they could cause vast civilian casualties purely with conventional explosives. We need to resolve this sooner rather than later."

I... actually knew something that might help.

"We... do have a selection of mind control technologies available to us. It needs unanimous approval from all five of us to deploy anything in that directory, though."

Anise looked at me with a bit of shock.

"Susan, are you really saying we should use mind control to fix this?"

I nodded, "If we have to? Yeah."

Khaled spoke up,

"I for one have serious objections to this course of action. If it becomes known that we can and do control minds, it will severely undermine the world's already very limited trust in us, possibly jeopardizing our mission."

That... that was something I hadn't thought about.

"Khaled, you're right. I... don't think mind control is a good idea anymore. What do you think we should do?"

"We need to send in infiltrator units. We've got to assess the bombs in place, defuse them, and take out the regime before they can react."

Fedir grinned menacingly as he pulled up one particular blueprint, showing a compact hemispherical unit.

"I think I have just the unit for the job: ghost beetles. The meta-material hull lets them become very close to invisible when attached to a surface. They're flexible, they can drive on walls and ceilings, they have a nearly nonexistent heat, noise, and radar signature. And they have a bay full of several sabotage tools, along with a concealed laser weapon."

From there, the plan took shape. A submarine dropped into the ocean secretly landed on the shore of North Korea. Engineer units aboard the submarine constructed a subterranean facility with a teleporter. And from there we made our way towards Pyongyang. Even before the ultimatum time, we had another teleporter sectretly set up there.

Tens of thousands of Ghost Beetles made their way through Pyongyang, searching for the explosives Kim's regime had set up. In just a few hours, we found them. As it turns out, yes, they did have a nuke set up. A crude gun-type fission arrangement. They also had hundreds of conventional bombs throughout the city, presumably as a "backup".

Once we knew where all the bombs were, we didn't waste any time. All the explosives were defused, the guards for the bombs incapacitated, and the teleporters opened up full blast to start sending combat units through. Yes there were technically thirty minutes still on the clock, but meh.

Our trusty voice synthesizer handled the announcement, with video streamed directly from the streets of Pyongyang.

"As the government of North Korea attempted to initiate a hostage situation, we have had to take special measures. We will not negotiate with autocrats, nor with terrorists. The Kim regime is both. The explosives they planted in Pyongyang have been defused, and we are undertaking immediate action to remove the Kim regime."

"Good day to the people of Earth."

Thirty minutes to go before invasions in general start, and... it seems the government of twelve different countries suddenly opted to resign. Funny how that works.

With ten minutes to go, I jacked up my subjective time rate to several times normal, leaving a note for the rest of the crew that I'd be taking a day off before major combat operations got started. Living in an awesome robot brain aside, a girl still needs her beauty sleep.
 
Z: We're lowering the update rate to one a week. Got some other projects we want to work on.
 
World 1-3
CONTENT WARNING: GORE, BODY HORROR (Yes, it's spoiler'd)

Most of the invasions proved rather uneventful. Even aside from the governments that surrendered, the local militaries were so horrendously outclassed by what we brought to bear that they might as well have been irrelevant. Mercifully, the vast majority of the soldiers involved seemed to realize this, and promptly fucked off into various bolt-holes instead of getting themselves killed in the line of duty. The USA's military at least tried to fight for a good two hours, but even they didn't really have a realistic chance against us.

Just about the only relevant combatants were the Supes, just on account of their capabilities. Even then, most of them were smart enough to put two and two together that this wasn't a fight they could win.

Then there was Homelander. Who apparently thought it was a good idea to try his hand at anti-orbital fire using his heat vision. To his credit, he actually managed to significantly damage one of our space stations and a couple landing ships before we could counter him. The lasers and particle beams we tried on him first proved ineffective at actually hurting him, only succeeding in attracting Homelander's fire.

Then one of the satellites we'd fitted with a Garbler came into a proper firing position. We took a moment to make sure there was a proper firing solution lined up, then we fired.

The instant the Garbler beam hit Homelander, the beams from his eyes veered wildly off-course then abruptly cut off. Zooming in with one of our surveillance satellites, the reason for this became clear: Homelander's eyes had exploded in their sockets. In addition, he was thrashing wildly as his super strength spasmed out of control.

His limbs had clearly broken in multiple places from how they were flailing around, fragments of bone stabbing through the superhuman's flesh at multiple points. His neck was clearly faring no better, moving violently in ways that it could only do if it had snapped completely. We caught a glimpse of his face crunching in on itself as his jaw basically self-destructed under his own bite force.

Moments later his torso contracted to half its length with a horrific snapping motion, his core muscles having clearly collapsed his spinal column like an accordion. At the same time, his skin and suit ruptured in several places, sending blood, fragments of bone, and splattered bits of organs flying in every direction.

Half a second later, the top of Homelander's skull exploded, bits of his rapidly engorging brain going flying everywhere. Apparently the Garbler had even messed up his regeneration. With that it was done, and the mangled corpse that was once Homelander began to fall.

With Homelander's extremely graphic death, basically all the fight went out of the world. We managed to round up 95% of Vought International's personnel and secure all their stocks of Compound V, but it was basically guaranteed that some of them managed to go to ground.

Soon enough, it was time for another strategy meeting. Khaled started.

"We have succeeded in taking over the world. Now it is time for the hard part; governing it successfully long enough to set up a beneficial system that will remain stable after our departure. While our units have proven quite effective in the initial conquest, they notably lack the cognitive facilities needed to govern on this scale, and I don't think we can find enough trustworthy collaborators. Does anyone have any ideas?"

Janet raised her hand,

"I actually found a directory full of methods to make full-fledged synthetic people. There's no explicit authorization restrictions on it, but it was buried pretty good, and there's got to be a reason for that."

I remarked,

"Probably ethics stuff; churning out people to die in droves as cannon fodder without giving them a choice in the matter would be massively fucked up."

Everyone nodded. Then Anise asked a question,

"Penny, what are these artificial people... like, exactly?"

Penny shrugged.

"They're pretty thoroughly customizable. All sorts of value systems, starting knowledge bases, and similar. That said, there's a few recommended default templates. For a situation like this? I think Pearlbots are the right option."

Fedir asked, "Pearlbots?"

Then Penny brought up a picture,
Pearl.png

"They're named after their prototype in the picture, Pearl. Really good at picking up new skills in a hurry, a deeply entrenched compassion drive and sense of justice, and easily upgraded to kick ass if the situation calls for it. On top of that, they've got full-featured digestive and reproductive systems, along with backup functionality. The only real quirks are that they only come in female, and the default version of the blueprint is designed to have a detachable head."

I couldn't help but ask,

"Why would a detachable head be a useful feature for them to have?"

"Apparently the head doesn't actually have anything important in it and is purely cosmetic. According to the documentation it's supposed to let them get a custom head with their own unique face later; personally I think it was put in for... intimate reasons."

I winced, that was way more than I wanted to know about our bosses' personal lives.

Anise seemed to agree with me, "I think I'd rather give the Pearlbots a permanently attached head, but aside from that, they sound like a good fit for the task at hand. All in favor?"

Everyone agreed.

"Right, let's get Pearlbot production up and running, and get some governments set up."
 
World 1-4
Initial reception to the Pearlbots being installed as governments for the regions we'd taken over was thoroughly mixed. On the one hand, the people in the USA were upset about having their democracy overthrown (fair, I guess), while residents of the autocracies we'd overthrown were just plain scared. On the other hand, Pearlbots landed right in that sweet spot between cute and sexy for a lot of people. This lead to lots of... explicit art of them, which the Pearlbots themselves proved all too happy to contribute to.

Also in the USA, a lot of right-wing militia folks tried to cause trouble and get rid of us by force of arms. Emphasis on tried; we'd anticipated them, and even the volunteer Pearlbot police forces tended to so drastically overmatch the militia nuts that outright arresting them during the incident was often feasible. Within about six months the craziest crazies had all been scooped up, and the rate of idiotic violence tapered off.

On a less stupid note, getting laws and stuff set up was proving to be a massive hassle. Over the first two years of real-time, there were multiple matters needing sorting out per day. Still, there were comprehensive guidelines on how to go about dealing with matters. This was considerably easier than it could be, since the Pearlbots were pretty damn smart about not setting bad precedent when an unanticipated problem popped up.

Still, just because the first round of un-fucking was complete didn't mean we were anywhere near done. Using the still extant tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as an example, if we just left most of the conflicts would pop back up immediately. Often with the Pearlbots as an additional faction caught in the middle.

To make our changes stick would require a critical mass of people brought up with more cooperative values in mind, especially since we intended to restore free and fair elections at some point. While just dumping more Pearlbots on the problem was an option, we all agreed that it wasn't going to be our first choice. It wouldn't really be a continuation of human civilization, then.

That ultimately meant that we'd be in for at least the somewhat long haul; humans don't and can't reach maturity near-instantly. And we needed to stick around long enough for the political "center of gravity" to shift to a demographic who viewed the post-Pearlbot state of affairs as normal.

In that regard, the fact that Pearlbots could give birth to humans was very helpful; in conjunction with all the other policy changes (such as free childcare for all) designed to increase the birth rate, that would drastically reduce the the time needed for demographic turnover. Pearlbot + Human Genetic Material + 9 Months = baby. A Pearlbot could also mother another Pearlbot more or less at will, of course. The end result being that there would be quite a lot of mixed-species families popping up.

It would still take about twenty years for everything to reach a stable equilibrium of course. Especially when you consider that the locals managed to cure old age only a few years after our arrival. That meant turnover from natural deaths rapidly dropped off, leaving only the birth rate to shift things. And since we weren't monsters, of course we implemented this into our healthcare systems.

It actually got to the point where Fedir called a meeting about this particular issue.

"We need to come up with a solution to the demographics problem. The lack of mortality will significantly obstruct our desired plan of demographic turnover. Does anyone have any ideas?"

Anise remarked "We could ship a lot of the older folks off to space? That would help a fair bit with opening up 'slots' for younger folk on Earth. Not sure how to do it without getting rather nasty though."

Khaled and I shared a glance, then he spoke.

"We do not need to ship off every single old fogey, we simply need to convince enough of them to go. Open up a bunch of space colonies throughout the solar systen, and incentivize people over a certain age to go start families there. Backfill some of the freed up capacity on Earth with Pearlbots; they'll have kids soon enough."

It was a pretty sensible plan, when you got right down to it. Which is why we did it. Took a bit of finagling to get going to space to appeal to the demographics we were trying to relocate, but we managed it.

Five years in, and everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly. Then the remnants of Vought came out of hiding and promptly bit us in the ass.

Turns out? They'd spent the last five years making a shit-ton of superpowered child soldiers. Ones with damn near every power they could stuff into the kids, consequences be damned. Still not sure what their actual plan was, because things descended into chaos the instant the toddlers were let off the leash.

