Saturday, November 28, 2020

Glisnia: Binary Engine (Part XIII)

The group was standing in the control room of the solar chamber. Though it was called a chamber, it was not completely solid, as that would have gravitational consequences. In fact, this whole matrioshka body was composed of different parts, rotating in concert with each other, and held together via energy fields, and pressure forces. Some of them were cylinders, others rings, and some even saucers. The solar chamber was a hollow sphere, lined by hundreds of millions of thermal collectors. Once the new sun was in place, these collectors will relay power to only one component. The red dwarf they were using was now going to be used to power internal systems, while the yellow dwarf they did not yet have would only power the engine. Now that the body was essentially complete, Hogarth decided she wanted the thing to be able to move. It was called a stellar engine, and while it wasn’t the first one to be designed for the stellar neighborhood, it was going to be the absolute largest, and was destined to be completed in a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the time.
“Are we quite confident about this?” Crimson Clover asked. Hogarth later learned that the Glisnian government was not composed of literally every single entity in the system, though that was how it was designed, and intended to be. Any individual was free to disengage themselves from the collective, and they were even free to return to the fold, though only at the beginning of a new cycle. A cycle was not any set period of time, like a month, or a year. Instead, each was determined by a complex series of temporal math equations, which was needlessly complicated, but if the collective didn’t want to use it, they could stop at any time. While disengaged, an individual still enjoyed the same rights and protections as everyone else, but they would not be included in determining what these were. And each cycle, these rights and protections were up for debate, and those who chose not to contribute to the decision on them risked them being taken away. Nothing significantly negative had happened to the willfully disenfranchised before, but it always could. Crimson was one of these who had never contributed to the government, and that was how it liked it, and it was because of this that it never realized how deep Lenkida’s lies ran. Otherwise, it would have said something.
“You doubt my power?” Hogarth questioned with faux bravado.
“Oh, no, I know you can do it.” Crimson gestured towards the gargantuan world around them. “I just want to make sure that we should.”
“I think it’s more asking if we’re allowed to,” Hilde offered. She was now back in her original organic substrate. She wasn’t planning on dying, or anything. She just preferred the idea of cloning herself, and transferring her consciousness over to the younger body every time she needed it. Crimson reported considering the same immortality path, after having spent centuries in Hogarth’s body.
“I did my due diligence this time. Avalhana was telling the truth, according to a random sampling.” It was true. Hogarth spent over a month going around to as many Glisnians as she could, confirming what she had been told about how the system worked. She spoke with dermal mechs, and hard tops, and noncorporeal intelligences. She even found a few organics who she should have met before, seeing as they were relegated to certain areas, not because they were unworthy, but because organic beings were limited where they could survive. Some places had more or less gravity, and more or less air to breathe. The point was they all said the same thing, that Glisnia was run by a connected collective, that some chose to disconnect themselves but remain here, and that Lenkida had been lying to them about it this entire time. Hogarth wasn’t about to let something like that happen again, even if it all turned out okay.
“Can confirm,” Ethesh said bluntly. He was still mostly organic, but had received a number of transhumanistic upgrades, one of which allowed him to join the Glisnian collective as one of them. Whether to create new life, and what kind, was the most common decision the Glisnians made together. Whether to patriate a new citizen was the third most common. Having been instrumental in completing the matrioshka body, Ethesh was welcomed warmly. He said that he was always looking for his forever home, that Dardius was never that, and that fate only placed him there so he could eventually make his way here. It was unclear if he was planning to stay as he was for now, or if he would later mechanize himself more. Either way was fine. Death was rare on Glisnia, but not out of the question.
Speaking of which, a directed death would soon take place. For the most part, capital punishment was not considered legal on Glisnia, but it couldn’t be entirely outlawed either, because that would be incredibly dangerous. Their definition of life was a lot different than it was on Earth, and few humans could argue it wasn’t right. In fact, humans extinguished life on the daily. They took antibiotics to kill bacterial infections, and wore masks to prevent the spread of viral pandemics. This was a hundred percent normal. Anyone who argued against it was fundamentally harmful to the greater good, and warranted a swift reckoning. Computer viruses were the same thing, and they formed on Glisnia all the time. Bad code, intentional malevolent forces; they were less likely to happen in the world of quantum computing, but not impossible, and quite prevalent due to the sheer number of processes being calculated every second.
