Saturday, October 24, 2020

Glisnia: Superstardom (Part VIII)

Everyone who didn’t need to be in Glisnia anymore left. There was no reason for Katica to stick around, since she wasn’t really welcome here in the first place. The rest of the hopefully now disbanded Shorter List, and the remaining members of The Shortlist needed to return to their lives as well. Holly Blue was still around, though a lot grumpier than before. Futurology Administrator Viana Černý wanted to conduct some business here, and she was welcome to do so. She was welcome pretty much anywhere she wanted to go in the stellar neighborhood. She probably wouldn’t be too involved with Operation Starsiphon. Ambrose Richardson, who evidently hailed from an entirely separate universe, was here to help Jupiter Rosa realize his full potential. Jupiter could access alternate microrealities. These potential worlds only existed for fractions of a second, within a higher dimension, and represent what might have been if different decisions were made. It was possible to steal matter and energy from these realities, because they were going to collapse anyway, so no one should miss them. Most of the time, Jupiter could use his power to make a copy of himself, or in rare instances, many copies. He couldn’t siphon wholesale resources from an alternate version of Gliese 832 without a little boost from Ambrose. Or rather, a huge boost.
According to Ambrose himself, he had never boosted anyone’s ability to quite this degree before. If they were going to pull it off, he would need time to practice and prepare. The two of them went off together, while Hogarth and Holly Blue started working on the technological side of this endeavor. At the moment, they were trying to figure out if there was any way to boost Jupiter’s power even more. They needed as much as they could get, and there was no reason they couldn’t tackle this problem from more than one angle. “Are you mad at me?”
“Why would I be mad?” Holly Blue questioned.
“Because Jupiter gave me this project?”
Holly Blue adjusted her magnification goggles to get a better look at the logic board she was making. “Aren’t we calling this an operation?”
“You know what I mean,” Hogarth noted.
She stopped working, and looked up for a moment, but didn’t remove her goggles, so she couldn’t really see Hogarth’s face. “Do I strike you as some kind of narcissist? Is that really what you think of me?”
“Well, you’ve been really antagonistic lately, so I didn’t know if it was something I did, or...”
Holly Blue went back to work. “I just didn’t agree that we should steal resources from elsewhere in the galaxy. I’m allowed to have a different opinion.”
“I know that. It just felt very personal to me.”
“It wasn’t, Hogarth. I assure you, we’re good.”
“That’s nice to hear.” She went back to triple checking her fusion equations for a bit, but couldn’t do it for long. “It’s just...what do you have a problem with exactly? Those star systems aren’t inhabited. Brooke and Sharice Prieto have a method of detecting future life potential, so that shouldn’t be an issue either.”
Now Holly Blue figured she had to stop working, and take off her goggles. She sighed heavily. “Take a look around, what do you see?”
“My lab? I mean, our lab.”
“This is a matrioshka brain.”
“It is.”
“And you’ve started on the neck of a matrioshka body.”
“Indeed.”
“This whole system is here to benefit the Glisnians.”
Hogarth narrowed her eyes. “I suppose so, yeah. But the whole neighborhood will benefit in the long run. With this much processing power, we could make so many breakthroughs, it’s...it’s beyond what we can even fathom today.”
She nodded, like she agreed, but then she said, “bullshit.”
“What?”
“It’s bullshit. This project is about ego, and peacocking. The mechs are no more sophisticated or evolved than humans were four hundred years ago. They all just want to show off, to be better than everyone else, and make a mark. People thought that people would lose ambition once they cracked immortality, but that hasn’t happened. They’re even more obsessed with making a name for themselves, because now there’s too much competition, and it’s all so fleeting. Tens of billions of independent conscious entities, it’s impossible to be famous. Who’s the one who wants this from us, the one who asked you to build him the time siphon?”
“Mekiolenkidasola, a.k.a. Lenkida.”
“Yeah, he’s gonna get credit for this. I’m not saying he’ll steal all the glory, or anything; he won’t have to, because you and I don’t have the same goals as him. He’ll go down in history as the person in charge of making the matrioshka body happen. What he doesn’t realize is that it’s a fruitless pursuit. He’ll be big for a while, but then someone will come up with an artificial great attractor, or a singularity siphon, and he won’t matter anymore. Used to be, a man could die, feeling like he was the most important man in the world. Now, though, everyone lives to see themselves drift into obscurity. That’s gonna start causing a lot of problems. Immortality has downsides that they did not predict. You understand what I’m saying?”
“Sorry, yes, I did hear you. I’m also thinking about the black hole siphon, and the hypergravity generator you mentioned. I understand your meaning. You don’t seem to take issue with Project Stargate, or Operation Starseed, though. Aren’t those designed to do the same thing? Boost ego?”
“I disagree with the time siphon exactly because of those two endeavors, Starseed especially. It was created to create life. Civilizations will rise on those planets. If evolved aliens existed, I would probably be against it, but it would seem we are the only ones here, and our species has a right to those worlds. Because when new life springs up on them, they will make it their own. They will work hard, and make mistakes, and they’ll fail each other, and they’ll create amazing things. The time siphon would have interfered with that. The way I see it, Starseed is like the modern day version of turnover. We don’t die anymore, but if we seed life somewhere else, and don’t interact with them for a long time, it’s like we’re dying, and making room for new generations. The only good thing about death was its ability to force new ideas. Starseed fosters that; the time siphon hinders it. That, Madam Pudeyonavic, is why I pushed back so hard.”