Yeah, we could just Garble the kids. But that often had a serious blast radius, which was a problem in populated areas. Which is where most of the problem children were.

Houston, Texas was just gone after one tyke literally went nuclear as a result of getting Garbled. So yeah, we were really reluctant to do that again. On the other hand, we couldn't just try and talk the kids down since they'd been successfully indoctrinated to attack our assets (Pearlbots included) on sight.

So we promptly jacked our thinking rate up to the maximum, and got to trying to figure out what to do about this mess. It definitely wasn't going to be an easy fix, that was for sure.
 
On one hand, it's not been so long to get the local populace accustomed to the new way of things though it has been long enough that most folks are probably going "I want everything to stay the way it is right now, just with non-Pearlbots in charge". On the other...
Houston, Texas was just gone after one tyke literally went nuclear as a result of getting Garbled. So yeah, we were really reluctant to do that again. On the other hand, we couldn't just try and talk the kids down since they'd been successfully indoctrinated to attack our assets (Pearlbots included) on sight.
Well, this combined with how heavily you've gone on the 'don't kill those resisting unless it's what is absolutely needed' (which sadly would have included the majority of the initial military resistance on first strike though that likely rapidly devolved to surrenders and going into hiding to try and pull off a resistance in time) means folks are likely to be very annoyed with Vought and how much collateral damage their efforts are going to cause. Particularly as a bunch of the sueprkids are going to self-destruct explosively themselves without aid of the Garbler, let alone all the other issues which The Boys series shows come with having a superpowered populace and now Vought's not actually trying to minimise the collateral or accidental damage because it's 'just the cost of resistance'.

Also not touching on how many people are going to get pissed off that their new wife/friend/colleague/neighbour/etc who they might not necessarily be thrilled about all the implications she comes with definitely didn't deserve to be killed. Leaving aside how killed her might have destroyed a bunch of the local area with her...
 
World 1-5
Fedir started, "We need a way to deal with the child soldiers, and we need it quickly. We do not have time to develop a brand new power-suppression technology, the use of Garblers will have unacceptable collateral damage, and the same can be said of conventional weapons with sufficient power to get the job done. Does anyone have any ideas?"

Penny answered almost immediately,

"Teleport them into space, then Garble them. We'll need to treat the receivers as disposable and slap together a highly mobile teleportation transmitter, but it will definitely work."

No-one came up with a better idea, so Penny's plan was what we ultimately went with. Since Penny and I were the most technically-inclined, we were the ones assigned to designing the abductor unit. Which ultimately ended up looking more like a weird hollw-point missile than anything else; swoop down at hypersonic speeds, scoop its teleportation chamber around the problem child, zap them to a receiver, and return to altitude before it crashed into something.

It took only a few minutes to get the first abductors made once we had the design, and from there... well from there we started being able to deal with the problem a lot better. Any of Vought's child soldiers that we could bait into the open promptly got scooped up and disposed of. The disposal process definitely wasn't nice in the slightest; what Garblers did to supes was downright nasty. But I forced myself to watch it anyway; I just felt like... it was the least bad thing I could do in the situation. The kids had been made into weapons through no choice of their own, and we didn't have a way to resolve things without causing them to spend their last moments in absolute agony. So no matter what, I wouldn't avert my gaze from the incredibly fucked up things we were doing.

In the end, it took hours to clean up all the super-soldiers. Thirty million civilians -- not counting Pearlbots restored from backup -- were dead now, and only four of the child soldiers had ultimately surrendered. Once we'd stemmed the bleeding, it became absolutely clear that we needed to root out absolutely every last trace of Vought. The temptation was to jump full-on into scanning every single person's brain, but no, we were better than that.

We came up with several different means of sorting through the population for Vought conspirators, and arranged them on a scale of least invasive to most invasive. Then, for each region under our control, we let the population vote on what compromise between security and privacy they wanted. We also offered assistance in rooting out Vought for those governments that were still independent, seeing as quite a few of the child soldiers had been loosed in their territory as well.

As it turned out? Most people the world over were absolutely furious with Vought. Sure we weren't exactly popular, but we were a known quantity and mostly let people get on with their lives. By contrast, Vought had been directly responsible for massive levels of death and destruction the world over for basically no gain. Making matters even worse, their weapons for doing so were literal children, further offending everyone with even the slightest hint of basic decency. So in a rather noteworthy percentage of cases, we got clearance for some very invasive measures.

Taking Myanmar as an example, the people there actually wholeheartedly approved of a scheduled brain scan for every single person in the country. Wouldn't be looking at any of their memories, but we would be able to tell if they lied when they said they weren't affiliated with Vought. Most other places weren't quite that willing to toss privacy out the window, but in general we got clearance to be very thorough.

In the end? It worked. With the collaboration of those governments still independent, every single person affiliated with Vought was captured, interrogated, and tried. The bare minimum for anyone convicted was complete 24/7 surveillance for several years, while the most common sentence was twenty to fifty years of incarceration in some prison or other.

As for the ringleaders? Much to their misfortune, they had been operating out of Japan. Japan, which still practiced capital punishment under certain extremely serious circumstances. So to the collective worldwide cry of "good riddance", they were sentenced to death by long-drop hanging. Those deaths I didn't bother to watch. Not that I'd have had the choice anyway; Japan didn't tell anyone the specific execution date until after the fact.

That episode over, the next matters were repairing the damage, and getting ready for the inevitable problems that would come about as a result of Compound V's recipe getting out into the wild. The former was... a mix of trivial and intractable, while the latter had a couple years of lead time on problems popping up, hopefully.

Which is why we collaborated with the world's governments (and some supes who volunteered as test subjects) to develop Power Suppression Field (PSF) and Power Suppression Beam (PSB) technology. Unsurprisingly it turned out to be ORANGE tech, but at the very least it would be very useful here. Unlike the Garbler, it just... turned off supes' powers within the area of effect; could even tune it to allow partial power function but prevent anything too destructive from working.

Oddly enough, it actually turned out to have some medical uses; some supes would gain massive quality of life improvements from some basic surgeries, but were just too indestructible to have such done regularly. Stick a PSF generator in the operating room, and suddenly that ceased to be a problem.

So yeah, things were looking up. The scars from Vought's actions would take a long time to fade, but the global situation was pretty stable, people's living conditions were rapidly improving, and the demographic shift program was still on schedule. I just couldn't help but feel like the other shoe was about to drop, though I couldn't quite pinpoint why.
 
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World 1-6
As it turned out, my fears proved largely baseless. The next fifteen years passed without major incident, though there was a fair bit of grumbling from the population. It didn't really go any further than grumbling though; everyone in the regions we were governing at least acknowledged that we were doing our best to keep living standards up and prevent issues, and our handling of the Vought mess got us some goodwill. Meanwhile, the governments we'd left independent rather wanted to stay that way, and made active efforts to avoid attracting our ire as a result.

Another thing that helped our PR a lot was fixing climate change; turns out that a massive robotic labor force is quite handy for upgrading to carbon-free infrastructure and building a shit-ton of nuclear power plants. Or renewables in cases like Germany, where the moronic anti-nuclear lobby still had far too much influence. Still, we had all the infrastructure in our territory changed over shortly after the Vought Debacle. From there it was just a matter of subsidizing the rest of the world's changeover, then sucking excess CO2 out of the atmosphere until it was back at its proper level.

As for the Pearlbots, they'd settled in wonderfully; a good number of them had even moved to independent countries of their own volition, and they were generally well-liked on at least a personal level. The fact that they were universally kindhearted, hardworking, cute, and pretty damn smart helped a lot with that. The older generations tended to be grumpier about the Pearlbots as a demographic for obvious reasons, but even they typically had at least a few in their social circle.

Speaking of demographics, that was going quite well; we'd already been getting folks who spent their formative years in a post-us world for a few years now. Heck, for the last couple years there were even adults who were born after we arrived. By and large, they had the value set we'd been deliberately aiming to instill in them: accepting of harmless differences, idealistic, motivated, community-oriented, and compassionate. The space colonies we'd set up would have turned out rather more conservative, but above a critical density of Pearlbots that couldn't really happen.

There were only a couple more matters to handle before we left, and the biggest was elections. It had taken a while to get people in a lot of the formerly-authoritarian regions accustomed to voting on stuff and their votes mattering, but we'd done it. And now they'd be voting on who'd be running their governments for the next few years. Meanwhile, the USA was pretty on board with the idea for obvious reasons; they were a (struggling) democracy already before we'd intervened.

We had insisted on term limits for all elected offices of course. Still, a pretty good number of the Pearlbots who'd been acting as placeholder governments during the interim got re-elected. On the other hand, a good number of government Pearlbots didn't want to run for office again, and so they didn't. In the end, a wide variety of largely pretty encouraging governments got elected.

And so, our mission complete, we built the exit node and returned to base. Reality shuddered as the compiled worldlines we'd been inhabiting split back into individual worlds, and with a feeling we could only describe as a TWANG we found ourselves back at the Architect's laboratory, Commander unit already docked with the servicing gantry.

We were greeted by a green-haired catgirl from one of the walkways.

"Welcome back C9! You five ought to load into your base bodies; you've got some time off between missions, and we need to debrief you too."

Mission Performance Review
Unit Deployed: Commander Nine (Crew: Fedir Boyko, Anise Richards-Smith, Susan Chai, Khaled, Janet)
Objective Completion
-Objective 1: Eliminate Vought: Completed, suboptimal performance
-Objective 2: Societal Restructuring: Completed
-Objective 3: Resolve Supe/Mundane Power Imbalance: Completed

General Competence: Satisfactory
During this mission, the crew of Commander Nine made relatively few large-scale errors. In general, they solved problems presented to them in a sensible and efficient manner, with a minimum of issues. It is unlikely that further intervention in the worlds they assisted will be required for quite a long time.

Disciplinary Conduct: Exemplary
The crew of Commander Nine held to the ethical code and Rules of Engagement of the Multiverse Improvement Foundation to the extent their situation allowed. Civilian casualties were strictly limited, surrenders were accepted, and the standard of living for the world visited was considerably improved. In addition, the crew of C9 were quite thorough in ensuring the locals could maintain their civilization without further interference for the foreseeable future.

Threat Management: Room for Improvement
While the incident with the remnants of Vought was handled efficiently, it should never have been allowed to happen at all. If the remnants of Vought were actively hunted down during that five year increment instead of just assuming they wouldn't be an issue, the child soldier attacks could have been prevented; the resources required to take such actions were readily available. In future, do not cease actions against a target until it can be absolutely assured that they present no further threat.

