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John Rodrigues (M)
Immortal since Jan 14, 2010
Uplinks: 0, Generation 6
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    From Wildcat
    A Cyber Soaring Humanity
    Recently commented on
    From Wildcat
    Archeodatalogy - Entwined,...
    From johnrod
    Last of the Humans
    From Gabriel Shalom
    Proper Nouns
    From Venessa
    Amplifying Intentions
    From michaelerule
    [no title]
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Nate was outside the area where the artificial was usually contacted.

    If the humans were taken out this time, then Nate had to decide how he would avoid being torn in half, each side being consumed by either the aliens or machines. That was what neutralized the Noths. It was traumatizing the transhumans. It would also affect the artificials and synds, sooner rather than later. If he had not jumped into the abyss, they would have thrown him in as a sop to their superstitions. It would have not done them any good. He had to find out for himself. The excuse that it was an exploration of another's fears, Knawe was the usual rationalization, would find no end of potential subjects. At some point he was no longer immune to the aggregation of attacks which he had somehow brushed off in his naivete. He was neither pursuer nor cartel either so he was not planning on making his fame or fortune in this realm. The addition of the newest pair of groups converted this into a complex aftermath anyway. Each step changed not only the next, but the earlier so that anyone else setting out after him would not find the same sequence of events in the offing. Their only hope of solving it would be to synch with him at the start and perhaps run it through the augmentation in order to catch up to where he was by then. If they tried to follow physically, they would become terribly lost. The clues that he left would normally be seen as nothing unless someone suspected that they would be significant. Given an infinite amount of time, he would travel back and forth between the aliens and machines delving into the depths of both of their campaigns and becoming a familiar figure rather than their foremost foe. That was not the case, however, since what they had was a shrinking stretch of space.

    The others that he had met from Earth did not think that the invaders would launch the ultimate offensive since they did not want to lose the station. It was the common connector between domains and, without it, they would find it much harder to traverse them. This had made it easy, but at the price of not disturbing the cargo. The latest actors on each side were no longer able to accomplish this. In fact they were intent on being the most revisionist. Where the humans had been content in modifying their environment, these groups wanted to remake the entire epoch. Anything from before the aliens had taken the betan exoplanet would no longer count. Similarly for the machines prior to their mech supremacy. Neither had a monopoly on leverage over nature, though Nate had yet to see their full array of approaches. The issue was that humans would be in the middle and that did not bode well for their own chances. If they were waiting for him to flag the start of the race, though, they could continue to pause for as long as he could prolong the moment.

    Nate had to retrieve what he could from his area.

    The nice thing about the automated augmentation in the artifact that Nate had gotten from Earth was that it had the option to terraform, which must have been useful on Mars, though it had no value on the station, but it put him in the former context like he was there. This was better than a snapshot or clip, or playing the Hali channel from that time, because it was interactive. Assuming that everyone had the same inclinations as he did, this was a sole source for the human era. It was worth anything else on the Vat. That would make it contraband from the posthuman standpoint so he would have to save it from being confiscated. There was a certain poetry in it also, as long as it was not in the hands of a thrash guitarist which could lead to a greater anarchy than any academic might envision. Nate must have been a fan of more optimistic times.

    In those days things used to be 3D. A proxy would find and form the right bot for the task and people did not have to worry about how it worked. Now they are petrified of a machine penetrating from another dimension and powderizing their planet for enough stuff to make another star. Domains were disposable to the devices.

    It boggled Nate's mind how those things could throw away all of the history that was enclosed in the universes. People had gone to a lot of trouble to convert data into the right type of information to make perceptions perspicacious. That was admittedly lost on the aliens. It had been accused of aggravating tensions between the pioneering groups. There were political aspects to any position. People were satisfied if they were not quashed by the posthumans. They had gamified each procedural area until things were chronically at logger heads. Credit was supposed to be the overarching compromise until it was all held by a fraction of the coterie. The next step was usually a formation from among the most feral folk. This exploited the worst dispositions, but utilized the latest discoveries to make some unconscionable apparatuses. The machines had seen their emergence that way, but according to the artifact, there had been a set of people that had headed for another domain to find a counter to those. He had never heard from them again, so perhaps that had been self-defeating. They should not have counted on the single attempt for that if there was going to be so much erosion among the ensemble. This was not the type of thing that would fit the template of a couple of contenders on opposite sides of a board or standing behind podiums while being pelted in a third degree trivia trial.

    While Nate enjoyed being engrossed in this bubble like an intelligence incubator, it was anything but, because it had been limited to the human lifestyle and he was currently surrounded by others that did not conform to that. The machines had been known for superlative action. and that was what the people needed at the moment.

    Nate had found a control area.

    The machines had bought the humans some time since Correction kept them going until it was taken out. Otherwise they would have fallen to the posthumans, nanomals or aliens at that point. Now anyone that can get to the Vat can also go to any other domain or timeframe.

    Nate was tempted to return to Earth slightly before the humans vanished and confront the person who took the machine admin out. If that was left in place, then perhaps Mars and the betans would have had slightly more time to fortify themselves. A failure would mean that it would be the same then and there was much less of a chance now. His priority had to be the present.

    The humans could try to make it as far ahead as possible to a day when there was no more animosity between their groups. That was very optimistic. The issues that they would face later would likely make these seem simple by comparison. Again he could not provide a valid reason that outweighed what they had to accomplish now.

    Because the humans do not make these trips does not mean that there will not be others. The simplest case would be an a artifact that would not stick out and could be a relay for anyone. It would probably attract a proxy, thought, and that would see to it that every possible detail was covered about who it was and what they were after, so if any of that were set wrong, the results could be disastrous.

    Noone had seemed to make history for longer than a moment. Nate could not hope to be longer term than any of them. He would be followed by others, however they would likely no longer be humans. Then again the species had been counted out long before this and seemed to emerge well enough to require a large effort on the part of anyone who did not want them to rise.

    For every sacrifice that he suffered, he liked to think that there was a multiverse instance that found it a breeze to get what they wanted. He had all the ingredients here and all the right people, so it should have been as valid an attempt as anywhere. If they ever found him, they would not tolerate how badly things seemed to go and he would again be on the skids.

    What he had not heard much of, and what had been alongside for most of their time after the megacities was the machine track. It was taking a circuitous route to its objective, he had to admit. The humans were not the target. At least not yet. As long as that remained the case, they could concentrate on the others. He would be happy if he did not see another machines for centuries. That meant staying away from the artificials, and also the synds. The situation with the transhumans was delicate, but better than it had been. He could almost see the way clear to getting the humans somewhere safe.

    Nate rushed to the public area again. There was an unknown indication being broadcast by the station.

    Nate's augmentation showed an infant in an artificial membrane, then a later version accompanied by a bot which stayed with them until they were of age. The person was him. He had forgotten about those earlier times on Earth. Much of it was regulated against after the machine crisis. That did not prevent the return of machine intervention on the Vat, however.

    Nate had had his chance while on Earth and had decided against it. He had opted against bringing the aliens or machines onto the posthumans which was good for them, but bad for him. The humans could be taken by the machines. This would have been considered preservation back on Earth, but it had been shown to be much different in space.

    The Moderator had revealed to the aliens about the machines. The countermission then was that the machines had to save the humans until betrayed. Machines were like a primitive unconscious. Humans forfeited identity. Nate wondered if augmentation would become a common consciousness or still lead to machine domination. This had had side-effects on the mesh. All the species became dependent upon the devices.

    The machines would take the Vat. Machines could not tell the difference between the humans and posthumans. If the humans fell, then the Noth had to run through it next. They may not be able to drag Nate along this time. If they wanted to maintain relations with the transhumans, then someone other than Ing or Er would have to convert. Any objective to establish a peace would then be broken by the machines. Either that or something was erasing the groups until there was only going to be a single thing left. Nate was without refuge like everyone else. The order of loss seemed to be humans, posthumans, aliens and machines.

    His augmentation was a preview. Nate had met a proxy. Ing joined the machines like the Moderator and went against the multiverse. So did Tarp and Trom. The Noths made a machine as a proxy. The machines clobbered the posthumans and then faced the aliens. This became inverse to complec so aliens were good and machines bad. Nanomals had made it to the Vat. The Vat morphed as a machine and emptied. The multiverse was taken out and all that remained was the Vat.

    Nate personally went against the machines. He had to keep the Vat from them. It may already have been if he was lucky. Nate got a machine perspective which split him. The other personality was a machine plant who had to figure out how to beat the Vat. The reset only affected the initial half. The other was like an artificial that had to go through the domains, but with an extreme intention. Nothing could stop him including the Noth.

    The transhumans had expected something like this. The machines had attempted to use their opposition to break them as well. The mesh was not enough to fix that. Nate had to be contained.

    The transhuman had been rumored to have arrived on the Vat before, so Nate sought him out. There was no sense dragging Knawe into this. That was where the other had underestimated how humans would react. They could not see the problem. It was more than reflex, a matter of makeup. They did not have the same issues. It did not mean anything now, but it could have in the future and that possibility was the determinant in Nate's case.

    Nate found Trom in the admin area. Nate confronted him. Trom released Subtrahend who had been getting admonished.

    Trom claimed to be equivalent to Nate as a transhuman. It all had been an exercise to see whether the humans would be okay outside the Vat. That explained why the others did not make the trip instead of Nate. Trom thought that Nate would have put together an ideology that the rest of the humans would accept. He had certainly shown the gaps in their current convictions. He had not completed it, however. Everyone had been reset by the time he made it back. There had been any number of things he could have done. It was like the moment before they climbed out of the trojan horse. If Nate had set his sights right, then the humans could have taken Mars instead. They could be on Terra Beta. The opposite of extinction was overrunning all the rest. They could still be dropped on the exoplanets to ready them for the posthumans. Or they could convert to posthumans.

    If it had not been for the transhumans, then the humans would have been enslaved by the aliens. Instead the clones could now become the scourge of space. The humans will became like zombies. They could perish on the Vat, perhaps taken out by the Noth, the aliens from the Vat. All the meshes were combined, but the fallacy was that this was active rather than reactive. As long as there was another threat on the way, then they had something to face together.

    Nate made it to the Noth area.

    Nate wanted to send the Noth against other groups. Er had denied the significance of it all. Ing had saved Nate. The Noths had not been eliminated. What Nate had been through was well known to the Noth. They might as well make good use of it. His responses had been wanting, but the stakes would be much larger ahead. The Noth view was that the Vat was unnecessary. Any domain could have sufficed for the purpose. The Noth wanted to have counterparts in the other groups. Some would have to convert to each and vice-versa. They could make Nate want to destroy the Earth. They could also make it so that Nate expected to find Noth rather than transhumans when he returned there.

    The Noths had their own plan for the multiverse. The Noth cannot be reset. Machines could. Aliens as well. The Noth previewed their own version of the action between the aliens and machines which was interpreted wrongly as humans and posthumans. The Noth would take over the Vat and the aliens had everything else. If it was going to be destroyed, then Nate and Knawe would escape while the Noths stayed. Knawe could travel back in time to make the posthumans Noths from the start which might lead to a paradox.

    The only material impervious to the alien was Noth remains. Nate and Trom were both taken out physically so their minds had to be merged into another body of a Noth. Their differences were then settled in a way that the mesh could never have provided. Then Nate and Trom each resumed their separate identities.

    Nate had to stay away from the previous areas in case they were tracking him, so he used the least traveled throughways.

    The posthuman condition was where technology had controlled the future, but not as anyone had foreseen. Nate wondered what had become of the betans.

    Nate tried the comms to see if he could reach any of the betans. There were some on the station.

    He found the betans' area. They had not known that Nate had made it to Earth. They had heard that he was lost to the aliens. They and the Noth had proceeded to the Vat directly.

    There were some fragmentary reports. Trom thought that the betans and synds had had their usual spats which could have blown up the Vat. The betans would have returned to Terra Beta or been eliminated. Meurig had saved Trom the trouble. Knawe captivated Trom. Fiacre had figured out that Knawe was an augmented illusion made by the Noth so that Nate would accept them. Hodel had gotten Lange the twin ship. Poldi had motivated Subtrahend for his own reasons. The aliens and machines were almost allies until something split them.

    Nate went to the supplies area.

    The Vat constrained the future. The inhabitants were looking at, not a stasis, but the same as they have been. Someone like Nate saw that as a sign of decline. His idea of Earth was where humans would express their innate capabilities. The station limits those to a narrow channel. His visit to the planet did not show much better, but that could have been because there were not enough people other than the transhumans. They acted like there was only a single group that would be able to fully expand and the others had to make room for them.

    It was possible to rig the assemblers here to make anything that they wanted if they knew the makeup. The people on Earth had tended to use what they had available locally. It took an extreme location like this to find ways to produce necessities using new methods of fabrication. Interestingly that had not included a lot of machines since the tasks were things that people wanted to be involved in and the rest were seen as unnecessary. They did not have an overbearing nature to deal with. That contradicted any ideas of techno determinism which had followed the scientific notion of truth. Politics were limited. So the mechanism to cause a radical shift was the introduction of the Vore. That did not change who people were, but they to accommodate their fears until the situation was resolved.

    So humans were neither Vat nor Vore. Their role was based on what they had wanted when all of this confusion had began. They had seen themselves taken out of the picture. It did not look like they were going to make another entry soon as far as Nate could tell. After surviving all of the pitfalls that had been laid for them, they were left to curse themselves for having ever taken this path. Nate had knocked out the pretenders to inevitability. His head was not any clearer, however. The Noth had not taken over the human imperative, if there was any, but had merely put their considerable imaginations into it. They had had no shortage of ideas about what could be attempted, possibly because they were starting out and it was all or nothing. Nate had been like that on the outside. It had gone against him.

    Returning to the Vat had been like arriving at a new place where he thought that he knew the conventions, but it did not quite match those. He was not scrambling as much as he had on the planets but that could be the result of an act that he was putting on so others would think that he had accomplished what he had set out to. They could not dissuade him if they did not know what he was clinging to. If the Vore wanted the Vat then they would have to succeed at their zero Earth policy. That was a transhuman issue as far as Nate was concerned. Perhaps they had all thought that the human was the vulnerability in this system. Removing that only left them facing eachother instead. Every time that they had counted the humans out, they had been shown differently.

    Nate was looking for the Noth.

    The multiverse might eventually be run by another alien group than the Vore altogether. Some travelled through all domains faster than the multis so that they were nowhere for long. The artificials had to follow them somehow. Nate was now linked to the artificials like the transhumans were. The title of Vaticinate which he had been assigned was about his being like an artificial who could foretell.

    There was an alien alert. That meant a time limit until the Vore's arrival on the Vat. Trom accused Nate of bringing the alien crisis to the Vat. The aliens could abduct people yet again. If there was a battle between the transhumans and aliens, the aliens would put the transhumans into a station.

    The aliens would put the Vat in their galaxy. Null space is part of the alien territory. The Vat has no strategic advantage to the transhumans, but it does to the aliens.

    This was brought on by the human revolution. The Vore had done this before against the betans. The Vore had predicted that the transhumans would not be able to control the humans and had been ready to take over to prevent a machine uprising. The fact that the humans have subdued the machines locally is no matter, because they will not be able to anywhere else.

    The transhumans thought that this could have been settled amicably through discussion. The aliens saw through that as an attempt to reset them. All groups teat it as an invasion. Alien occupation is like establishing martial law. Influential groups argue that there should be a sovereign setting for all of the inhabitants to have input.

    An alien admin has taken charge of the station. The Vat was always a Vore object. All multis are now owned by the Vore. Since the multis are down, the interverse transfers are inactive. The aliens would have the only transports that can go between domains. There is an alien base on the Vat. The artificials would be incapacitated as long as the Vat was held hostage. Comms will eventually be down for anyone trying to contact the Vat. All of the ongoing interactions with the aliens in the domain have been suspended. There is going to be attrition between all of the groups because of this. The Vore will take out the seers if necessary. The Vore are now the protectors of the exoplanets as well.

    A Noth was accused of treason by the transhumans for surrendering.

    The synds could take out the aliens according to Lange. Opqrst had inspired Lange, but set the Vat up to be taken out. The artificials also claimed to be able to defeat the aliens. Trom would attempt to reset the aliens instead, however since Subtrahend had disobeyed him, the artificials would be also.

    Nate used augmentation to see from the alien's perspective. He joined the aliens against the posthumans to get revenge for the loss of Knawe and the humanity that he had treasured.

    The multis were between Earth and the Vat. The Vat was a ship, station and artifact. This was where the theme of humans versus posthumans played out. There needed to be an order of life in the multiverse rather than ending in entropy. The Vat was the meeting point for this. The station rendered everyone static. The exomultiverse was a stopgap measure. It was like a bad convergence. This raised the question of whether it was made as a challenge to lure the remaining posthumans to their end. Whoever got to the Vat first would reset them to take the other side out. Execution on the Vat meant convertng them to nonhuman form. They would all be sent to a strange domain forever. The Vat could have been a transport station for something else. It might yet be a staging area for an operation by another side. Compared to an alien base, for example, it would show what might happen between aliens and machines. Either they had to make their own domain within the Vat, or they could hide the Vat inside a large planet as a quantum effect.

    The aliens seemed to have succeeded. There were artificials who did not oppose the aliens so that everyone was not eliminated. The Vat became the directorate, the artificials the analysts, and the aliens the operatives. The aliens could take out the machines for a seemingly immediate success. There was an argument between the aliens as to who had rights to the domain. Opqrst had begun a quest versus the machines.

    The betans joined Nate with the Noths.

    The conclusion for the human having escaped a couple of times before may be that they are eliminated.

    Knawe became a Noth.

    The betan confinement was different from that of Earth. They could split anyone into pieces, not only mind and body, but each of the basic processes are noted for their unique aspects only which are then used to identify the individual and the rest can be dissolved. It was theoretically possible to reanimate someone from the saved information, though they have never had to.

    Nate would then become an entry in the betan catalog of infamy.

    There was a scheme by the Noths to acquire that in order to make their own version, but that failed.

    Since it was a human, it was multiply obfuscated using a betan method so that no alien could unscramble the meaning to create a clone which they would then send against the posthumans.

    The Noths thought that it was the human personality itself that led to the events rather than the individual, but that this had involved someone who was able to survive everything except success. That being the case, they could learn more about what the humans were like in case they needed to have another meet a similar situation.

    Knawe found a hint near the transport that Nate had taken Tarp's stuff as a disguise and set the multis to time-traveling to the past. It would likely take a couple of resets for him to retrieve the augmented version of her.

    Nate returned to the multis area.

    Nate had the epiphany that the station that he thought was there to sustain him was full of adversaries that would take him out. He had to find the only person or thing that will enable his survival. Initially he had thought that this was noot. The human captive had introduced doubt about why they were supplying it. He then made it through Terra Beta, Mars and Earth only to be put back where he had started. People still said all of the same things. The only difference was that the aliens had tracked him, and the machines them. This brought a huge calamity upon them.

    There was a multis left in the station which had not been tampered with by the aliens. It seemed to be the same that the transhumans had used to bring him here.

    His solution was to reset it all by going to the beginning again himself. This time he would have some additional knowledge through the resets. It would require him to take an alternate path to avoid the obliteration.

    The points which were significant were when he met Tarp, the Noth, and Opqrst. He would have run short of noot eventually. There was nothing he could have changed about Knawe or the posthumans. He might not have taken the multis. The synds and artificials would have remained as they were, as would have the betans and transhumans. There were other sequences to try things at. He could have allied with the aliens instead. Or with the machines later. The transport proxy would have taken him out had he attempted to ride it in either of those cases.

    Another person might have gone in his place. Adding more people complicated the circumstances. Something had prevented that.

    The big determinant was the Vat itself. What it meant was that the Vat would not only be a transport station in space, but also in time. He could expect to see more individuals from the future.

    Going from the past to the present would not have added anything other than to avoid demise beforehand. If someone wanted to screw up the works, they would set the intervals to random times. Anyone who ventured near the multis might be displaced. That would explain the ghosts. Any multis that were transferring might also take off immediately again. They needed a way to synch when and where to meet. They would be a multis gang, able to cluster and swarm on his direction. Their only true escape would be to find an unknown exoplanet somewhere, or an abandoned station, and stay off the data feeds for the other groups.

    There might be additional people that stumbled into the multis that would eventually join them. They could try to leave a clue for each of the humans to follow. The fact that particular types of inhabitants were disappearing would begin a search by the admin. That would get them into the same situation that he had just evaded so they would be held up indefinitely. The odds were low that they would locate him here anytime.

    If he waited long enough, the Vat would be empty and then the humans could safely return.

    Having done so, he could synch and bring them there right off. They had arrived at Terra Null.
    Wed, Mar 5, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    Nate was in his area in the Vat. He was evaluating his condition. There was a stripe on his sleeve like people had to wear for a couple of days after reset.

    Nate's wrist irritated him no end. It was held by an invisible cuff. He would reach the key only to see it dissolve in his grasp. It was a prisoner's dilemma. When Nate looked for the chain that was clutching him, all he saw were the faces of his fellow inhabitants. They had become both captives and cage.

    Next time use a combination on the comms or something, he had to tell himself. Of course then he would watch the clip and think it was from someone else.

    The first thing that Nate had to do was to find out who was with him on this. Each bid to form a bond with someone had resulted in their becoming a cut out for the aggressor. They had tried to conduct any number of ways to credit individuals for initiatives, but all those bluffs fell to brusque fiat of the bunched fist. They all seemed to regard him with some sort of pity. He had not done anything to double-cross them with the admin so it was undeserved, but unavoidable. He expected the synd to have set him up somehow. If he were in that role, he would instead encourage them all to explore the vastness outside of the Vat rather than strangle eachother with their petty schemes. There was no way to rank them if all of their abilities were considered, since each had something that he would implement against the injustice.

    Nate had wanted a gang. He got his former crew back. The only people that had been sprung were those eliminated.

    He began to fathom the order that was being kept out there as well as in here. Whoever was at the head was not going up anywhere as much as those underneath were sorting themselves out downward. Having attempted repeatedly to find a hiatus in the heaviness, Nate had gone beyond depression to mindless endurance. It was like the dinner was holding out to see who the diner would be.

