"Tarczal Eigenweapons Laboratory was established in early 1973 under a cold and remote mountain range in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Its staff of some forty biological scientists and mathematicians were tasked with developing alternatives to the nuclear stockpile. New ways of fighting the Cold War. The Soviets wanted some kind of trump card, a weapon which could be neither matched with nor countered by the American nuclear arsenal or their-- your-- our conventional resources of the era. Think of using a rifle bullet on an African tribesman with his spear and shield, or, to give a more modern example, using teleportation capability to penetrate a highly fortified installation. We're talking Outside Context Offense. Things which would render everything that had come before meaningless.

"By 1981, work on biological and chemical weaponry had almost completely halted at Tarczal, predominantly due to new international conventions explicitly outlawing global production of these weapons. This was supplanted by work on the new field of memetic weapons. The Soviets were making the first solid steps towards informational warfare. Weapons that were information, and weapons that targeted information and altered it.

"They had no Script to guide them. This was twenty years before preonic receiver technology. They didn't have Zhang-Hood-Kosogorin spectra or even Murphy's Preonic Theorem. This was before the arrival of anything approaching significant information technology, and well before basic infolectromagnetic theory. They had no idea of the danger that we now know memetic weaponry represents, and not the remotest clue about appropriate safety measures to take.

"If you take a pile of uraneous ore and divert a stream of water over it, you get hot water. You can make a working nuclear generator with stone age technology. With your bare hands, even. If you don't care about safety.

"As best we can tell, some time between January 18 and February 18, 1988, Tarczal Eiegenweapons Laboratory acquired an artifact that they designated 88-0009; an upright silver ellipsoid. When I say 'acquired', what I mean is that documents from January 18, 1988 do not list 88-0009 on their manifest, and documents from one month later list it as received, installed, contained and stable in vault A/T/Y. There is no documentation indicating who discovered it, or where; why it was brought to the facility, or by whom; how it was installed, when it was installed, or what it was installed for. The object was termed 'Oul's Egg'. There is no record of who gave it that name, nor of who or what 'Oul' is.

"In fact, there is no record of anything that happened during that one-month period. There are no computer records. No DATs, floppies, microfilm or paperwork, no delivery schedules, no staff duty timetables, no diary entries, no surveillance tapes. Not even memory. We've studied what was left, which all dates from weeks later: notes scribbled in brief moments of confusion and then thrown in the waste paper; audio tapes dictated for transcription and then forgotten about, but not erased. Every time the thought occurred to any of them, it was discarded. Nobody at the Tarczal facility had any idea how Oul's Egg got into Tarczal facility. They were barely even aware that they didn't know.

"The only way to forensically analyse something like this is by looking at the gaps. Instead of looking at the evidence, we have to look for an explanation for the lack of evidence.

"Some time during January or February 1988, a moderately powerful informational weapon was detonated at Tarczal laboratory. The missing information was erased by this detonation. The weapon's range was probably sufficient to encompass the entire lab and possibly miles of uninhabited terrain outside of it; at its focal point the explosion was powerful enough to erase even such low-granularity storage media as printed paperwork. A natural side-effect of the bomb was that all information about the bomb itself was erased in the process.

"One possibility is that the Tarczal scientists had built and tested the ignobomb themselves, or set it off by accident, thereby erasing all memory of having designed and built it. Oul's Egg was brought onto the site as the effects of the bomb were diminishing but still present, and so its arrival was incidentally caught in the blast.

"Another is that the Egg was inserted at the Laboratory without the scientists' knowledge, by a third party who then set off the bomb to camouflage his, her or its tracks.

"However, the third and, in my opinion, most compelling explanation is that it was the bomb blast itself which caused Oul's Egg to appear."


"'Oul' is the closest approximation in human language of the name of a cosmic eighty-plus-six-dimensional hyperweapon which fell out of the control of its creators.

"You do not have an appropriate conceptual framework to understand the destructive capabilities of this being. I have seen what Oul is capable of first-hand, but the three-dimensional vocabulary does not exist to describe the scale of destruction it wrought while I brought it under control.

"Oul is currently contained. The threat it represented to the higher layers of the Structure is neutralised. The absolute worst it can do is to destroy this single universe. That's the good news."


"The next part, you already know.