Combat Performance: Evaluation Difficult, Default to Satisfactory
Due to the particularities of the world deployed to, evaluation of combat performance against near-peer forces cannot be evaluated. The technology deployed dramatically overmatched local conventional forces, invalidating most evaluations of conventional warfare efficacy. Combat against the local superhumans is also not a good benchmark in this regard, due to specialized tactics which would not work against a conventional foe being optimal for dealing with them.

In Summary: The crew of Commander Nine have demonstrated satisfactory to exemplary performance in most aspects of MIF Commander operations. That said, C9 needs to be more thorough in initial elimination of targets during missions, in order to prevent subsequent incidents.

Document authored by Ruby Sheridan, Coordinator, MIF Commander division
 
could we suggest world ?,ther is a few one i rarely see in fic that would need help and could,(or not sometime to be honnest) be fun
 
Intermission 1
As it turned out, there was a newspaper for off-duty Commanders to read. Apparently a few people washed out of training after being branched, and for lack of anything better to do, they'd taken up journalism.

So I was taking some time off to relax and read up on what the other commander crews had gotten up to.

When I read the headline, I swore out loud.

Penny came over asked, "What's such a big deal?"

I answered, "Commander Twelve got themselves court martialed for excessive collateral damage!"

"What did they even do!?"

"Don't know, haven't read the article yet."

As it turned out, that court-martial was very thoroughly warranted. C12 had been deployed to a universe featuring the Domination of the Draka as a prominent power, with the explicit objective of killing the Draka dead.

C12's chosen method was simple, effective, and utterly indiscriminate: Hawking Bombs, a category of mass-energy conversion warhead with a maximum practical yield of six Teratons TNT equivalent. They had opted for maximum practical yield.

Within mere minutes, they'd reduced all of the Draka's holdings to so much irradiated slag. That done, C12's crew patted themselves on the back and returned to base. Completely ignoring the global firestorms and other damage they'd caused, which would almost certainly lead to a total collapse of civilization if not immediately addressed.

Needless to say, High Command were absolutely furious when they found out. Commander eleven was promptly dispatched to clean up the mess, while the crew of Commander Twelve was hauled to an impromptu brig for holding before trial.

Looking up from the article, I checked the calendar.

"Huh. Apparently C12's court martial is scheduled for today, and they'll be streaming it. Want to watch?"

Penny shook her head, her new fox ears flicking around as she did so.

"No thanks, I've got other things I'd rather spend my time on."

As for me... I honestly was curious how the court martial would play out. So I stuck around at our apartment to watch the stream.

Turns out, the MIF didn't opt for jury trials, instead using a panel of judges.

"The evidence has already been inspected in detail prior to this trial; as there is no plausible sequence of events that absolves the crew of Commander Twelve of guilt in the act of planetary devastation which took place, we will instead proceed directly to sentencing."

After some deliberations, the primary judge (a pink-haired catgirl) spoke.

"Bluntly, we are in a situation where all alternatives to execution are ethically worse. Incarceration will do nothing to reform the condemned, and therefore just prolongs their misery. Reprogramming them into decent people would be horrifically unfair to the individuals resulting from such a process."

"Indeed, even conventional rehabilitation would require such dramatic changes as to constitute identity death. And simply letting them go free is not an option; there need to be consistent and dire consequences for recklessly destroying worlds."

"As such, the crew of Commander Twelve is sentenced to Erasure, to be completed without delay."

I turned off the stream after that. It was... honestly a lot less interesting than I thought it would be. Well, the stuff about the ethics of capital punishment definitely wasn't boring at least. Not quite sure I agreed with it, but those five had blown up who knows how many innocent people, so I couldn't really feel bad for them.

Some time later, I wound up visiting the park that had been set up for us Commander crew. Between the trees, flower bushes, and the small creeks that were running through the place, it had a very nice atmosphere.

As for what I intended on doing? I wanted to go fishing.


I was walking along the creek looking for a good fishing spot, when I happened to spot someone I recognized. Namely, Lucifer; the black-haired duplicate of the Architect. At the moment, she was just sitting on a bench playing a portable video game. Seemed like someone interesting to talk to, so I sat down next to her.

As I cast my line into the creek, she noticed me, pausing her game to talk to me,

"Oh hi. I think I remember you. Susan Chai, right?"

I nodded,

"Yeah. Spotted you sitting here, and figured you'd be interesting to talk to."

"Fair enough. Any particular topics in mind?"

As I felt a bite on my hook and started reeling it in, a thought immediately presented itself,

"What type of fish are these anyway? They're really gullible about hooks, and I don't quite recognize them from anywhere."

Lucifer took one look at the iridescent fish I'd caught, and smiled.

"They're catchfish, since they're fish for catching. There's a bio-printer making them upstream, since there's no way they'd survive in the wild. They're just made way too stupid for that, since the brains in there are specifically wired up not to support any higher cognitive functions whatsoever. They're basically self-propelled decorations that you don't have to feel bad about killing and eating."

Staring at the fish flopping around in the air on the end of my line, I could only reply,

"Huh."

After a moment, I asked,

"Anything you want to talk about?"

"Well, aside from the weather and other small topics? We finally solved the communications issues resulting from overlapping worlds with the Causal Weighting Engine. Means we'll be able to keep in touch while you're on deployments, and also rotate crew back here for time off when on a mission."

Looking at the park, I could hazard a few guesses as to why this was such a priority.

"Worried about the mental health of the crews?"

"Yeah. We also want to make sure there isn't a repeat of what C12 did, and active monitoring will help a lot with that. Plus it'll streamline approval for deployment of certain technologies, if the situation calls for it."

I nodded,

"Hadn't been planning on saying it, but it's honestly reassuring to know we'll be being watched. I've... I've been having nightmares about the child soldiers lately, and I'm starting to worry that I might be a bad person."

Lucifer slowly blinked at me. ...Wasn't that a sign of affection for cats?

"Susan, sometimes good people need to do bad things because all the alternatives are worse. You made some mistakes that allowed that situation to happen in the first place, but once it started you resolved it in the least bad way possible."

That conversation went on for a bit longer, petering out after about an hour. Before we parted ways, Lucifer referred me to a Pearlbot therapist who'd established a practice in the area.

The next day, I got a message from Ruby. All crew of Commanders Seven, Eight, and Nine were to meet for a briefing on our next mission.

I had a feeling that this was going to be interesting.
 
World 2-0
I arrived at the meeting right on schedule, Ruby Sheridan having already arrived. Looking around, Fedir, Khaled, Penny, and Anise were all here, as were the other two commander crews.

"Right, still a couple minutes before the official start time, but now that everyone's seated I can explain the doctrinal changes going forwards, along with your mission."

The screen switched to showing a scarred and burnt version of Earth, massive regions having been utterly devastated.

"After the actions of Commander Twelve, it was decided that three separate Commanders would be sent on each mission, in order to facilitate rotations off deployment and increased oversight. There will be a rotation schedule provided to make sure everyone gets some time off. Also as a result of this, we'll be doing a few more rounds of recruiting in the near future."

We all nodded. That really made a lot of of sense, given what happened.

"Anyway, the mission. Bluntly, there's a genocidal alien empire and we're sending you to kill them. If any of you have seen the Independence Day movies, you'll probably be somewhat familiar with them."

One of the men assigned to Commander Seven raised his hand,

"I for one have not seen those movies. In addition, I would also like to know our operating environment, and what level of societal intervention we should be expected to carry out."

Ruby nodded,

"The world is an RS-4 with a wide variety of Green technologies available, but no local Orange tech. As a particular quirk, the rate of civilization occurrence is high enough that several thousand emerge per galaxy, with a short enough interval between them for technology disparities to be realistically closed."

"That said, in the local Milky Way, the emergence of new spacefaring civilziations has been capped by a group known as the Harvesters; they intentionally target emerging civilizations for destruction, and strip-mine their planets to the point of total disassembly in order to produce more of their extremely large spaceships."

"As for societal interventions? That task is being handled by the Multiverse Improvement Foundation's diplomatic corps and intelligence service for this mission. You largely won't need to worry about it; just kill the Harvesters and make sure they don't get a chance to wreck any civilizations while they're doing it."

I nodded, then raised my hand.

"Yes, Susan?"

"I... feel kind of uncomfortable about exterminating a civilization, no matter how vile. Are there any accommodations for surrender?"

Ruby stared me dead in the eye,

"There won't be any surrenders, unfortunately. Your typical Harvester is a mind-slave without the agency needed to make such decisions, and isn't able to be freed without such drastic alterations as to be a brand new being, effectively. Meanwhile, the Queens running the operation are psychologically incapable of permitting a competitor civilization to exist. They will fight to the last breath, and exploit any moment of hesitation you give them."

...Oh.

"Given the sheer scale of space combat we expect here, we've highlighted the relevant space combat asset directories for your fabrication systems. Black technology won't be required or authorized, but aside from that you're supposed to be as unfair as possible."

Ruby proceeded to get on with explaining the hyper-mobile space combat paradigm we'd be working with, taking a good two hours to do so. I'd... probably need to review it later.

After about a week of mission prep, it was finally time. Everyone loaded into their assigned Commander chassis, and from there into our drop pods for the Causal Weighting Engine. The machinery thrummed to life, and we accelerated towards the rift. Mercury, here we come.
 
World 2-1
World Profile
Reality Solidity Level: RS-4
Green Technologies Viable: Psionic Mental Interfaces, Hardened Metric Shields, Class M Void Cloaking, Plasma Beam Weaponry
Notable Orange Technologies: None
Closest Fictional Match: Independence Day
Match Accuracy: Medium-High
Units Deployed
-Commander Seven (Crew: Issac Brown, Doug Landers, Amelia Miller, Oprah Junes, Cody Beckham)
-Commander Eight (Crew: Klaudia Wojda, Aya Chung, Mai Takeuchi, Aroha, Durga Joshi)
-Commander Nine (Crew: Fedir Boyko, Anise Richards-Smith, Susan Chai, Khaled, Janet)
Insertion Point: Mercury

In a lot of ways, Mercury was an ideal place for rapid buildup, especially with the limitations of BLUE-tech fabricators. The planet was very metal-rich, which saved a lot of energy that would have been needed on nuclear transmutation. On top of that, the close proximity to the sun made it an excellent site for solar power. Fire off a bunch of mirrors into space, have them reflect sunlight onto a collector, then have that collector feed it into our Energy Teleportation network.

We were utterly unsurprised by our buildup getting noticed by the residents of Earth; after all, we weren't even trying to be sneaky. That said, it somehow took about a month until they got up the courage to call us - coincidentally doing so on July 4th, 1995.

The general gist of the message was pretty simple: the obligatory series of prime numbers, followed by attempts to build a shared language. I came up with the idea for our reply, which all the rest of the crews found funny enough to go along with. We fired it back before we'd even heard the entirety of humanity's attempted first contact package.