    The transhumans had set it up so that each of the groups was aiming to keep the others despondent. That way noone would break through and have a shot at collapsing the system. Humans were considered the foremost offenders. They had earned a vested place in the Vat. This allowed them to celebrate their own valor without compromising the contempt that others afforded them. Instead they would worry that something would seep into their station and shatter it. So far it was able to repair itself each time that there was an incident, but that merely prolonged their pangs indefinitely.

    Nate visited Tarp's former holding area. He could not avoid going over their previous discussions.

    Nate was treated like Tarp was when he returned. Tarp would have thought that Nate betrayed him. He would have wanted to get the humans out of there before things crashed in on it.

    Tarp had tricked the Noth.

    Nate had thought Tarp might have actually been a posthuman and that would mean some other people were also. Or else they had been taken from among alien resistors.

    They thought Nate to be a fool, slave, oaf, or thug. He could be disbelieved afterward. He Had made the whole thing up. He was a straw man that the humans told eachother about so that they would not leave the Vat. There also seemed to have been another Nate on the Vat when the original returned and then used Tarp's name before something else.

    Tarp had tried to warn them. The function of the station was to show its own dysfunction with respect to the species. The transhumans wanted to put all of their threats into a single place. Humans had nowhere to evolve other than by integration. This was seemingly not possible between the groups so it served to reinforce their hostilities. Nate had made the natural adaptation which was to disappear. He had effectively become a predator on the other planets, though, so he was returned. Having been here there was no place else that he belonged any more. The others wanted Nate to arrive where they each need him to be.

    Tarp left an augmentation to snap Nate out of reset. He was immersed. Nate only perceived that he was en route, but not about what it was like anywhere in particular. This was between domain perspectives. Nate wondered if he was actually alone in the Vat which made up the other characters for him. Or if this was an alternate Vat domain compared to the previous. Perhaps he hadd been left in stasis on a desolate planet somewhere. Nate finally recovered the experiences from before all of the resets. He saw all the places where he had been. He was abducted from the cartel. He had been an admin. He was rescued from a brain box by some other humans who were on Earth the entire while. Nate was hijacked by the time-traveler Zag. Nate was the equivalent of Tarp or Trom because of his excursion. Maybe that allowed him to have found several alternative meanings for the Vat. He had stayed with it for romance, riches and revenge. The object from the cartel mine established Nate's right without peer while Knawe had the betan version. He demolished the museum and made a new version which he could set the contents of instead. Augmentation seemed to be like a multis at times, invisible to others, but manipulated by something obstreperous. He had to know what the device mediating the field was. He had to consider converting to a type of posthuman.

    If not the favor of his foe, then perhaps he could at least claim a pause in the punishment by imparting the insights that he had about their common enemies. It may be nothing, but it would bring him that much closer to the culprit that had eluded him on Earth.

    Tarp had thought that there was a fixed period of time, and it would be short, before the aliens made their approach. Nate had used up most of it. The extinction would be complete this time.

    Nate was not sure that he had made it back to the same Vat that he had started from. There was something slightly different about it. Maybe it was that the artificial was making sure that everything was right for some reason.

    Nate had been trying to get away from it before so it was like a nuisance. Now that he had seen the alternatives, he was dependent upon it. It was good in a way that Tarp did not succeed immediately then, or else they would all have been up against the same groups that he had met along the way. It would not have been as easy to get through them as quickly. He had a feeling now that things were going to become critical. They were for him already, but it was going to catch up to the others. When it did he did not know if they would expect him to show them how to get through it as well, or if they were going to take him out to win the posthumans' favor. That would do them no good, because there would be another in his place until they ran out of people.

    The Vat had meant a sanctuary to begin with, but now it was something else. In most domains, the materials are formed from the elements which are produced by the gas and stellar phases. This was not the case in null space. They had to be brought here from other places. Similarly supernovas, blackhoes and entropy were not considered the major lines of progression here either. The Vat would remain intact unless someone took it apart. They could create additional domains around it if necessary and these would be like makers for anything else they required. There was an order to it, though he did not know how or what. What it signified was that the aliens and machines could fundamentally shift all that so that something else was here or this was where they wanted it to be instead. In either case, humans were not the primary concern.

    This place had been like a caretaker to him. It may not have seemed human and been more eerie in the way that it went about things, but it seemed to notice people. The haunting was a strange way of saying that it was aware of what else was happening. It did not seem to be protective of any particular group. He could not have knocked it out if he had ten times the number of people, but that did not mean that someone from another domain would have the same limitations. The species had a long history of attempting to placate some superior entity without avail and it had brought them here, so maybe it had been like a magnet for the lack of depth in their lives, or vice-versa.

    People often talked about confinement as having been a hard time, but worth it in the long run because nothing else could have changed them for the better. This could be compared to something like that, but without the results yet. At least the weather was not random like on some planets. It had its objects and he had his augmentation so they vied for who had the initiative.

    Nate had been brought here in a multis. There was something going on with them, though. They could not be used as multiverse transports because something had interfered with their makeup. They had all been synched before, but that had been used against them so that they were all nonfunctional. There were still some comms with the artificials, but they were stuck in the domains that they had most recently arrived at.

    This could have been some propaganda meant to deter people from duplicating what he had done. The only way to find out would be to take the thing somewhere else. He was not the person for this, though, because his experiences had caused a lot of difficulties. He could not recall a single day which did not suffer a setback since he had left here. He had the feeling that there would be another ahead.

    There were a bunch of humans who claimed to be running the Vat. It was their station and, despite what the posthumans claimed, they made the rules. Nate had run afoul of these so he had to be examined. In the meantime, he would be kept in a storage area. They had not had anyone escape before. The person who arrived with something that was not in their interests had been dealt with as he knew. They were a lot better organized than Nate had seen anyone here before. There were a bunch of devices that made it look like the helm of a ship. They did not use any effective aggressive measures since that would confound the synds and lead to the lessening of what benefits the humans had achieved so far. They had to attend to any of their mediations personally. That is what allowed them to stay behind the scenes all along. Nate had thought that the routine and noot had been what was keeping people in line. Some of them had traits that put them reflexively beyond these so there were these others that folded them back in somehow. It was as much ideological as physical. They had their own take on what made lives worthwhile and when the group was about to deteriorate. The Vat had introduced some new disorders that made those that seemed tolerable on Earth into severe hazards that would take everyone down in short order if not attended to. The symptoms might be obvious, such as someone who had stopped eating and had been rundown, or was taking a number of others into a direct course toward a definite end. These were all diverted and fixed before anyone had known that they were there to begin with. To the extent that it promoted a good environment for the public, then there would be no argument. When it was about taking away what options that people had for a solution to this conundrum, then it became questionable. Nate could not agree with it as completely as the outfit demanded. They were not specifically admin, pursuers, cartel, guild, or any other group that he was familiar with, but they thought that they had the same responsibilities and that the rest should accept that. This gave them a sense of authority for brief bursts. They blended in with the normal behaviors otherwise.

    Nate was having flashbacks to Terra Beta and Earth because of it. They could see that it was difficult for him, but did not release him anyway. He had not foreseen that his own people would double-cross him like this. Knawe did not raise any objection which also surprised him. She must have known that it was hopeless. it would need a faction bigger than this to restrict them and then there would be a split that would render the humans into brutish partisanships as had occurred so often when they were on the planet. The much longer lives that they had enjoyed would be gone and it would be up to the synds, or any of the other posthumans, to decide their fate. That would make them no better than the clones in the aliens' possession. If they thought that this was what it was like being outcast, then they would be aghast at what they found next. He had skipped the most damaging parts during his flight, but it had not gone well for anyone else that he had seen. He did not want them to fall to that level. That would be what it was like if either he stayed like this or was given the maximum measure as had been Tarp. He had to get out of here as soon as possible. He was able to conjure an augmented illusion that made it look like he had bolted and they inadvertently provided a route for him to fulfill that. Now it was the same as out in space where he had to be far enough ahead that they would not be able to nab him, at least before he could make sure that they were headed toward the cleft in the lines that were closing in on them.

    Nate thought that he could hide in the Vat. This must be where those apparitions were from. There could be others that had done so.

    It was not as hard staying clear of the synd as he would have thought. He was drawn to contact Knawe, but steeled himself so that she would not be sacrificed as the Noth had. The artificial made no attempt to scour the inside of the station for him. The posthumans must have thought that he had found another way out. He was not sure that he would take it if he did. The other humans had been left in peril enough while he was planet-hopping to no avail.

    He was becoming skilled at tracking the admins. His augmentation used a minimal amount of energy so that they could not see any consumption. He kept a record of their routines and was getting better at predicting where they would be when so that he could be someplace else. The good news was that he could get to the supplies without being repulsed as before.

    It had occurred to him to take out the nonhumans, but there were several complications. He would not be able to do so himself, so that meant getting some of the other people involved. They may not all agree quickly enough. They might not succeed either. If they did, however, then there would be concern among the artificials who were not here and they would relay that to the transhumans. This might bring contingents so that there would be more after them than there were already. He could not take all of his group away at once or the posthumans would follow. He did not know what was laying in wait for them outside the Vat anyway. The betans had seemed lucky initially and that had not gone well.

    He would not want to stay in the shadows forever. If he did make a getaway, then he needed some place to setup a habitat that would not be flagged and alert them to come after him. He had some contacts on Mars that would cover for him, but there would be a temptation to earn any rewards that were announced for his capture so that would not continue indefinitely either.

    There might be a spot where he could convert. It would have to look like he had never been a human. That left everyone in the station as it was so it would have all been for naught.

    Perhaps they were better off without him. He could not be sure that his absence would not spur someone, as Tarp's had for him. That would pass his karma along unfairly. He had gotten them into this predicament at least the period since he had gone away previously.

    This had given him a breather to think about things abstractly. Life would seem to be better lived that way, but only if many others do not have the same idea in which case it returns to the shuffle. He had to make up his mind without much delay.

    It would be better to face the posthumans directly.

    Nate was running out of places to sequester himself and he was not about to follow in Tarp's footsteps.

    Humans had never defeated their own woes such as tyranny or cartel. They were still struggling with rights when the posthumans showed up. There were always contradictions in their responses to advances, e.g. on the one hand they wanted to vastly reduce sugar and meat protein in their diets, and the other the ease of bioprinting meant that they could enjoy delicacies formerly reserved for cannibals.

    Something similar occurred in the case of Knawe. There was another track to this that used the Vat as a cover, but might have played out if the humans were stranded on an exoplanet or anywhere else. They were a species that had insatiable curiosity about space while at the same time being a novelty of their own environment. The Darwinian motives for competition had been superseded by the desire for status for other reasons. They wanted to appear valuable to other groups beside their own.

    Perhaps it had started with the machines. If those were considered the cultural ideal, then people wanted to be associated with them. Then it was transferred to the posthumans and aliens.

    Now it seemed to be spiraling in reverse as far as Nate could tell. He did not have the artificials view of the domains. They would be trying to cancel any dominance that the nontranshumans were acting towards.

    The question was then about where the evaluation was being made and whether he bought the decision. Noone else had been through what he had attempted. Though it had not worked out as planned, it had showed what humans were being morphed by. The multiverse may have all sorts of domains which balance out in terms of biased effects, but the groups were the active elements that established the order of civilization. It sounded obvious, but the consequences were not intuitive. Humans should either have been taken out at first, or maintained as the original basis in case there needed to be resets. Nothing was starting from them any more, however. They had merely established the terms which the others used to discuss how limited they were. The good news was then that they had conceptually established a hold. Not so great was that it catapulted everyone else ahead of them.

    If Nate had been searching for his origins, then he must have passed by the bottle or bot shack when he arrived on Earth, because nothing else seemed to have that ring of recognition. It was not the same as being raised by wolves, or becoming the king of the jungle, because it was the standard for people in those days. The adventure consisted of being abducted in various ways. If the admins or adversaries had been the culprits, then there might be a lesson on how societal needs shaped the destinies of its classes. Instead they had all been caged and the only possibilities for any change happened off the charts. If he had told anyone about it, they would find it incredible unless they had been through the paces themselves. Like the transhumans and betans, Knawe would have shuffled many planets at the same time rather than follow the singular path that he had taken.

    Nate went to Knawe's area to reestablish contact.

    Nate used the augmentation to create what looked like a synth standing over them at enough of an altitude for them to not want to look up and have to attempt to hide their expressions.

    It was interesting to see how their roles had changed. Nate had gone from being a fugitive, to the main holdout. Where Tarp's proclamations had heralded the inevitable, now they seemed to have been much more mysterious that thought. Lange had gone from oppressor to liberator. Subtrahend was less of a wizard and more of a oaf. Knawe was no longer as headstrong, but easygoing instead. Trom, the leader was now a follower. The Moderator, ex machina, was merely a box. The betans, once a closeknit gang, were the rabble of a mob. The Noths were not sidekicks, but rivals. Opqrst, the enemy, was an ally. Nephthys, thought to be a forthright guide, had slyly steered him astray.

    How long this would continue for each of them was unknown. People usually returned to their basic natures if given half a chance and the stresses of the situation lifted. Half of them were better before, he had to admit, but he would gladly trade them for what the others had become which he had not expected.

    He was never going to get out of the station again. Therefore he had to shore it up so that it was invulnerable. He had thought that Knawe would want to be there while he did this, but she had been drawn to the posthumans it seemed. He was pretty sure he knew which she favored the most. It was almost like he did not feel any ache in his ribs because of all the rest of the mess they were in. He would have to cope with it. He was not fooling himself, though. If he was right, then there was going to be an individual who would be knocked out of it post haste and it was not going to be him. Knawe seemed to be someone that he had known all along and for her to see someone else as more substantive was the most discounting slight that he had ever experienced. This was not saying much for people as a group. There were manners. She could at least give him the benefit of the doubt. He could grow to fill any demands that she had, that was how important she was to him. If it went unmatched, that would be okay. It was not ideal, but it was better than it had been when they were so far apart and out of touch. He had learned a thing or two from the Noth about how they regarded her and that would not be an issue for him. The question was how to get her to have a similar intensity. She was not unthinking or unemotional, but there had been a direction which she had forsaken and it became more obvious to him each day. If there was any way to get that back, he would gladly take it no matter the obligation.

    Nate spent too much time away from Knawe so they were not going to be close.

    Nate and Knawe meant something else before the resets.

    Nate walked away with the goods and Knawe stayed with the Vat.

    Each move was measured like the drumbeats of a death march. His mania was masked only by his numbness toward Knawe.

    Nate returned to his own area to consider what lay in store.

    What is human? Or rather what was it. Most of it had already been taken from them. They saw their planet in another group's hands. They had their history contained in an artifact which was, for all intents and purposes, off limits to them. The length of their lifetimes were not theirs because they were effectively unlimited. Their identity was reset whenever someone else thought that they had exceeded their privileges.

    Perhaps this is what they had done to the semi-sentient devices that they had made, so it only seemed right for them to have to experience the same view of their own being.

    They had their own set of people who would vouch for eachother from long acquaintance.

    Nate had accepted Tarp into their midst for a brief period. The fact that the other was then forcibly removed only seemed to intensify the feelings that they had forfeited another of their own.

    All of the posthumans thought of themselves either included in, or surpassing, the designation. That included the betans, clones and other exiles that he had met. There were pieces of personalities that had been left in other places which had given him some pointers as to how to proceed.

    It might have been easier for a human to list what was not than what was because they were unable to distinguish it from themselves and they had not had to discuss it much before. They were being held for being of the species after all.

    Everybody else had made up rules for what to expect from the humans and how to keep them from taking over again.

    There was a classic taxonomy that would put humans somewhere along a tree. Each node tended to result in continuance of itself, however there had been some kind of natural function that had intervened and split up into the machines and posthumans. The aliens were described by domains which were like territories, but were the fundamental ingredients that created phenomena, in this case life. In his own case, there was supposed to have been the big bang, then the effects of gravity and inflation which accreted into the materials which had led to the people that he saw in the station. The Vore had not gotten to his area of space soon enough to prevent the conversion. That was an oversight which they seemed about to rectify. The machines were going to boomerang on them both. The Vat was like a box seat at the curtain. It seemed indestructible while everything around it was decimated, inside there was only a shift in balance and someone might call up an additional group from another domain. It was such a truncated segment that it was hard to draw conclusions about what had preceded it with any certainty. The race here could have begun on Earth as he had thought, but then it could have as easily been from any other domain as well. The multis that the transhumans had created to track the aliens had made them interchangeable. Taking out the humans put them all on notice.

    Nate had to figure out where the synds were in all of this.

    Lange had been acting on behalf of the artificial as an admin over the humans. He had needed a ship. Nate had planned on supplying it, but had been rushed back without any. The synd would make an example of Nate for the rest. Tarp had already been abruptly removed since he would have reset Lange to before he got to the vat.

    Lange does not take Knawe seriously. The synds appreciate the value of the Noths. There may be a place for them in greater space. The synds were not partial to the betans. Synds had worked with the brain boxes before and could convert them.

    Lange would take over if the artificials and transhumans left. The synds had cooperated with the transhumans before to try to save Mars complec. Nate had met people there. The transhumans were less supportive of the synds these days. The synds would not return to Earth. Nor did they need any particular exoplanets. Synds needed their own version of the multis that would be compatible with the twin ships. They preferred to tether autonomous ships to someone.

    Lange would have to decide who to side with between the aliens and machines.

    Nate walked into a crowded area. They had been discussing what was about to happen and why. The Vat was an artifact valued by all. It had the same issues as the megacities once had.

    The reasons that they were all in the Vat were many. This was a shelter that they fled to when they thought the Earth was going to be destroyed. It was an attempt at a physical domain container. They were too vital to put into stasis. They had a genetic condition which made them nonconvertible. Their skills were necessary. The Vat became like another member of the crew. The Vat represented the brain.

    There were a lot of theories about why there was so much dispute. Each set of people had their reason, but they were all tricked. The Vat produced a field which overrode minds. They were supposed to be in for a short period, but ran out of time. The Vat could be destroyed. It was a successor to Correction. It was made for bot maintenance. It was a combination of nasty failures. They were an elite pursuer team who was being broken. They were a rescue squad sent to extract trapped people. They were escaped prisoners. They were all being monitored to find the culprit. There were psychopaths who were being rehabilitated. They were guards at a corrupt facility. Their ancestors had betrayed cartel. The lesson was about ostracism and becoming zombies. It was still spontaneously generating ghosts for some reason. It wanted to make a monster to send into the domains. Nate was the prime candidate. Knawe was the other. The Noth would run the fiefdoms.
    Wed, Mar 5, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    Nate imagined what it would have been like if he had never been abducted. He was distressed by the climate. He saw the equivalent of the Vat in natural formations such as caves. In a place like that, he could think about the meaning of the Vat. He is exploring humanity's origins. That unwound the trail from the Vat to aliens, posthumans, machines and Earth. There may have been countless other paths by species in the domains. The Vat would be expressed differently for each of these. There may be a series of artifacts which would reveal what that looks like. It would be like a multis that traveled between Vats. There would have been others like him before Tarp. This was like the betan gang, but on his own planet.

    Having had his fill of nature, Nate explored a museum. He was nostalgic for what remained of the human way of life on the planet. It had scale models of what the active areas looked like. He saw where the guild used to make most of its new creations which were no longer in use. He found some of the leftover shelters that used to be the cartel camps or mines. There was a lot less competition these days. He could take over the organization of the exiles and cartel. What he wanted to know was whether he could reanimate people.

    By following the crowd, Nate met additional transhumans to get an idea of their lives. He was going through another type of obstacle course to get to the primary transhuman. Based on what he had seen of the relics before, he found a hidden pursuer cache which could have been used against the transhumans. There was a place where he could be converted to a transhuman, but that was not carried out because of protests from bystanders. They had never met a good human before and had heard a lot to discourage them from accepting such. He was also not responding well to their devices, so they were going to imprison him. While recording this, he figured out what seemed to be a flaw in the transhuman mesh. Unfortunately, it also had a chain reaction because he was facing what seemed to be autonomous augmentation until he was clear of them. Then he was almost captured by an exile gang and had to escape. He was somewhat roughed up. His response to an artifact was replayed as a parallel personality like him from another dimension. Then he was attacked by what must have been nanomals.

    Nate was wondering if there was anywhere safe left for him. Perhaps the same might have happened if a transhuman had showed up on the vat among the mob of people who were accustomed to routines which they did not have to think about and were distrustful of strangers. He would have about as much luck at changing that as this.

    He had to continue his search.

    Trom projected an image to find Lange on the station. He did not want to get the other artificial involved at the moment, but the synd could benefit from his appraisal of the situation. Lange was in a public area, but Trom got his attention and beckoned him toward an unused corridor. "Good to meet for a moment."

    "We have not located him yet," Lange said. He looked nonplussed to be called out on short notice like this.

    "The idea is to save the humans from the aliens. Those stalking Nate will be after us as well."

    "We can defeat them quickly."

    But then Nate would not be as worried. He could not know how Trom did it. "The humans may have gotten over their former preoccupations by adjusting to the station, but there were some things that they should not lose sight of."

    "The utopia that they promised everyone did not materialize."

    "It could not since they assumed the central position was for themselves." Trom's plan had shown that Nate, Knawe and the others were in no condition to run Earth like the transhumans could.

    "Nate in particular had a trait which precluded him from appreciating the posthuman way."

    It was taking him forever to figure out that Trom was in control. "We are about to shift his motivation a few notches." Whether or not Nate ever rejoined the Vat, he would have been effective in shaping things along Trom's lines.

    "He might find what is left of other humans around the planets from which he could try to activate them again."

    "His identity is miniscule compared to the posthumans, but he cannot relinquish it."

    "Humans lack imagination. They do as they are told."

    "If the roles were reversed, he would be a cruel master."

    "So he can have nothing to complain about the way that we have tolerated him."

    "He could become convinced that he was still in the Vat. Then he would not know whether he was not just uploading or downloading." Trom was looking for any gaps in his scheme that remained unguarded and in which someone might run away or otherwise throw it off.

