Sunday, April 2, 2023

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: January 28, 2399

It’s true that Leona has stolen control over Mangrove Zero, but that doesn’t mean they’re not at risk. Going up to orbit didn’t automatically protect them. Aldona could always launch a second rocket, or even a missile, at them. As soon as they arrived, she and Ramses went to work. He had already been studying the bridge systems whenever he took a break from rebuilding his satellite. It wasn’t long before they figured out how to break orbit, and head for the moon. They weren’t necessarily safe there either, but maybe safer. Theoretically, Aldona wouldn’t try to harm them while there were children on board, but she died centuries ago, and lived the rest of the time in the afterlife simulation. It’s unclear whether Tamerlane ever conducted any case studies to determine how that impacts an individual or group’s outlook on life and death.
Orbiting the Earth is no small feat, but orbiting the moon is even harder. It’s lumpy, and gravitationally unstable. Mangrove Zero was apparently designed just to show the primitives down on the planet how easy it was for Aldona to build and launch it. She didn’t equip it with an AI, or any other significant means of maintaining stability. Someone has to be at the controls the whole time to keep it from crashing on the surface, and of course, Leona and Ramses are the only ones with the skills to do that. They taught Mateo the basics, so he would be able to take over in an emergency, but even that is probably not enough to actually save their lives. They would land if they could, but they’re going to have to spend a little more time reading the manual.
Good news is they’re now sufficiently far from Earth to give Leona and Ramses their powers back. Bad news is Carlin and Moray have no powers to speak of, so the mission is still in just as much danger of cataclysmic failure. That’s the constant threat looming over them. The more general issue is that they can’t launch Ramses’ satellite from here, and even if they could, any world superpower would have the technology capable of blowing it out of the sky. As it stands there’s no way to make it invisible. None of them has the power to do that, and there is no traditional technological path towards it. Not even the Parallel can do it. It’s a fundamental rule of physics. If an object does work, it produces heat, and if it produces heat, it can be detected. Fortunately, there may be a workaround. Leona holds the bottle in the palm of her hand.
“Starter nanites?” Ramses asks. Nanobots are usually designed to serve a single purpose. Some repair a specific organ in the body. Others will maintain an inorganic system, like a quantum computer. Starter nanites have not yet specialized. Think of them as the stem cells of industry. There aren’t very many in the bottle, but that’s the beauty of it. If you even have one of these microscopic things, and the right raw material, you can build anything. It may take a long time, but it is possible. Any good emergency kit will have one of these, or something similar. “What are we building?”
Leona swings her other arm around, In her hand is a mostly black object about the size of a phablet or large phone, but much more narrow. It has little protrusions, and maybe a button or two. “I call it...leechcraft.”
“Isn’t that what ancient physicians used to use to heal,” he asks with airquotes.
“This is not that,” Leona begins. “This will find a preexisting satellite, and leech its power. In turn, the other satellite will mask its power signature. It can even latch onto space junk. Why have one satellite when you could have tens of thousands?”

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