"You do know we speak English, Mandarin Chinese, and the other major languages on your planet, right?"

Wait a few minutes for light lag, and...

"What. What do you want with us? Who are you?"

Now it was time to be a bit more serious. Collectively, we allowed Khaled and Issac to take the metaphorical podium.

Taking a moment to clear their minds, the old men spoke "We are the third army of the Multiverse Improvement Foundation, and we're here to protect you. In almost exactly one Earth year, a fleet of genocidal aliens will be arriving in this star system. We are here to kill them, then move on to cleaning up the rest of their operations. We'll be delegating further talks with you to the diplomatic corps; we've got to focus on building up our forces."

That done, we launched the diplomatic shuttle we'd built on an Earthbound trajectory; they'd get there in a week or so, by which point our bosses would have loaded suitable personnel in via the onboard fabricators.

It was only a couple hours from diplomatic touchdown when we all decided it was time for a general meeting. Doug, Mai, and Fedir were heading it, by general agreement.

Doug spoke first "By now, we've gotten energy production here up to the low Exawatts. On top of that, we're able to manufacture billions of tons of materiel per day. We figure it's time to divert some production from growth for growth's sake towards making combat units."

Everyone nodded at that. It was just a question of what type of units we should be making. Penny was the first to chime in,

"No matter what, we need something capable of punching clear through the shields and hulls of those absurdly big motherships the Harvesters use. As far as I can tell, our best option that doesn't take a lot of time and effort setting up exotic materials production is a Fusion Lance, and a big one."

Not being quite familiar with this particular technology, I gestured for Penny to continue.

"Basically, it's a tighter-focused version of a fusion rocket, making use of this reality's weirdness with electromagnetism to establish self-sustaining magnetic confinement of the plasma bolt. We'll need to use an aneutronic fusion reaction if we don't want to lose lots of energy as neutrons though, which means synthesizing Helium-3 as ammunition."

Mai asked,

"What sort of performance are we looking at here?"

"Assuming Deuterium Helium-3 fusion? Beam velocity of 0.089 c, or about 26.7 megameters per second. Delivers a hair under 350 Terajoules per kilogram of fuel burned, equivalent to 83.6 kilotons of TNT. I've looked at the scaling, and the fuel load per shot can easily get over a hundred metric tons for a really big Lance."

Everyone thought on that for a moment, before Fedir asked a very pertinent question.

"What is the required shot energy to punch through the shields on both a Harvester Carrier, and one of their Queen Motherships?"

Some furious mathematics ensued, while we tried to get an estimate. Eventually, we had a figure for how much firepower we'd need. It was Klaudia who announced the estimate.

"Smashing through the shields on a City Destroyer most likely takes a Fusion Lance strike delivering about twenty Gigatons of energy, thirty to also smash the ship's hull. We can roughly assume a required firepower increase of one thousand times for a Carrier, and then again for a Mothership. So that means we need Teratons for Carriers, and Petatons for Motherships. I'd recommend increasing the firepower figures by ten times over these estimates, just to be sure."

Penny ran some numbers.

"We're looking at two thousand four hundred tons of fuel per shot on the light lances then. Getting up to billions of tons of fusion fuel to kill a Harvester mothership."

Fedir noted "We are trying to kill a ship that has a mass and scale comparable to planets. Expending a few billion tons of fuel on that task is a very good deal."

"Just thinking there's got to be a more efficient option available."

I thought back to the court martial, and asked,

"Why not power a Lance with a Hawking Bomb? It'll top out at six Teratons per singularity, spread unevenly over a second. And with the warp tech we're using, making singularities out of random junk is pretty trivial."

Everyone blinked, then we got to work. After a bit, we found the few notes the Architect had left on the topic.

"This'll probably work as BLUE tech, GREEN at the worst, but honestly I've lost interest in the project. It's just another super-destructive death beam, and doesn't even do it in a very interesting way. The only quirk I find interesting is that you can use Energy Teleportation to make it work with bigger singularities than normal."

We all shared a look. Someone asked,

"What's the thing with Energy Teleportation about?"

Penny answered,

"Apparently you can use it to induce Hawking Radiation from a black hole- oh."

Doug noted "In that case, I propose that we run two Lance programs in parallel. One working with proven Fusion Lance technology as a backstop, and the second developing Hawking Lance technology. Any objections?"

No objections wound up getting raised, so on we got with the program.
 
World 2-2
I wound up on the Hawking Lance project, and I have to say that it was a really good thing the Fusion Lance program was also going in parallel. Because trying to wrangle a violent release of Hawking Radiation was an absolute pain in the ass. All that energy was released as obscenely short-wave Gamma Rays, which straight up couldn't be reflected or refracted with anything made of matter. So we found ourselves needing to convert an omni-directional blast into a mono-directional beam, with distorted spacetime as our only tool for doing that.

Well, a bi-directional blast, actually. As it turned out, focusing all that energy into a single direction would rip the whole weapon apart via recoil. Preventing this required either a backblast akin to a recoilless rifle, a truly obscene shock-absorber, or momentum-cheating shenanigans that wouldn't work in the current universe without BLACK tech. Since we wanted this weapon to work in the current universe and weren't authorized to use BLACK tech, that meant going recoilless. The limitations of accommodating for backblast were less troublesome than either making the guns disposable or just taking the recoil. Well, maybe a really big battleship could just handle the recoil, come to think of it; since it was a photon weapon, it "only" produced one Newton-second per 300 Megajoules.

Between all the headaches of R&D with such spicy physics, it took us six months to even get a prototype of a light recoilless Hawking Lance working, delivering five Teratons of beam energy per shot. According to Penny, this was actually extremely fast progress for a weapon development program like what we were doing.

Still, that was six months before the Harvesters were expected to show up. The buildup working with Fusion Lances had already got thousands of the light and medium versions built and mounted in appropriate spacecraft and deployed to every point of interest in the star system, so we wouldn't be using Hawking weapons for destroying the initial fleet. Could still turn out to be quite handy for eliminating the really big motherships though, and would be a great mainstay for later.

A month later, we'd worked out enough of the glitches and problems to put Hawking Lances into the directories as a production design. They were even BLUE tech, which was really nice from a usability perspective. Then Penny found something that just made us groan.

Turns out, the Architect did make some doom beams stronger than fusion lances. It's just that they were in a whole other directory labeled "experimental designs". And true to the note about finding Hawking Lances boring, they had some really exotic operating principles.

By far the weirdest that would work in our current universe was something the Architect had simply labeled "project nutcracker". Shockingly enough, it was a Hawking weapon, technically. There was a minimum mass of 3200 metric tons on the singularities it used so they wouldn't evaporate too fast, and through sheer quantum bullshit it programmed guidance and fusing into the black hole's Event Horizon. Apparently using Energy Teleportation, it could spend its mass-energy in a semi-arbitrary manner to produce thrust or blast at will. Didn't quite count as a missile since it couldn't respond to stimuli, but it was damn close.

As a side note, initial launch used a warp bubble traveling at just a hair under the speed of light, but the black hole wouldn't actually have any momentum change unless it spent some of its mass on thrust after the fact. Which meant the singularity could dart straight inside an enemy ship on account of being smaller than a proton, unleash a Teraton explosion, dart to another enemy ship, and repeat the process until it ran out of mass. It was absolutely terrifying, and I couldn't help but be glad that it was rated as an a narrow-applicability GREEN technology.

By contrast, the faster than light artillery firing Petaton-yield antimatter bombs was practically mundane, and its BLUE classification agreed with that assessment. Though curiously it seemed to have been adopted from some pre-existing techbase, rather than something the Architect made herself. The artillery that is, not the nutcracker. The nutcracker was definitely an Architect special.

I couldn't help but remark to Penny,

"If this is the insane technology the Architect makes while limiting herself to pre-existing physics, I'm honestly scared what sort of weaponry might be filed under BLACK technology."

Penny shuddered in agreement,

"Yeah, I'm really not sure I want to know."

Almost exactly a year after our initial arrival, our sensor posts at Sol's heliopause picked up incoming: a six hundred kilometer mothership cruising towards the inner system at a few thousand times the speed of light.

Fedir immediately ordered, "Timeframe accelerating to combat levels. Look alive people, we've got Harvesters inbound."

Doug noted "I've assigned fifty Lance squadrons to intercept the target at different points along their warp trajectory. We'll be able to spot where they drop out of FTL and nail them before they can do much. Not to mention the interdiction fields we set up around Earth and Mercury."

Thirty seconds later, we got confirmation of where exactly the Harvesters had stopped: about five light seconds short of the interdiction field around Earth, presumably to get a good look at the place.

However, when our Lance squadron arrived at the firing site, it was just soon enough to see the Harvester Carrier vanish back into faster than light travel. A moment later we got confirmation that they were aimed out of the star system, and traveling about twenty times faster than they had been on the way in.

Mai asked incredulously,

"Did... Did the Harvesters just run away?"

Fedir thought for a moment,

"Yes, that does seem to be the case. Especially given their much faster travel speed when leaving than when arriving."

I shared a glance with Penny, then added my two cents,

"Well, Sol is a lot more heavily fortified than they were probably expecting."

Mai sighed,

"They're going to be back with reinforcements. Lots of them, and fast. We'd better buckle in."
 
World 2-3
It only took a week for the Harvesters to show up in force. Apparently it was much, much faster for them to get reinforcements this way than with a shitty little backup transmitter. And they showed up with a lot of reinforcements.

They brought in sixty of the big Mars-diameter motherships. Three hundred of their 600 km carriers. Twelve thousand City Destroyers. And six thousand of a very different ship design, evidently designed purely for space to space combat. It was disc shaped, thirty kilometers across, and according to scans it had an extremely energetic particle accelerator running around its rim. The Harvesters weren't playing around, and neither were we.

In the week since that bogey ran off, we'd been spending about half our available production capacity of warp interdictors, and sensors able to pierce Harvester stealth technology. The Harvesters couldn't get within three light hours of Sol without getting stopped dead by interdictors. Which was very important for preventing them from just blasting Earth and running away.

As for weapons, we were using mainly Fusion Lances, with the occasional Hawking Lance. Electrically-driven lasers for point defense. Also a large quantity of Hawking Bomb missiles. The more exotic options we technically had access to ran into issues, unfortunately.

While project nutcracker worked, it was temperamental enough to be relegated to a "break glass in case of emergency" option. Meanwhile the superluminal artillery would have major problems getting past our own interdiction. Not to mention that sourcing the antimatter for the best-quality ammunition would be a pain, and without nutcracker-style bullshit there was no way to use a singularity as a cheap substitute beyond the six Teraton limit.