“Why didn’t you say any of that during our first meeting?”
Holly Blue turned back towards her work, but didn’t pick up her tools. She stared into blank space for a few moments. “I didn’t understand it myself at the time. I felt it, but I didn’t know it, and I couldn’t formulate my argument yet.”
She nodded. “Well, we’re not doing it. It was a tough road, but we got here. We have an alternative, and I think it’s good. I’m glad you pushed back. Unregulated science leads to mad science, and I don’t wanna become that.”
Before they could get back to their work, Hilde rushed into the lab. “You need to come quick. There’s something wrong in the training grounds.”
They jumped up immediately, and ran off to follow Hilde down the hall. She led them past where Hogarth thought Jupiter and Ambrose were training, and into a different corridor. They came to a room so large, that it looked like they were outside. Holographic imagery simulated the sky, and the sun. They quickly redirected their attention to the middle of the field, where something Hogarth wasn’t certain how to classify was hovering over the artificial turf. A glowing orb was spinning and pulsating before them. Jupiter and Ambrose were watching it from opposite sides, and holding their arms down and behind themselves, as if anticipating being knocked over. By the time the three of them made it across the field, the orb was already larger. It was growing.
“What is this?” Hogarth demanded to know.”
“We’re not sure,” Jupiter cried. “We were hoping you could tell us.”
“Back up!” Holly Blue ordered. “Stop letting it catch up with you.”
There was a way to figure out what this was, and how it got here, but it might be impossible for Hogarth in her current condition. When she was a child, time itself spoke through her. It compelled her to create a special book. She didn’t have to write it. She drew on a door with a pencil, and once she was finished, the seemingly random assortment of lines and curves lifted from the wood, and combined with each other to essentially make the book out of nothing. They called it the Book of Hogarth, and if you had a question about the universe, and how it worked, it would have the answer. You weren’t necessarily entitled to read it, and find that answer, but it would be in there somewhere. She could once summon her book at will in desperate times, but that was in her OG body, so she might have lost her ability to pull off that trick. The worst that could happen was the attempt overloading her neural network, and killing her permanently. So no big deal.
Out of instinct, Hogarth stretched her neck out, and shook her arms and legs. Holly Blue apparently recognized this. “Don’t do that. We don’t need your book.”
“This thing could explode at any moment,” Hogarth contended.
“True, but your book isn’t going to help us with that,” Holly Blue tried to explain. “I think we all know that this is the sun. We’re looking at it as filtered through some kind of dimensional barrier, which is why it appears so small right now, but it is bleeding into our reality, and we will eventually be able to detect it in three spatial dimensions. I don’t know what happens when two versions of the same star suddenly occupy the same space as each other, but it is not good. We have to evacuate.”
“The book can help us stop it,” Hogarth argued. “It will have the answer. There’s a specific page that I know will help.”
“This shouldn’t have happened,” Ambrose apologized. “I’m not that powerful. I was only trying to help him gain access to another reality, not bring a whole star into ours.”
“No one could have predicted this,” Hogarth assured him. “You were doing what we asked. Now, everybody stop talking. I need to concentrate.” She took a deep fake breath, and closed her artificial eyelids. As she was standing there, the temperature rose slightly, indicating that the mini-sun had grown yet again. A hand landed on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to find Ambrose.
“It’s okay. I can help.”
The book was never meant for her. It was designed to help others, which was something she knew deep down inside, even though no one ever told her that. Still, she had an unbreakable connection to it, so if she needed it, she should be able to get it. Ambrose added the extra energy she needed. She held out her arms, and let the book fall into them from the invisible portal it came through. She flipped it over. Back in the day, she would have needed to procure a scanner from somewhere, or make one from an industrial synthesizer. Her new sensory detectors, however, were capable of scanning anything, from optical signals, to RFID tags, to QR codes. It was that last one that she needed right now. She tried to scan it a long time ago, but a voice in her head warned her that it was dangerous, and that she should only do this in a terrible emergency. This surely qualified as that. Before she activated her scanner, she just stared at it in the visible light spectrum. “Start the evacuation procedures,” she ordered no one in particular. “I don’t know what this is going to do. It may not even be our best option, but it’s the one I got, so get everyone else out.”
“Wait,” Hilde tried to stop her, but it was too late.
Hogarth toggled her retina, and scanned the code. She could feel a darkness overwhelm her from behind, and tear everything in the room away from her. She was standing in a void, and she wasn’t alone.
A hazy violet figure appeared before her, but she couldn’t tell if it was small, or far away. It either grew, or drew nearer, until it was about Hogarth’s size, and looked like a man. “Hello. I am Aitchai. What can I do for ya?”

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