Submitted by Mapache on Tue, 2000-11-21 00:00

Overheard at the Eighth Virtue:

"So I figure something's up, right, and I try resonating this guy, and it was…just weird, never seen anything like it. It's not that I couldn't get a reading, it's that there was nothing to read."

"Huh? Whaddya mean by that, he shielded or something?"

"No, the Symphony—it just wasn't there. Or, it was but I couldn't make it out."

"You okay? Been racking up dissonance or something?"

"No, I'm telling you, it's like all I could see was static. I guess it must have been the Symphony, and I could see it fine, but it made no sense. It was all wrong, random, kinda scrambled…and not just him, but the whole room. I just went into shock for a second or so, it felt so wrong. Next thing I know, he's gone—*poof* into thin air…"

"Dude, that's really whack, you know? Wonder if it's some new kinda shit they got—you try asking Jean about this? He'd know if something like that was possible."

"No, not yet, maybe I should."

"And, you *sure* your boss says you're okay?"

Somewhere else, some other time:

"Ooh, we got a blip about two klicks north. Looks like an moebius-convolved 9-manifold."

"What frequency?"

"Dunno, looks aperiodic, or maybe it's just expanding."

"Damn, that's a hell of a lot of entropy they're dumping. Somebody's bending the fabric pretty hard out there…you think they're onto us?"

"If they were, they'd be here by now. Relax, we're encrypted; they're totally blind to us out here."

The Symphony is made up of notes. Notes that overlap, bounce off each other, interact in horribly complex ways and affect each other and give rise to the universe humans know and the realms beyond. Modern physics tries to study this universe in detail. Each experiment reveals a little more, improving the models that seek to explain everything. One theory reduces everything to vibrating sheets in an eleven-dimensional space. It happens to be right.

Aditya Chandrasekar used to be a physics grad student that worried about things like funding. Then, he built a special sensor to test some details of his latest revision to the theory, with some help from his wife Serena Berlusconi-Gutierrez, a highly competent programmer. Everything looked good. All the measurements matched. Then, he thought of trying something else. Instead of measuring vibrations, he decided to try vibrating his instrument to see what happened. In much the same way that a speaker and a microphone are essentially identical, it worked. In a small localized area, he tweaked the laws of physics. But, before he published, he wanted more data…

Aditya and Serena have formed the core of a secretive group of scientists, mathematicians, and hackers half-jokingly calling themselves the Reality Engineers. They've developed some new theories of physics that predict the Symphony perfectly, and also explain how to alter bits of it. They all carry around high-speed laptops that have a very, very special PCMCIA card in them. Inside these cards lie quantum sensors that can detect the flow of the Symphony in infinite detail, and by vibrating correctly in the eleven dimensions, alter local patterns, even permanently. What they're doing isn't imposing their will on the Symphony; it's rewriting it wholescale. Among the first tricks they learned is the ability to encrypt the Symphony so celestials can no longer understand it. Angels can't make heads or tails of these altered pockets of reality; demons can't find the familiar threads to pull to alter the careful weave of the Symphony. They've got experimental areas set up where they've altered fundamental constants of the universe, just to see what happens. Lately, they've figured out how to make reality more pliant. Certain locales have been altered to respond easily to the user's will, but are set up to only be malleable by certain individuals. In effect, they're dreamscapes on Earth that can be manipulated at will by the creators, but are rigidly inflexible to others, causing songs and resonances to fail. Their efforts and experimentation don't even cause any disturbance, as they're not bending the rules at all, just erasing them and writing new ones. However, careful checking can detect the edges where these altered Symphonies connect with God's. While their work lacks the instantaneousness of a Song, minor alterations can be done in seconds thanks to the extensive libraries of routines they've compiled, and there's no limit to what can be done to the Universe. Right now, they're just learning. They've discovered that there's beings out there who can push the Symphony or read it, and that believe they're angels or demons. Interactions are limited to observation. They have met up with one ethereal, though, and have gotten some rather interesting information out of it without giving away what they're really up to (it happened to think they were sorcerors). Fortunately for everyone, they're a fairly altruistic group that is concerned about these awesome powers falling into the wrong hands, so they're proceeding with caution and secrecy. Eventually, though, they'll want to release a new improved Reality 2.0.

If anyone finds out what's going on, all hell will break loose. Jean'll have a heart attack. (Though he'll be happy to know that reality is being tampered with by a bunch of rigorous scientists, and not some rag-tag bunch of post-modernist jerks calling themselves mages and babbling about ascendance ;-) Vapula'll want to steal their notes really, really, really badly, and be miffed that someone beat him to cracking the universe. Any ethereal will claim it's proof that God is simply a trumped-up ethereal who rewrote the Symphony. Yves'll smile and perhaps say something cryptic, such as "And thus we come full circle." Eli would think that this is the ultimate thing to create—creation itself. Kobal might just laugh and laugh and laugh, then go off to finish his special task…

Some notes:

In In Nomine, there is no magic, just bending of the Symphony through certain rotes known as Songs or by extreme applications of willpower. True Magic would require the ability to rewrite the Symphony wholesale to behave like you wanted it to. Of course, this would put such an individual on the same level as God. This, as they say, makes things interesting…