Anyway, our weapons were mounted on a diverse array of battleships, Self-Propelled Lances, missile cruisers, and a few other platforms. Our most common unit was a two kilometer death machine built around a pair of spinal recoilless Lances; 300 Gigatons per shot if they were using Fusion Lances, 6 Teratons per shot if they were using Hawking Lances. And we had thirty thousand of the things.

We didn't wait for the Harvesters to shoot first, obviously. Every last unit on our roster had a target already picked out. They aimed, and then fired. Half the City Destroyers present simply ceased to exist under the withering barrage, as did a couple thousand of their ringships.

However, it seemed we'd somewhat underestimated the shields on the Harvesters' bigger ships. They buckled under the planet-devastating onslaught, rippling under the immense fire. But for all but a single particularly unfortunate mothership? The shields held. A moment later the Harvesters' return volley slammed home, and about ten percent of our forces died - the rest only taking glancing hits on account of rather drastic evasive maneuvers. Though fortunately our Petaton-range heavy Lances all remained operable, for now.

Fedir gave the order immediately,

"Focus fire! We cannot kill motherships quickly enough if we divide our attacks between them."

We immediately complied, directing our space combat assets to focus on eliminating a single Mothership at a time. Moments later the Lances were ready to fire again, and a Harvester mothership violently exploded into plasma on account of severe overkill.

Unfortunately, the Harvesters weren't idiots either. They quickly opened fire on our Heavy Lances, aiming to take out the biggest threat to their force. As a direct result, we lost three of the hundred we'd had at the ready.

Penny spoke,

"This isn't working fast enough! We need a way to pierce their shields or they'll attrit us down to nothing!"

Then I spotted something on sensors that looked somewhat promising. A Hawking Missile crunching its payload into a singularity just before reaching a Carrier's shields - and a second later the black hole's mass finished evaporating with a Teraton blast on the inside of the vessel's shields. I blinked, then spoke up.

"A micro-singularity can pierce Harvester shields! Target all Hawking Missiles towards the bigger ships, and get the nutcracker from the testing range! The REALLY BIG nutcracker!"

As another volley of Lance fire cracked through both forces and depleted our relative numbers even further, everyone immediately rushed to get that done ASAP.

Thirty seconds later, the first nutcracker singularity went punching through a mothership's shields and right to the ship's core, where it dumped mass energy equal to twelve Petatons of TNT. It managed to change course and remodel a second Mothership to look a bit like Pac-Man, but completely whiffed on exploding the third and final target that got programmed into it.

That didn't really matter all that much though, since the second Nutcracker shot was already en route. The singularities violently glowed with hundreds of Terawatts of Hawking Radiation even when not exploding, so the Harvesters could definitely see them coming. And it absolutely scared them.

With the benefit of distance to avoid getting hit, the nutcracker prototype managed to take out thirty six Harvester Motherships all on its own, freeing up the Lances to absolutely murder their Carriers and smaller ships. We didn't quite manage to get all of them though, since they immdiately started accelerating away from Sol at full burn, actively targeting our interdiction vessels to the exclusion of absolutely everything else. The instant they had a clear escape vector, they went to warp at absolute full speed.

In the end, sixteen Motherships escaped, along with fifty Carriers, and maybe a thousand each of City Destroyers and Ringships.

In the virtual command center, I asked.

"Penny?"

"Yeah Susan?"

"Please remind me never to piss off our boss. The stuff she invents just because she's bored is scary enough."

Penny nodded in very firm agreement.
 
World 2-4
"Attention to all residents of Earth's northern hemisphere: residual gamma flash from space engagements will be reaching Earth in two hours, and will last for six minutes. Please remain indoors during this time, preferably in a radiation shelter. Ecological damage is projected to be minimal, but there is some additional cancer risk associated with exposure. To repeat: Please remain indoors for the sake of your health."

After that first successful defense, we had a lot of work to do refitting our fleet with new weapons. While full-fledged nutcrackers still had enough issues to make their mass deployment troublesome, a few of their principles made it into the new mainline weaponry.

Our new guns ultimately amounted to a quick-and-dirty hybridization of a Fusion Lance and a nutcracker. Fusion fuel got crunched to the point of fusing, that thermal energy sent it blasting down the barrel at a respectable fraction of light speed, and then the spacetime the plasma was occupying got pinched to the point of becoming a black hole with the blast's momentum before it left the barrel. A black hole with a timed fuse to release all its mass as Hawking Radiation at a pre-set point in space, though it lacked the finnicky trajectory-setting functions that the nutcracker boasted.

A cruder version could actually work as BLUE tech, tuning the detonation distance by adjusting singularity mass and velocity during the firing process. Though this did fix the final "detonation energy" in the gigaton range.

There were still issues with both versions of course; the smaller the singularity the more energetic the "muzzle flash" (which limited fire rate), while also having a pretty hard range floor for similar reasons. Plus the fact that the shot was going to be bleeding energy all throughout its entire flight path, without much that could be done to mitigate that. Still, the newly dubbed Fireworks were exactly the sort of weapon we needed for fighting the Harvesters.

I couldn't help but note that the shots glowing violently purple in flight looked kind of neat, as a side note.

For anything too small to fit a worthwhile Firework? Hawking missiles would do just fine, thanks.

Anyway, six weeks later all the refits were done, and we were getting ready to expand operations to nearby star systems. Then a small contact appeared, entering the Sol system via a wormhole bore. Interestingly, their wormhole opened right at the edge of our interdiction range.

After a brief meeting, Fedir summarized what everyone was already thinking.

"Right, we will intercept the unknown contact, but not open fire unless they prove hostile."

A minute later, we'd arranged an intercept a light hour out, a squadron of five patrol units with Hawking missiles coming to a stop thirty megameters away from the contact. It was a gray spherical vessel. And it was transmitting a communications handshake, attempting to establish a common protocol for information exchange.

We promptly directed the relevant automated system to cooperate, and seconds later we had a communications channel and shared language available. The only reason it took even that long was light lag.

"Greetings to the unknown visitor. We are the Third Army of the Multiverse Improvement Foundation, here to eliminate the genocidal civilization known as the Harvesters."

"Greetings. I am the Last, here representing the Unified Refusal. For the last thousand years we have been fighting the Harvesters with little success, while also rescuing any that survive their attacks."

We thought for a moment before replying "That is quite admirable. We are willing to invite you to Mercury [first planet] for more detailed discussions."

"I accept."

Commanders Seven and Eight were focused on the logistical side of things, and the diplomatic corps was still sorting out a long-term liaison. So we found ourselves as the primary point of contact for the Last. And she was asking some rather insightful questions.

"I find myself wondering, why didn't you intervene sooner? You clearly knew of the Harvesters in order to come to this universe in the first place. Many tragedies could have been averted if only you had come sooner."

Anise answered,

"The MIF was only founded relatively recently; we were in the first wave of recruits, and we've only been working with them for a bit more than twenty Earth years."

"Anise, that isn't strictly speaking accurate. I've had the capacity to do something about the Harvesters for a very long time, and simply hadn't gotten around to it until now."

We whirled our Commander unit to look - not that we needed to - and got a clear view of the Architect, standing on the surface of Mercury in her red tee shirt and miniskirt. On her part, the Last seemed shocked and confused.

"This meeting is taking place in a vacuum, yet you transmitted that message as audio. Further, your apparent physiology should not be capable of surviving in these environmental conditions, yet here you stand. I can only conclude that you are not what you appear to be."

Our boss nodded.

"You're correct. I'm basically a walking chunk of {̶͔̩̖̒ͅE̶̛̫̳͖͔̙̎̋́̄x̶͇͔̳̋̓̿̇͜i̵̱̼̻̅̈́̉̕s̴͇̓̂̈͝t̶̓̔ͅẻ̴̼̤͉ņ̸͕̠͍̀̈́̈́͘͜͝c̶̥̟̱̠͗́́ȅ̸̲̠̟͊̓̌͐/̷̡̠̭̈̆̓̃̕P̵̠̄͗̑̽̐ạ̸̞̞̖̞̓͒͠r̷͈̟̱̤̘̽̄̿ą̵̳̣̅d̴̳̒̉̍̕͠ȍ̵̳̍x̵̙̬̘̠̍̽́̔̕/̸̯̹͈̍͜C̴̢̛̣͖͊͘ȓ̴̪̟͆̆͝ḙ̴͚̪̃̀̈́̓͌a̷̢̗̤͐̈t̵̖͌̈́i̵̞̳͉͍̋̆͋ȍ̷̧̻̀͐͜n̵̡͙̻͎̑͠/̶͎͎̝͓͕͒͑̏͘͘P̴̲̪͎̿̔̎ó̸̢̻̳̗̦͛̄̂̇t̷͚̺̙̜̬͐̄̔̅e̷̙̾̈̏͝n̷̢͒̊͊t̷͇̍̓̈́́͜i̷̹̝͇̔̊͗́̌a̸͎̟͉͙̿l̸̟̟͙̮̬̈́͑}̸͈̰̺̖͐̓̉́ͅ; the catgirl form is just personal preference. You can call me Architect by the way."

If the Last had appropriate facial features, she would have blinked.

"Architect, what did you mean by saying you could have dealt with the Harvesters a long time ago?"

"I am old. By some measures I'm older than this universe, though said measures are quite misleading. At any point in my long existence I could have taken a look around me and decided to start unfucking the multiverse, and I simply didn't until now. I'm sorry."

"What matters is that you are helping now. I appreciate the assistance, and you being angry at yourself won't help with anything. After all, we cannot change the past."

The Architect blinked, then started grinning. It was honestly a bit frightening.

"Actually, that last bit isn't quite correct. I've designed quite a few time machines over the years, and I think it's a perfect opportunity to shake the dust off that skill set. Last, want to do some Science with me?"

Our boss's expression and tone made clear that she'd be going ahead with it, regardless of what anyone else had to say on the matter.
 
It happened suddenly. One moment I was lying in bed about to go to sleep, the next I was seated in an auditorium watching an orange-haired catgirl walk up to a podium. To my left and right were hundreds of people in the stadium seating, maybe over a thousand.

Then, the catgirl on the podium spoke.

"For the record, you are all technically dreaming. I am the Architect, an extra-dimensional being looking for volunteers to help unfuck several worlds. Each of you has a red badge pinned to your shirt; if at any point during this presentation you decide you want out, you can simply remove it and return to your regular sleep cycle."

I couldn't help but look down. As it turns out, there was in fact a red badge pinned to my pink shirt. I fidgeted with it a bit, but didn't take it off. I wanted to know where this would go.

"Putting it bluntly, the omniverse as a whole is a lot grimmer than I would like. There are several worlds where entire populations are massacred on a regular basis, and plenty of others that are horrible in other ways. As the omniverse is infinite in scope and my reach is finite, I cannot save everyone. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try anyway."

...That sounded an awful lot like something I remembered hearing back in school. Don't remember from who though.

"Cutting to the point, if you accept recruitment, your mind will be harmlessly copied. The additional yous will be grouped up into teams of five, loaded into self-replicating machines, and deployed to various worlds in dire need of assistance."

I couldn't help but look around. About one in five seats that had been filled at the start were now empty.

"Now, you may be wondering why I've chosen your world in particular to recruit from. By sheer coincidence, much of your world's fiction almost perfectly matches the inhabited worlds in one of the more troubled multiverse clusters I have access to."

I blinked. I actually hadn't been wondering about that. In retrospect it was an entirely valid question, and though the Architect's answer was definitely weird, it made a fair bit of sense.

"Right, I think it's time to end the monolog. Everyone interested in further details, please stand."

About half the people seated did so, with me joining them after a second. A bit later, I found myself in a smaller conference room with ten other people, counting the Architect.

"Right. You wanted further details, I'm really bad at explaining things but can answer questions. So ask away."

One of the other women at the table asked "What are you, really?" gently fingering her cross pendant.

The architect turned to her and answered,

"Janessa, that's a fair question. Although I don't like thinking of myself that way, I am a creator deity by most sensible definitions. I've made enough universes and civilizations to have lost count entirely, though your homeworld is naturally occurring. I am not the god you worship, nor connected to him in any way aside from hating his guts."

"Why?"

"Have you ever read the tale of Job? According to your own book, Yahweh is a remorseless monster. I have encountered and killed versions of him before, and I have absolutely no remorse about doing so."

"I want out."

Just like that, Janessa vanished. The Architect sighed.

"Thought I'd properly set up the selection machine to filter out the strongly religious; going to need to figure out the source of that glitch later. That aside, does anyone else have questions?"

A young man with Eastern European features and a short haircut raised his hand. "I have several questions."

"Ask away, Fedir."

"Are the missions you send us on going to be dangerous?"

"Yes. I fully expect that you will encounter and combat multiple world-ending threats during the course of your travels across the multiverse. That said, the chassis I'm planning on fitting you with is not only armed, but can produce a self-replicating military-industrial complex that expands at a very fast exponential rate. There will be a training period before deployment to make sure you know how to use it properly."

Fedir thought for a moment, but seemed to have forgotten the other questions he was going to ask. So in the meantime, I put my hand up. A second later, the catgirl turned to me.

"Susan, you have questions?"

I nodded,

"Will we be able to contact our families during the mission?"

That actually prompted a frown,

"I wish that were an easier option. Unfortunately, you are native to a Template Reality. I can't directly interfere with those, with any attempt just branching off a low-amplitude copy of the world. I'd rather not multiply my workload any more than strictly necessary, so the best I can do is regular dream chats with your local versions and loved ones."

I blinked, "Oh."

That... That wasn't what I'd hoped for. Better than nothing, but still. In the meantime, Fedir seemed to have remembered his other questions,

"You already answered how much help you can provide our homeworld; very little. But I would like to know if there are any rules of engagement you expect us to follow."

The Architect nodded,

"Most of it's basic stuff; don't target civilians, don't kill people who surrender without a damn good reason, try to leave people better off than you found them. But there is one thing of note: Unless it's absolutely necessary, don't destroy the local's ability to sustain a civilization without external support. This doesn't mean you need to stay hidden and can't interfere with their culture at all, but I'd ideally prefer not to get stuck propping up an untenable civilization in perpetuity."

The question and answer session went on for a bit longer, before the Architect broke it up.

"Right, I'm going to get you all grouped up into teams now, before sending you to training. This is your last chance to back out, because after this point I will have to branch you to continue."

No-one in the room backed out. In fact, Fedir very emphatically said "I wish to continue."

There was a momentary flicker, before I found myself in a waiting room with two other women, Fedir, and a middle-aged black man I didn't recognize.

The Architect's voice rang out over the speaker in the room. "Right, we're getting training set up now. It'll take a few minutes, so you might as well introduce yourselves."

Fedir went first. "Right, I am Fedir Boyko, Master Sergeant of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. I was sleeping in hospital when contacted, after having been severely wounded by artillery. Before the war, I was a pianist."

One of the other women went next, her red hair combined with a lightly tan skin tone to produce a striking effect.

"I'm Anise Richards-Smith. I worked as a logistics planner for the US postal service for ten years before this. In my spare time, I used to paint. I'd gotten pretty good at it too." She then gestured to me. Oh.

"Right, I'm Susan Chai. I... honestly I'm a massive sci-fi and anime nerd without much in the way of practical skills. Heck, before this I was working as a mechanic. I'm not sure why the Architect picked me."

Fedir thought for a moment.

"I can think of a few reasons. The Architect did mention that we would be sent to universes near-perfectly mirroring fiction, meaning your detailed knowledge of such will likely prove a crucial source of intelligence. Also, being a mechanic is very much a valuable practical skill."

I turned to the black man. "So, who are you?"

"I am Khaled. I was a civil lawyer in Spain for decades, though I retired two years ago. In later years, I started a book club. I do believe there is one more member of our group who needs to introduce herself."

The blonde in our midst seemed slightly nervous,

"So, I'm Janet, no surname. I'd just been hired as an engineer at Raytheon the day before the Architect contacted me. I... I pirated a shit-ton of old video games."

Shortly afterwards, the door opened. A woman with pointed elven ears greeted us.

"Right, I'm Ruby, and I'll be showing you five how to work the equipment we're giving you. Follow me, please."

Multiverse Improvement Foundation - Commander Briefing Document #001
Technology Classifications and Reality Solidity Scale

Due to the nature of the multiverse, not all technology works in all worlds. The Reality Solidity Scale measures the sturdiness of the local physical laws, in order to establish what technologies will work where. This classification scale is only concerned with realities that can support conscious life. Cleaning up those that cannot is not a task for Commander recruits.

Technology Classifications
VIOLET (Mundane): VIOLET technology is guaranteed to work in RS-2 or higher worlds, while usually functioning in RS-1 or RS-0 worlds. This is achieved by being extremely minimalist in terms of the phenomena exploited to function. As such, VIOLET technology is usually used as a framework to build another category of technology on top of.

BLUE (Physical): BLUE technology relies on consistent physics similar to a very common "Base Ruleset" to function. This means that it is a reliable and high-performance option in high RS worlds, but has significant trouble at RS-2 or lower. It cannot be relied on to function consistently in RS-1 worlds, and doesn't work at all in RS-0 worlds.

GREEN (Specialized): GREEN technology requires certain deviations from the "Base Ruleset" in order to function, but these deviations are rather broad and tend to pop up in RS-4 through RS-2 realities with decent regularity. As such, there's an automated system installed in the Commander Unit which will inform you of which GREEN technologies (if any) will function in the current reality.

YELLOW (Hybridized): YELLOW technology works anywhere (aside from certain examples of RS-6), but at a cost: it incorporates redundant VIOLET, BLUE and RED systems built into the same footprint, so that if one cannot operate the others can take over. This means that under most circumstances YELLOW technology is rather inefficient. However, in RS-3 worlds, all subsystems are able to function to at least some degree, giving most YELLOW technology a noticeable performance boost.

ORANGE (Esoteric): ORANGE technology requires an extremely specific set of physical laws to function, and as such only works in a very small number of worlds, universally ranging between RS-4 and RS-2. Given the limitations on its use, ORANGE technology is primarily useful to the natives of a given reality. Co-opting a local ORANGE technology during a deployment is a viable option, but it shouldn't be part of longer-term planning.

RED (Arcane): RED technology functions by "pseudo-magical" principles. It briefly taps into whatever local magic is present on startup, then alters that energy until it is suitable for operating the device. As this requires some form of local magic to function. RED technology cannot operate above RS-3, and doesn't reach peak performance until RS-2.

BLACK (Demiurgic): BLACK technology works anywhere, but not because of compliance with local laws of reality. Instead it forcibly bludgeons the local reality into compliance with its function. This makes BLACK technology incredibly dangerous. As such, its use is tightly restricted; barring multiverse travel and communications, special authorization is required to deploy any BLACK technology not part of the Commander Unit's critical systems.

NOTE: the MIF is not the only source of BLACK technology! If a BLACK artifact of non-MIF origin is encountered during a mission, it is to be immediately reported to High Command! Examples of BLACK technology include Progenitor artifacts, Class P or Class T Mana, and most devices produced by Firmament entities.

The Commander Unit makes use of primarily YELLOW technology in its design. However, the brain, safety ejector, primary fabricator, communications node, and conservation-breaker core are BLACK technology. To prevent damage to realities you are deployed to, critical damage to the Commander Unit will trigger the safety ejector to send the brain back to the deployment hub, followed by the self-destruct of all remaining BLACK systems.

Reality Solidities
RS-6: Restricted: Some realities are extremely firm in terms of disallowing even normally un-problematic technologies, such as basic warp drives and quantum computing. Extremely limited use of BLACK technology is permitted to circumvent these restrictions, though this should be kept to the absolute bare minimum; the sheer rigidity of these worlds' physical laws renders them incredibly brittle. Aside from that, all VIOLET and most BLUE technology will function without issue.

RS-5: Total Physicality: These realities operate under what can generally be described as "base physics", with no exceptions or special privileges. VIOLET and BLUE technology function normally in these realities, though some BLUE technology may need its settings adjusted. Some RS-5 worlds may support certain GREEN technologies, but it shouldn't be relied on.

RS-4: Modified Base Physics: These realities mostly operate on "base physics", but they have some specific exceptions or quirks that allow for otherwise impossible technologies to function. One of the more common inclusions is a coterminous plane that enables the local Faster Than Light engine, often referred to as hyperspace or subspace. VIOLET and BLUE technology function as expected in these realities, and some GREEN technology can be expected to work. Many RS-4 worlds support some sort of locally-specific ORANGE technology.

RS-3: Flexible Physics: The highest RS level under which something reasonably describable as "magic" can operate, these worlds are still largely rooted in physics. VIOLET, BLUE, RED, and a wide variety of GREEN technology work just fine here, though the performance of RED technology is often significantly below peak. An RS-3 world that doesn't have any ORANGE technology is the exception rather than the norm.

RS-2: Partially Physical: At this point, the presence of magic is starting to considerably distort the laws of physics. As such, BLUE technology may prove unworkable, though VIOLET technology is unaffected. Support of GREEN and ORANGE technology is erratic. RED technology is highly reliable and effective in these environments.

RS-1: Narrative/Conceptual Logic: In these worlds, the familiar laws of physics are entirely subordinate to another set of rules, which can generally be described as magical. RED technology is the most reliable non-YELLOW option in these realms. In the event of Narrative Causality rendering mission completion infeasible, the use of BLACK technology to brute force the matter is likely to be authorized.

