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Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: November 4, 2242

The present leader of Varkas Reflex was a transhumanistic individual named Eliseus Bulle. He would not be in this position for long. The governmental structure of the world was somewhat chaotic, but not anarchical. Anyone could campaign for the position. There was no voting, but the process happened quickly, and relied on popular opinion. A single entity could hold the position for up to four hundred system years, which was equal to about three Earthan years. At this point, they would have to cede to new leadership, no matter what. They could not campaign again for another three thousand years, though the people could request their return at any time. Similarly, a leader could be recalled if consensus was that they should. The government was largely a formality, and not too relevant.
A very specific type of person volunteered to be a colonist for this heavy world. Anyone unlike this type was strongly discouraged from applying. There were humans, transhumans, and artificial intelligences, but they all wanted one thing: to just hang out. They weren’t researchers, or explorers, or really even adventurers. They didn’t care if this rock was ever terraformed, and they weren’t interested in gathering knowledge. They fully embraced the automated lifestyle, and saw almost no value in work. Fortunately, the technology was there to support their ideals. Besides AI that could think for themselves, which were known as IAI, there was also the kind of general AI that possessed no personality, nor self-awareness. It was capable of calculating optimal resource distribution, and detecting technical malfunctions, but it had no drive of its own. That, along with the robots themselves, industrial and food synthesization, raw material mining, and base ingredient growth, meant no one needed to work.
Back on Earth, and in other colonies, people had jobs because they wanted to fulfill themselves. They wanted to contribute to society, make a name for themselves, and develop a legacy. They still had automation, and currency was based on reputation, just like in the Star Trek franchise, or the Orvilleverse, but they continued to make decisions for themselves, because they didn’t want to feel useless. The people of Varkas Reflex had no such qualms with inutility, and were perfectly happy just swimming around in their tanks, playing games, and enjoying free entertainment. Earth assumed that these colonists would shoot off into space, and do their thing alone. They failed to predict how enticing this would be for others. Just like in those science fiction series, it turned out there was a demand for a vacation planet. It would be nothing more than a gigantic resort, designed to help people relax, and forget about their responsibilities. Eliseus Bulle had his eyes on making this happen, but they needed a few things first.
“Your chair technology,” Eliseus began, “that the girl uses.”
“Her name is Sanaa,” Hokusai answered.
Leona was present as well, along with Loa, while Sanaa was in the restroom. They thought they were just having a chat, but apparently Eliseus was just waiting for an opportunity to talk about his true motivations. Leona and Loa independently decided on respectful stillness, and just listened.
“Right. Why did you build that for her when you seem to have artificial gravity in your laboratory? Or rather, you’ve discovered anti-gravity.”
She should have been more careful. Hokusai’s lab technically existed in another dimension, so it wasn’t bound to the gravitational pull of the planet. In fact, parallel dimensions didn’t possess gravity at all, and relied on an electrostatic field to stimulate it. She couldn’t exactly give this kind of tech to the people, because what would happen when they figured out how it worked? Dimensional mechanics were a tricky thing to mess with, and very dangerous. The galaxy was fairly peaceful at this point, after Brooke and Sharice Prieto put down most of the remaining criminal elements with Paige and Holly Blue, but dimensional technology could be weaponized, and that might regress civilization. “The chair allows her to move across the surface,” she replied simply.
“Okay, fine,” Eliseus accepted for the sake of argument. “Why haven’t you done whatever it is you did for the rest of the surface? Why did you not offer this to us?”
“I didn’t build it for you.” Hokusai felt cornered, so it was best to keep her answers short.
“Again, okay, fine. Can we have it anyway?”
“You don’t have to do it for us. Just teach someone else to do it, and we’ll take care of it ourselves. Contrary to public perception, we’re fine with work as long as it’s necessary to achieve our goals.”
“It’s not that I would have to do it for you, it’s that I don’t want you to have it. I don’t want anyone to have it. It’s...complicated, and I can’t let it out. I shouldn’t have done it at all.”
“Well, it’s out there now,” Eliseus reasoned. “I don’t know what you’re worried about, because I don’t know how you did it. But you have changed the game, like it or not. You realize how much fuel we can save with this? It would help us build the space elevator. The reason we need it is the same reason it’s taking us so long; because surface gravity is so goddamn heavy. No one who has come here has ever wanted to leave, but that’s the worst part about it; that they have no choice. We can’t lift off from here.”