"By June 1988 it had been determined experimentally that the artifact was completely impenetrable to all forms of matter and energy with the exception of the flesh of a living human. That is to say, any living human volunteer could easily pass himself through the egg as if it were a hologram, while any portion of a human corpse, such as a skull or severed finger, or any other substance at all, would be repelled. Thus it became a scientific necessity to see what would happen if a live human were inserted into the egg and then killed.

"On July 1, 1988, Mikhail Zykov, a convicted murderer, had his left arm inserted into the Egg. He was then executed with carbon monoxide.

"There is no natural substance which allows living flesh to pass through it but not dead flesh. There is no chemical difference between blood extracted from a dead man and blood from a living one. There had to be an intelligent force at work, selecting what to allow through the silver ellipsoidal membrane. The scientists should have realised this, but, for whatever reason, they did not.

"Oul needed an empty mind in order to escape its container. It manipulated the scientists into providing it with one.

"At the instant Zykov expired, Oul took control of his newly-vacant brain, broke his arm off inside the now-solid Egg, and escaped into the Laboratory, killing everything that he saw. When it became clear what was happening, the Tarczal Operations Commander triggered the site's Emergency Black Site Containment system, flooding all the exits with concrete and sacrificing everybody on the site in order to prevent Zykov from escaping, a gambit which was, in the short term, successful.

"The concrete sarcophagus of the Tarczal facility was discovered four days later, and sealed off. With the authorities presuming a radiation hazard, the concrete seal was checked periodically for integrity until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 and Ukraine became an independent state. By 1992 the incident and the Laboratory had been forgotten entirely.

"In July of last year a pair of hikers discovered a mined tunnel leading from a cave on Tarczal mountain down into the Eigenweapons Laboratory. At the bottom of the passage they discovered a rock drill, connected to an electrical outlet inside the Laboratory.

"Zykov had escaped. He is still at large, and has been since as early as January 1989."


"Mikhail Zykov is currently a prominent science advisor to the Russian Federation. His exact role, responsibilities and powers within the Russian government are... not entirely clear. How he got to his current position is also unclear.

"Zykov is not a scientist. He is a creature of mass destruction trapped inside an intellect as insubstantial as an atomic nucleus. He is obeying his instinct/programming within the context in which he has found himself. He has been gathering scientists. He has an installation outside Omsk where we believe a supralight communications transceiver is installed; he may have had access to the text of the Script as many as five years before it was officially discovered by the UKAPL team in 2005. Andreas Kosogorin and John Zhang, who were behind the original A-layer communications proposals, work for him now. So does Hugh Davies, who worked at UKAPL.

"We think we can link Zykov to the death of Dutch Eka savant Jim Akker in December 2007. At the time of his death, Akker had known more about the Script than every other living human combined; we think Zykov wanted that knowledge and Akker killed himself to prevent him from getting to it. We are almost positive he was the one who triggered the Births of the first six Powers between 1998 and 2003, before losing control of the process. And we are absolutely certain that he was present at, and should have died in, the Arkhangelsk disaster of 11th November of last year.

"Zykov may make an attempt to escape through the cell wall. He may attempt to take control of the Russian nuclear arsenal. He may try to regain control of the Power cascade, or otherwise to earth his remaining reserves of power. You've rebuilt your receiver, so you know that the Script has altered itself again and again in response to the development of all these new technologies; Zykov may invent, abuse and lock out new technologies solely to cripple humanity's future.

"He may come for me personally. He may attempt to bring about the extinction of all intelligent life in this universe. Or he may be working on all of these projects simultaneously. All of them have the same end result, which is death.

"That's who he is. That's all he is. If he is responsible for the Arkhangelsk disaster, even indirectly, then he's responsible for more than a thousand lives already. It simply doesn't matter what he's going to do next. We have to stop him."

Next: this is not over and I am not dead

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Discussion (21)

2009-05-02 22:42:36 by Gremlin:

...well, this is awesome. A tad expositional, but still! Awesome!

2009-05-02 22:58:20 by qntm:

After the previous chapter I think a few people were wanting some kind of recap. This chapter makes a lot of what was previously implicit explicit. The only new plot point is that Mitch Calrus is now working with the United States, specifically Moxon's Department for Special Flight Research. Now you're all warmed up for the final Xio/Oul war!

