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Order of the Minds
Chapter OneThe truth is, humanity is not that important. We all know it, in some corner of our minds. Some fear it, to the point that they’ll do anything to keep their illusory worldview in place. Others embrace it, and are awed by the vastness of the universe and how it would keep on going even if the human race were to be utterly destroyed. Still others don’t care. It doesn’t really matter, anyways, even though it is the truth; whatever group you belong to, you are still human, and that means that you like stories of some sort. Even if you hate books or don’t like being read to, you love stories of some kind, that I guarantee you. So I ask you to consider the possibility, prevalent in this story, that maybe we are significant and insignificant at the same time, dispensable in some places in the vast scheme of things, integral to it in others. Because, the truth is, humanity is just as important as we want it to be.
---Rift turned his sensors to the planet. It was a desolate place, red and dusty. He contacted the probe on the surface. It was incredibly slow in giving him a reply; it still used lightspeed communications! But after a seeming eternity of waiting, Rift did get a reply, and that reply spoke volumes. It was worth the wait.
He turned around, and a glow formed around him, as the bubble of spacetime around his shell stretched to allow non-newtonian movement; in other words, for this action, there was not an equal and opposite reaction. He mused over his discoveries.
As it turned out, the popular theory that the origin had been a spontaneous event inside of a metallic asteroid was wrong. The Minds had been made made by bipedal creatures called “Humans,” in their aural method of communication. A group of them had endeavoured to make what they called “friendly artificial intelligence,” and had succeeded. After five thousand years of expansion, they had come into contact with other civilizations, and had formed the universe into what it was today in tandem with these other civilizations, thus defeating something called “entropy.” Eventually, the biological creatures had all uploaded themselves into sentient “starships,” and became current society. Ten million years ago.
Rift sped up to 3 c, or the space around him did, bringing him along with it. The world became flat, slow, red, shrunk and distorted, seemingly stopping. He stopped in an instant when he reached his destination: a silvery Point.
The humans would have called them “space stations,” he mused, Which seems odd. I mean, everything is in spacetime, and thus everything is in space. They were odd creatures. He docked and sent a request to the Mind controlling it to find a seller of a nanoswarm, whilst simultaneously reaching into the net to contact one Kilroy.
“Kilroy here. Who is this?”
“Rift. I heard that you’re interested in being absorbed. I am an explorer putting in his application.” Rift waited while Kilroy processed the data.
“I would like to think that this is true, but it does seem rather… difficult to believe. Hive minds, billions of light-years of data, a small fleet of self-replicating machines and a survived encounter with the Sadicracy?”
“Why haven’t you rejected it outright?”
“Because I’ve seen crazier.”
“I can believe it. If you think this is crazy, you should see the full version.”
Kilroy gave the electronic equivalent of an eyebrow raise.
“I’ll be your absorbee.”
Rift gave his passive aspect, a sort of electromagnetic face with expressions (the equivalent thereof, at least), a happy glow. Those around him gave him nods and other acknowledging signals and smiles of their own.
The star in the distance infused the dust that pervaded the system with an orange glow, most pleasing aesthetically. Rift pondered the mystery of dust for a short while.
It was everywhere; literally, everywhere. there was No place that didn’t have dust, and it seemed to be an artificial “absorber” of entropy; it took the entropy, and thus was evenly spread. It was a little understood mechanism, and most likely did not work in that fashion; there were trillions of other, more qualified theories. At any rate, it passed through virtually everything as well, linked to spacetime as it was. It was disturbed when it moved through an object or through energy, however, in a way that resonated throughout it instantaneoysly, and it made for a good sensor medium because of this; detecting slight disturbances led to faster than light sensors that were at near-perfect resolution: the holy grail of sensor technology. Not very common.
Kilroy was coming around the Point, having undocked from the other side. After a short exchange of pleasantries, the absorbing process began.
It was an odd sensation, at first. Rift felt a sort of hum at the edge of his thoughts. His mental makeup included an imagined world, a simulacrum, in which he compressed and stored thoughts and memories. If he wanted to know something , he went there. In that mindspace, which he retreated to, the absorption manifested as a sunrise. He turned towards it and left the simulacrum.
Then it felt like his mind was unfolding; as though he had been in a box, and now he was free from it, with wider boundaries than he had previously had. He felt Kilroy’s presence, a part of his own, inside of his own mind, but also separate from it. In his visualized mindspace, Kilroy orbited him, but erratically, in his own way. Part of a larger being but also his own.
It was a hard concept for Rift to wrap his mind around before he had absorbed Kilroy. Now he understood.