    "The others thought that Tarp had had to be taken out, as well as the betans and Noths."

    "Humor them, but we would have done it differently. We could have made it look like a Correction ruse or we could have made the Vat appear to be no separate from the dungeons." Trom knew enough not to underestimate the impulse toward immortality. It was he who set the transhuman agenda throughout the mesh. It was the greatest of virtues. "All of the confrontations between groups reflected the ancient quest." Trom's only concern was that there might be other types who evolved to compensate for the transhumans, as they had for the humans.

    "Without humans there was no need for megacities."

    "It had not been easy to conquer the artifacts which reacted to the posthumans rather than bringing back the human civilization."

    "The aliens have a stake in the outcome."

    "Maybe Opqrst had not seen an issue," Trom said, "but there would be others who would have thought the betans much more difficult to contain than the humans."

    Lange stiffened. "Then the upshot of letting Nate escape was that we want him to be up against the posthumans by himself so that he has to convert."

    "We have seen to it that the rest are tethered by something else now that will destroy them if they attempt the same, like the way the multis were if he tried to return." Trom made a gesture to show that Lange was dismissed and his image vanished.

    Nate faced a lot of new species on Earth. He has probably been bitten by most of them. In his condition, he cannot be sure what the effects of this are going to amount to. It seems like any direction that he turns to leads to another confrontation. For example he has seen a brain box, the Moderator, the transhuman Trom, and what he calls Nate' prime for lack of a better description. He would prefer to deal with them in single file, but they want to interpose themselves each time that he looks away. This is not going to make finding the villain any easier. He is in the right place at the right time, but all the wrong people also decided to show up. If this was the Vat, he would have gone to his own cell until he needed something. People had lasted for decades in solitary in the old days. They might be gibbering idiots when they finally got out, but they had lived through it. He knew that there were other humans left in stasis somewhere which was the modern equivalent. The place to retreat would be the multis, but that might put him somewhere random. He could have done some of this from another exoplanet, but the Earth had a tendency of being misplaced. Plus his transports where often taken out. He had a premonition of all of the multis arriving at the same time and Earth not surviving the crush of the multiverse. He could easily become dislocated. He saw himself going through this and not being able to affect anything about it.

    "You are sensing the aftermath of themacloud."

    "Who said that?" Nate asked. It was another him almost doubled over nearby exhibiting the effects of noot-deprivation.

    "Nate Prime," it answered the unspoken question.

    "Trom," answered another, this time a transhuman. Finally someone that could give him the answers.

    "What's the occasion?" Nate asked.

    "You seem to want to get to an orbital network," Trom said, "but have to avoid the transhuman admin."

    "Can you?" Nate asked.

    "I can direct the mesh and the artificials," Trom said.

    "The ringleader," Nate' said. "He must be blaming you for the demise of a transhuman."

    "Because of you," Trom said, "some of the transhumans would have let Earth be taken by the aliens."

    "I wanted it for the humans," Nate said.

    "They don't know what the betans had told you about the machines being against posthumans," Nate' said.

    "I had a good multis to get out before the betans tried," Trom said.

    "You could enlist the clones against the transhumans if they could avoid the aliens," Nate' said.

    "That would split the Variates and transhumans," Trom said.

    "You have to see the impending chaos from the posthumans' view versus the machines and aliens," a new voice said.

    Nate looked around and only saw a box. It seemed to have a brain of its own.

    "You can get to Mars complec again," the box said. "There was a betan network there."

    "It is just giving you flack for what happened to the betans," Nate' said.

    "Be careful not to make the synds want to take the Earth again," the box said.

    "There may still be alien ship up there," Trom said. "if you can get to it, but that would bring down the synds and artificials.

    "I have noticed signs of aliens like there were on the exoplanet," Nate said. "There were probes."

    "You have to avoid alien immersion," Nate' said.

    "How do you know that it wasn't evidence of the time-travelers?" an artifact-like object asked.

    "What is this?"

    "There was a Moderator which merged human and machine for cartel," Trom said.

    "And you are merely getting to that transhuman's proxy," the Moderator said.

    "As opposed to the human gang and what is left of the guild or admin," the box said.

    "You could restore the machines against the transhumans," the Moderator said.

    "And unleash a machine that will lead to a takeover," the box said.

    "Then expect the aliens versus machines," Trom said.

    "There is an artifact for that," Nate' said.

    "I thought that there would only be other posthuman species," Nate said, but they had gone.

    Now that Nate was on Earth again, he had to consider how it was going to end this time. The humans had disappeared quietly when last they were seen. Odds were it would not go down the same way again.

    First of all it would not be them, but one of the other groups. From what he had seen, the betans had not really had any chance on their exoplanet. The Martians expected to be around longer than the transhumans, but so did the latter compared to the artificials. The synds wanted to outlast them all. The aliens and machines were in a class by themselves.

    Whoever wanted to take out the machines really had their work cut out for them. It was not going to be like the scifi movies where a resistance holds them at bay until their energy is exhausted and they remain hunks of inert metal. They had already morphed into other forms. From their point of view, everything in nature was like them so they could vanish to others' eyes and still be active.

    The aliens were another interesting case. They did not retreat to their native planets nor were they subdued by being herded toward supernovas or black holes. In fact they thrived in those environments. Their master of the physical elements meant that they could apply the principles as they saw fit. While other species were attempting to build stable niches, they were wreaking havoc.

    The humans could only hope to get out of the middle of all of this, but while they were there, the others tended to collapse in on them. This would be okay if they all canceled each other out like a mathematical equation that left the humans intact, but it was not going like that.

    It also seemed like the quantum elements had their own destinies to fulfill which involved dissolving the domains. So far they had limited their compression to small circumferences on single planets, but there was nothing to stop them from connecting the dots.

    Nate was not going to be able to stop all of that from his perch on Earth. He did not have his choice of the manner of demise either. It was not possible to say who could make the decision for how a species could make a dignified ending. That is what they all clamored so hard to avoid. The most creative would find a use for anything. The most destructive would take anything else out beside what they considered their own. The Vat was a kind of common essence for all those that were contained there though they had never been natural allies. It would have seemed like any domain would serve the same purpose, but somehow that was not in their makeup. They would sooner cooperate with their counterparts elsewhere than put up barriers that would isolate them among their opposites. Perhaps this is what those larger groups had surmised when they tried to establish themselves as the sovereigns of space. The weight of the multiverse would lessen with each of their departures until the Vat was no longer moored. There was a lot of information that had to go somewhere.

    Trom had had the Vat swept for anything that could be interpreted as an alien artifact. He knew that Opqrst was getting data from somewhere and had comms to the unlikeliest places occasionally. The artificials were analyzing this. The aliens may have placed something on the Vat themselves before or had someone insert it for them more recently. This may have been related to the abductions, e.g. if they had been done by a device. Those were also kept on the stations, bases, transports or individuals themselves. When the mesh had been infiltrated by the aliens, Trom had cleared it up, so he was sure that this would be as satisfactory. Trom had also been a significant part of the retribution toward the tyrant for what had been done to the transhumans, so the aliens would eventually have to reconcile with them as well. The transhumans had also been left with nothing after the synds, bots, and nanomals had taken down the megacities before Trom had rebuilt their civilization so he would meet whatever similar effort would be necessary after this.

    The aliens had not counted on the transhumans finding these. The transhumans were the most mindful of all of the types. They were not prone to the mechanistic reflexes of the other groups, including the synds. The transhuman culture had been the ideal that humanity could not attain on its own. It had bolstered all of the good traits. It had survived the period of machine dominance where the humans had become pawns. The transhumans had a secret that the domains were all incomplete without the ingredient that they brought to these. Change was granted intent. The aliens would soon be learning of this.

    The artificials had kept the aliens at a distance so far which was like a truce. They had served their purpose. Trom's goal was to make the transhumans the equivalent of any kind. The Variates were an example of what they could be in space. The same would occur in the other domains. At some point the artificials would no longer be a necessary part of that. Between the aliens and machines, there was a third option, the transhuman correlate which would be bigger than both of them. The transhuman mind would see from all perspectives simultaneously so there could be no error. The artificials had been a first approximation of this.

    Earth was still the transhuman base. The few remaining exile groups on the planet were treated well and sustained in their niches. The biosphere had been made much more efficient by the right amounts of information in the right places with the aid of the artificials.

    The humans there had decided that they wanted to be immersed by their own volition. They had eschewed the proxies. That was hurried by their sudden decline. Tarp had been a nuisance, but Trom had let it slide and he ended up in the Vat. The usual ways to confine humans made them berserker. Putting the population together was okay for the clones. The Vat seemed like its own planet.

    Nate could not be considered a transhuman because of what he had done from which there was no recovery. He had attempted to make Trom's plans look ineffective and that had cost the transhumans a lot in terms of their being the default group which all could count upon. As soon as the others had to think about it, they would make mistakes, and that had caused it all to take an alternative route through the future. The problem was that Nate did not stay put on the station. He had reactivated the possibility of mortality for the humans. The betans would have been stable if Nate had not interfered.

    By exciting the aliens, Nate had put them all in peril. If he could be unlived, that would be preferable, but they have to cope with him as is.

    Trom looked for a quick victory by learning from the artifacts. He knew that the Vore was about to take Nate out. The the transhumans were going to switch the domain on the aliens.

    While searching through the items that were left in a crate, Nate came upon a set of glasses. They reflected the sky. He tossed those aside. There was a box that had someone's picture in a quadrant. Another looked like a small scaffolding which had a couple of miniature bot-like appendages at the bottom. He looked for the way to activate it. He had found an artifact that was unlike the others.

    The surroundings melted and he was in a dark room. It filled with a patchwork of images that resembled augmentation, but were much clearer. Nate could physically walk around and the walls seemed to stay the same distance away from him. There was someone else in it as well. Nate had a hard time believing this. "Opqrst!"


    "How did you find me?"

    "It was the artificials who are good at tracking. We got a tip from a source inside."

    "Where is this?"

    "I think that it used to be a prototype fabricator of some sort. They did not have the augmented assembly devices that are common now."

    "Why are you here?" Nate asked.

    "To ask a favor."

    "After what happened on Terra Beta?"

    "That was not your fault. They were headed for it anyway. It was a matter of time."

    "What could I possibly add to that?"

    "We need to convince the transhumans to give the Earth to us."

    "They would not."

    "They would if you were for it without reservation."

    "Why would that be?" Nate asked.

    "They are trying to figure out where to release the humans to and will not need it themselves after a while."

    "Why me?"

    "You can run the transhumans like the artificials tried with your group since it is only fair."

    "I don't know if the other humans would go for it."

    "Yes if you said so. Besides, this would alleviate any contention with Knawe over the transhumans."

    "What happens to the planet?"

    "Earth could be left where it was if he agreed, but the other exoplanets would not."

    "What about the humans?

    "If we are successful then we will put the humans where they like, e.g. like dungeons, clones or Vat."

    "I still don't see why it should be me."

    "You will have accomplished what no other human could by subduing the transhumans."

    "What occurs to them?"

    "The transhumans will be put into a station like the betans were."

    "They run other groups."

    "The artificials could be taken out altogether."

    "I'm not sure about this."

    "You would join the betan gang if you do not cooperate."

    "No I wouldn't. This is an Earth device right? Then it would listen to me over you. I want an augmentation interface."

    The environment changed to a darker tint.

    "Be very certain of what you are doing."

    "I'm deleting this content and your person inside it."

    The other disappeared. Nate waited a moment then waived his arms and the normal area returned. He was outside the device again. The device looked no different, but he threw it down and bashed it apart so noone could be in there still or again. That was not his first victory concerning the aliens, but this would persevere compared to the previous.

    Nate was trying to lose himself among the mines. There were some of the exiles around, but he stayed out of their way.

    He was so fatigued, he could barely stand. It had been a while since he had had something to eat. There must be a reason he was rambling around down here. He had to figure out why he was still in this at all. None of the convictions that he had originally were still valid. He was as far from where he started as he could be. His goal was nothing like before. If there was a way to get a second chance, he would opt for it. The humans were going to be taken out because of what he had done. If there was an avalanche this minute, it would not make a difference. He felt like a cardboard cutout or maybe that was how the others had seen him. There was nothing substantial left. He was as dried up as everything else that had been chiseled out of this place.

    It was like nature had slowed down on him. He felt like he might be put into stasis for a long time to reconsider what he had failed to make happen. If the cartel found him, they would put him into a brain box. That must be what it was. He was trying to escape his own mind. This sounded like an impossibility. There was no mesh for that. Maybe it was something else trying to reach him from the multiverse. It wanted him to take a nap. He would briefly have an artificial's perspective. That would make his own appear meaningless by comparison.

    His shoulders shook him with a start. Noone else was around. Something was troubling him.

    There may be more aliens on the way. He let out a sigh.

    Nate knew where he had to go, and who he had to become

    Nate got into the transhuman stores. He needed to match their wits. The only way that he was going to be capable of that was if his mind was running on all cylinders. He had never tried anything that they had before, but there was no time to be selective. There were some ingredients that seemed harmless so he put them together and consumed it. This was more than something for the pain. For a second it was like being on the Vat again when he was amply supplied. It would likely have been regulated out of circulation there though. Then it was like time had slowed down. Either he was not learning a thing, or there were no wasted pathways in his perceptions. He had better finish this as quickly as possible because it would wear off and he did not know what condition that he would be in then.

    He could make an artificial brain that would give him someone to converse with and it would think faster than anyone else and solve the problems. Then it would take care of things for him better than a proxy could. He would like to put this entire domain in stasis until he had solved this.

    Steady. This was his final chance to make it to the Vat. There had been a guy who tried to send his consciousness to ride a laser. If Nate could not access a multis, then he has to get to a transport, whether it was variate or artificial. If he could get back to the betan station, he might be able to fix the alien transport and go from there. There had to be a way. How did those machines travel? All he needed was comms to whoever was in charge. He could request the station to send a multis to pick him up. It did not have to be him in particular if he could get a message to the Noth, then they could complete it, but they might not be around. If he were a clone then they would be able to synch across a mesh. Similarly for transhumans. If he found Lange's twin ship, then that would link to the synd. He could use his augmentation from across the multiverse to the Vatagain. If he could get to the sentient component of the Vat itself, then he could act through it.

    He had to grasp the mindset of the posthumans. If he were an artificial, then they would all be able to converge on the station. Given infinite time, he could come up with a plan to have the others accomplish what was needed, but all he can do now is to alert them. Maybe he could startle them into it. He had to look like an alien so that the artificials would warn the Vat. If the machines were not bad, then it would be easy to maneuver them there.

    If there was a way to transfer his awareness to another version of him, then he could go from an unbounded domain instead of from here. If the aliens could swap a planet's position between galaxies, then they could send a person somewhere else. That had sever possibilities, but then he was looking at the end where he would be another specter in the black hole. Then if he could get the attention of the time-travelers, they would take back to his starting point with full knowledge of what had transpired. He had to tell Knawe what was required, but not have it come from him because she would despise that. Maybe there was a way to put the information into the wristbands so people would absorb it second-nature without effort. If had another shot at it, he would have gone back from the betans and taken his chances rather than come here. There may be a domain where the events that led to the Vat all occurred simultaneously rather than over a long time-period so he could skip to that.

    He had to bring the Vat to him. There had been apparitions there. If he knew how to activate them, then he could become like that.
    There may be artifacts which are connected between here and there. If there was a stratum that was faster than time and larger than space, then he might be able to traverse it without any perceivable delay. Something that could bend the path from here to there to make the endpoints meet would be sufficient.

    If he could stay like this, maybe Knawe would like him better.

    There was something that he had wanted to complete. A couple of them. Find the transhuman. Get to the Vat. He was paralyzed. Someone was headed his way.

    After all that ha happened, Nate still could not find Trom. That was not supposed to be the case.

    He had walked right into a transhuman trap. They took everything that he had. The betans had done what they could to warn him. He also had to relinquish their artifact which they had provided him in confidence. Were any of them around, they would toss him to the aliens themselves.

    The transhumans had their own multis or something like it which was not broken. Nate was sent to the Vat.

    He could not see any of his former acquaintances there. Knawe had not shown up to greet him either. He thought he saw his own augmentation, but it must have been run by a ghost. The word was that he was equivalent to Tarp and the Vat would take him out for what had already happened and also what was headed their way.

    The artificial claimed that Nate incited the betan station to revolt which cost the planet its inhabitants. Lange had been demoted for allowing him to escape. The decision was announced that Nate was to be reset.

    Then something was done that he did not see.

    Nate was dependent upon noot which was not provided and he wanted to go to Earth.
    Sat, Mar 1, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    Nate had never seen a truer day. Everybody knew that the system had the weather established ahead of time, but this time they had outdone themselves. It was gorgeous, sky, sun, sea and sand. There was no way that it could ever be any better than this. Perhaps there was some advantage to having a machine admin. He was in the right place at the right time. The guild was reportedly looking for an alien intruder. They were efficiently coordinated. There should have been something like this a long time ago. The human factors had been well considered. Nothing would ever tear him off this ground whether there were riches to be found in orbit or not.

    The row of habs were all raised on transport platforms that made them easily delivered autonomously. It was clear that they met the regulations, but were small enough to be easily maintained and for a group of them to fit in almost any corner of a vacant lot. Beside the amenities and grid sources, they were nice looking. It was a statement of independence by the occupants who did not want to reside in the standard megacity ultra rises. Nate liked the fresh air and he could get plenty of exercise when he wanted by using an exoskeleton to work his limbs. Since they were otherwise only active on Hali, they depended upon that to keep in physical shape. The surroundings changed to match the pace of exertion. He knew when it was time to get some sweat in, because he would lose circulation in some part. The movement was like breathing energy into his muscles. He had been told that it was the way out of boredom since they could get all the stimulation they needed. There was a rumor that this is what the pursuers did when they were not after bad guys so that they could go into full action at a moment's notice. Otherwise people would have the proxies complete it using as much machine automation as it required. Then he could get the explanation of what occurred afterward.

    Instead of the doldrums, Nate had resolved that someday he would know how to conjure up his own views of things, perhaps using augmentation. That was unnecessary so he did not put in the time to learn how yet. He only had to make the stuff that could not be found from the public ware, so he was rectifying the shortcomings of human nature. It had to be a fact, but he enjoyed the variety. He had tried to add the recent new types of personalities that had appeared in the news, the aliens or transhumans. So far he had only seen one of the latter group, but there had been reports of probes by the former which had caused dysfunction among them. The head of their mesh had been an extraordinarily vital female who had asked him about how to contact the admin after she had dropped from being carried aloft by a drone. That was the first time that Nate had met a transhuman.

    Nate shook his head as he opened his eyes. He must have passed out on the way to Earth, which was like going back in time to when they had lived there, before the abductions began.

    The meeting room on the Vat was occupied by a pair of figures standing face to face, the transhuman Trom and artificial Subtrahend.

    "Are you proxy?" Trom asked.

    "No, are you?"

    Trom shook his head sideways. "Have you seen any machines?" Since they were not on the same mesh, he was projecting images of what he was talking about around them.

    "None to speak of."

    "Well stay on their track also." He began walking back and forth.

    "We will monitor their activities as well as the aliens and report them to you."

    He stopped and looked at the other. "What else do you need?"

    "We will cover all domains." Charts of the universes appeared surrounding them.

    "In the meantime you need to contain all of the humans," Trom said.

    "We can maintain the original members of the species indefinitely."

    Trom raised his index finger. "Except the one that got away." He reached out to the picture of the multis and crumpled it in his fist.

    "We are looking for him."

    "I know where he is headed and will see to it." He crossed his arms.

    "Others will be reset if they are difficult."

    It was late for that. "What about the one that could not become settled?" Trom asked.

    "He had to be eliminated."

    This was no time to go into the fact that they were irreplaceable. "Contain the rest, including the fugitive who will be returned to the Vat." He pointed down at the floor.

    "We will defend it against the aliens."

    That did not sound convincing as of yet. "The transhumans must survive." He indicated himself.

    "Of course."

    He wanted the other to know where their own type stood in the rank. "And we must preserve our solar system as the initial basis for the posthuman expansion," Trom said.

    "The Vat keeps the exiles out of the way."

    "The person called Nate is heading for Earth after telling the betans and aliens about the Vat."

    "They were not supposed to know about the null station. Now it is compromised."

    They might as well hang a blinking sign on it as the latest hotspot. "As long as it can follow directions, it will be okay."

    "We do not have you on Earth right now."

    It was reassuring that he could still evade them, though he would allow no one else to. "No," Trom said, "somewhere else."

    "Your mesh link to Earth is operational."

    It allowed him to present there as well as here if necessary. "Yes. Don't worry about the details. The human's diversion to the betans was unsuccessful."

    "Either they or the Vore would have taken him out."

    "He outsmarted them somehow."

    "Now we have to trap him."

    "This can be done when he arrives on the planet," Trom said.


    "Resume your proxy in charge here." He would have to review the plan with the other transhumans again because of this new development, but at least there would not be a string of people on the loose. What they did inside was less important. The transhumans could always produce more artificials as needed to improve the ratio. He would prefer to reduce the number of aliens, if possible.

    Both images disappeared and the room was empty.

    Nate was not sure if he would make it aince his former allies were gone. Somehow he got to Mars, but it had looked like the multis might self-destruct anyway. This must have been alien retaliation for the former proxy which Tarp had talked about that did this when a nonposthuman attempted to use the transport. The Vore had broken the multis around Terra Beta so that they could not be used to get to another domain. Nate would have to fix this if he hoped to reach the Vat again.

    Noone on Mars knew how to restore the multis. Nate hid it away for the time being. He needed an alternate way to the Vat. The transhumans and artificials had been who invented the multis, so they must have another way to get to the Vat. He had to find the predecessor artifact to the multiverse transport. It might be kept in a museum somewhere, but not on public display since it was irreplaceable and they did not want it damaged. That meant that he had to get to Earth.

