Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brooke’s Battles: Breakneak (Part X)

           After further discussions, Ecrin agreed to captain The Sharice to Bungula with the Freemarketeers as passengers, but there was still something she wasn’t saying. Brooke agreed to stay and pilot, as did Holly Blue as head engineer. The rest of the crew was not asked to stay on board. If the Freemarketeers wanted this ship to schlep them around the star cluster, they were going to have to put in the work themselves. A new crew was selected, drawn from their ranks. Their responsibilities were the same, but their movements carefully monitored by Sharice Prieto herself, who was utilizing an additional set of internal sensors. Only the senior crew would be capable of activating the tetra-tap, and accessing privacy mode. That was all well and good, except that it wasn’t just up to them. Millions of hopeful migrants were counting on being in the running for the colony ships to the Alpha Centauri system. It would take a lot of sweet-talking to get the rest of the solar system inhabitants on board with this. In the beginning, even those who weren’t interested in leaving Sol felt it unfair that the Freemarketeers were just handed this.
After months and months of newscasts, debates, public forums, and the like, a compromise was reached. The Sharice would indeed take the Freemarketeers to Bungula, but they would not be the only ones. A regular fleet of colony ships would follow close behind. Each party would settle on opposite sides of the planet, and interact only at their own wishes. Regular colonizers would be provided the standard complement of technology, including orbital satellites, interplanetary vessels, and at least one interstellar ferry, for the time being. Meanwhile, the Freemarketeers would have to pretty much fend for themselves, with only basic habitats, and minimal rations. Funny enough, they didn’t reject these provisions, even though capitalism expected them to be paid for. They claimed capitalism still allowed for gifts, because that was simply valuing those resources at a price of zero. In reality, capitalists are quite happy with having to pay for things until they can’t afford something they really, really want. At that point, they feel they deserve compassion and charity. The inconsistency of people believing in capitalism only when it suited them was exactly why the solar system did away with it.
Another issue was that the Sharice Davids was not an interstellar ship. She was not equipped with the right radiation shielding, or hypervelocity impact bumpers to protect from micrometeor strikes. While the system leadership was trying to make this work on the political front, Holly Blue was retrofitting Sharice yet again, but even after all that was done, there was still one problem. One person they failed to include in the decision to do any of this was Sharice herself. No one had thought to ask her what she wanted, and she had spent the last several months stewing in relative silence about it. No more.
“Do you not want to go?” Brooke asked her.
I’m fine with going, but this is my home, and I don’t want to be gone from it that long,” Sharice lamented.
“It’s only thirteen years, sweetheart,” Brooke said. “Neither of us is going to die, so that’s nothing.”
I don’t care. I’ve met someone.
Oh, you’re the only one who’s allowed to have a significant other? The galaxy does not revolve around Brooke Prieto and Goswin Montagne.” It was true that they had started something after the Freemarketeer deliberations. They were taking it slow, and the only reason he was staying on the ship was because he lost his system leader housing upon being let go, and hadn’t been assigned anywhere new.
“Of course not, Sharice, but—”
But what? I’m just a machine, and couldn’t have possibly found someone.
“Sharice, stop being so defensive. I didn’t think you had met someone, because you haven’t said anything about someone, not because I didn’t think you were capable of it.”
I don’t tell you everything.
“I guess not. Does this individual possess a personal designation?”
Brooke had to think about that for a moment. “That artificial intelligence from the police procedural comedy from, like, a million years ago?”
No, not him. They built a real computer, based on him.
“So, he’s not even an AI, but a programmed intelligence?”
I’m teaching him to think for himself.
“When did you even meet? Where is he?”
His physical substrate is on Earth, but we use a quantum commlink to communicate, so we never needed to meet. It’s so human of you to ask.
“If you use a quantum commlink, what does it matter if you go off to Alpha Centauri?”
Because, mom, we can’t stay in contact while I’m traveling at such high relativistic speeds. You know that,” Sharice sassed.
“I guess that’s true. Do you want me to drain your consciousness to some other substrate? We’ve talked about that a little, but not much. You don’t have to be a ship.
I like being a ship. I don’t want to leave my ship. I just don’t want to leave Sol, which is why I propose a new plan.
“What plan?”
It should take over six years to get to Bungula, and over six more to get back. It’s unclear how much time we’re spending in orbit before leaving, so we estimate the whole journey at thirteen years. But we’re talking about using current human technology, which is not the only kind of technology we have access to.
“You’re talking about Holly Blue,” Brooke assumed. “We only have a short-range teleporter. If we tried to use burst mode, the ship would vaporize, and even if it survived, it would take over a hundred years, which is slower.”
I’m not talking about teleporting all the way to Alpha Centauri. I’m talking about true faster-than-light travel. We could get there in a year, or perhaps shorter.
“I’ve asked Holly Blue if that was possible. She doesn’t seem to think so.”
According to Holly Blue’s future, but the timeline’s past, she’s already done it,” Sharice argued.
Brooke stuck her fingers in her ears, even though it wouldn’t really stop her from hearing. “La-la-la, I can’t hear that. I ain’t about foolin’ with the timeline.”
She’ll need help, though.
Brooke kept her hands to her side, but repeated for effect, “la-la-la.”
An unperturbed Sharice continued, “fortunately, Holly Blue herself has been working on an invention capable of giving her that help. Please proceed along the highlighted route.”
A reluctant but curious Brooke left her quarters, and followed the arrows blinking on the floor down the hall, and into one of Holly Blue’s labs. There was nothing in it, except for a tall something in the middle of the room, covered with a furniture cover, which revealed a mirror when removed. “She was working on this? What is it, an extraction mirror?” They were a rare type of artifact designed to reach an individual from some other point in time, usually just before their moment of death. The purpose was to say one last thing to a loved one, though powerful choosers often exploited a loophole by removing an individual from that moment, and allowing that person to continue living their lives. On its own, however, a mirror couldn’t alter the timeline, which meant that anyone removed would have to eventually return. Because of how much they risked creating a paradox, they were all destroyed. Though, because of time travel, that didn’t matter all that much.
“Of sorts,” Holly Blue answered, walking into the room.
“What does this do, Holly?” Brooke asked.
“It doesn’t remove someone from a moment in time. It removes them from an alternate timeline.”
“How is that better?”
“Each new timeline exists because of an instance of time travel in the timeline that came before it.” She used airquotes for the word. “The point of divergence happens at the moment the traveler arrives in the past, which always acts to collapse their originating timeline at the moment of egress. Nothing happens after they leave, because that timeline doesn’t need to exist anymore, and in fact, can’t.”
“Okay, I follow...”
Holly Blue stepped forward, and presented the mirror she had built. “This thing, if it works, can take someone from the previous timeline at that moment of collapse. Unlike with an extraction mirror, they don’t have to go back, because the timeline doesn’t rely on them doing so.”
“Why did you build this? Who are you trying to get to?”
Holly Blue stuck her hand behind the mirror, and switched it on. The frame began to hum, and the glass turned a shade of red before slowly becoming orange, and continuing along the spectrum. “Myself.” She pushed another button, and the hum intensified. Green, Blue, Indigo. “Sharice has already asked me to use it to help me help her shorten our trip through interstellar space.”
“Holly Blue, I don’t know if you should do this. Even if we’re not in danger of creating a paradox, it’s still dangerous to meet with an alternate version of yourself. People don’t like it. I’m serious, if anyone finds out, they might kill one of you, or make you merge into one person.”
“No one is gonna make me do shit, especially not once I have The Weaver on my side.” She pressed the final button, which turned the glass completely black.
“Is it supposed to do that?” Brooke asked.
“I sure hope so.” Holly Blue stepped back slowly as the mirror started to vibrate, then tremble, then full on shake.
Brooke decided to follow suit.
The mirror continued to quake until reaching critical mass, and just toppling over. They could hear the glass breaking on the floor. “Shit,” Holly Blue exclaimed in a loud whisper, extremely disappointed.
“Let’s consider this a sign,” Brooke said. “Maybe you shouldn’t be messing with alternate realities. Here, I’ll help you clean up.” She reached down, and lifted the frame, which revealed a body under it, curled up like a turtle. “Oh my God.” She tossed the mirror up and away, then knelt down to help the woman, who was bleeding all over her body from the shards of broken glass.
The woman struggled to stand up, and looked around, quickly settling on Holly Blue.
“It worked,” Holly Blue said, eyes wide with delight.
“It would seem,” The Weaver replied. She looked back at the machine she had just used to come here. “I know what this is. I came up with it years ago, but scrapped the plans after I realized it would cause more problems than it would fix. Have you ever been in a fight with yourself? It’s not as fun as it sounds.”
“I just need your help,” Holly Blue said. “I hear you came up with something called the cylicone? What is that?”

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