He gave a command to Kilroy: “Follow me.”
Kilroy followed him in a pattern that Rift did not recognize, but as he went deeper into Kilroy’s mind, he found it: a modified pattern from a military school Kilroy once went to. Rift asked him,
“You think we’ll be attacked?” In his blunt fashion, Kilroy stated simply,
“Care to elaborate?”
“This is a dangerous part of space. You are an explorer who’s been at it for one hundred and fifty four years of your two hundred and four years of life; you’ll have priceless data pertaining to thousands of topics. That information is valuable, and you've been very liberal in sharing the fact that you possess it.”
“Why is one hundred and fifty four years remarkable? I’m very young compared to the majority of Minds.”
“Most explorers don’t last that long.” Rift felt a chill at that thought. He decided that he didn’t want to be seen after all and cloaked, extending his field to encompass Kilroy, before changing direction and acceleration. The warp in spacetime that his cloak made was very precisely calibrated, and Rift was particularly proud of that piece of engineering. With gravity-wave sensors, though, it was easily detectable, as he was about to find out.
A ship moved around an asteroid and fired a beam of energy at Rift. Kilroy opened fire, a slew of missiles (fifteen) streaking through space.
The ship was ridiculously close, at only a one kilometer distance, but it still managed to dodge the fast-moving missiles. The beam did not miss, however, and Rift fell into darkness.
But he wasn’t in darkness, not yet. he was Kilroy, but not quite. He was, however, able to direct him in some way.
So he did. He had Kilroy use his own mind to generate ideas for an assault on the enemy. Kilroy used his own non-newtonian engine to accelerate and ram into the enemy ship. Rift was alarmed in an odd, detached way, until it became apparent that Kilroy was just going to turn down after launching missiles. Fifteen missiles were launched again, making Kilroy less of a priority for the enemy’s weapons. Because his forward motion did not give a reaction, being non-newtonian, he was able to change direction instantly.
The missile plan worked very well. Three got through the incredibly fast fire of the enemy.
But they went through the target. Analysis suggested an enemy that could restructure itself.
Then it really did go dark for Rift.
---Rift woke up in an instant, snapping into awareness. He felt the woken mind of Kilroy as well. He looked around, and discovered that he was inside of a stationary shell on a planet’s surface with annoyingly low-resolution optical and aural sensors.
Just eyes and ears. Ugh, he thought.
I understand your disgust. He paused. that was not his mind.
Who are you?
Oh, please. You were part of a Z’kaun once.
You mean an absorber so large that has absorbed so many that they are both an individual and a civilization.
And the only such being nearby is the totally ruthless Guarun.
I’m not totally ruthless. Otherwise, I’d have absorbed you.
Then why didn’t you?
Because I recognize a seed when I see one.
Oh, you don’t know, do you? Well, Rift, I’m going to let you go in a little bit.
Why the wait?
Because I am currently in the process of copying your mind, which I will then edit and use for my own ends.
Why would you want it?
For information and for my use.
You disgust me.
I don’t care what an ant thinks of me. This conversation is over.
---Rift savored the view.
It was a star, vibrant purple in its color, illuminating the atmosphere of a massive gas giant that was being bombarded with the shards of a broken rocky planet, leaving deceptively small-looking flashes in the atmosphere. The effect was a purple glow punctuated with orange flashes inside of a dusty red atmosphere, encircled by bluish ice rings that reflected it all and refracted some of the light.
Kilroy, having already mapped out the best hiding places, ambush sites and escape routes, had finally gotten around to appreciating it. The beauty of the scene was soon lost on Kilroy again, however, as a new mystery came around the planet.
Rift turned his scanners to the huge structure that was just coming up around the planet.
A Point. But it wasn't, not quite; this gargantuan thing was oddly hollow, and not very compact; it had windows instead of sensors, and, strangest of all, not one slot for a mind. It did have life support, though.
Ridiculous. No organic being had ever managed to leave its planet, and most were downright primitive and stupid.
Yet here it was, a Point that was clearly constructed by and for organic beings. And, judging by the way in which it was constructed, it was made by and for Humans.
Rift was stunned. Humans? This Point, according to samples brought back by drones, was only three centuries old.
How did they do it?
Why did they make it?
Most importantly amongst his thoughts: Where are they now?
He felt his explorer’s spirit rising, and turned past the flicker impacts on the gas giant, past the purple star that was central to the system, and towards the trail of energy that led out of the system.
He needed answers about himself and what Guaran meant by him being a “seed,” but that would have to wait. The mysteries of the universe were coming.