Mekiolenkidasola was bad code, according to the government, and he was to be executed for it, along with a few other key potentially destructive entities. They weren’t doing it out of spite or anger. Lenkida and his compatriots were quite literally capable of infecting the entire system with their bad code, and the only way to protect the positive was to remove the negative. Every time it came to decide on something like this, the idea of exiling the disease to an isolated location was proposed. But they never went this route, because in the scifi film about it, the evil robots always returned with a vengeance. They figured it was best to just get rid of it, and not worry about retaliation. That didn’t mean they took these decisions lightly. They didn’t just go around deleting each other when something went wrong. They always tried to look for a reformation alternative, which was of course, very different than it was for organics, but at some point, they did just give up. Lenkida was someone they gave up on, and unfortunately, that meant he was going to die for it. It was something the rest of the group wasn’t going to talk about anymore.
Today, it was about the new sun. Around a hundred light years from here there was a star that was so aptly named HD 186704. It was a yellow dwarf main sequence star; more specifically, a G0V, which made it a little more massive than Sol, and a really good candidate for a stellar engine. No terrestrial planets orbited HD 186704, so there wasn’t any life evolving there. Even if life was possible, Hogarth knew that nothing lived there, because she was capable of reaching out and detecting that sort of thing, by riding the plumes of vacuum energy throughout interstellar space. The Glisnians ran an ethical survey of this star, using data collected from Project Stargate and Project Topdown, and determined that it was okay to steal it. They were going to take a star at some point, from somewhere. If Hogarth didn’t tunnel it to their location through time travel, they would have eventually found something else closer.
The matrioshka body was fully capable of becoming a thrusting-type stellar engine as it stood on its own. They just wanted a separate engine for propulsion, so if something went wrong with one of them, they would have a backup. This followed the principles of SCR&M, which demanded safety, compartmentalization, redundancy, and modularization. It would operate differently than the Shkadov thrusters that scientists and science fiction writers proposed in the ancient days, though. They were not going to move the star, and let themselves be carried along with it. Instead, the star would be like a massive, wild fusion reactor, sending energy down to the body’s feet, and producing significant thrust there. It would also break the original laws of physics by accelerating the system to impressive speeds at impressive time intervals. If they ran at full power for a hundred and fifty thousand years, everyone inside the structure would only experience a couple centuries of relativistic time, and it would get them clear to the other side of the galaxy.
A normal stellar engine would take billions of years to cover the same ground, and that wasn’t something anyone truly felt the need to do, but this was all about kicking ass in the field of advancement. They could make it go even faster if they incorporated the reframe technology that Hokusai Gimura invented a hundred and fifty years ago. They had yet to ask permission for that. One thing at a time. They first needed to steal the star from its natural spot. Hogarth had by now decided to call it Hilde, but chose not to tell anyone about it yet.
“Are we ready?” Hilde asked.
“Mister Beridze?” Hogarth prompted.
Ethesh consulted his head-up display. “Twenty-four seconds until beacon reaches the sweetspot.”
“Sweetspot?” Hilde questioned. “Is that the official term?”
Hogarth pulled her steampunk goggles down over her eyes. They looked like the HG Goggles, but they were just highly advanced sunglasses that would allow her to look straight at the new sun without it burning her eyes out. “It is, yes.”
The others put on their own solar blockers, and prepared themselves. They wouldn’t need them right away, but they looked cool.
“Five, four, three, two, one. You have about a minute before it crosses to the other side of the doughnut,” Ethesh explained.
The easiest way to get the new star here was to drop a beacon where they wanted it to be. Obviously, it needed to happen at the center of the solar chamber, so if Hogarth didn’t do her thing right now, they would have to start over. Which would have been fine, there was no rush. Still, it was time, so she initiated her temporal power. It was becoming much easier to access, even for these massive projects. Being connected to all the universe’s energy was proving to be extremely helpful.
By the time the beacon could fly too far from the center, it was already too late. Part of the Hilde star had come through the exploportal Hogarth had opened. Yeah, now she was seeing how that wasn’t such a great word to describe it. That was what it was, though. The star wasn’t going to suddenly blink into existence. She had to take it little by little, like she was draining it from one tank, and letting it fill another. After a few minutes, they still couldn’t make out the little bit of light the nanosun was radiating without zooming in. It was going to take a long time, because that was the safest way to do it. Hogarth stared at it for a moment and a half before smiling, exhaling, and lifting her goggles. “Okay, cool. Lunch?”
“Wait, that’s it?” Hilde asked.
“For now...”
“How long is this going to take?” Hilde pressed.
“Three or four,” Hogarth answered.
“Months? Years?” Ethesh chimed in.
“Maybe five.”
“You stole that joke from another universe,” Crimson criticized.
“Did I?”
No one said anything.
“It’ll only take about a month,” Hogarth clarified. “Just in time for Christmas.”
“What’ll you do after that?” Ethesh asked as they were leaving the room together.
“I don’t know,” Hogarth replied honestly. “Maybe I’ll try to build a whole new universe. Wadya think?”

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