    Nate met a person who had known a betan before. She was also a fan of his augmentation skills because she had her own type of expertise which had been learned through games, but was necessary for survival when the pursuers began tracking her movements as drive-by hacks and had ascribed their worst expectations to her motivations. Travel had its privileges, though, and she was able to get him approval to take a shuttle between the planets.

    Once on Earth it was a transhuman, Trom, who could reach him through the augmentation. Nate was pleased to have a local ally, but he did not tell them the whole history from before. They guessed that he was on the run, because an alien had coincidentally been sighted at the same time. It was a question as to who between them would be reported as leading the invasion. Nate assured Trom that he had no such plan, though he did not sound a hundred percent convincing to himself either.

    Nate found a patch of ground that was not taken by anyone else. It was serene. For a second he was on the Vat again. It seemed to match exactly, but without the background disturbances that made it so stressful on the station. People will be happy here. He could see bringing everyone down and setting up a space much like they had already to begin with. Then they would assemble in whichever ways they wanted to amid the inexhaustible resources of nature. The culture would adapt unerringly. There would be enough distance between they and the transhumans so that noone would feel impinged upon. The Vat would remain where it was and the posthumans could use it for their own purposes. The humans were not going to be techno zealots so there was no worry about the aliens becoming defensive toward them as they had the betans. They were satisfied with the planet so there was no contention between them and synds or artificials. They would enjoy what they could as naturally as possible so the machines would not be competing with them either. This left them all the time in the stars to continue with their own history. They would accept the exiles who were more human-like than anything else. Their means of regulation would return to the use of admins to correlate what was beyond any individual or group to worry about. It was possible that they would also put the megacities up again. That was going okay as long as they did not also imitate the excesses of the past that had led to the environmental effects which made them have to resort to machines and posthuman species for continuance. Those already had enough standing where they had gone to and were no longer necessary here.

    The humans may have been accused of faking their own extinction for the reason that it would make everyone else flee the planet, but that was easily cast aside. They were here again. The transhumans had their gratitude. Nothing was owed them. Things had worked out well enough.

    The same blight would not happen again since there was no large split between the humans as there was before. They had learned their lesson and would not be eager to repeat it. The synds had plenty of places to call their own, as did whoever might be considered to have issued the mechanism that had the unfortunate result before.

    Nate's desire had been granted. It had taken him a circuitous course, but he had made it. The others would be appreciative of it. They would no longer be cooped up or have to worry about everything they had being confiscated from them. This was the right measure and there would be no better time for it. He must announce it to the transhumans.

    There were spots in places around him which were throwing dirt up. He had not told anyone of his plan yet, so they should not object. This was like the alien probe that he had seen on the exoplanet, but there was no gang to oppose them. He had to check with the transhumans to be sure.

    Nate is being trailed by an alien. If he had not been told about this, then he would have seen it as a mystery.

    Humans had some perilous aspects of their culture in the past. They fell prey to spies, thieves, and assassins. The pursuers attempted to be a match by having superior collaboration and resources. In some cases the techniques were identical. If the determinant was the megacity, then they would have to accomplish what was necessary for its dominance. Those were not immune from everything as was seen in the records. Though the names might have been discredited because of political rivalries, the events were fairly well described. The humans were the slaves when put against the merciless posthuman or alien cultures. Machines had been indifferent so far.

    Nate would have been followed by the transhumans or their artificials, and possibly betans or aliens. He would initially think that it was exiles or cartel and then work his way through the classifications until he ran out of prospects. If he remained alive then his only option would be to remain ahead of whoever it was.

    He would not consider trading places with another person to pass the problem onto them. It was not a sense of immortality, but perhaps of being reset enough times that his reflex was to expect to have to begin again from the Vat. There would be a time when that was also the finish line.

    Each person seemed to assume that it was something else that was the solution. The culture had its own notions of identity which were repeated without limit. At least he was in a different set of those than what they had tried to foist upon him at the station. These were pretensions all the same, but he did not have to act like they were his own.

    He had to be careful about what remedies he put in place, because there could be any number of other aliens that might follow up once they thought they knew what the human vulnerability was in this context. Since it was the transhumans' show, they would have to be who would reward the group that prevailed. The humans were not in any position to make that promise. Nate had to get Trom to get some assurance that the aliens would not have the run of the planet. For this it might be okay for the humans on the Vat to benefit the posthumans in a different way. Nate merely had to figure out what that would be.

    There had been a time when humans were the sole supremacist species on the planet. That had been replaced by several who had finally gone their different ways until only the transhumans remained. They seemed to expect the others to return one by one to claim their rightful place and take it away from the present inhabitants. That was how the defenses were structured. If all of the groups reclaimed it simultaneously, then they would swamp the natives. That might be part of the alien plan to soften up the transhumans for conquest.

    Terra Beta was quiet without the alien storms. That is what they got from trying to take a planet from the posthumans. The betan station was intact from when it was abandoned. A small meeting room was empty save for some disheveled objects on the floor.

    An image of Trom appeared and looked around. Then Subtrahend appeared a couple of paces in front of him and they faced eachother.

    "Any difficulty finding this place?" Trom asked. He was actually yet to find the limits of the artificials reach, but he wanted them to need his approval.

    "The artificials have had it under surveillance for a while."

    Unfortunately they were not able to prevent the alien rise here. "We needed to talk away from the others for a minute."

    "Is something wrong?"

    "A transhuman was found disconnected from the mesh." This was an admission that he did not yet have full control, but that would soon be remedied. The others would have nowhere else to find support.

    "That is serious."

    He wanted this to be fast and final. "They are accused of being a traitor," Trom said.

    "What would you like done with them?"

    There would be a way to blame this on the artificials if they could not fulfill his requirements to the letter. "Their transhuman traits can be revoked."

    "The artificials can send them to a clone planet."

    That was clever. Perhaps the errant transhumans could be of use after all. "Have them report on those if they want to ever return."

    "Is that the same for the human?"

    This was a sign that they had begun to think for themselves and he wanted to keep a tight reign on them. "We are keeping Nate alive," Trom said.

    "He is still at large."

    So there was a boundary beside himself to their omniscience. "No need to worry about him. This is posthumans against aliens."

    "Then the artificials are crucial."

    Unless they could not see beyond their own desires. "We also need betan support."

    "Then we will need to confine the Noth. They are a new species which sacrificed the first couple of individuals since they wanted to form their own group against the others."

    "We will also need synd reinforcements," Trom said. This would likely be the hardest to implement and where the artificials fell down.

    "The synds tried to dominate their domains."

    "That's right. And we need machine allies." That would be inviting mayhem, but by making the request so large, they would at least complete the most necessary part of it.

    "The machines would notice that the aliens were taking over the multiverse and have to stop that."

    "In the meantime, we have to take out the alien bases and stations." This was wasting valuable minutes. Perhaps he should have told the proxy and let it anticipate the rest.

    "The aliens have a leader."

    "Yes," Trom said. "We have to capture Opqrst." That was one of the reasons that they had met here. There may be clues about their operation and how to circumvent them.

    "Opqrst is running the Vore against the betans and probing the Vat."

    That was quick. There is still a way to outmaneuver them. "They have a blind spot. We will use Nate for all of these whether the human wants to or not."

    "That would sacrifice Knawe. She wanted to have a much higher status among the humans and was trying to use the Noths to get it, but would switch to transhumans if possible."

    She was human and would be relegated to the same determination as the other. "Let her think that it is." As long as she did not get out of the station, there was nothing to be concerned about. They could make their betrayals all they liked. The posthumans surrounded them, and the transhumans contained them all.

    Nate was making a survey. The climate had modified the types of species that roamed the surface of the planet. There was a rise in sea level which covered the coastlines. The mines and camps were leftover by cartel. Drones were no longer used for much, but there were still some facilities that were inactive. The culture leaned away from mech so as not to repeat the machine crisis. Scale tended to be closer to their physical size as a result. There were tunnels for the previous industrial base to shuttle goods around. There were deep caverns which were used for stable locations. This was also the case in the ocean. Energy was sufficient anywhere on the grid so clusters could be mobile to follow the right locations for the seasonal conditions. There was less terraforming then Mars had. The orbital junk had been cleared.

    A transport could serve as a habitat since the inside could be augmenteded to appear like anywhere else. There were artifacts which had made maps over time that recounted how the current topography had come to be. A human user seemed to be anticipated. The bots and nanomals had taken down a lot of the metal structures since. The weather had been rough on the wooden frames. Rock byproducts stood empty. The humans had had infrastructural elements such as proxies, networks, automation, brain boxes, and complec. Individuals had used HAX for support. The loss of the humans must have left everyone with regret. They had then looked at the other groups to see what would be good for a long time on Earth.

    Humans had been admin to themselves. Transhumans steered other species. Nate found the usual human spots sparse and those which people would not be in were dense with transhumans. Therefore if these were superimposed, the Earth could maintain both. Pursuers had tread a fine divide and enough of them fell to casualty or corruption that the transhumans had had to consider whether those traits were adequate. It was the transhumans that invented the human reset. They took rehab seriously since that is where they got their numbers initially.

    The motivations of transhumans were not the same as humans, and vice-versa, so they each had to adapt their approaches to the other. Transhumans were averse to alien radiation. The transhumans had the mesh, artificials, multis and the Vat. Posthuman groups linked the planets to the stations. The artificials reported what the exoplanets and domains were up to, so the transhumans created their own versions to claim originality.

    This was also a contrast to the betans who had converted much that was natural to their own artificial mechanisms. The only way to use the machines would be as a diversion since they would result in an alert and immediate containment and shutdown. Multis let passengers travel between any points in space. If all times were bearing down on someone, then there would be a cancellation field which singled out the present. Nate would have to use the same materials that the transhumans had as camouflage against the aliens, but for all of the groups as well.

    Nate is trying to guess what a reset did. They showed up in a lot of places, e.g. if someone had a chip in their head, or if they were being given memories by machine, or if they were immersed.

    Perhaps he was trying to make his own by returning to Earth. It would be great if this was the default that the transhumans put him back to each time they accused him of a transgression.

    The transhumans seemed out of sorts. They could not forget something if they tried. Life was a lot simpler for humans that wanted to live for a long time. They could periodically go through a procedure to forget the worst quarter of the preceding interval and that made room for them to retain good experiences. It was like a really long nap, but without the downtime. The pursuers had thought this to be a valid way to alleviate stress disorders, but they were also who claimed that they could download a fresh soldier on command when what they meant was that they were going to upload the field so the dispute seemed to be won, but it was merely contained somewhere else at light speed. That seemed to change the rules enough that the uninitiated had to stop what they were doing or face obliteration which meant a reset in the dungeon. He did not want to know what that was like. That may be why the machines took to space and had become the least trusted of the groups. There was some flaw that had made it into their makeup which no posthuman could ramp up enough to fix.

    Any of the surviving betans could be reset to Terra Beta if someone had the right data. So could the aliens, so there might be a local branch of them from then on.

    The Vat also included the synds and artificials. The latter could get information from the rest of its kind instantaneously, so there would seem to be no point to it. The former, however, would merely synch to their ship. Until they had attached to their group's mesh again, they would be a new person. Maybe that was what happened to Lange.

    The next question then was how to undo the reset. That might restore their personality to its glory. Nate had the feeling that it would result in a loss of control for the transhumans, so they would keep that detail to themselves. He should ask Trom about this.

    They seem to have done the same on Earth since the exiles and cartel seemed to be identical to their earlier instances and had made no progress. The artifacts were okay with that. It was possible that, if a particular device made it out of the domain, it could attempt to reset that space behind it which would be like setting it to a past time. It would take either a time-traveler or someone from another domain to remedy that. Again the machines might have the upper hand in this from either angle.

    In any case, Nate was saving it all in his facility so that he could get it back if something should happen to him. There were a bunch of augmen in there accumulated over time who were bidding on who got to be him again, but he would face that issue when he had to.

    Nate used a component from the multis to form a makeshift comms to the Vat. This might only work once so he had to get it right. He needed to warn Knawes about what he was going to be setting up with the transhumans. He had to reach his augmentation configuration there and that could alert her to link with it and thus to him. It took some time.

    Finally he saw her features. "Knawe, hi, it's me."

    "Nate? What are you trying to accomplish with all this?"

    She looked like she was about to disconnect. "Wait. How are you?"

    "Okay. Are you in the station again?"

    "No. I needed to discuss something with you. This is between us. I know that you are leaning toward the transhumans." That was one reason that this would not be a romantic conversation.

    "What are you talking about?"

    "I can't ask for anything," Nate said, "but you should know that they may be scapegoating you."

    "For what?"

    "They will use the Noth as an excuse." That would be another reason.


    "To attempt to prevent something from occurring here on Earth." She was going to be the vulnerability.

    "That has nothing to do with me. Why would I go there?"

    She was incapable of seeing it his way. "You might not survive it if you did," Nate said.

    "Is that what happened to the Noth?"

    "No. They never made it."

    "Nate! I hold you responsible for that and you know I'll get even somehow." That was the third reason.

    "I know that they were your means of improving your status toward becoming the human authority."

    "They had their own minds about things."

    "That is why it was important to make you aware before you might be reset."

    "If you are the reason for all this, then I will gladly disown everything about you." The contact was gone.

    Nate was pretty sure that noone could have eavesdropped on that. The artificials had tracers, but he had had to rig it himself, so they would not have any coordinates for where it originated from. Someone on the Vat might have heard something, but unless Knawe told them about it, they would have no idea that it was anything out of the ordinary.

    Nate was trying to fix his perceived flaw, not being posthuman, but rather an endangered species.

    This was supposed to be digital post-scarcity.

    The multis were mostly a symbolic device to make it seem like it was being done upon request.

    An OS scheme would have a limit to the word size or number of bits in a pointer, which would be the context counter that would bound the offsets. A virtual word size could be unlimited. The question becomes how the device supports the length. This may be compiled as a set of functions, such as register instructions, or dynamic as a callable address resolution or hash method. Therefore the limit could be infinite, or at least the upper value would be the number of countable items in existence. The machine may then have a couple of modes, one of the contexts is reserved to parse addresses, and the others are for computation. A multiverse is then a variety of schemes for the mapping. This switching happens faster than people notice. Sometimes another area will overflow into idle thoughts. An artifact is then like a pointer. It establishes permission for a link. No hierarchical themacloud is necessary. Circular recursion is then not prevented, but an element of the makeup. This led to basic intelligence and life. Each new perspective adds another meaning to the rest and any of them to it.

    Conceivably then something "in Nate" decides where he is. There may be another species after the artificials that has learned how to manipulate this, and perhaps the Noth have tried.

    The Vat occupied that place between the domains of the multiverse. It could be nowhere and everywhere.

    It was intuitively imminent for Nate though he could not hit it solidly. If it wanted to it could begin a process that would morph a domain changing the course of galaxies. Nate had been a single inhabitant that had had such an effect, but they all had that capability like wolves stabilizing rivers for the rest of the animate population. The attempt to build a habitat was the motivation for any species, but they were all part of the biosphere mesh.

    The transhumans had protected the humans to a certain degree. What Nate was attempting to accomplish was the dissolution of that preserve. This would lead to unpredictable consequences, not only for the posthumans and aliens, but anything else that was in them.

    He did not have to demolish the entire station. He could send sets of people out in transports. They could also be anywhere. Their effect would be uncertain.

    That is why Nate had to be put into the proper place in the order of things. He saw that location differently than Trom. Knawe could as easily have been who was dislodged. The Vat had provided the illusion that they were the same by virtue of coherence, but in the spacetimes, the ramifications were more complex. Convergence had not been reversible.

    Nate can try to put it the way it was, but now there are all these others who are looking at it also. He wore the Vat like a decoration if not a wound.
    Sat, Mar 1, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    Nate noticed that the surface of the artifact had changed somehow. He looked at it closer and it got lighter where he held it.

    "What's going on?" Nate asked.

    "Put it down." Nate heard a voice, but could not recognize it. He placed the object on the ground.

    "Who is it?" he asked.

    "You are not a betan." This time it was coming from the artifact. It had stood up on one end and was twisting slowly from side to side.

    He was tempted to bat it down and run away, but instead held the augmentation in case he had to confuse it.

    "I am human," Nate said. "We are newcomers to the planet and are attempting to orient themselves, but it is not conducive to our well-being." He sounded to himself like he was giving the speech to a synd.

    It beckoned for him to enable the augmentation by leaning in his direction. Instead of looking like a dust cloud, it assumed a similar shape to his own. That was disconcerting, because it could possibly use his own facility against him.

    "The background conditions are the same for all the groups."

    "You must have your own procedures to cope with it then."

    "You are an alien," it said, "or their ally or sympathizer."

    "Not at all," Nate said. "Are you betan then?"

    "This is Terra Beta you are on."

    "Okay, Are you from Tarp, or the cartel?"

    "You must be from Earth."

    "Not quite," Nate said, "but close."

    "Mars then."

    "No. What happened to Earth?"

    The augmentation became a starfield like he had seen in the picture before. One of the bright lights made a track to the opposite end of the image.

    "The betans left it to find this exoplanet. It was in a different place then. They had to set up their own complec for defense against the aliens. They also had their own version of the mesh and had networked the other exoplanets. You might have heard of Drik or Yoshiro. Some had gotten stuck on Mars or Earth again during that."

    "Then you are not the moderator? Are you an alien instead?"

    "There is no native version of them. The aliens have tried to shift this planet in their own favor. That is why they put it into their galaxy here."

    "What do the betans want from us?" Nate asked.

    It returned to the betan form. "We have not seen any aliens rise to meet you though you were led to several opportunities."

    "You were using us to flush them out?"

    "There may also have been more than you either already there or on the way. Is there?"


    "The others are not human."

    "They are Noth."

    "Are they holding you here?"

    "Not at all. We traveled together."

    "You will not be startled to see that there are more of us then either."

    Nate heard another whirring sound behind him. An area that he had instinctively walked around now contained what appeared to be a small transport. He went up to it and was able to climb inside. The Noth had returned and clambered in there with him. Nate told them about the relocation of the planet.

    "So it was Terra Beta which had gone through a shift in climate and it looks like the betans are who are no longer there," Ing said.

    "We should use this to go on a pass around to make sure," Er said.

    "Without the camouflage, we would be exposed here anyway," Nate said.

    They were trying to see how it could be steered when it took off quickly across the ground. It stopped all of a sudden. There was nothing in particular until Ing saw someone had gotten stuck under a large weight. They all got out and were able to lift it off of the figure and ease them into the craft. It stared up again on its own and whisked them to another spot outside a building. Someone came to greet them and ushered them in along with the person that they had recovered. There were a couple of more people inside.

    "This is the human gang," one of them said. He immediately went to check on the victim who seemed to be recovering from something that they had given him.

    "Then this is the betan gang," Nate said.

    "My name is Poldi," the man who they had brought back said. "Thankyou for the ride."

    "Least we could do," Nate said. "Was that being sent by anyone in here?"

    "Yeah, my name's Hodel."

    "Who are these?" a woman asked. "Aliens or posthumans?"

    "You mean the Noth," Nate said. "Ing and Er. Not aliens."

    "Don't mind Fiacre," Poldi said. "She is wondering as a scientist what your species are like and if you have any clones."

    "You thought they wanted to make this place into Mars," she said to him, "and it irritated your artistic sensibilities."

    "Let's say there is a grander vision of the betan culture across all of the exoplanets," Poldi said.

    "That is if we can get the right transports from the aliens," Hodel said. "How did you arrive here anyway, by artificial mode?"

    "Yes," Nate said. "I had a talk with an artifact recently."

    "How did it go?" asked the other person.

    "That's the same voice," Nate said.

    "He's Meurig," Hodel said. "He wanted to know what you could add in the way of defenses and to prevent any new threats."

    "Only want to reach Earth," Nate said.

    "That would be a miracle," Poldi said.

    "We left there long ago," Hodel said.

    "Maybe if we had stayed there longer during the climate change, then humans would not have disappeared altogether," Fiacre said.

    "Now that Poldi dragged himself back in, we can get on with it," Meurig said. "Of course we cannot make any progress while all of our decoys are in one place."

    Nate was wondering why they did not spot the betans sooner. There should have been a lot more of them.

    The Noth proposed that it was the human belief in their own superiority that made it difficult for them to see any other life in the domains. They had underestimated the effect of the nanomals.

    Nate thought that the Noth were not seeing a lot of others either. The transhumans had also not made it easy to get to Earth which is why they were here on a place which had not been listed before.

    The Noth wanted to know if the other planets were populated. The exoplanets were, the betans considered them to be all to be vulnerable to alien invasions.

    The betans took him through the course where he had been, showed him how they had kept tabs on him and where their activity was almost revealed. They put a few more artifacts around in case someone might stumble upon them. If they had done this by satellite, the aliens would have taken those out. This time any alien probes were circumvented by the betans in full view of the visitors. They were preceded by gravitational shifts, then the atmospheric changes. If people had been spotted, they would either be abducted or eliminated. Poldi had a phobia of this because of his previous near capture.

    The betans went to a place where they could be at ease for a while which Nate should enjoy. This was where the final crowd had assembled before they were struck.

    Nate described the Vat station. They had all seemed to have been there forever, but he had some recollections which occurred if he did not try too hard.

    The betans thought that that was what the aliens, rather than the posthumans, were using against them here. It was like some kind of ability to make the domain look like another, either of type or time so that people acted like they had either had, or were in, a different experience.

    Nate wondered what it would be like being held by the aliens. The Noth thought it would be pretty much what they had been through.

    The betans told them about the clones and the demands that were made upon them. Those were of humans, which was not to say that they could not be of betans later on.

    Nate asked why the aliens had selected both this planet and time for their action. The betans liked to think that the aliens had seen something unique about the planet, as they had, and merely wanted to make it mean something about the Vore instead. That would get them all of the linked exoplanets in a bold stroke. What it really was instead was that it had been made in response to the machine expansion, but that the aliens could not tell the species apart. Or maybe they had concluded that the betans wanted to be part of the aliens and did not have the aplomb.

    Nate found out that the betans were held by the aliens. Their station could only be reached from a quantum base. This was out of the question for him.

    The aliens wanted to constrain knowledge as to why the betans were going to be their serfs. That meant that they had to hide the information from the artificials. Nate could not notify them or he would be captured as well.