RS-0: Dream Logic: The absolute bare minimum of reality before a world tumbles into the void, these realms are incredibly surreal from the perspective of individuals from high-RS worlds. RED technology is only reliable if "jump-started" by BLACK devices, and nothing else can be relied upon. Use of BLACK technology beyond jump-starts is to be strictly minimized, so as to prevent long-term dissolution of the world in question.

RS-i: Illusory: These worlds are a special case; for whatever reason, a world at RS-1 or RS-0 is 'pretending to be' a world at a higher Reality Solidity, for lack of a better term. If an RS-i world is encountered, all restrictions on BLACK technology are released for the deployment duration, and all native inhabitants of the world are to be evacuated as quickly as possible, consequences be damned. The world in question is then to be permanently demolished with a Firmament Dissolution Warhead, under direct supervision of High Command. Under absolutely no circumstances are such weapons issued to Commanders.

NOTE: Isolated pockets of low-RS space inside otherwise high-RS worlds DO NOT COUNT as RS-i. Initiating RS-i protocols in these circumstances is grounds for disciplinary action.

This isn't my cup of tea due to the female protagonist, as I can't relate to them. However, I wish you the best of luck with your fic, and I hope you have a wonderful day or night!
 
World 2-5
With the new weaponry, clearing the Harvesters out of the Milky Way became something of a mundane chore. Yeah they could still cause casualties, but all our space combat assets were unmanned and therefore expendable. Meanwhile, our micro-singularity weapons were perfectly capable of piercing right through their shields and obliterating Harvester ships. So we had quite a bit of spare time to get to know people.

As it turned out? The weapons that the Unified Refusal had developed were actually very similar to our Fireworks. The BLUE-tech version that set detonation range by messing with singularity mass and launch velocity, that is. Interestingly, they had a much higher launch velocity but fired significantly less massive singularities. Longer effective range than ours, notably better mass efficiency, but the per-shot punch was low enough that it would take thousands of shots to take out a mothership; just inherent to that type of weapon.

In fact, the Unified Refusal were very interested in the technology behind our Recoilless Hawking Lances; they could be scaled up enough to just plain brute force a mothership's shield, which they found quite appealing. We had told them the basics of how project nutcracker's horizon programming worked, but it was so eldritch (for lack of a better term) that they'd had absolutely no luck with it.

We'd been in this universe for a total of three years when Architect contacted us. The time machine was ready.

Soon enough, we found ourselves wrangled to a presentation from our boss, with the Last also being in attendance.

"So, I managed to make a time machine work without Demiurgic tech; it's actually derived from the Unified Resistance's wormhole bore technology. The catch is that this universe runs on immutable causality; can't change the past without taking a sledgehammer to the Reality Solidity rating, and can't do branching with just time travel."

The Last remained silent, but I think I could detect a faint hint of sadness from her.

I asked "So... that means there's no way to undo all the damage the Harvesters did, then?"

The Architect perked up,

"Not quite; it's known and immutable that the Harvesters exterminated those civilizations. But it hasn't been conclusively proven that the people they attacked weren't secretly rescued at the last possible moment and brought forwards in time to after the Harvesters' defeat."

Now the Last spoke,

"Are you seriously proposing to deceive causality itself!?"

"Yes. The long range quantum teleportation of the rescuee's mind-states is going to be a heck of a lot easier with a bit of BLACK tech, but it's a pretty minor artifact in the grand scheme of things; I'm also going to be fitting the chronological ambulance with a BLACK tech stealth device, just to be extra certain. Susan, Penny, Anise, Fedir, and Khaled will be a good team to handle things."

I raised my hand.

"Yes Susan?"

"I.. I don't think I can get myself to stand back and just watch as the Harvesters kill people, no matter how much time depends on it."

Our boss blinked.

"I think I mis-spoke. You're not going to be ambulance crew; you're in charge of building worlds for the rescued civilizations. The planets they originally lived on are completely wrecked; they need someplace to live, so you're going to build those places."

We all nodded. Fedir noted,

"This task is quite doable."

That's when the Last asked,

"It's selfish of me to ask this, but can my people be the first recovered? It has been a very long time since I have known another of my kind."

"Sure? That's the nice thing about time travel; it means there's no rush."

Anyway, we spent the next few years building habitats and artificial planets and whatnot. It was good, emotionally fulfilling work. Especially when we got to watch the Last's reunion with her Batch (sort of analogous to family). Eventually the job was done. The Harvesters were dead, everyone they'd killed had been recovered, and the galaxy was well on its way to rebuilding.

It was time to go home.

...Come to think of it, when did I start thinking of that place the Architect set up for us Commanders as home?

Mission Performance Review
Units Deployed:
-Third Army (Commanders 7, 8, 9)
--See crew files HERE
-MIF Diplomatic Corps
Objective Completion
-Objective 1: Eliminate Harvesters (Complete)
-Objective 2: Technological uplift and societal reform of Earth (Complete)
-Objective 3: Restore previously destroyed civilizations (Complete)

General Competence: Exemplary

The Third Army made no significant errors in judgement during their operations in this world. The only thing that could maybe have counted was an underestimate of Harvester shield strength, which was quickly adapted to. In addition, logistics and production were managed quite well. A special commendation is deserved for the in-situ R&D efforts of Commander Nine, which provided the crucial weaponry needed to turn the tide against the Harvesters.

Disciplinary Conduct: Exemplary
All units deployed were a shining example of the Multiverse Improvement Foundation's principles. While the Third Army admittedly didn't interact much with the locals directly, they managed to avoid causing a mass panic, and cleared things up for the diplomatic corps to handle things quite well. As for the diplomatic corps, their efforts have considerably improved the standard of living for all civilizations the MIF assisted.

Threat Management: Satisfactory

Hard intelligence on Harvester shield technology prior to the initial combat encounter would have allowed sufficient firepower to deal with their shielding more effectively. Either that, or an even more pessimistic worst-case scenario when planning out how much firepower would be needed. That said, the Third Army was not negligent, and managed to deal with the Harvester threat in a reasonably efficient manner.

Combat Performance: Satisfactory
The only remotely contested battle against the Harvesters was a conclusive victory, thanks in large part to competent direction from the Commander crews of the Third Army. That said, it was far too much of a near thing on account of a minor intelligence failure. As such, the MIF will be founding an intelligence arm to avoid further issues in future operations.

In Summary: Exemplary

The MIF's mission here was a complete success with no civilian casualties and negligible collateral damage. Several local civilizations have been restored from extinction, and a genocidal menace has been removed from circulation.

Miscellaneous: The Unified Refusal (rename pending) has requested to work with the Multiverse Improvement Foundation on an indefinite continuing basis. Though this is somewhat complicated by the untangling of the causal overlap used to assist a countable infinity of worlds at once, this request has been approved. Several UR operatives will be brought in as liaisons in the near future.

Document authored by Ruby Sheridan, Coordinator, MIF Commander Division
 
Intermission 2
"-and then the evil genie burst into flames!"

I laughed at the end of the story, as did the rest of my friends around the table. My new friend Bysi sighed fondly,

"Anyway, that was my last curse-breaking job before I got recruited. I don't believe I've heard what your world is like, though?"

I thought for a moment.

"Fewer monsters; sure there are people who are downright evil, but they don't tend to have magic powers. No magic in general really, though we make up for it with engineering know-how. I actually worked as a mechanic before getting recruited."

Bysi quirked one of her eyebrows.

"Mechanic is a new word for me, I'll have to admit."

Penny chimed in,

"Person who repairs machines for a living."

"That sounds like quite an admirable profession."

I couldn't help but laugh,

"Try telling that to my customers! Some of the people who came in were such ungrateful morons that you'd have to see it to believe it."

Bysi fired back,

"I'm working for an endearingly insane cat goddess, and I've been reincarnated as an immortal construct. So I can believe quite a bit."

I nodded, fair enough.

"Quick question, how much do you know about engines? It's important for understanding the story." "I know they make things go, but nothing about the how."

"Right. They produce heat in operation, which needs coolant to deal with, or they break. They also need lubricant to keep all their moving parts from grinding to a halt."

Bysi nodded "Alright."

"So one day this guy comes in because his car - engine powered carriage basically - has stopped working. I take a look, and the coolant has run out due to a leak. So I patch that up, refill the coolant, and explain what happened."

Bysi nodded again, "That makes sense so far."

"A month later they guy has found this bottom of the barrel lawyer, and he's trying to sue me!"

A blink, "What. Why!?"

"He'd gotten it into his head that he could fix his car himself when it stopped working again, this time for reasons unrelated to either the coolant or lubricant. But in the process of digging around in there, he fills the coolant tank with lubricant, and the lubricant tank with coolant! Not to mention he managed to injure himself pretty badly."

Bysi winced, "How in the world did he manage to blame you for that?"

"Some people just can't take responsibility for their own blunders. Anyway, I hired a pretty competent lawyer, who clearly laid out just how absurd this lawsuit was. The judge was not impressed, and wound up ordering the moron to pay my legal fees. The guy also wound up needing to go a pretty long way to get his stuff fixed after that, since no mechanic who heard of that lawsuit wanted anything to do with him afterwards."

Bysi sighed, "My condolences for needing to deal with such idiots."

At that exact moment, I got a message on my phone. Using the tone reserved for official business.

"All crew of Commanders 7,8,9, something urgent has come up. Report for mission briefing immediately. Ruby"

Penny and I both looked up from our phones at the same time. My girlfriend spoke first,

"Sorry Bysi, but we've really got to go."

We got to the briefing room really damn fast, mostly on account of using one of the teleport booths that dotted the city. When we arrived, not only was Ruby there, but so was the Architect. And she did not look happy.

As soon as everyone sat down, the Architect spoke.

"Right, so one of the other gods I let do science on my turf reported an incident. Two fuckhead deities are screwing up a Star Wars galaxy; one's an idiot who dropped a random nerd from Earth in after shoving her full of midichlorians, and the other is a complete psychopath."

Ruby picked up where the Architect left off,

"Threats unleashed include a Flood infestation, a few dozen generic dimensional horrors, and a gaggle of assorted creepypasta entities. That's not an exhaustive list, by the way. You'll be keeping a lid on those assorted problems, rescuing the abduction victims those two ROBs inserted, and may be called in to assist with arresting the perpetrators themselves. Any questions?"

Anise and Khaled shared a glance, before Khaled asked

"Will any large scale societal interventions be needed?"

Ruby nodded,

"Yes. Sammy's sociology experiment has been thoroughly ruined already, and compounding on the matter, there's contagious cognitohazards in play. So you will be needing to forcibly muck around with the way societies are organized."