“You’re right, it would help lift spacecraft,” she agreed, “but it could also destroy them. If you focused this energy to a single point, you could cut a hole in an enemy ship, and tear it apart within seconds.”
“I don’t have any enemies,” Eliseus argued, and it wasn’t just hyperbole. He almost certainly didn’t have any enemies. He probably didn’t even dislike anybody. The power of the post-monetary world was even more powerful for people who were deliberately casual about life. War was so passé.
“I’m obviously not talking about you specifically, or probably even anyone on Varkas Reflex. Secrets get out. How would we stop it from being stolen, and eventually used this way? What happens when we meet an alien species, and they’re not so friendly? How could we resist not just ending them in the blink of an eye?”
Eliseus understood and appreciated her concern. He was a thoughtful person, which was why he was elected in the first place. In a world where the laws were so lax that they didn’t even bother coming up with a title for the global leader, people still recognized the importance of finding leaders who were a little more considerate. Carefree did not mean careless. If this were high school, they would be voting for the most responsible candidate for class president, rather than the guy who promised brawndo in the water fountains. Eliseus sat for a good long while, thinking over the options. He wanted to make this happen, but he knew she wasn’t just being an asshole. “It’s a delicate dance,” he said finally. “I’m up for recall in thirty years.” He wasn’t being recalled in the same way a president would be impeached, and removed from office, but it was the best term they could come up with to indicate the natural end of a leader’s tenure.
“Okay...” Hokusai nodded.
“The second-most promising candidate is an AI named Motherboard. She is pushing for a declaration of independence.”
Hokusai widened her eyes. “Really?”
“Yeah, she won’t win, because we enjoy the Earthan entertainment they allow us to have, certain shipments of resources, and military assurances, but she could be given an advantage if I endorsed her. I’m pretty popular.”
“Why would you being independent matter to me?” she questioned.
“We could protect your technology if Earth had no right to inspect it. They would not be allowed to take it if it belonged to an independent state.”
“That doesn’t make much sense,” Hokusai began. “I see your logic, but aren’t you hoping to use this to build a vacation planet? Would Earth allow any of its citizens the sixteen-year minimum vacation time they would need to come here, and go back?”
Eliseus bobbed his head side to side. “We’re not asking to become rivals. Hell, we could even say it’s to protect our—meaning your—technology. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be able to negotiate the modern equivalent to free trade.”
“So, you want to cede control to Motherboard, let her declare independence, ask me to build more anti-gravity structures, construct hotels and roller coasters, and whatnot inside of them, negotiate a new and unique relationship with Earth, and open your proverbial doors to long-term vacationers. Did I get everything?”
“That sounds about right,” he said.
“That may—may—protect my tech from Earth, but not from anyone here. One spy, and it’s over. It just takes one person to make a mistake, or to deliberately share the design with the wrong person. And by wrong person, I mean anyone else.”
He did not deny this. “Hypothetical. How long would it take you to build more?”
“Of course it depends on how many square meters you need. I can’t un-mass the whole planet, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Eliseus shook his head. “No, no, no; just enough to get us started. We’ve not really drawn up any plans, but let’s say a one-block hotel, two olympic-sized swimming pools, and a concert venue. No roller coasters for now.”
Hokusai considered this. “How long would it take to build those, ignoring the AG tech?”
“With our limited resources?” he asked rhetorically. “Probably a whole Earthan year.”
“A year,” she answered. “I would have to incorporate it into the designs, but the process wouldn’t extend your timetable. The more you want to do, though, the more it stretches, because I could never allow a single other entity to even so much as take a peek at the designs, let alone help me work. The only people I trust are in this lab right now, and there’s one person here that I don’t trust.”
He looked away to give it thought. “Two blueprints. One official, and public record, and the real one, which only you four have ever seen. I think I can work with that.”
“I still don’t know,” Hokusai admitted.
“I can dig it,” Eliseus said. “So, let’s keep talking. Personally, I don’t care how it works. You could be an advanced alien from Pi Canis Majoris for all I care. I just want us to build something here. I want the rest of the stellar neighborhood to stop looking at us like a big joke. If we have something they don’t, they might take us seriously. So, you see, I don’t want the technology getting out any more than you do.”
“I can dig it,” Hokusai echoed.
Leona left the timestream at the end of her day, after which Hokusai and Eliseus kept talking. By the time she returned a year later, they had come to an agreement. He was still leader of Varkas Reflex. They changed the government itself in order to maintain a better level of continuity, which was always going to be their biggest problem using the original system. Today was their Independence Day.

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