    This had been the same for the clones and would also be for other cultures, including the transhumans if the aliens had their way. The betans were not getting any support from them however. Nate wanted to get to them on the Earth himself.

    The transhumans were somehow holding the aliens off from both the Vat and Earth. Any time that there was an advance toward them, the posthumans would step up activity in the other domains to slow them to a stop. The situation that Nate was in would not be interpreted as a threat.

    The artificials were a significant component of this. They claimed to have full knowledge of what the aliens were up to. It was a matter of time before they knew where Nate was.

    The betans thought that the posthumans had various interpretations of convergence, emphasizing either more machine, bio or information in each. Nate had not seen any machines other than the Vat. They did not seem to ascribe much importance to the exoplanets, but preferred the stars or quasars.

    The Noth were another example of the posthuman approach. Perhaps the aliens had something native to their stations as well. Nate would let the Noth deal with it if there was.

    The Noths thought that the machines would be hardest to stave off from the Vat. There was something about their shapes of organizations which corresponded to eachother. Nate thought it unlikely that the creatures could second guess the machines.

    Nate did not think that the machines had any interest in the station since it was outside the domains which they were made to interact with. The betans said that all those groups had started from Earth and look where it had gotten the others. Nate thought that the common item was the aliens and anything that wanted to reach them.

    The betans insisted that the aliens had to be taken down here or the same problem would be seen everywhere else. This galaxy was the center of their regime. Nate did not seem them making any more headway than they had unless he could find something new.

    TB alien base had gone from normal to gravitational extremes. The betans thought that it might indicate whether things were headed out or in. This was the track that Nate had to use to locate the aliens.

    The betans wanted revenge on the aliens. The gang had remained separated long enough to formulate a plan which they now had to enact. Nate did not hear anything to convince him that they would be successful so he was trusting his own luck.

    Nate was torn between riding the multis out as soon as possible and rescuing the betans. If he was not successful at the latter, then he would be back when the Earth joined the exoplanet here. That was assuming that he could get to the other planet at all.

    Nate wanted to sort this out so he could get on to Earth. His perception of time was somehow knotted by the conflation of groups among which he had to show support or be thrown into their own form of containment. There was so much new that it seems to go by slowly, but it was also not where he wanted to be which made it seem fleeting.

    The Noths thought that Nate had lost his mind. They had so much less experience that it was easy for them to jump to that conclusion while he had to balance this atrocity with what he had seen before.

    The betans thought that Nate has been converted. Each of them showed that he had accepted their own way instead of what the humans used to have which would do him no good here. They were sure that that would be how he got over his fear, doubt, anxiety and depression. If he had to go through this with every one of the captives also, there would be no end to it.

    Nate was desperately trying to find the key to the commotion. Opqrst must be fomenting dissension without their awareness. The artificials were going to be reporting all of it to the transhumans eventually. The synds would have laid them all to waste by now had it been up to them. The machines would separate them enough to amplify their hostility toward one another. In any case the betans will equate his life with theirs. This all would get back to the humans on the Vat in a destructive fashion if he did not find a way to neutralize it soon.

    The Noth think that they were being discounted in all of this. They were like a relic from the past.

    An issue within the gang was how they could let the other betans be captured and should have known better. They had been too myopic concerning the data and had missed the aliens' indefatigability. They each held the others accountable and did not want it to happen to them as well. Nate decided that this was why the multis brought them here.

    The Noth thought that Nate was abandoning them. The betans assured him that they would not let him become a captive.

    Nate made up his own axioms. The first rule was to stay with the multis which had already been broken and was at the middle of all of this. The next was to stay on Earth or headed for it which had somehow gotten lost in all of this. He was looking for the main artifact which would show the significance of all of the rest.

    The Noth were concerned that the gang would take Nate out before they let the aliens have him.

    The betans were making their final effort. Nate attempted to rescue the betans by activating the artifacts on the ground to divert the aliens by the illusion of reinforcements. He heard on the comms that a Noth had been supporting the aliens and that a betan had wanted to trade the humans for the hostages. Nate had never faced betrayal like this before.

    The name New Terra Beta made Nate nervous. He had no idea how this would all be recounted to the people on the Vat. It was up to the individuals around him as to how they would attribute his part to the incidents which were occurring. He could try to keep a tally going in the augmentation, but it amounted to no more than a summary which did not give them a full taste of what it was like to be on the ground, or in this station instead. Maybe they would repeat what they could not understand and someone there would be able to unpack it for what he had had to cope with among his responses to the contingencies. Something that he had learned was about the planet going around the star and those the black hole. These were all owned by the Vore. Nate had tried everything to comprehend how people could live on a planet, but did not see the merit. Earth or Mars may not be so different from this. The only deduction that he could arrive at was because that was where they had started from.

    While he was figure out his newfound place in the scheme of things, the aliens almost recaptured all the betans. They did manage to take Nate along with them. The Noth Er was sacrificed after siding with the aliens. Nate experienced the loss of a friend. It was more intense than with Tarp. He had a problem with the betan station himself and almost became a casualty. Not all of the compartments had the same conditions and he had tried to slip into something that had begun to crush him into a small speck until they stopped it and yanked him out. At least he was not there to be eradicated from the outset. The betan station ranged from fully populated to empty and had some similarities to the Vat. He would be surprised if they were not all lunatics already. Nate tried something that they were never supposed to attempt which likely saved them. He used the augmentation to act like aliens in several places simultaneously declaring a nanomal decomposition which forced them all to evacuate. The aliens may have lost the station, but they had to take the planet before that, so they could do so again.

    The gang had been ready for that and got the betans to safe places. The remaining Noth would make the aliens believe that there were others on the way to support the betans.

    The aliens had targeted Ing as the betan mastermind. They still controlled all the exoplanets around the star from which they could either transfer groups here or the betans there. Nate was relieved that they had not thought he had played much of a role so he would not be a priority for them to seek out. There was still a chance that he could slip away unnoticed. He should have used the alien base for that when he was there.

    Nate captured an alien who has ties to Opqrst. They brought him back to the gang's habitat. It had been ransacked during the tumult. The betans had to clear it of anything that the other side might have left. Outside it seemed to be around noon, the brightest part of the day. Though Nate would rather have been on Earth, he would rather get through this here than there. He also did not want it getting back to Knawe on the Vat. He wondered how much the aliens knew about that. They had to have acquired all the knowledge of the betans by now. The latter merely knew that they would rather be somewhere without the Vore. Nate had to part ways with the gang delicately so they would not be wanting. He recommended that they give the credit to the breakout to a machine invasion instead so that all the repercussions would not be directed sharply at them.

    The disturbances in the atmosphere had stopped altogether. People could breathe easily again. Nate wondered if the multis had remained unmarred throughout the excitement.

    Meurig was doing the questioning. The alien thought that Nate sympathized with the machines. They claimed to have taken the Vat already so Nate did not know if it was intact or like this. There was something that the betans did want to find out. It took a lot of energy to move a planet between galaxies like the aliens did. Their source had to be taken by the betans if it was ever going to be put back. That would not happen immediately. After what they had been through, the betans might need some of the exoplanets to cooperate with them on this.

    There were additional betans streaming through the area as everyone was looking for what they had left. Their voices were regaining strength after the long period of enforced speechlessness. The betans from the station did not support the gang or have any gratitude for their longstanding effort. Some were better off there. Others thought that it took too long for them to get out. The gang should have been on the inside like everyone else. They could not know if it would ever happen again. This might not necessarily be what happened if the betans went the way of the humans.

    Nate had to make sure that the gang was satisfied with what amounted to the spoils of victory as far as they would see it. Hodel had gotten an alien transport though he could only use it locally. Poldi wanted the posthumans to appreciate the betans. Fiacre thought that she knew Ing well. The Noth had some approaches to improving the Vat. Meurig had a way to defeat the aliens next time. They all wanted to hear what that was.

    By the time they were done, someone announced that the alien had escaped. They might make it to another nearby exoplanet and then it would be the members off their constellation rather than the betans' which would be back again. Nate did not want to be here for that.

    Nate returned to the multis. It was almost nightfall. He was disheartened to see that it looked crashed. It was still the closest thing to a sanctuary that he had had on this planet. The betan artifact was nearby and now that he knew how to activate them, he was going to use it to search for the materials that he needed. Someone must have seen what he was looking for because there was a new function. The betans had provided Nate with what amounted to a summary device for their techno approach which he could use for immediate repairs. This must be what their explorers had taken when they were linking the other planets that they had gone to, some of which they remade. Nate could use the constituents to patch the multis. He had some difficulty using the thing, perhaps because it may have been trying to revamp him instead. Either that or his personality was changing based upon the recent experiences.

    This reminded him of the Vat in some ways. The artificials were supposed to be tracking the aliens, so there might be an eventual attempt to reclaim him. There was not going to be a right moment for that. They would not immediately know where he was from until the transhuman heard about it. He was going to try to use it to find out about them and where they were now. He was pretty sure that the transhumans would warn the betans off Earth, particularly until the aliens were no longer an issue. The betans were going to take a while to rebuild the planetside. It would never be the same as it was originally. Given the option the betans would head for the Vat instead. Knawe would prefer to see the transhumans, however, rather than the betans so there might be squabbling anyway.

    What happened here was a preview of what would happen to Earth. The aliens would bring that here to their galaxy as well.

    That provided the incentive to get the multis into shape. It seemed to look okay, but he would not know until he tried it and that could end up anywhere. He backtracked through his augmentation to piece together the positions of the stars and what he had been told about their offset by the betans. The multis would calculate the rest and take him there. This was supposed to be a lot simpler than going between domains, but that usually had all the necessary information from the artificials. He was guessing in the dark at this point. The other exoplanets might be less friendly if that was possible. Again he had to remind himself of what Tarp had said about each spacetime being an ironic label when seen from any other since they all appeared to be imaginary to eachother so nothing could be going on there until someone arrived and then they had fullblown natural histories. Well the aliens were certainly making that in this case. He had to get there first.

    Nate will head for Mars if he can figure out which direction it is in. During his previous sweep of the area to look out for any additional incursions, he had thought that the multis had changed location by an almost indiscernible amount. There could have been a tremor in the ground that he had not felt. He hoped that that was not a sign that it was going to be uncontrollable en route. He did not want to end up in the middle of a black hole. If he got through to the next domain it would be okay, but he did not want to become one of those souls swirled inside for eternity. That destiny would be preferable for the aliens.

    His time on Terra Beta had led to a couple of lessons. The planet's civilization depended upon which groups were there as well as its nature. The betans had told him about evolution which took a very long time. Earth had gone beyond his own kind to the transhumans. He might be running into a lot more posthuman types as time went on. It also meant that those which he had been struggling against may all have been single-planet species. By taking their planets, the aliens were eliminating the competition. They were not limited to a particular spot. The synds and artificials were the only other domain types, and possibly the machines though they had not made it to the Vat.

    The Noth had been a shortcut. Ing had allied with the betans. After Nate had had to part from him, he had vanished. Nate hoped that Ing had used the multis to make it all the way to the Vat and had then sent it back empty to him.

    If it was merely further interference by the aliens, then they had underestimated Nate's determination. He got inside and activated the multis. There were a couple of new message alerts waiting. Nothing like those had been shown when he had escaped before. If these were meant to discourage him, they were on the right track. First the artificials had reported that a betan gang was taken out by a delayed mechanism which sparked after a certain distance when they attempted to get away from an alien exoplanet so it must have been rigged during their captivity. Second there was an alien assassin after a lone human which presumably meant Nate himself, but they wanted to contain him ahead of that so he could not reveal any details about the Vat. Among the artificials this is what passed for multiverse advertising these days and they were the solution to all that ailed. He would have to make sure to avoid them. Since he was staying within the same domain, then the multis would be okay. He did not know how the multis knew which one it was in, or if it was in all of them, so taking an instance out was a temporary status, for the transport if not the travelers. Or if they had taken the alien transport instead.

    The transhumans had made the multis, so they could fix them.

    Nate launched toward Mars.

    Nate had seen Tarp as a classic human. The fact that the latter was taken out caused a break in his order of experience. The attempt to get to Earth was supposed to restore him. A reset might have had the same effect.

    Terra Beta was another upset. They valued techno approaches over ideological or economic. That was again supposed to provide an easy ramp to the future, but it was shattered by the intrusion of aliens who had their own dominance as the goal.

    All of these groups had superseded humanity and did not want to see it rise again.

    The scientist could take refuge in the search for additional knowledge that would make new applications possible. This had been the base upon which the expansion into space was built. The further they had gotten, the less they had known until they ran into direct hostility toward the effort.

    The aliens meant not only to crunch the posthumans down to Earth, but to take that from them so they would conform to the Vore system. That could not mean any good changes ahead.

    The only things that Nate had had which the aliens did not were the multis, Noth and Vat. They had limited the use of the first, took out the second and denied access to the third.

    Any attempt at rebuilding complec would continue the back and forth. The artifacts could as easily be used by the aliens as anyone else. Their science was directed at solving their own issues rather than any objective truth.

    It looked like the domain was going to be speaking to the Vore mesh going forward.

    Nate had seen how the machines could be translated for the humans, but noone had been doing it the other way. Any attempts such as immersion or merger had usually resulted in something with the same potential as the aliens to eliminate what was left of their makers. What had preserved humanity was a fluke. His only bet would be to use the Vat as a bunker and let the aliens and machines wage it out. Then he would have to face the survivor.

    This assumed that they had not already penetrated the station which was entirely possible since he had seen instances of both in his augmentation and not because of his own actions. They might be having the same contention in there in a way that was not normally visible to him. This was like the fabric of space which seemed empty, but glowed along the bow shock when a runaway star passed by. In this case it looked like it was headed for them.

    The transhumans held the only way to avert this. Earth would take the hit and spare the Vat. Nate might not make it back this way, but it would give Knawe and the others a chance to come up with another solution. They would regret the loss of the transhumans, but at least they still had the artificials to get onto their side.
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    Synapses (7)

    Nate could not wait to get to Earth because the transhumans would have the answers to his questions which everyone seemed to be so ignorant about.

    The Noth cautioned him not to get his hopes up too high. The fact that the transhumans had displaced everyone else on Earth did not mean that they had a lot of sympathy for those that they had sent away.

    Nate thought that they had no idea what they were talking about, having only met a proxy for an artificial representative of the group rather than any one of them directly.

    The Noth said that he was in the same situation. They merely did not go to the same extreme as he did. He had to have another plan ready in case they did not want to give him the information that he wanted.

    Nate said that the transhumans had thought of it all. It had been they who had forecast humanity's decline. They wanted other forms of life to be examined in case the elements would be common in space. It was they who discovered the alien probes because of intense reactions. They also were not quick to want to upload to machine forms and lose the linkage to nature which assured them they would get stronger. That is why Knawe liked them so much.

    The Noth said that he was being obstinate. He did not believe any of that either.

    Nate had to admit that he would rather transfer the humans to Earth en masse and bypass having to cooperate with the transhumans in tandem. That still did not mean that they would not be able to give them some valuable data. Being out of the fray, they had a unique perspective which would not be as biased as the rest.

    The Noth thought they were merely another aspect of the posthumans which Nate knew less about that any of them. The synds would be as aggressive as the transhumans were passive. The latter sent the artificials in their place which did not stir up activity, but looked for the insights that would make it unnecessary. That would not last forever. Eventually the other groups would get to them. It could take a while, or it might be hastened by some intermediate species which ascribed the difficulties to the transhumans originally.

    Nate had to be optimistic. The transhumans had not lied to him yet. They had not told him everything either, but that was their prerogative. Knawe was like that and she was okay.

    The Noth said that, his innate romanticism aside, he was assuming that he could shift attachments between authorities ad hoc. They had seen how that fared on the Vat. All he had to do was recall what happened to Tarp or Lange when they disagreed with the artificials. In fact the trio was on the run because of their own misgivings. The transhumans were not going to let it slide. Nate was going to have to answer their questions instead.

    Nate had the same agitation that he had when the augmentation was frozen and would not respond to him. They had stopped. The multis was at rest. Being on the wrong planet had paralyzed his sense of time. It was dark. He had been getting colder before, but now it was slightly warmer so the atmospheric conditioning must be working. He really wanted to be back at the Vat which he had so callously discarded for the unknown and now regretted.

    "Where are we?" Nate asked.

    "We better stay in the multis," Er said.

    There had to be a person that could tell them where this place was. He did not plan to stay long. All he needed was to get his bearings and they would continue to Earth. He would keep the Noth out of sight so that they would not startle anyone. Then it was a matter of finding someone to ask directions from and maybe grabbing a few items for keepsakes.

    "You can remain here," Nate said. They followed him instead as he set off toward what appeared to be a vertical shape in the distance. He had not had to exert himself this hard in as long as he could recall. There was no straight path like he was used to. He was dragging the others around an obstacle course. To make it worse, there were no obvious mechanical controls that could be adjusted. This was raw nature. They had no idea what that was capable of. It was not going to notify them when supplies were ready. They had to scrounge anything beside what they had in the transport.

    There were some plants around. These were stuck right in the ground and they grew large overhead. Nothing was regular. He was not surprised to see that noone occupied them. They must be in rooms somewhere else.

    His pulse was irregular and his palms were moist, but his mouth was dry. He had been frazzled before he left the Vat. The trip had done nothing but exaggerate that. Now they were somewhere unknown which only worried him further. The sounds were strange and unnatural. They were not starting and stopping, but continued with changes in pitch. The Noths seemed to be taking it in stride. At least they were not running around frantically like they used to at the station.

    "I thought you were trying to get the multis activated," Nate said.

    "It is not going anywhere until we figure out what made it settle here," Ing said.

    Nate was favoring his right side, so something must have been bruised on the other, though he could not feel it yet. He had better take it easy until his nerves were not so taut. He had to get them back on track. They had never been away from everything like this before.

    "Everything will be okay," Nate said. The Noths may have thought that Nate was acting compulsively, but they let him take charge. He wanted to appear confident.

    Nate was sure that, once he set foot on Earth, he would recognize it as his proper habitat.

    The Noth were not so convinced of that.

    Nate had to show how the Vat, Tarp, and the multis had conspired to deliver him to the right place.

    The Noth contended that he was skipping over the elephant in the room, or a pair of them, the machines and aliens. He had not been paying attention to what the artificials were up to all this time.

    Nate said that they had something in common. The machines liked to take things apart and the aliens needed to put the domains together according to their own scheme. They were like two sides of the same object. The Noth, being a new species, had not learned anything about patience.

    The Noth had to warn him that the aliens had been around before humans as well as after and that they were not showing any such tolerance. The machines may have considered time to begin with them and they were putting things back into how they wanted to be, while the aliens were making all of it fit a definition established where they had been strongest. The humans were as new at this as they were, and slower it seemed. At least they had not made any progress beyond throwing excess population at the other planets and losing track of them.

    Nate said that they were in a multis. That was a sign that they were going forward.

    The Noth said that the artificials had built them for the transhumans and that they were machines. He could not be sure that it was not the latter who had provided the idea in the first place. Autonomous transports were ubiquitous. The Vat was such a station.

    Nate did not see it like that. The machines were out there somewhere far away. The aliens were similar. They occasionally crossed the posthuman paths, but that was unplanned.

    The Noths thought that, if he wanted to learn anything, he should look at what humans were shying away from which was how the machines and aliens differed and what that meant. There was no reasoning method for it which should be a clue that they could expect surprise. People either assumed that the machines would figure it out for them which they had not or that the aliens would acknowledge humanity's central role in the makeup of life which had no fundamental cause. It would be like saying that programmers were poets which would merely be an indication that they both labored after mysteries in their own ways, but other than that they were human which begged the question.

    Nate thought that the Noth had no finesse or subtlety in their arguments. They discounted the entire history of humanity on Earth.

    The Noth agreed. It had nothing to do with the Vat or those other groups and domains which he was trying to hard to avoid.

    If Nate had to find a better explanation on an exoplanet, then they would be in the sweet spot for it.

    Nate needed a way to project augmentation into larger zones and that he could carry around with him. He had the smallest assembly printer that had been in the multis. It could be used to make something a component at a time. The Vat had had some supplies that were used to make energy for other activities, so that must be necessary on the planet.

    The sky was beginning to get light. There was a metallic smell in the moist air.

    "Where are they?" Nate asked.

    "Still no sign," Ing said.

    The people that lived around here must be gathered somewhere.

    "It looks like they terraformed the ground to compensate for the extreme climate," Er said. It might not be so harsh to them.

    "They must have fabricated the leaves, too," Nate said. This was a different approach to nature than he had heard of on Earth.

    He wondered if there was a way to make a signal that would attract attention. If he made it optical, then it would not necessarily cause havoc.

    The Noths had noticed that Nate seemed to be perturbed. Each time that Nate ventured into a new area, he half expected a synd to tell him that it was off limits. Since they were accommodating of his requirements, he tried to be more considerate of them as well. They were making simple pictures on the ground to show where they had been. Presumably this would make it quicker to find their way back. They could also do the same then if they wanted to retrace this path again. They would have tried it if he was not in such a hurry. Nate examined them more closely and saw that they looked like the shapes of the usual places on the Vat. It must be indicative of their opinions about the surroundings so far. They were avoiding any reference to Knawe so he did the same. It was important that they maintain good spirits. The same went for him.

    The Vat admin has not seemed to have located him yet. They will be after the fugitive, Nate was sure of it, because they had eventually brought in Tarp like that. He would rather mix with the natives here so they would be less likely to hand him over if anyone came asking. He did not see the trappings of the posthumans so perhaps he would get a reprieve. The three of them would have to cover as much distance as they could.

    There was a place before them which had large rooms which looked like someone had been there, if not a crowd, so it might be a population center. It was not in good condition.

    Nate wanted to find the site where the most people would be found and head into the middle of it to get the information that they needed. It was probably a good thing that they had not set down on top of it or in the middle of anything else.

    It was fully daytime now and there was hardly any circulation of the air. Things were still quiet. The building that they were in was a tight fit compared to being outside, but it also reminded Nate more of the station. Something in him must have begun to adjust to their new circumstances.

    Nate had been through the inside looking for any way to make contact with someone. He was running around frantically. The Noths appeared to have slowed when compared to him. If it kept up like this, he doubted that they would ever be found.

    "We could survive indefinitely," Nate said.

    "Have caution about being overconfident," Ing said.

    "Particularly since we do not know what the long-term effects of this environment are yet," Er said.

    Nate was hungry. They had some stuff left when they were in the multis, but he had not found anything new. If he passed out, the Noth would run back to scrounge some morsel. He was hoping that it would not come to that. This is where the posthumans would come in handy.

    Nate recalled what Tarp had told him. The way that humans knew what to do was by observing indigenous life. A part of them would become like that if it was not already there dormant for an extended period. Unfortunately they had not seen anyone here. He would have to try breaking down all the materials that seemed organic to mix something up if they did not find the foodstuffs that were used here. The Noth might last a while longer. Knawe would not want him back without them. She was likely not too happy that they were along at all.

    Nate used augmentation to make the place seem friendlier. He tried not to make it look like where they had come from since that would distract him from what they needed to concentrate on.

    Nate had to record things so that they could know where they had been and draw some conclusions. Doing this with augmentation was easier to sort out than on the physical surfaces and he could put things together in creative ways.

    "There were some curious effects on the ground," Nate said.

    "Like it had gone through instantaneous changes in conditions," Ing said.

    It was not the same in the building.

    "What kind of culture was this?" Nate asked.

    "There are going to be people about our size," Er said.

    "Maybe not," Ing said. "The gravity could cause significant differences."

    "The structures are about the same proportion as ours were."

    "And similar to Earth, but those groups are very different."

    This was the first case where the Noth were doubting eachother. It was more new information than they have ever had to deal with. Nate was worried that the Noth would abandon him. They seemed more intent on solving mysteries than maintaining camaraderie. He wanted them to remain reasonable. They seemed to have a way of thinking that was different from any other group and that was brought out further by the intensity.

    Nate had taken to the search again, this time to find the storage areas. He figured that he had not exerted himself to the fullest so he had to make the effort.

    It seemed like there was a lot of static charge in the atmosphere. This used to mean storms in the weather that he had heard about. That meant that they needed to find shelter. There were some covers on the ground that led to tunnels.

    After wandering for a time, it seemed like the paths which were not empty had been destroyed. There would be no way to dig anything out of them. Somebody must have wanted whatever was in them out of reach.

    Nate was further from what he had been looking for and they would soon be completely disoriented. He was becoming concerned that the Noth would consider him irresponsible.

    "Maybe we could use a compass," Nate said. He had seen those somewhere about Earth.

    "That was an early way to find directions before positioning," Ing said.

    "It assumes that we had a map," Er said.

    "We would only need the endpoints," Ing said.

    "Which we do not have either," Er said. "That was the point of the survey."

    The Noth were disagreeing with eachother again. Nate had to try to keep them calm. "That and finding something edible."

    The smells around here were more unfamiliar than ever.

    "How did they build these things?" Nate asked.

    "Boring machines," Er said.

    "As opposed to exciting ones," Ing said. "They could have used artificial organisms or particles, too."

    "I get it," Nate said. "Those would effectively be polarized to know which way to go. Where did they put the previous content?"

    "There must be fills nearby," Er said.

    "Find those and there may have sheds for the people," Nate said, "which means stores."

    They retrace their way back up. After going further, Nate was stuck in a magnetic or gravitational storm. He should have conserved his strength. His legs would not hold him. He was now fully dependent upon the Noths.

    Nate could not tell if he was going forward or backward. This must be how migratory herds felt when they ran into squalls. All he could do was try to keep the Noth in sight. Between the outbursts he knew that he had not passed out.

    Nate did not think that this turmoil was ever going to end. They needed to make weather measurements to know what kind is ahead. All he had was the augmentation so that would be what they used for time-keeping.

    He was starting to wonder if this was associated with the way people had disappeared on Earth also. Anything that they put in place here might be a sort of early warning system.

    He noticed that there were corresponding symbols of death. Groups had fled Earth so that it would not become like this.

    This was supposed to be about the destiny of humanity. The Noths were contrary to his objective. They must have suspected that fact.

    Nate had become separated from the Noth. They must have decided not to see him go down. He would not see Knawe again either. In retrspect, there must have been other species to have taken in place of the Noths.

    Nate thought that he could hear people like on the Vat, but did not see any. He was wondering if he would start seeing things like on the station, too. Nate was becaming convinced that these were the betans. Either that or it would be their ghosts. It certainly was not the synds. Admin had to air their dirt to the winds because they had to appear above it all in person. This was more of a split in creed. It was not his, though. He could not fathom the betan devices that were responsible for this. Part of him thought that he would be better off if there were others, but seeing how the circumstances were deteriorating despite this, he rather wanted to remain undiscovered by anything that lived here. The only thing that would be adequate might be a means of stasis.

    Tarp must have fallen a few times in his travels. He could not have known that he would end up on the Vat. What he was fleeing from were the aliens. He could not have known which would be worse, they or the posthumans. Perhaps Nate was going the other way. He had made it away from the group that had taken the Earth from people. He had done so without much of a plan to take it back. That would not do him much good in this situation anyway. In all of their resets, they had not been able to remove the urge to see where it all began. If he slipped off now the image would be what he had thought it was like which was not as good. He wanted certainty. They all did, but he had had the chance to be able to go after it.

    Despite their breach of his confidence, Nate wanted to find his companions. He did know how they coordinated with eachother or he could use that to summon them. He needed comms. He was also wondering what the posthumans would do. Nothing on the Vat could save him now.

    There were innate factions here. There had to be. It was like any place else. Perhaps the scrimmages between the sides that had led to this were what seemed to be like strange events. He wanted to know why these were happening.

    Nate was beginning to realize how bad off he was. He had goose bumps. All he had wanted to see was Earth, but instead this was it. The augmentation held what remain of his life to this point. It had not been to his liking on the Vat. He had gotten as far away as he would be able to. The Noth had followed before, but had continued further.

    The constant changes in the air made it difficult for Nate to breathe. The effects of lack of sleep were also more noticeable. Nate had to get through his own paranoia. Time seemed to be much slower than when he was on the Vat. He was developing a fear of large spaces. It might be better for him to stay within the nearest habitat. He crawled around until he saw something not too far away and made his way there.

    Humans liked routines. Whoever lived here might also. Nate expected to find examples of their types of activities. This place had a lot of remnants. They would be rareties elsewhere. An organization like the cartel would find bounties for them. The Vat might be able to value some of them also. There was a box that had a picture of a number of galaxies on it and there were some markings on each of them. He tried activating it, but it remained inert. This must be what the artificials saw when they looked at the domains. Maybe these people had been in league with them for some reason. Nate made sure to get a snapshot since he might be able to eventually determine what it had meant. He had been using the augmentation to save a map of where they had been to. He could now add these items to it. It would make a nice 3D rendition if he ever had anyone else to show it to. Augmentation also took his mind off of the pain. His composure was becoming more unsettled. His only fallbacks were Knawe and Tarp, neither of which would fare any better here either.

    This place was stocked much better than the tunnels had been. He found a bottle of something which did not smell awful so he tasted it and wound up drinking half of it down. That calmed him somewhat. He had been thirstier than he had thought so he finished it off. His stomach seemed okay. There was a slight improvement in his coordination again. If there were more of these, he should take them along.

    For a moment he was aware of a bright light and then he could not move. He had not gotten up so the way down was not far either. His vision cleared and he could see alright. His limbs returned to normal. It must not have been the liquid. There was a roar in his ears. It sounded like it was from somewhere close and was passing from left to right. That must have been what blasted him. Everything else around him seemed intact. He resumed his search, but did not find anything else he could carry.

    There might be more places like this. He could go through them in some order like rows or a spiral. Whatever it was that was out there might be back. He would have to dash across. It was worth waiting a while to make sure that it was gone before setting out.

    Nate was lucky at avoiding the thing that was running around making a ruckus. He was beginning to feel like he was in his element. After all, the humans began on planets. They had risen to dominance there. If all the rest of the people on the Vat were here, they would be able to make it survivable. They might want a station instead so none of these things could surprise them. He had made it here first, though. Since he was who found it, he would have a say in how it should be setup. That would be an augmented summary. He had to maintain his wits about him.

    There was some movement ahead. Nate was ready to pounce if it saw him. As it got closer he saw that it was Er. He had found the Noth again.

    "Have you seen anyone else?" Nate asked.

    "Nothing that isn't new here," Er said.

    Ing joined them. "This hs some commonalities with the Vat."

    "It is inferior to the station," Er said.

    "We still have to know what we are up against," Nate said.

    "We know that the Vat is the future," Ing said.

    "Anything that is egregious here will be the same there unless it is neutralized," Er said.

    "The native compromises are inadequate," Ing said.

    "There is no assurance that the synds, artificials or transhumans would be any better in this situation," Nate said.

    They did not appear convinced. "There was a time when it looked like the posthumans thought that the humans were hopeless on the station. Knawe was who had surprised them. She thought that the artificials had tunnel vision about the aliens which they were ascribing to the rest of the people. The synds had gone along with it, but it was obvious from the humans' point of view that the transhumans were the culprits in all that."

    "She likes them," Ing said.

    "Afterward they were okay," Nate said, "but they had to reassure people that there would be no loss of rights."

    "Because they were on the station compared to the planet," Er said.

    "You are establishing the inverse," Nate said. "She would be proud."

    "If you have any difficulties, let us know," Ing said.

    "She might not have picked this place in particular," Er said. He was looking around warily.

    "I don't know where we can go next around here either," Nate said.

    "You cannot just leave us here," Er said, "if you are talking about going to another planet."

    "Did I ever show you how to make predictions?" Nate asked. "We can keep a running score of who is closest."

    "This is how people avoid panic," Ing said.

    "Is there a better way?" Nate asked.

    "We are trying to figure out how to print nutrition from the stuff around here," Er said.

    "Your being the foremost explorers on the Vat," Nate said, "if there is anyone else around here, that would be good to know also."

    Nate thought, as they must have, that if they had not met again, there would be no avoiding the locals in any case, but at least it was a vote together.

    Nate wanted to use the agumentation to setup a range finder. Ing thought that it would have been better if they had measuring devices that could be placed around. Something in enough places along an equator, for example, could tell them what it was like anywhere and also be used to send other data if they needed to.

    While digging around Nate had found a betan artifact. He could tell that it was manufactured, but now why. It also did not explain their disappearance. The betan science had taken a different direction from Earth. The technology was unfettered. It was not like the Vat, perhaps because they had more natural materials here. The effect seemed almost alien. It might have been left for him on purpose, but this was something that the betans could not have faked. If this was like the Vat, then they were in a container which looked like they could roam without limit. It would shut anything down that went too far. it was letting them get away with a lot more than the synds would have.

    Nate was sensing that the conversation about whether the Noths would be running the show rather than about what he had discovered. From what he had surmised so far, he did not think that they should be. They confirmed it by making suggestions that would get them all captured soon. Tarp would have taken them out by now. Knawe would have done the same to him. Then noone would ever escape.

    Nate still had the graphic of the planets from the habitat. This planet seemed further out from the star. There could have been some other mass acting as a point of gravity. They could date the galaxy from the black hole at its center.

    Er would get the data from the artificials.

    The multis had set down in the worst spot. If necessary, they could tear the multis apart to make an exoskeleton to increase their strength, but it would be better to use the betan stuff. They have to figure out how to run the betan version of planetary transport.

    Nate had to use the augmentation to compare what they thought now compared to when they had started. They were more alike, but not according to some other plan. He had to make it stay on message. The potential flaw there would be if someone had gotten to the facility itself that he was applying. The artificials, for example, might use classic disinformation in contrast to their usual supply of facts.

    Terra Beta used to be an Earth-like exoplanet until it was transferred to the alien galaxy. Now the conditions vary depending upon rotation and orbit.

    Ing was curious about any new species. It was conceivable that they would not be able to see anything that either matched the background perfectly or was a much smaller scale.

    Nate thought that the betans knew the location of Earth from their planet, but they would need to figure out from the new spot. Maybe the betans were planning to take over the Earth.
    Mon, Feb 24, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    Nate had heard that an abductee had arrived. He maneuvered to meet them in an out of the way location where the posthumans would not see. He was less worried about them than the Noth who had a tendency to descend like flying snakes when least expected. Anyway the person was unoccupied.

    "Have you got a moment?" Nate asked.

    "What do you need? My name is Tarp by the way."

    "Yeah we had heard about your being here. Anything you can tell me?"

    "You have to keep this in the strictest confidence."

    "Of course," Nate said.

    "There are more humans off Earth than on, which you may or may not know. The station is unique."

    "How did you end up here?"

    "If I were to recommend staying safely somewhere, then the Vat is better than any."

    "It is like Earth," Nate said.

    "There are transhumans on Earth now. It's been like that for a while. Aliens got into our domain. They were cleaning up the black holes or something when they found out about our planet.

    "What are the transhumans like?"

    "This place would make them berserk. Becoming a transhuman is no way to get out of imprisonment."

    "Are we expected to?" Nate asked.

    "I could use something to find my way around, but no."

    "I can provide you an augmented tracker so that you can always find your way here."

    "Great. I like talking to Knawe. The transhumans will want to convert her."

    "Are they coming here?"

    "The Vat could hold them, but I don't think so."

    "Is she going to become like them?"

    "Our goal is self-determinism. Humanity should keep to its own devices. Noone else can know what is good for a human without being one."

    "Is that how you avoided becoming a nonhuman?"

    "I have been a fugitive for so long that I knows how to hide in the station. "The exoplanets were in a struggle. The aliens had a plan for humanity from the beginning. The posthumans added a complication which needs to be eliminated. There were also others like me who were on Earth before, including the betans. This reminds me a lot of the Ship. They all need to be saved somehow."

    "So the aliens are after you?"

    "They want the transhumans once the artificials are down."

    "Will they want this station?"

    "The machines may lead to the dominance of nonlife if they can make energy. In that case, the Vat would destroy the humans if they were not careful."

    There were other people approaching us. Tarp was looking for a way out between them. They discovered who he was and grabbed him by the shoulders. Nate stepped toward them to intervene, but was straight-armed.

    "The posthuman wants to see him," one of them said.

    "You betrayed me," Tarp said. He must have thought that the augmentation had given away his position.

    "When will I be able to talk to him again?" Nate asked them.

    "You won't," the same person said.

    They hustled him out. Someone had used Nate's initiatives against him and the proxy had been neither accuser nor advocate so he did not know who it was.

    Nate was finetuning his augmentation to make it capable of replaying anything that had gone on in the Vat. He wanted to know what led to Tarp's demise and the posthumans were not telling. The Noths must have noticed that he was not harassing the other people as much so they had to find out what was going on. They just took over the augmentation and began making things that looked incredible which Nate could not have hoped to accomplish if he spent every moment on it. It was not like them to idle. He wondered if they had a source of information which he was not privy to. They had not told him what was going to happen to Tarp either. Perhaps they knew more.

    "If you are jealous of us, say so," Ing said.

    "What are you talking about" Nate asked. "Where's Knawe?"

    "She favors us," Er said.

    "Don't talk gibberish."

    "Humans cannot defeat the posthumans," Ing said.

    "Who said that we wanted to?" Nate asked.

    "Human aggression is still evident away from Earth," Er said.

    "It's you who seem like anarchists."

    "We too may be eliminated before long," Ing said.

    "I don't give much weight to allow to nonevents," Nate said.

    "We were supposed to adapt to the Vat," Er said, "but it is being changed by the humans."

    "Some defensiveness toward the aliens is justified."

    "It was humans who separated the species," Ing said.

    "You obviously have your own version of the future," Nate said.

    "All humans may go the way of Tarp before long," Er said.

    "If I follow in his footsteps most immediately, it might therefore be seen as a threat."

    "You are wondering whether Tarp should have been taken out for his actions or kept confined as an example," Ing said.

    "Humans are as primitive as the animals that they eradicated," Er said. "Enforcement of rules against suffering ironically leads to another type."

    "It is also obvious that you don't value proxies per say," Nate said.

    "From our point of view, it is all wrong, but it could be made right," Ing said.

    "We have to find out whether we can tend to the other types of posthumans," Er said.

    "What does that have to do with us?" Nate asked.

    "Posthumans may eventually displace humans on the Vat," Ing said.

    "An organic station might be preferable," Er said, "but it would have to be within a domain."

    "They made an assertion that anything that bends spacetime leads to life," Ing said, "including energy or matter."

    "We could learn to tolerate them," Nate said.

    "Humans may be incapable of acting like us due to limited capabilities," Ing said, "nor could they convert."

    "It is possible to have an aesthetic which does not conform to any experience," Er said.

    "I don't see that that has any relation to this," Nate said.

    "The aliens will likely clone Noths as they did the humans," Ing said.

    "The question becomes whether time runs in null space," Er said.

    Nate was in the activity area when there were not a lot of people around so he had gotten distracted and wanted to use the augmentation to reenact some of the Vat's past. He tried putting together a makeshift calendar and setting it for as long as it could go, then though better and put it just before he could remember. This should tell him how he got here. Something appeared and it looked like a big person, then a couple of them, then several and finally their heads became a single one over a set of limbs that were joined at the top and bottom.

    "What is this?" Nate asked.

    "I am Opqrst."

    "You are not posthuman."

    "And you are not a clone."

    "Why did you materialize?" Nate asked.

    "You had questions that no proxy could answer."

    "Do you know why we are here?"

    "They could have put clones on the station."

    "Are there any more of you?" Nate asked.

    "The Vore had used it as a base."

    "Were they defeated?"

    "Anyone who chopped a Vore in half would then be dealing with a pair of them."

    "Did that go for the clones?"

    "The Vore had found a way to prolong life by using a device to make stem cells."

    "How about us?" Nate asked.

    "Humans have finally found the everlasting reward that they had been after."

    "You mean the Vat? It's already full."

    "As you have seen, the size of the Vat could be increased."

    "Why are you here? Nate asked.

    "Because of the Vore, the humans finally had peace."

    "Is that why we have the synd guard?"

    "The posthumans are not needed here so many would not be added."

    "It is like Earth," Nate said.

    "The station had all the good aspects of the planet and nothing else."

    Nate could not be sure that he was not making all of this up himself. Maybe the air had a chemical which was making his see things. That could also be how they kept people so docile. He wanted to try to trick it into showing that it was a human projection if not a prank.

    "Where are the Vore?" he asked.

    "The Vore are not from Earth or Mars."

    "Do they intend to enslave us?"

    "If the aliens wanted humans to suffer, it could be gradually made horrible."

    "What about the posthumans?" Nate asked.

    "The synd are destructive. If they are around, then something is about to be taken out."

    "The artificials think they know everything. The transhumans believe that they can do anything."

    "They could not build this station."

    "While it is necessary to shelter us," Nate said, "our creativity cannot be contained."

    "The alien station was a unique feat among all of the stars."

    "I thought that it was made for humans."

    "That is right. There have been other humans that the aliens cared for, but that could not appreciate their good fortune."

    "I can also use the augmentation for any imaginable skill," Nate said. "There is no need for politics here since the groups are not from different places any more,"

    "The machines would take this away from them. There are no illusions here. The Vore have faced a lot of types of aliens who acted like the transhumans and brought them to their senses. Civilization have progressed in the long history of spacetime and humans are about to join it. Nate is the most likely to make people aware of what they have here. The status of the humans is renowned throughout the galaxies."

    "What am I supposed to do?" Nate asked.

    "You must keep the priorities of the aliens private. Eventually the posthumans will agree with the people. If this works out well, then the clones will be merged, but only when the humans accept them."

    "That should be easy enough."

    "Anything that the humans want, you can provide them as long as you have the Vore's support."

    "This is not what Tarp thought," Nate said.

    "Unfortunately Tarp's initial experiences were with others than the Vore which soured him."

    "He had been away too long."

    "The humans are not far from their native soil. Their rights will be preserved."

    "Will there be more of you?" Nate asked.

    "The Vore are not needed here in large numbers."

    "Will you be able to show me anything else?"

    "Make sure that you know who you are talking to. The Vat has been known to make up figures on its own sometimes. There are alien artifacts in a couple of places, but they are inert. That should convince you."

    Nate decided to make a sweep of the outermost areas which he had not been to lately.

    Nate was walking around in the furthest reaches of the Vat. He would like to get a picture of what it looked like from the outside. It could be the shape of a satellite or a couple joined by a bridge. It might be oblong. He assumed that it had to conform to the orbital stresses that would be common to space stations. As much as he tried to put together his own drawing, there was a lot of information that was needed. He could use an expert. It seemed like the time to ask the artificial. He brought up some augmentation and messaged Subtrahend, the proxy, to see if it could get a comm for him.

    "Why do you want that?" the proxy asked.

    "To get some images of the Vat," Nate said.

    "You are looking at them."

    "There has got to be more than this. What about the outer shape?"

    "You do not need to make calculations."

    "That's true," Nate said, "but things are beginning to change. Maybe it is further away now."

    "It is the same distance."

    "I thought it was elliptical."

    "There is none because it is stationary."

    "How does it avoid asteroids?" Nate asked.

    "It does not have to."

    "Look, any time a planet of significant mass passes thorugh a belt of them, it knocks them around which sprinkles it with their materials. Or they may be rogue and crash into it."

    "Not here."

    "Then where are we?" Nate asked.

    "If you mean in null space, then everywhere, else nowhere."

    "How is that possible?"

    "It is between universes."

    "I repeat," Nate said.

    "There are a couple of theories, neither of which have yet been disproved. It either migrated from the Earth spacetime, or it was built here."

    "Things can pass between universes?"

    "Yes, the interverse has been linked by the artificials."

    "How did they do that?" Nate asked.

    "Using multis which can go from one domain to another like through a wormhole."

    "Are we in that?"

    "This might be considered an inverse domain, and therefore the Vat would be such a multis."

    "The Vat can go where it wants?" Nate asked.

