Saturday, November 14, 2020

Glisnia: The Last Gate (Part XI)

To practice using her time power, Hogarth first took Jupiter back to where he belonged in the 21st century. She didn’t have to be extremely accurate with her temporal navigation, because he was flexible, but she managed to land on the target moment anyway. This gave her a better understanding of how to do it, and when it came time to deliver Ambrose Richardson to his home universe, she was up to the task. While the team didn’t need either of them to complete the matrioshka body, had they not shown up, Hogarth would never have found the solution she was looking for. With this new plan, she would be able to take a little bit of matter from quadrillions and quadrillions of different places, all over the universe. Each time she connected with something, or someone, it would act as a relay point, so she wouldn’t have very far to go before reaching the next point. The more things she connected with, the stronger she would become, and the farther out she would be able to reach through the voids. She could take thousands of molecules from smaller objects, and billions from others, without causing even the least bit of disturbance in what she left behind. The structural integrity of these objects would remain perfectly fine, but once combined, these molecules would be invaluable towards their goals. She could do this, as long as she had help.
Ethesh used his technical know-how to build her a machine, and together, they refined it. It was a chamber inside a room that was to be connected to every single system in the matrioshka brain. From here, they could control mirror angle, energy output, even the hallway lights; everything. It only took the team three weeks to convince the Glisnians to give them access to all of these things, which they didn’t have to do. Those separate systems were compartmentalized for a reason, because when together, they would be too easy to exploit. This put the entire population in danger. They had no reason to believe anyone would want to sabotage Glisnia, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. Of course, very few people were allowed in the room, and the only reason Hilde was one of them was because she was, to be honest, too incompetent to be of any threat to them. Beyond the walls, the greatest security contingency ever protected the room from any external influence, and they used an interesting tactic.
Most security plans assumed one thing; that a given set of people would have a certain level of access to the inside, and as long as only those people were accepted, everything would be fine. The problem with that was time. The longer something existed, the more chances a nefarious entity had to interfere with it, and that interference often started through some weakness in the population. A receptionist, for example, might have an ill father, who needed certain expensive medicine to survive. All an intruder would have to do was pay for that medication, and the receptionist would let them past the badged area. There were no receptionists on Glisnia, but the analogy held. The best way, they figured, to prevent any weak spots in the security system, was for it to be in constant flux. Robot A will only be on the front lines for an hour, before it’s removed, and replaced by Robot B. Robot B will last a day and a half before Robot C comes along, and to keep would-be intruders on their toes, it will only be around for seven minutes, before it’s forced to make way for Robot D.
If someone wanted to hack one of these robots to let them in, they wouldn’t know how long they had before it became useless anyway, forcing them to start over with something else. Access codes, data transference, and other vulnerabilities followed the same model by constantly shifting. The most vital component of this was secrecy. The robots and mechs they used to guard the room had absolutely no clue what was in it, and the people of Glisnia predominantly didn’t even know this was happening at all. Some weren’t even cognizant of the fact that the matrioshka body was in the plans in the first place. To coordinate, they needed a single person with the brain capacity to handle the randomized decision gates. Mekiolenkidasola was that someone. Lenkida, Hogarth, Hilde, Ethesh, and Crimson would be the only people ever in the room. They would not leave, and literally no one else would be allowed in, until the job was done. Once it was, the room would be completely destroyed, and never rebuilt.
They lived there for a month, the mechs surviving on an isolated miniature fusion power source, and the humans on mostly nonperishable food. They didn’t want anyone to need any supplies or other resources from the outside. They had all the tools they required to make sure Ethesh’ machine operated correctly, and that Hogarth would be able to run it. After countless simulations, Hogarth was ready to take the penultimate step. She knew she had access to all the energy in the bulkverse, but she still needed to reach out to Aitchia once more, to make sure he was cool with it, and to help, if necessary.
Now that she was organic again, Hogarth couldn’t just scan the QR code on the back of the Book of Hogarth with her eyes. This was something they forgot to ask for before the room was sealed, but that was okay. Ethesh had everything he needed to build a scanner from scratch. After all this, that was probably the least difficult thing they had to do in here.

“You’re back.”
“Is that okay?”
“Of course,” Aitchai assured her. “The bulkverse belongs to everyone, I just keep it running.”
“I was gonna ask you for permission, or a favor, or...forgiveness, depending.”
He grinned. “What do you need?”
“Oh, not much,” Hogarth began, worried how he would react. “Just access to all the energy in the entire universe.”
“Really? You don’t even wanna know what it’s for?”
He shrugged. “It’s just one universe. It would be like if I asked you for one of your atoms.”
“That’s kind of what I’m trying to do.” Hogarth then went about telling him their plan to extract miniscule amounts of matter from everywhere, but not too much from any one place.
“Diversify!” Aitchai exclaimed. “My finance guy always recommends I do that,” he joked.
“So, you’re cool with this?”
“I don’t see any problem with it. You’re a bookmaker, you have all you need to do what you need to do. I wouldn’t go getting a big head about it, or anything, but I’m happy for ya.”
Hogarth thanked him, and prepared to leave, but stopped. “Just one more thing. It’s...I don’t know if it’s big or not. I’m not a hundred percent certain that my friends are a hundred percent certain that you exist.”
“You want proof,” he guessed.
“Have you ever needed to do that before?”
“Tell ya what, you go back to them, and tell ‘em to look out the window.”
“Which one?”
“Doesn’t matter, I’ll know. While they’re watchin’, clap your hands once. That’ll be my signal.”
“I appreciate this; the signal, and everything.”
“It is a joy.” He smiled like a loving father.
“He wants us to watch the window?” Hilde asked.
“The stars, I believe,” Hogarth assumed.
They didn’t budge.
“What’s the worst that can happen? You’re looking out a window. Or...a viewscreen.”
Crimson simulated a sigh, and switched on the screen.
“This is realtime, right?” Hogarth confirmed. Their silence answered the question, so she clapped her hands, as instructed. A beam of light shot out from one of the stars, and made its way down to another star. A second beam then came out of the first star, and made its way to a series of other stars, eventually forming a curve, which stopped back at the second star. The lines and curves continued from left to right, until a complete imperative formed, reading DON’T PANIC.
“Holy shit,” Ethesh exhaled.
“Is this authentic?” Crimson questioned.
Lenkida walked over to a nondescript panel on the wall. He opened it up, and took out what looked like a red landline phone. He held it to his ear. “Did others just see that?” He waited for a response. “Has it been authenticated?” He eyed Hogarth as he listened to whoever was on the other end of the line. “Well, it was proof, in case anyone doubted that we could do what we said we would do. I know we had a protocol for beginning the procedure, but I believe this will suffice? Please open the last gate.” He stayed on the phone for another moment before hanging up, and casually punching the phone with his fist so hard that it shattered. He looked over at the team. “We’re a go.”
After completing the launch sequence, Hogarth closed her eyes, and said a prayer, not to god, but to Aitchai, who could make or break this whole project. When she was ready, she nodded to Ethesh, who activated the machine, and gave her access to the whole matrioshka brain. She didn’t need it to build a body, but things could go awry if the brain and body weren’t perfectly compatible. Having every qubit of data that the network was storing—about itself, about everything—was vital in completing this mission properly. It would allow her to find the right matter from the right places, and install them at the right spots, to create a seamless transition from head, to shoulders, to knees, and toes. She could see it all, it was glorious, and it was exactly what she needed.
She took a chunk out of her own body to start, then moved on to stealing a little bit from Hilde, and then from everyone else in the room. Then she continued with every independent entity on the shells, and a little extraneous matter from the shells themselves. She took some from the star, and the nearest stars, and their orbitals, and then from Sol, and the rest of the stellar neighborhood. And still, it was impossible to detect that the matrioshka was any larger than it was before. She needed more, she needed a shit ton more. No, she needed a shit ton of a shit ton more, and then she needed to take that to the power of a shit ton. Every star in the galaxy, every planet, every moon, every asteroid, every meteor, every comet, Andromeda, Triangulum, beyond; she took from all of them, and only then did they notice any progress. She reached out farther, to the rest of the cluster, and the supercluster, and the hypercluster, and the great wall; all across the observable universe, and then the rest. Before a man in Tokyo could finish his morning coffee, it was done. It was all done. The matrioshka body was complete. It had arms, legs, a torso, a behind, and even protrusions that resembled breasts. That’s right, the matrioshka was a woman, which made the most sense since the word meant mother.

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