Doug had a question as well,

"What sorts of intereference should we be looking out for from the two meddling deities? How much of a threat are they?"

Fedir added to this one,

"I would also like to know what sorts of weapon are effective on them."

The Architect fielded this question,

"Both of them have pretty significant reality warping abilities, though they don't quite have the oomph to make a universe without a whole lot of exertion. Without equipment I could probably deal with either of them individually, but not both at once. Which is why I'n bringing you and a few other members of the pantheon as backup, with restrictions unlocked for rather a lot of BLACK tech."

"Don't bother trying to take either of them out with sheer firepower, it won't work. You need to use exotics in order to properly deal with a Firmament Entity. I've marked out stuff that's likely to be particularly effective in the directories."

"One last thing: Joist columns. They're designed to prevent a reality from collapsing while drastic actions are being undertaken. Build them, build LOTS of them, and build them everywhere. If stuff goes to shit, they're going to be badly needed."
 
World 3-1 | Doc #861
Due to the spread out nature of the threats, all three Commanders of the Third Army were dropping at different locations in the Star Wars galaxy. On top of that, the Architect was pissed enough to drop us each with a brand new planet that she more or less poofed into existence, already bristling with industry and defenses. More Commanders would be sent through as soon as the became available, since we'd be needing all the help we could get.

Considering that Coruscant was our drop location, and they were ground zero for a Flood infestation, we were very grateful for the head start. We were already thinking at maximum clock speed the moment we were arrived, and one thing was unfortunately clear: we were too late. Our sensors were screaming at us that everything below Coruscant's peacefully oblivious upper levels was absolutely infested by the Flood, with small pockets of infection in and around several spaceports.

We had no choice; the protocols on what to do about the Flood were very clear. Coruscant needed to burn.

We swept away the (already infected) defense fleets over the planet in less than a millisecond, weapons that made the nutcracker look tame simply converting them from engineering to physics. And then the eradicators we translocated over the world opened up with their Zettawatt Gamma Ray projectors. Thirty trillion innocent people perished at our command in an instant.

Staring out at the devastation and noting how slow the outer time was going from our perspective, I sighed.

"I'm going to try and figure out where else the Flood have spread to already. If I spend any more subjective time thinking about Coruscant, I... I don't think I'll be able to live with myself afterwards."

Anise nodded, "I think I'll join you."

One of the biggest fundamental problems was just that Coruscant was right at the center of the galaxy's hyperspace route network. From here, you could get to any of the galaxy's main travel hubs in less than two days, if you paid through the nose for a fast transport. We had absolutely no reason to believe the Flood hadn't taken advantage of this.

For a moment I was afraid we were going to have to burn the entire galaxy, then I noticed a message from High Command.

"Commander Nine, you have Tier 3 time travel authorization. So long as you maintain a communications blackout and don't contradict any event you yourselves know to have happened, time paradoxes can go fuck themselves. Just make sure that the Flood don't manage to set down spores anywhere else in the galaxy!"

Anise remarked "Well, that makes things quite a bit simpler."

What followed could be somewhat callously summed up as "And then we did that". In slightly more detail we just plunked stealthed sensor posts down near every object of interest in the entire galaxy a week ago, and vaporized any ship with even a single cell of Flood biomass aboard the instant they dropped out of Hyperspace. In just a few subjective minutes, we had the entire Flood problem dealt with.

That's when Fedir noted "We should probably resume communications with other units. Not only have we completed the task for which we needed time travel authorization, but I do believe our sensor network is now pinpointing the exact whereabouts of the two deities our bosses want dealt with."

Threat Profile Document #861: The Flood

Overview
The Flood is a parasitic organism which presents an existential threat to any civilization it comes into contact with. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but one of the biggest issues is that they are arguably a case of BLACK biotech. As such, any Flood presence in a universe whatsoever is grounds for scouring it from existence down to the very last spore. Any being found to have released the Flood into a universe where it was not previously extant is to be immediately executed.

Specific Threats and Countermeasures
Firstly, the Flood is insidious. Even a single spore can start the whole mess all over again, and even with BLACK-tech detectors capable of identifying a Flood spore from orbit, precisely eliminating all Flood presence on a world without severe collateral damage is infeasible.

It is for this reason that any planet or habitat with an established Flood presence is to be burned, disregarding civilian casualties entirely. DO NOT mass-scatter the planet, that risks blowing Flood biomass into space, possibly allowing it to establish itself elsewhere.

There is also a severe subversion risk; even without the ability to directly infect inorganic life, the Flood is implausibly effective at getting synthetics to switch allegiences via psychological manipulation. In testing, only extremely specific value sets encoded at the hardware level were capable of resisting Flood manipulation under prolonged exposure.

For this reason, all MIF personnel have a BLACK-tech autocensor installed in their brain, which will block any and all attempts at communication by the Flood. If the Flood find some way to bypass the autocensor, REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY and cut contact with the Flood as soon as possible.

This manipulation is itself a product of another reason that the Flood is so dangerous: it is highly intelligent. Flood outbreaks will quickly produce centralized brains capable of advanced tactical and strategic thinking. It will be actively observing and learning from any opposition, trying its damnedest to make whatever adaptations are needed to assimilate every civilization within reach.

This intelligence is compounded by two factors. First, the Flood has the collective memories of an entire civilization that was right on the edge of developing their own BLACK technology, of which the Flood are arguably an example. This means that the Flood is entirely capable of producing highly advanced technology if it deems such necessary. It is also likely capable of assimilating and replicating any technology it successfully captures.

Second, the Flood is capable of directly warping reality if an outbreak has spread to a sufficient extent. Joist Columns and similar equipment are capable of locally suppressing these capabilities, but that just allows the Flood to express its full power elsewhere. The results of this can be apocalyptic, and attempts at galactic-scale hostage situations can be expected. DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH THE FLOOD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ON PAIN OF DEATH.

Though no known instances have been encountered, this combination of high intelligence, collective memory, and reality warping has the potential for a nightmare scenario known as THREAT DELUGE OMEGA. In the event of the Flood finding itself in a non-native reality, it is highly likely to infer the existence of a greater multiverse. Though it would not be instant, the Flood is almost guaranteed to develop a reliable means of inter-reality travel given the impetus and enough time. This is not to be allowed under ANY circumstances whatsoever.

In the event of THREAT DELUGE OMEGA coming to pass, massed use of reality dissolution and anti-descartic weapons will be authorized; any reality which THREAT DELUGE OMEGA infests to any degree is forfeit, in order to protect the rest of existence.
 
World 3-A
Post-Incident Interview
Incident:
Star Wars Multi-Deity Incursion
Interviewer: Madeline Zargosty
Interviewee: Sammy

"Sammy, why don't you tell us what happened, starting from the beginning?"

"Right. It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward sociology experiment; I wanted to see if the Galactic Republic could persist without the Baneite Sith's interference. So I dropped in a few years before Anakin's birth, and quietly disposed of Plagueis and Palpatine both. Spent a couple years screening the galaxy for more of them, but none of them popped up. So I settled in to wait and see what happened."

"Understood. What was your first sign that something was going wrong?"

"It's when the sensor array I'd set up to observe the Force detected an Anakin-level force sensitive on Tattooine. I'd averted the events that should have lead to Anakin's birth, so that was a major red flag."

"And what did you do then?"

"Well obviously I went to go investigate! I arrived just in time to find an Isekai victim that some moron had dragged here from an iteration of Earth, shoving a fuckton of midichlorians into her in the process. I proceeded to impersonate a Twi'lek, rescue her from the slaver gang that was about to kidnap her, and hang around in hopes of having a word with her abductor."

"You didn't contact us about this yet?"

"No, at this point I still thought I could handle things myself. Anyway, I wound up traveling the galaxy with Reese for a couple months before we found anything else worrying. Though I was really annoyed with whoever kidnapped her for not showing up to explain themselves."

"What was it that you found?"

"Alderaan was being eaten by fractals. Not crystals that had a fractal growth pattern, actual abstract geometry. And it was hungry. That's when I dropped the act around Reese, explained what was going on, and promptly started cleaning up the mess. I promptly got beaten up for my troubles."

"By Reese?"

"No! By the second shithead deity who'd turned up! That guy kicked the shit out of me, and could have easily finished the job if he didn't spend so much time gloating and laughing in my face. I barely managed to escape, and I keep wondering if the psycho let me go on purpose."

"Is this when you contacted us?"

"No, but not for lack of trying. The psycho had cordoned off the universe, making it damn hard to get anything in or out, even a message. I knew I needed to call for help, but it would take equipment I just didn't have the oomph to manifest from scratch on short notice."

"So... How did you contact us for assistance?"

"Reese had an idea there: go to Coruscant, and make use of the readily available materials and such to cobble together a transmitter with enough punch to get through the cordon. We had the thing eighty percent done when we both noticed a horrible sense of foreboding, and a quick scan indicated a rapidly spreading Flood outbreak in Coruscant's lower layers. We didn't take any chances; we loaded the partially completed transmitter onto our ship and got out of there immediately. I finished making the transmitter in interstellar space in the middle of nowhere."

"I see. Thank you for contacting us as soon as you did. Things could have gone much worse otherwise."

"You're welcome. So, what happens now?"

"You can go; you haven't done anything wrong. In addition, an offer of therapy is available."

"I might take you up on that. I've had a stressful time of things. What about Reese?"

"Where she goes is ultimately her decision, but she sadly cannot be reintroduced to her home world for quite some time. Her abductor did enough damage to that reality in the process of grabbing her as to render the place dangerously fragile."

"What, did he just Kool-Aid Man through the bounds of reality and not even try to be clever about it?"

"Yes, and he left a permanent spacetime rift behind, dropping the entirety of Munich into the wider multiverse. The local mortals are trying and failing to make scientific sense of it, which I can't blame them for in the slightest. We still don't know where Munich ended up, but we're trying to figure it out. Hopefully they survived."

"...He's even dumber than I thought. It would have taken less than a twitch to harmlessly permeate through the membrane, and he just went smashing through because he couldn't be arsed to figure out how."

"Yes, that's a very accurate summary. Though he seems to have figured it out by the time he got to the Star Wars universe you encountered Reese in."

"You arrested him, right?"

"Yes, we arrested Brandon Steele. He's scheduled to stand trial in a couple weeks, after we've left him to stew in a cell for a while."

"I'm willing to testify if you need it. And either way I want to watch."

"Thank you for stating your willingness ahead of time. And yes, your presence will probably be requested in the courtroom. All that said, do you have any intentions to try that experiment again any time soon?"

"Not for a while. Even aside from the court date and therapy, I'm going to make sure security is a whole lot better before I even start. Definitely including an emergency call button for the MIF. It's going to take time to make sure that's all set up."

"Considering what happened, I can't say that I blame you. You can go."
 

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