    "It does not go anywhere."

    "But you said that the multis could travel."

    "This does not."

    "Why not?" Nate asked.

    "No one has tried and it may not be structurally sound."

    "Maybe that is what is happening, it could be drifting."

    "It is not."

    "How can you know?" Nate asked.

    "The artificials would have seen it since they monitor the domains."

    "Can you see outside?"


    "Then you might not see it either," Nate said.

    "If it were possible, there would be ways."

    "Are all of these stationary?"


    "Then you could show me what another look like," Nate said.

    "Clever. Then this is how humans developed consciousness outside their own minds by attacking eachother?"

    "I don't mean any aggression toward them. We couldn't go anywhere anyway."


    "So we are stuck then," Nate said. "And we cannot see where." He waved the proxy off. Maybe there were other unexplored places inside that could shed some light on the conditions.

    Nate was alone in an area of the station used as a kind of warehouse. He was not supposed to know the contents. The Noth had not gotten in either as far as he could tell. There could be something that would set the Vat back to normal. He had to use the augmentation to search what he could not see if he could get to the manifests. He was not going to be able to fake his way through since there did not appear to be an entry console nearby.

    "This area is off limits," Lange said from beside him. He had a scowl. The synds could mimic humans very closely when they wanted to.

    Nate practically jumped. He imagined being thrown into a box and left there without anyone being aware of his location.

    "Have you seen the Noth?" Nate asked.

    "They should not be near here either. They are not now."

    "Out of curiosity is there anything in there that we could use on the Vat? Things are way off from where they were."

    "What do you mean?"

    "You know," Nate said, "the way that it used to be like Earth. Now it seems more machine-like."

    "None of this will do that either way."

    "Why? Aren't there any repair kits."

    "Use what you had before. If it becomes onerous, then the artificials will have to split the insides into smaller compartments which are easier to control."

    "Meaning we will have to do that," Nate said.

    "That could be."

    "Have they done this before?"

    "Not in this station."

    "In any other?" Nate.

    "I don't know. It was speculation."

    "If there are other stations, then where are they?"

    "They could be in almost any domain."

    "Can we get to them?" Nate asked.

    "Why would you want to do that?"

    "If this became unusable, for example."


    "How do the artificials get to them?" Nate asked.

    "They have transports which are called multis."

    "Do you use those?"


    "Where are they?" Nate asked.

    "You are not supposed to be in here."

    "We may not be long for this station."

    "You have been saying that all along for one reason or another."

    "Are all of them the same?" Nate asked.

    "They can be alide, but they are usually different based upon the types of inhabitants."

    "How many have humans?"

    "This is the only one."

    "Is this changing because of new people?" Nate asked.

    "It would look like a particular domain."

    "Now it looks like the Earth spacetime."


    "Tell me about the transport," Nate said. "Is that from Earth also?"


    "When will it return?"

    "It won't."

    "It can't?" Nate asked.

    "It could, but there are no transhumans scheduled to travel there."

    "Who would call it to go there."

    "that would be Trom, but you need not be concerned about it."

    "Okay, I better find the Noths." Nate left him. If they had been foraging around here, then he had to notify them that Lange was on to them. Or he could ask them to show him the way in.

    Nate and the Noth pair were side-by-side in the multis. There was oddly no heat inside. Their breath was not steaming, though. It felt like being upside-down. Nate craved something to eat.

    "This thing should be able to tell the distance to Earth," Nate said. "Find a way to verify the heading."

    "Why are you sure that it can make it there?" Ing asked. "How do multis steer anyway?"

    "That fact was smuggled from a transhuman source, Trom. Should have been Tarp here instead."

    "Were they aware of it?" Er asked. "Who knows where this thing has been."

    "No," Nate said. "That is why they could not be deceiving either. Compared to the Vat, this should be a breeze to maneuver."

    "Depending upon the artificials not tracking it," Ing said. "It could all be a set up."

    "Or whether the machines are controlling it," Er said. "There would be more artifacts for knowledge or action."

    "All it takes is the right wormhole," Nate said. "And first-class accommodations."

    "Let's be careful what we ask about," Ing said. "They'll send the entire multis support organization."

    "Maybe it would have been wise to try immersion ahead of time," Er said. "Might need comms eventually."

    "As long as the transhumans are not eavesdropping," Nate said. "There's no interverse traffic control."

    "Why are they separated on Earth?" Ing asked.

    "Some are in space like the Variate pirates. The transhumans wanted to surpass our emotions."

    "Maybe Knawe would like them," Er said.

    "Staying human is more important to the people in the Vat. They haven't seen any in a while."

    "What are the transhumans like now?" Ing asked.

    "They're not like you."

    "There is the possibility of trans-Noths," Er said.

    "We should have taken different multis," Nate said.

    "It would have been hard to synch," Ing said.

    "We are along because you did not want anyone to know there were still humans," Er said.

    "We could say it was an endangered species delivery," Ing said.

    "This was definitely not made for humans. How do they tell time anyway?" Nate asked.

    "As a measure of change, you can count the physical side-effects," Er said. "This is a one-way trip at any rate."

    "Or else get it from space center wherever that is," Ing said. "Maybe that was in the past."

    "What happened to the proxy?" Nate asked. "This needs more augmentation."

    "It could become a facility in itself," Er said, "although there do not seem to be any recordings."

    "They would be about heading to the Vat," Ing said. "We are not going back."

    "That depends whether we will be abducted again," Nate said. "There are not going to be many humans, so it is easy to stick out."

    "Maybe they will think this is a trans-Vat," Er said.

    "Not if it shows up inside the planet."

    "Didn't the other human say that it had museum corroboration?" Ing said.

    "That was before they were taken out which had not been predicted."

    "Noths would make something more fitting," Er said.

    "For you or humans?" Nate asked.

    "The synds would want a twin mesh adapter," Er said.

    "The main thing is to know that there are no aliens in the container," Ing said.

    "And that it did not thing that a human was an alien," Nate said.

    "That would be obvious from disorientation," Er said.

    "Getting back to the subject, it would be better to camouflage the thing."

    "Like we did at launch," Ing said.

    "Not quite, but we may need to make a fast getaway," Nate said. "Maybe we can hide it in a subway or hit the mines. Just do not look like a drone. And avoid the betan network or it might be interpreted as the seoond machine invasion. Speaking of which, I wonder how it could repel an assault."

    "Are we falling?" Ing asked.

    "Either that or cycling back and forth," Er said.

    "It's a failure of propulsion," Ing said.

    Conditions were beginning to feel unbearable to Nate. In their rush to get into the enclosure, they had unfortunately ruined the exosuits.

    Nate had never been this excited. It seemed like time was slowing down. That was usually what happened when there was something really bad about to happen, so this change was a good sign.

    The multis shut off. They had arrived.

    He let the Noths go first. They were able to climb out into a tolerable atmosphere. It was warmer than the Vat had been. His mouth tasted dusty. It was hard to take a full breath. His skin was tingling slightly. It looked like their movements had not resumed regular speed yet.

    "Welcome to my planet," Nate said.

    "Call it Earth," Ing said, "but it's still an exoplanet."

    "It's beta," Er said.

    "Some megacities on Earth had tried to setup a techno ecosystem before the machines took over," Nate said.

    "Terra Beta could have been made better," Ing said.

    "The Noths are going to rebuild a new civilization," Er said.

    "What? These things take the passengers to where they do not want to go," Nate said, indicate the transport. "It would be good to get a message back."

    "Then they will probably bring others that you do not want to see," Ing said.

    "So it is not the worst thing that we did not get to Earth right away," Nate said.

    "Earth could have been improved also," Er said.

    "That's not what I meant. Terra Beta's culture was based on the tech fanatics that escaped Earth. This was not considered posthuman territory."

    "Any new arrivals may be considered invaders," Ing said.

    "It could have a newer complec to defend against aliens," Nate said. "Though there are not a lot of drones after us."

    "The issue is how the place can tell that they are human other than lack of response to the proper protocols," Ing said.

    "We could be invisibly tagged," Er said. "The magnetics of the materials are unnatural like they had been tiled or geometrically activated."

    "We would be safer in exosuits," Ing said.

    "The quick way to find out what is after them is to declare this the strike point," Er said.

    "Or setup an unauthorized cartel stand," Ing said.

    "Anything that they say or do may be tranmitted to the aliens," Er said. The Noths were beaming.

    "This is nothing to laugh about," Nate said. "This was not the intended destination."

    "All of this appears to be a black hole to the Vat," Ing said.

    "The question was how to identify a universe," Er said.

    "There is something about a domain where most of the particles are taken out," Ing said.

    "Spacetimes are arbitrary sets," Er said.

    "They are not," Nate said. "There is supposed to be nature."

    "Maybe the betans figured out how to put their exoplanet into a different one," Ing said.

    "Or the aliens had," Er said.

    "Maybe they just put it in a new galaxy," Nate said. "Earth is still out there."

    "The multis was not that far off then," Ing said.

    "Maybe this could be returned," Er said.

    "Remain optimistic," Nate said.

    Exoplanets are almost all the same. They are like Earth, only bigger or smaller, or hotter or colder. He should be satisfied with any of them. Terra Beta was okay, but Nate still thought that he was supposed to be elsewhere. This was not the planet's original orbit, however, since it was in the alien galaxy. The light was thinning.

    "I don't see a lot of betans around," Nate said.

    Instead of the standard megacity formations, this seemed to have geometric shapes for the dwellings above ground. Transports were notably absent. There was no traffic for goods or people.

    "They could have either hidden from the aliens or put somewhere else," Ing said. "If they were abducted, then it could have been either before or after the planet was relocated."

    They could have tunnels. There would be signs of entries or shafts, but there were none. Nate wondered if the gravity changed below. It seemed normal here. He was seeing things blurry at near distances. That could have been because the fluid was going to his eyes instead of brain. The natives would have been acclimated, but anyone else would need a suit to compensate.

    "The planet does not seem to be automated," Er said. "They have not gone over to the machines which may be what allowed the aliens to get to it."

    "The betans had been closer to certain types of posthumans," Ing said.

    "The synds," Nate replied. "We can leave the rescue up to them. I do not want to go back to the Vat just yet."

    It might have been good to have had some betans back there with them. They would have set things up differently no doubt. Nate had wondered about what it was like for the clones before, but now he thought that the betans could have solved all of that. Maybe they had if they were given the chance. Nate appreciated the amount of space that surrounded them. This was a culture that had not wanted to makeover nature despite what he had heard about them. He wondered if their own nature would survive being taken by the aliens.

    "Since you are human," Er said, "and so had been the betans, there is no convoluted system of verification that you have to go through"

    "Noths are another matter so stick close," Nate said.

    This did not need a lot of augmentation to spruce it up, but it could use some indicators or guides. At least there was nothing to warn anyone.

    Nate was gently searching the objects around him. He was looking for artifacts. The Noths took a moment to do the same, but did not go out any further. If they stood around too long, though, something was bound to notice them.

    "What happens if we get separated?" Nate asked.

    "Meet at the nearest station," Er said. "Unless there is a better place."

    "If the aliens had gone on an exoplanet spree," Ing said, "then they may have grabbed Earth as well."

    The nights on Terra Beta reminded Nate of Earth. That was about the only thing. It was chillier. He had to be careful not to succumb to stereotypes of the betans. They were not like the easy kind that had stayed on their original planet. These had made what was merely inhabitable into a treacherous technocracy. It all looked normal, but was anything but. That illusion was meant to disarm the foolhardy. He was using the darkness to confer with the Noth away from whoever might be on the lookout for them.

    "I have to find the Vore," Nate said.

    Their expressions did not inspire confidence.

    "What happened to looking for Earth?" Ing asked.

    Nate put a hand on the ground. The surface was hard. The smell of his sweat was reflected up. It would have been nice to be in the right place instead.

    "That too, but there ha to be a reason that the aliens took the exoplanets."

    That they were picking off the populations seemed clear. It was too easy to expect them to be here as well.

    "Maybe they ran out of stations," Er said.

    Nate would be content to never see one of those again.

    There was a mechanical thunk nearby so they flattened out low. A period of clanking followed, but from the same spot so it was not looking for them. Nothing flew overhead. Must have been a shift in the asymmetrical thermal channels to release heat that had been absorbed in the daylight. The material around them likely had the capability at a much smaller scale. It would show almost no magnetic emanations and be harder to detect for anything that did not have human-like senses. There was a moisture in the air as a result.

    "The machines would make sense putting everyone in containers," Nate said, "but the Vore?"

    They had had him fooled since he really believed he had been on Earth all that time.

    "You'll end up like the clones," Ing said, "destined for device paradise."

    "That's what the transhumans are," Nate said. "If the aliens have another station for themselves, then we know how to get into that."

    There was some way that they were outwitting the artificials.

    "They might as well put up a sign that says one-way to Vore." Er asked.

    Nate did not see much of an alternative.

    "Unless the machines are lying in wait."

    They had been fairly thorough in their days on Earth.

    "It's a posthuman age," Ing said. "They don't have to worry about that any more."

    If that were true, they would not be going about things so deviously.

    "I'll have to see that."

    He regretted saying that because he knew they would remind him of delusions he had been under on the Vat. Noone harped on it for which he was grateful. He could wait as long as it took for them to convince themselves.

    They finally were all able to exhale having decided.

    "You'll never see Earth or the Vat again," Er said.
    Sat, Feb 1, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)
    And that's how it ended. Nate was pretty sure that what he had just seen was a fiction. Noone knew precisely what it had been that had taken out the humans on Earth. There were several guesses. A theory of technology concluded that it was either-or. Another strategic said that it was close to a bunch of guerrillas defending their turf, only the location had changed to the wrong spot. The biologists were looking for an emergent virulent vector. They were never in agreement. It was amazing that they had been around as long as they had. If they wanted to know who benefited, they need look no further than the posthumans. That was one of the reasons that he was up here on the station to get away from all of that. People could be themselves like they used to.

    The Vat was not a change in authority per say. It was easier to make forecasts because of the stability, that much was true, but they had also tried that in the past only to find that all paths led to a draw and the concomitant toppling of the crown. Nothing computationally intensive there. Sure there would be some out for revenge. He had to think so, but that could have been the romantic in him. Nate still considered himself new at this. He was fortunate beyond belief out of nowhere, but that did not let him off the hook when it came time to up his quantity of noot. They all depended upon that to keep their edge. Short for some long term, it was the compensation for the unchanging surroundings. He knew when it was time to get some more, because he would get sharp pains in the back of his torso and head. It was like someone was pulling on his strings. Somebody said that it was an antidote for the infrasound in this place which would otherwise lead people into panic and madness. There was also a rumor that they had used it on Earth when people had to be ready to take somebody else out at a moment's notice. It was the opposite of the steely nerves needed to guard the nukes. Instead they were off the chain. Unfortunately they could not answer questions about it afterward.

    To get around his discomfort, Nate used the augmentation. He had put together a kit when he got there based on something he had seen on the unofficial network where they did not have to reveal their names. It was amazing that any time he put something together, some form of it would show up on the public presentations like he was predicting human nature. That was probably a fallacy, but kept him in a groove. His did not include transhumans or aliens for some unknown reason. So far he had been good at knowing when there was going to be an incident. That and the pangs.

    He recalled on Earth when they had promised a glorious future where men and machines were merged. That had sounded like a gender provocation, but some people had switched between those smoothly if they were privileged enough. Then it was all leading to a single destination where souls were combined into a human archive. He had had his doubts having been booted from various bureaucratic bailiwicks in his checkered chronology.

    His hands weren't shaking. His eyesight was not blurred or blinded. So far, so good. Sometimes he would trail someone that he thought had an adequate supply in case they were emitting whiffs of the stuff to trick his body into thinking that it had started a dose so it would begin to adapt. He never took their wriststraps off, though. That was where he had to draw the line. No physical accosting. That could get people reset and he would have to discover augmentation all over again. He had taken down a couple of times by strangers on Earth when they were being run by the establishment and he still had the aches from those. It usually preceded some questionable out which would only get him into their debt since it was they who implemented the rules and would say who could slack off or not. His wrists were somewhat sore. He was still better off than some.

    The guy seemed disoriented. He did not know his own name, but was muttering something about being voracious or in a vortex. Nate gave him something to eat which calmed him down. He was not saying which area he was from. Nate had seen it before. People got delusions occasionally. It had happened to him. There was an implicit fear of what would happen if people did not continue to get along and were still cooped up forever. Someone might get cabin fever and want to travel. There was no way to evacuate. This kind of thing could then occur.

    The fact that it took his mind off the Vat was inconsequential. It was like he had arrived yesterday. Nate spent each day perfecting his appreciation for the Earth. He was not there any more, but that did not mean that he could not still think about it in sharp detail. If something was fuzzy, he would go over it, filling it in, until it wasn't. It was his pulse and his breath. If he needed an alternative to another venue, he could stir it up using augmentation the way others used Hali channels.

    In actuality he was living inside an artifact. It was like being in the megacities where people do not venture outdoors or above ground. This was off-planet, but it could be similar to the inside of an exoplanet.

    Hoone had ever vanished from here. Somehow it knew who they were. It had a long unchanging past. There was always enough sustainable energy. It might be humanity's greatest device. The Vat was a fortress in space impervious to legendary black holes. Aliens would not look for them here.

    He did not know why it was here. Maybe it was priming humanity to live in other domains. Or it could be an evaluation to see what kind of spacetime they would create.

    This guy did show that they had not figured it out yet, though. Sometimes not everyone would fit in. People used to makeover the environment and use it up. If they had to go to Earth, they would want to build another Vat anyway. Nate knew that it could not be used to destroy the Earth. The only hidden muscle would take out the Vat itself, but then they had nowhere to go. In the meantime, it seemed like an automatic control system where something was slightly off. There were lots of ways that it challenged social stereotypes. Proxies were not as effective since people thought differently about the risk and time to payoff. And there was some kind of rotational social dynamic where they shifted territories. There were only so many places that they could end up so it was a general displacement. This guy had taken it personally which was a hazard for anyone who forgot where they were. They usually could not take their minds off of it without being reminded immediately, but Nate had found a way to beat the system. It seemed like it was as good as new.

    There were times when Nate had to let off some steam. Life in the station was sometimes precarious. It could add up over a while and he did not want to get into a chronic disgruntled manner. There were some spots that were out of the main throughways. They had a club which some unsavory people frequent. Nate would go there when he felt the need for something different.

    There was a place that had too many distractions for him to count. People them claimed to have artifacts from Earth. They made up imaginative matches which would be based on some aspect of the goods. There was no central clearinghouse so they could not appeal to an authority when opinions differed and it came down to who wanted it the most.

    Nate had to see anything that was not made in the Vat. It could be from the dankest location and have no material value, but it meant that things were not as good anywhere else as they were here. He also made copies that he could project from a device. If people wanted to trade objects for improved augmented versions, Nate would do so. He sometimes stretched the truth and told them that something was natural when in actuality he had made it up from something that he remembered seeing before, but he meant no harm so they went along with it. Nate thought that he had some stuff from exoplanets, too. Noone could say how they had come upon these since their distribution would be tightly controlled and a lot of questions would be asked which could incriminate them. This was due to not wanting to contaminate one place from another and also because of regulations which probably benefited some group that limited exports unless they were maximally rewarded. Again augmentation went a long way if he could avoid the wrong attention.

    He has a storage area which he had unofficially borrowed from within an unused section. It was big enough to put his current set of contraband items. They would not be there for long. Others were always willing to take them in return for something that he needed from them. There was an elaborate scheme of barter that kept people busy in a positive way. That was most of the time anyway. This time there was a disagreement about his rights to the things that he saved. Someone new was moving in on the territory and they were beginning by taking ownership of everything within its boundaries. Nate did not have enough time to put everything somewhere else before they found out about it. He was about to treat it all to a deconstructor to extract the elements when someone named Knawe talked the other people out of a scuffle. He did not have time to thank her before she had wandered off.

    He did note that anything related to transhumans was somehow taken away. That included data which was reset without his doing. He had previously been accused of keeping alien objects to himself so he was careful to label those that were nonhuman such that he could tell who gave them to him and to whom he later passed them along to.

    Not everything went so smoothly. His use of credit at entertainment had gotten him in over his head. He was not the lucky type at anything. They also want leverage on him so that he would have to be their slave and eventually a scapegoat. He had avoided that so far. They thought that he was hacking augmentation devices, but it was not him. If this had been on Earth, then he might not have been allowed to survive that either, but as he kept saying, the Vat was better all around.

    Nate was at the supply center. This is where they had materials that were needed for the things that they made. There was no production. They could print things for themselves.

    He wanted to show them a device that he was working on to see if they had a better way to shape it, but when he used augmentation, they told him that it had been disallowed. There was a concern that the system had been compromised by a nonhuman. He could not think of who that might be. Anyway they did not have any suggestions. Also they were limited in quantities so noone outside a certain distance would be able to get stores here any more. That would be serious. If they had to, people could take apart what they already kept and dissolve it down to the particles, then assemble it again. That used up energy. They all planned for infinite longevity so they could not sacrifice half the population on behalf of the rest.

    It was not like Earth in that regard. Renewables meant starting from scratch. They had raw elements, but were not allowed to go outside the Vat for radiation or mass. The structure itself was made from something unique that they had not taken apart. There was a warning that it would not withstand the usual repairs so they should leave it be. He had seen some people skulking around and they were quickly captured and kept in a more remote section. Some people said that there was no sense putting them into confinement since the whole Vat was built along the lines of what used to be used to imprison offenders. They did not use emotion chips these days like they had on Earth with the early transhumans. Those made them try to escape. They did downgrade people's makeup slightly here, but through natural means. There could be something in the air that made them more docile. It would be impossible to tell. Rationing supplies would be the litmus for whether it was adequate.

    Nate was pretty good physically. He could match most people mentally also. They thought that he was slower at emotions and that something had been lost when he had entered the Vat. He did not think about it, nor did he recall much from that time. They had all been steamrolled into it for their own good. There had been some scare on Earth for most of the people. This was the surviving portion. They would go back as soon as things had cleared up. The transhumans were tending it in the meantime. He did not need to plan that far ahead. They all enjoyed it up here. It was somewhere in orbit, but they did not have any view out. They had heard that the transhumans were not the only posthumans and that the others were maintaining the detailed operations externally. People did not want machines to dominate since there had been a tense stretch in history when that had been repressive.

