Friday, July 30, 2021

Microstory 1680: Those Who Stayed Awake

While the majority of the population was uploading themselves into virtual reality constructs—powered by the abundant solar energy on the day side of their tidally-locked planet, and cooled by the night side—a few were choosing to go a different route. They had no problem with transferring their consciousnesses to other substrates, but they didn’t want to live in fantasy worlds where the laws of physics could be manipulated. They wanted to remain in base reality, and enjoy life here. Many moved themselves over to android bodies, while others stayed more or less organic. They built gargantuan cylinder ships, each with its own unique design. These were massive pieces of art that could orbit a celestial body, or propel themselves through interstellar space. The proper physics in this universe did not allow for any form of faster-than-light travel, so the ships traveled at sublight speeds. They went to worlds that their probes indicated were interesting, but since most of them were just as immortal as the brethren they left behind in the virtual constructs, they weren’t in too much of a hurry. This was just how they lived, and they were able to continue on like this for a very long time before changing their minds. Even though they were the people who wanted to explore the universe, they still didn’t feel any desire to consume more than was necessary to live safely and happily. They didn’t settle on any new worlds, because they wouldn’t get anything out of that. They just visited them, and enjoyed them, and lamented that they were apparently the only evolved species for at least the next several million light years. Once they confirmed that they were well and truly alone, they just let the probes continue to support the evidence, and then they followed their ancestors into VR.

Throughout all of this, it wasn’t like the base reality people had completely broken off from the VR people. They were still a single united civilization. Not only did they stay in contact with each other, but the people on the ships regularly entered the constructs remotely, and interacted with their friends and neighbors. Some even did land on lifeless celestials, and set up their own servers. Thanks to quantum communication, the virtual universe was as connected as the real one. Or rather, more so, because faster-than-light travel was possible within the bounds of the simulations. Over time, more and more people who had either originally chosen to board the exploration ships, or were descended from those, ended up living in the simulation permanently. Tens of millions of years later, they realized that no one was left in the real world anymore, except for the robots they needed to maintain the system’s hardware. They were spread out, but back together. As it turned out, without any alien species to develop diplomatic relations with—or, hell, even not-so-diplomatic relationships—the universe just wasn’t all that fun. They kept the real cosmic structure as the foundation, however. When someone jumped from one world to the next, it would either look exactly as it did for real, or was modified in a semi-realistic way. That is, they didn’t build new planets to their specifications. They found something close to what they were looking for, and altered it in the same way they would if they were still out there. They didn’t have to stick to the limitations of the physical laws completely, but they didn’t go too crazy most of the time. They reserved such things for the primary servers that were still operating on their homeworld. This lasted for trillions upon trillions of years, and then beyond.

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