2009-05-03 00:43:41 by conrad:

Sounds like it'll be a VERY epic war!

Is the "ignobomb" related to the Crashes on some level? Destruction of information is the recurring theme if I'm remembering right.

For some reason, the changing of the Script reminded me of the Ed stories. It'd be funny to delete Andromeda again!

2009-05-03 01:44:42 by Ben:

I've been checking the site more and more often now that the story is really picking up. It was nice to read a chapter which answered more questions than it raised, especially since I've been dying to know more about Oul and Xio.

2009-05-03 12:57:43 by Aegeus:

Um, who's speaking here? You said that Mitch is now working for the Americans, but that's not at all visible in the story.

2009-05-03 14:38:00 by Vitronus:

Perhaps the purpose of the Crashes is not to prevent nuclear war, but rather to stop Zykov from developing technologies which, when locked out via the Script, would make Alef inhospitable to intelligent life.

2009-05-03 15:46:09 by qntm:

Aegeus: the line "I have seen what Oul is capable of first-hand" indicates that it is Mitch who is speaking.

2009-05-04 00:25:18 by Tony:

That was a very nice way to directly tie Oul's Egg into the story and to explain how Oul/Zykov managed to obtain his human host. I'm rather curious as to how you will link the "present" events to the "future" events involving the repeated crashes. My current theory is most akin to to the one proposed by Vitronus.

2009-05-04 05:21:46 by Mick:

I just want to know about Anne Poole. I mean, she seems to be the only plot point with no connection to Xio or Oul, though I'm doubting she is actually unrelated.

2009-05-04 06:46:16 by nosesquid:

Anne Poole could be an unawakened avatar of the prison wall - it seems farfetched, but the process of elimination seems to tie together the only unexplained superhuman, and the only extradimensional entity without a human form that we know about. Besides, doesn't it seem appropriate that the incarnation of an impassable wall would be an indestructible person?

2009-05-05 01:11:51 by strangexperson:

Yeah, if Anne is the wall, that explains why her and Mitch would be working together during the Crashes.

2009-05-06 02:31:50 by Isaac:

YES! A Fine Structure story that actually answers some of our questions! Love the "now the very worst he can do is destroy this universe, we're so darn lucky!" (And yes, I know I'm paraphrasing)

2009-05-10 01:25:52 by M:

What is Oul?
Is it the adversary in the "Unbelievable scenes"? But it was said that it has no mind at all, and Zykov is quite intellegent. Also, the story describes it as an external being, not something that was created in the Mitch's home universe. Perhaps people there tried to create a superweapon and it went out of control, requiring Mitch to clean it up?

Or is it something else? Perhaps something that came from the Tactical, a weapon used to seal dimentsion?

2009-05-18 17:47:01 by Val:

All the plot lines are nicely converging, however there is something I still think is not well explained: if the "gatekeeper" shuts down everything that might be used by Owl to escape, why does the Power line still exist? Why was it not turned off just like teleportation?

2009-05-18 18:33:03 by Andrew:

Perhaps the reason is that the gatekeeper can only attack laws of physics. If the powers don't operate by Alef's laws, it is powerless (no pun intended) to stop them.

2009-05-20 14:56:42 by Boter:

"What is Oul?
Is it the adversary in the "Unbelievable scenes"? But it was said that it has no mind at all, and Zykov is quite intellegent."

It's intelligent by our dimension's standard, but our level of intelligence may be easily replicable by a weapon as advanced as Oul. Something something, indistinguishable from magic.

2009-05-23 22:43:52 by Val:

I think intelligent in this sense means reasoning ability and motivation, maybe self-consciousness. A guided missile or better yet, an UAV can have very good AI, but no matter how intelligent its tracking software is, it can have no independent thought, it will never say "hey, I don't feel it's the best idea to explode together with the target". It's just a weapon, no matter how intelligent it is. OWL can be seen as a weapon with damaged identification program.

2009-05-25 15:05:58 by Mick:

I'd just like to note that it's OUL, not OWL.

One letter makes a difference.

2009-05-26 13:04:58 by Val:

Yes, of course. Sorry for the typo.

2013-01-31 12:34:09 by Joe:

Hmm, comes to mind. He's a living super weapon - in fact, his 'stomach' is a black hole. He loves the taste of rocks. ;)

2013-01-31 12:35:27 by qntm: