This scene was originally the second sub-chapter of the final episode, Science Fiction Future. Its inclusion was controversial. In this scene several fairly major facts are revealed. First, that like Oul, Xio has an "egg". Xio's egg is buried under an archaeological excavation in equatorial Somalia, at the point on Earth where humans first rose to sentience, thereby creating a large enough concentration of intelligence to cause Xio to "condense out" from what, up until then, was something like a thin vapour of consciousness spread over the whole universe. Like Oul's egg, Xio's egg requires a freshly-deceased human body to escape, and it is an unlucky mathematics teacher called Mitchell James Calrus who fatally trips and falls and provides that outlet. Calrus is in Somalia on expedition with a few other teachers and a group of pupils from his school, establishing educational links with a Somalian school which, for no reason other than to convolute matters, also happens to include Anoo Nkube from this was supposed to be a parable about the power of the imagination. (So it is Calrus who visited her and provided the computer she uses to teach herself.)
This scene occurs in 2005, some years before Mitch is officially revealed in The Story So Far. It therefore appears to be a colossal retcon. It casts immense doubt over the true circumstances of Mitch's first meeting with Seph Baird - is he making friends or insinuating himself into her mind? It also (in combination with a line which I deleted from Ching's speech during the "Ghosts" sub-chapter of "Science Fiction Future" - "In fact, an invisible man could easily have sabotaged that first experiment...") raises the frightening possibility that - using his four-dimensional powers to break into the laboratory at night - Mitch orchestrated the original teleportation experiment in Taphophobia deliberately, in order to destroy Anne Poole's mind and acquire her as an asset to his cause. It would even be possible that he had contact with Anne Poole before the experiment occurred, perhaps discovering that her mind was impervious to mental attack and using the teleportation accident as an alternative way to break her mind down. This would explain why, against incredibly long odds, Anne Poole ends up actually being found, instead of being buried forever. No trace of Mitch's sabotage would be found except fingerprints. These fingerprints wouldn't match anything... except fingerprints found on the money from in Mitch's other known crime, in The Four-Dimensional Man when he uses his powers to steal some money from a bank, but later reluctantly returns it. That crime made the news. Thomas Muoka would have seen the newspaper article about it. Muoka would have figured out that only a four-dimensional person could have committed the crime. Muoka would have instantly realised, when he saw Mitch reach through the MPR like a ghost in The Story So Far, that Mitch must be that four-dimensional person. Mitch would have seen that Muoka had realised this, and this would be why Mitch "silenced" Muoka.
Here's the problem. All of this was intended from the start. I wanted Mitch to have a secret darker side which would be revealed at the climax of the story. Whether he would truly be the aggressor from Unbelievable Scenes, I didn't know. I decided to play it safe on that score, and kept matters ambiguous. I went to great lengths to avoid hinting at any of these facts because I knew that if I did, somebody would instantly figure it out and blow the secret in a comment. The problem was that I played too coy. The result was that this reveal came completely out of left field. It uprooted so many established facts, like the God-did-it explanation for the events of Taphophobia, that it pretty much made no sense at all.
AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY: it didn't add anything to the story. The basic resolution of the story is not "Oul is really the good guy and Mitch is really the bad guy", which was my sophomoric first idea, which was suggested by a reader very early in the game. It is not "both Mitch and Oul are as bad as each other in their casual disregard for 'trivial' humanity". The resolution is "Mitch was just a human guy, in an impossible situation, and he did bad things to prevent other bad things, and had several changes of heart, and It Was Complicated". So revealing these dark past facts doesn't help that. It just clouds the issue and pushed Mitch too far towards uneqivocal evilness. That said, enjoy!
The first thing he feels is heat on his back. Then dust between his fingers. There's something hot and red dripping out of his mouth, and there's the infinite, unutterable weight of entombment. He can't think for the pressure. He can barely form a thought. It's like his brain is inside a vice. The world is grey-yellow and red and vertical and incredibly hot. Distant fusion. He feels pinned to one wall, with others rising up around him like an artificial chasm. A word crawls out of his new host's memories and into his own. Gravity?
This is where it happened, says a new voice in his head. This is where they woke up for the first time. In deepest equatorial Africa.
"Where iszh thiszh? Shree and ONE? How am I szhtill- - How- -"
No XG. No readouts. He gropes for orientation but he's cut off from hundreds of his senses. He spins around. He's wearing a filthy dusty T-shirt, shorts, walking boots. There's a wide-brimmed hat which he dropped when he fell. Above him, there's a crumbled ledge, not shored up properly. There's a red clay ramp leading out of the archaeological excavation to the surface. Two young teenagers, both taller than he is, are skidding down the ramp, wearing similar attire and backpacks. "Mister Calrus! Mister Calrus! Are you okay?"
"Zhat name," he slurs. He realises he's spraying the red stuff all over his chest and the sand. He raises a hand to his mouth and now his hand has blood all over it too. "AOOW! Where do I know zhat name from - - "
"Your mouth is broken!" says Ben, the shorter of the two. A school expedition? They're worried. There are plans unfolding in their heads, involving a nearby village and a satellite telephone. "We need to get you to a doctor. We'll have to call an air ambulance or something. I can't believe you're even alive after falling that far."
He can't move. He can't see. He's imprisoned and he doesn't know where he is. But as he collapses and pass out, he notices something buried deep inside the archaeology below them. Something small, and distant, and silvery in the all-penetrating superlight.