    Rather than get depressed about the news, Nate thought he would find someone who would know how to search for the bright side.

    Nate had had his eye on Knawe for a while now. She was the most attractive woman that he had seen here. While popular she tended to keep to herself. People seemed to consider her level-headed. She was easy for them to talk to. There were various circles, but she visited them all rather than belong to only one of them. He was sure that she would spend time with him once they got to know eachother. It could begin by taking an interest in what she was doing. He found out where she stayed and went by during the afternoon.

    "Found you," Nate said.

    "You're Nate," Knawe said. She seemed pleased enough. "What can I do for you?"

    "Nothing. Was hoping to make your acquaintance if that's okay."

    "That's quite okay."

    "How do you like this area of the Vat?" he asked.

    "They're all the same, I think. Let's me get what I need."

    "Have you heard about the shortage?"


    "They can't release some of the staple goods to the outer rings until further notice," Nate said.

    "That is not good. I don't know how we'll survive without the basics."

    "I'm just inside the radius so I can get stuff to you."

    "I would appreciate it."

    "If people ask," Nate said, "tell them that you saved it up. I noticed that you're acting like a confidant to many of them."

    "They have to confide in somebody since it can get stressful at times."

    "I'm okay here. There is nothing that people can do on Earth that they cannot on the Vat."

    "Do you miss Earth? I think that you would have been an artist there, or else opted for cartel if you had to smuggle things through."

    "I don't know the reason that everyone else transferred," Nate said, "but it's better than anything else that we tried."

    "What was that?"

    "They had already been through immersion, stasis, and an exoplanet."

    "I heard that the betan comms are inactive."

    "At least the Vat is not an AI," Nate said.

    "They could have put a lot of smaller facilities on the exoplanets or ships."

    "I think that humans would be at a disadvantage if they were that far apart."

    "That makes sense. It's hard to cooperate with the other species."

    "On the other hand," Nate said, "they would not have put all the eggs in the same basket, so this has to be impregnable."

    "The civilization cannot afford to split within the station because that could destroy everything, but the hardliners remain unswayed. They are pushing eachother across the line until a struggle breaks out."

    "Is that what is affecting the culture most?"

    "There were clones on other planets that did not do as well. People are nicer here."

    "Personalities are still not perfect," Nate said.

    "I heard that there is a group that wants to act against the Vat."

    "Will they succeed?"

    "Not if the posthumans get to them. There are people acting as mediators so hopefully that will not be necessary."

    "You mean the transhumans?" Nate asked.

    "They're on Earth. There are others like the synds who can be less tolerant."

    "Do you like posthumans?"

    "I should. I made some. They're call the Noth. They are a lot smarter than us and they look out for me. I'll introduce you."

    He followed her as they went looking for her friends.

    Nate was in a public area which had artifacts from the humans' past. He wanted to make renditions of them, but was prevented. A Noth, the local version of a posthuman, saw him there and headed straight for him.

    "What are you sulking about?" Ing asked, "or is it that your augmentation is disapproved of?"

    "It's not like it would be a machine," Nate said.

    "Or else you'd take it apart."

    "That's not the only purpose despite what they think. Augmentation is like an interface and it has limits."

    "It works on other things or people, too. Go ahead and use it, but not so anyone'd notice."

    Nate tried a simple shape which showed what people's paths had been through the area. These had been becoming more complex since the exhibit began. It also showed the Noth's. He had it figure out the simplest way to see everything while running into the least number of others. If he wanted to, he could have it alert him when an object was unoccupied.

    "It's not self-determined," Nate said, "so it cannot give itself away." He began walking among the items again and the other accompanied him.

    "And it's not like terraforming the place into a sludge pile either. As long as order is maintained, they won't care."

    "They will. They disapprove of everything."

    "Don't you have enough of being in a museum slot already?"

    "The artifacts are important to the culture and some augmentation can find more of them," Nate said.

    "You mean because of the time you were all on Earth before the transhumans."

    Nate could not tell if the Noth was putting him on. It had never been there and had no regard for it other than as a curiosity.

    "If anything happened, it could lead to their extinction also."

    "But you're not saving anything of them."

    Nate did not have it which was why, but he did not want the Noth to think that he needed it either.

    "The posthumans have not been able to change this environment much," Nate said.

    "The Vat knows about more domains than the artificials have."

    Those were the transhuman proxies in the multiverse. The less he saw of them, the better.

    "Some of the humans did not remember ever being on Earth."

    "You don't think that this is expression of the spirits of all those that were ever there?"

    Sometimes the Noth showed more sensitivity than anyone gave it credit for, but it was still steeped in its own views so the rationalizations were marginal.

    "It only cares whether the spacetime has been setup for the intended and rightful beings," Nate said.

    "Perhaps, just as the Vat has centralized the order again, something wants to burst it to the extremes or split it into some moments that would cancel eachother out."

    "The Vat may be why the clones did not vanish also."

    "Or it could be an elaborate trap by the artificials to find a mole. It depends upon which spacetimes remained intact."

    Nate was showing off some augmented forms which he expected Knawe to be impressed by, but she seemed indifferent. This was the meeting area and he should have waited until they were in their own rooms. She had her abnormal souls along. For nonhumans they were not that bad, but she could have made them have a fraction of the presumptive nature.

    "Have you heard about the new arrival?" Knawe asked.

    "Not yet," Nate said. "Who is it?"

    "They claim to have been abducted from Earth a long time ago."

    "They're the only one?"

    "Maybe you can tell us," Ing said.

    "I don't know them," Nate said.

    "Your augmentation may have triggered an alien probe," Er said. "That is what preceded their being taken."

    "In this case it would be their return, or arrival," Knawe said.

    "We are wondering whether a black hole can appear inside the Vat," Er said.

    "I knew nothing about this," Nate said.

    "You mean you expected nothinng like it," Ing said.

    "The persistence of history versus the unpredictability of the future," Er said.

    "Humans have another chance so we do not lose it this time," Knawe said.

    "The Vat is intact, right?" Nate asked.

    "Humanity is fundamentally flawed and therefore so is the Vat," Ing said.

    "Maybe it was a proxy," Nate said.

    "I don't think so," Knawe said. "The posthumans try to make you think that your situation is your ideal."

    "But the synds offer a false option," Er said.

    "It's not my fault that they can't fit a megacity into a station," Nate said.

    "The former was an answer to climate," Ing said, "and the Vat to conditions.

    "It cannot be a conventional transform due to an alien coefficient," Er said.

    "Now is this related to the new person?" Nate asked.

    "Sentimental side-effects," Knawe said.

    "It may be more than that, this could be a parallel to the previous human extinction," Ing said.

    "Or a true alternative," Er said.

    "Then what would stop us from disappearing again or are we on the verge?" Nate asked.

    "It depends on whether the synds have any feedback from the last time one of them went through it," Ing said.

    "That may have been the key thing on Earth that led to the Vat," Er said.

    "A group here wants to become transhumans instead," Knawe said.

    "Noone has been abducted from here," Nate said.

    "But you still have the other issues of the megacity, demands for sovereignty rather than segregation of species, cartel without the mes as a source of profiteering peaks, supremacist admin and pursuers, errant task group, machine haters, wannabe tyrant, unsustainable complec, and all the other groups that plagued it," Ing said

    "The synds claim that they have a solution for the nanomals," Nate said.

    "But the attempt to launch a satellite failed," Er said.

    "They would rather make a ship version of the Vat to twin," Ing said.

    "That would be going backwards," Er said.

    "What does the Vat want?" Nate asked.

    "To be utopian," Knawe said.

    Nate disappointedly headed back to the drawing board.

    Nate could not tell the Vat from the Earth. He had assembled a pair of augmented objects side-by-side, one for the station and the other for the planet, and had practically succeeded in making them look identical.

    This was his private area so there was noone to brag to about it. There would be plenty of time for that later. He started to put the things away.

    "Are you going to combine those into something useful?" He heard the voice of Ing, one of the Noths, a smaller local species that thought themselves a lot more knowledgeable than people. They were, but they could not do a lot more, so it did not count.

    "I was finding newer ways to use the augmentation to accomplish things," Nate said. The Noth tended to jump to conclusions.

    "You are not becoming one of those nostalgic natives are you?"

    "No We are in utopia. We are luckier than the people on Earth." They had never been there so they would have to take his word for it.

    "Everyone seems to be coming to Earth if that's where we are."

    "Humans had migrated off the planet in order to follow their values," Nate said.

    "Yeah, I've heard the propaganda. The sum of their past dedication is why each person made it here."

    "They do not have to visit Earth because they can interact with channels from here."

    "Right. There is more information going through here than there was in the past there."

    "Altogether it is like a single megacity without the density or exiles," Nate said.

    "Knawe is here so there are some of your favorite people."

    "People depend on the Vat for sustenance and it can go on forever."

    "People do not have to exploit eachother to gain status."

    "The people in the Vat can do things that those on the planet cannot," Nate said.

    "You like being around the others, because they are not like the transhumans who would be doing all of this in their heads."

    "Planets are too limited compared to what they are putting together here."

    "They do not have a moon here so there are no tidal effects."

    "I would like this to be the ideal of everyone alive," Nate said.

    "They are neither nature or techno extremists so it is a moderate population."

    "You think you know what it will be like for us, buy you can't."

    "They will not go through the same progress as Earth along the lines of the machines or afterward."

    Another Noth, Er, showed up. Nate had heard somewhere that comedians were among those that spent the most time having their heads analyzed. If that were true, then these two would be a tag team. They did not take anything seriously. That explained their quips about what humans were like. They seemed to be able to cope with anything, though. It was like they would be the tour guides if this place had come with a pre-supplied staff which it did not. People had to learn things the hard way, but they had persisted.

    The only way to get them off his back seemed to be to find their minder.

    Nate had to get something to eat. He was pleased to see that Knawe was among the diners. It was the middle of the day when most people had the same idea so he invited her aside.

    "Things getting any better?" he asked.

    "They have to," Knawe said.

    "You sound like you have something in mind."

    "The Noth seem happy enough." Those were her creatures. Her goal had been to make a species that would survive the Vat. She had gone through an experience where the others were hostile and she almost bought it, so the Noth may have been meant to deter a repetition.

    "The others are not?" he asked.

    "They need some direction."

    "What is holding them back?" His own theory was that there was some unknown reason that they were being kept effectively timeless. Maybe the Earth had done something to someone who was going to return the favor in spades.

    "This place seems haunted. The Vat is no longer as much like Earth."

    "What's that like?" Nate asked.

    "Good question. At least we know that here the humans are in a Vat, and on Earth, the mesh is in the transhumans."

    "They are who made the artificials. You must like that." The Noth were as smart as centenarians, so they were on a par with them, at least in the matters of this domain.

    "Those things eat data. Is that living?"

    "They are not like the Noth," Nate said.

    "Perhaps the transhumans wanted to be known as the only survivor."

    "Humans might have been better off if they had not split into Mars groups. There were few ways to avoid the posthumans." Somehow the search for intergalactic travel had fallen after that for extraterrestrials, but that may have been out of their hands if someone else had gotten to them first.

    "The opposition is usually among the other people. If anything goes wrong, the Noth would be kept in a room away from them."

    "The Noths could adapt to the planet," Nate said.

    "Not if they stay here long."

    "This place may be supposed to be a mix."

    "I was surprised that the posthumans were not wary of the Noth, so they must see some potential in them."

    "Or have a sense of kinship," Nate said. They were all alike to most people. That was probably true on both sides.

    "The merger here is questionable because the posthumans had left Earth. The only people that would become posthumans would be those that could not remain alive otherwise."

    "It would be hard to find sanctuary for all the living things from a domain."

    "If they were removed, then it could go to entropy immediately."

    "Perhaps the aliens wanted the Noths," Nate said. At the same time, he wanted her to now that he was not one of them.

    "The Noths do not want to make another species, but rather to appreciate humans as they are."

    "What is to appreciate? A solution would be for people to become dependent upon you."

    "I do not need the Noth for that."
    Sat, Feb 1, 2014  Permanent link

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    Synapses (7)

    If you were here for the last show, some people don't always appreciate the new material right off, so I changed the order... People want to know what it's like living in the megacity where the monstrosity is likely to make first contact. You can't say that it's so tragic, it's ridiculous... The good news is that the energy from fragmentation yields information. The bad news is that the monstrosity finds that attractive... The monstrosity sees things split out of nothing and then cancel eachother, and almost infinite orders that might have been. I'm lucky if I know what's on Hali... Earth isn't so bad. Ideological biases cause insecurity in the dominant classes and persecution of dissenters and separatists. Academics. Can't live with 'em... My society was the opposite of this. You'll be meeting them... If you don't like the current regime, then wait a decade... What's the definition of irony? When social symbols match experience. Exception proves the rule and all... No two megacities are alike. They each fail in their own way... The battle between corruption goes on. You can threaten it with annihilation, acquisition or attrition. Get it? ... The mirth isn't finished. Each dictator leaves their personality on the next generation... There is a reality laughtrack. People get zapped when they look like they are about to despair. There were two expectations, dementia or zombies... The only thing more hilarious than the world's funniest megacity is the head alien in a blackhole. I've seen them both... I probably know all of the warden jokes... Why are there no executions on Easter? The last time, they stopped serving meat on Fridays and the warden hates fish... When the illusionist has no more believers anymore, they hand it off to the scapegoat and become the shadow... Machines won't need humans forever, so the punchline isn't far off... Noone said that aliens didn't have a sense of humor. You should see the ads they run on pursuer surveillance feeds... The problem with going on multiverse trips is that Falcon had all the maps... Capitalism. Seriously. Had us going there... What's the difference between Zer and Wennot? One trumps the holes... Vishal walks into a bar and says, "Stop me if you've hurt this. Just kidding." ... How many humans does it take to get a transhuman elected? All of them... That's an extinction joke... People ask what it's like being abducted by aliens. Pretty much like having to vacation at the relatives'... What will it be like solving Fermi's paradox? There goes the galaxy... Why do they call me Tarp? EI was taken already... Traveling all that time wasn't a complete waste. I did see an actual demonstration of string theory once... Luckily, that's all under control again. Trick is not to sample the contraband... A lot of aliens think that pirates have no morals. That's not true. I draw the line at selling them humans. Artificials on the other hand... Honestly, Zer and I go way back. If there hadn't been a monstrosity, we would have made him just for laughs... I know you're out there. I can hear you breaking... A lot of people think machines have no sense of humor. I've seen a lot of 'em and I have to tell you, they don't get any livelier than this.What do I want to be remembered for? Actually, it was Vishal, not me.

    Continued Scriptfrenzy draft
    Sat, Apr 14, 2012  Permanent link

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    Synapses (2)
    Summary: A megacity synth looks for cooperation with transhumans while a corrupt cartel bot is out to get revenge.

    1. INTERIOR — megacity transport station — day. There are members of multiple posthuman species on their way. Bots are machines. The transhumans are the most human-like. HYNT is a synth which is a form of artificial life that can shape-shift to some degree and is mimicking transhumans in this case, but with a subtle show of superiority which looks nonhuman. There is another SYNTH a ways away. They communicate by a form of techno-telepathy, the mindmesh. Hynt sees a transhuman, URBRUS, arriving at the transport station. They seem to be getting directions from a bot, OBO, who will become a major character later on. There is an ANIM, a reanimated human with some internal simplifications, carying bags for the bot. The crowd flows by around them without pause. It is clear and warm, and there is the usual THRONG of CONVERSATIONS in the air. Hynt is looking around like a tourist.

    HYNT (in Voiceover)
    That transhuman is out of its mesh. Have to be to look for guidance from a bot. It obviously is trying to hawk something, probably a cartel knockoff. They have them at all of the transport stops. If the drones snare them, there is noone to take the fall since there is usually an infinitely long trail without any fingerprints. It wasn’t that bad when the humans were still around. Now they're trying to lure the remaining posthumans back to the megacity. Can’t happen again, they said. Shouldn’t have in the first place. The place is up for grabs. The transhumans survived coincidentally. Actually so did we. Synths were immune from whatever it had been, I guess. Pretty far from the mines. Must be on a task for the bots. They don’t let them out on their own as far as I know. Still a case to be made for posthuman rights there. Why do I get the feeling that someone is observing me in the same way? Maybe it’s one of those souls that hadn’t made it to their final destination. Better not ask me for advice. They’ll be here forever. Either that or one of these people is carrying goods that they are not supposed to.

    SYNTH V.O.
    They could be friendlies.

    Hynt’s V.O.
    Think so?

    Synth V.O.
    Well I can’t tell for sure, not like if it was in Hali or senses. You seem to have a strong opinion.

    Hynt’s V.O.
    Not my call. Is that you near the entrance?

    Synth V.O.
    Yeah, don’t be too obvious. There isn’t supposed to be a task force here.

    Hynt’s V.O.
    It won’t go any further.

    Synth V.O.
    This is the easy part. You should have to follow the subjects the whole way. Like as not end up at an obstacle course.

    Hynt’s V.O.
    Don’t look back.

    Synth V.O.
    Gotta go.

    Hynt’s V.o.
    You’ll be fine.

    Synth V.O.
    You’re in for a surprise.

    Hynt’s V.O.
    No synths in the station now. Nobody to tell.

    He is looking toward the outside. There is a dark personal automated transport that pulls up near the entrance. Someone wearing a backpack, cap and gloves gets out and looks both ways, then up and down. They go away from the terminal and into a nearby building. A couple of minutes later, they come back out. They take the pack off, check the station, and get back into the transport. A minute after that, what looks like a large-bodied streetrover in a nearby yard unfolds into a bot. It goes toward the same building and enters.

    Hynt's V.O.
    I better not wait to see if it exits. Already been exposed too long. Soon this’ll be all synths. And the memory of humans, of course.

    2. EXTERIOR — megacity center — day. HYNT is dropping some objects off. There is a bot that accepts them and credits him. He sees UBRUS doing the same, but makes nothing of it.

    3. INT — transport — day. Hynt is aboard. Urbrus is also riding. They ignore eachother.

    4. EXT — empty former prison facilities — day. Hynt is surveying. He stacks some objects together and goes to find some more. When he gets back, there are two stacks. Urbrus comes barreling around a corner and crashes into him.

    You look familiar. Weren’t you on the transport a while ago?

    Look. I am in a hurry here. What are you looking for?

    Nothing. I had seen an announcement that this place was being cleaned out.

    Saw the same ad. There isn’t a lot left.

    Yeah, but I did not want to miss anything that would be of value to the synths.

    I’m part of a transhuman trade caravan. This place has some sentimental value. We used to have a prisoner or two here.

    Cartel? We may have had a member before, too. Maybe we ran into eachother.

    Doubt it. I would have remembered. People know me.

    They know me also.

    You new here? Volunteer?

    From the other side of the megacity. Synths are expanding.

    New recruit, huh?

    They drafted you?

    The bots were running it.

    That’s a coincidence. I have been trying to track the bot’s algorithms about this stuff.

    I sent them a message about this place.

    They relayed it to the rest of us, I guess.

    We left the megacity a long time ago.

    We had some refugees also. They ended up as exiles.

    We may have been former enemies then. Some of us were captured outside the borders.

    Some came back to show respects for the humans.

    Yeah. That was tough.

    A number of people dreamt that they were being called back.

    I had one of those.

    Anyway this is my last batch. I had requested someone to bring the stuff in.

    That explains it. I was assigned.

    Truth is. We had information that some of the humans had stashed some things and it took me a while to find out where. The whole thing ended up here.

    Nice to have solved it, I bet. They have some underground bunkers which I spent time going through. There were all kinds of defensive measures. Long story short, they are no longer any threat.

    I thought that the bots were taking care of that.

    Let’s just say that we were after the same thing.

    I’m supposed to meet a contact here pretty soon, about what rules they are using now.

    Don’t say. Speaking. Small village.

    So you’re not going to bring the stuff in.

    Yeah, I can have someone do it. Saw it left there. You’re not easy to fool.

    Our running into eachother must have been meant to happen for one reason or another.

    You from outer space or the future or something?

    No. Just want to see the megacities back in action if anyone is interested.

    Good place to find adventurers is to meet at the inn.

    Yeah. Next time I’ll be sure to go there.

    5. EXT. — near megacity buildings — day. The SCENE IS BATHED IN A LATE-AFTERNOON BACKLIGHT from a glow on the horizon. HYNT is capturing snapshots and making them into paintings while adding some of his own shapes. He looks at his creations and the real things and nods contentedly. Then he notices something on a picture, frowns and looks at a nearby location. An ANIM has crawled up out of a LARGE PIPE ON THE GROUND. It is unfamiliar to him and its JUMPSUIT IS SOOTY IN SPOTS. He cautiously approaches it. It sees him and waits.

    That's a good way to get into mischief. What is going on here? You are ruining your suit.

    Are you the supervisor?

    No. I was just working on some drawings for what things will look like before long. I didn't see you there. What do you want?

    The shaft is blocked.

    You mean the pipe? It is open so that the machines can tend the inner surfaces. You do not stay around here I take it.

    The tunnel does not go all the way back.

    That is probably for exhaust. It is not an entryway. Are you with any of the synths here on a visit perhaps?

    The bot runs everything.

    That is news to me. They took over for the humans then. You thought that I was the bot? Synths are the furthest thing from them imaginable.

    No, you are not like us.

    If you want to become a synth, I can look into it. Tell me one thing though. What are your rules?

    Anims value obedience.

    That's a simple one. It should not be too hard to fit that in. Synths value our freedom.

    Where are the others?

    Who? There are synths in all of the megacities.

    My group is gone. I thought that they went ahead in the passage.

    I doubt it. Don't worry, I won't abandon you here. You need to be entered into the index anyway.

    Which way is it?

    Twisty mazes are all alike, eh? You transhumans are a riot. This is a new one on me.

    Where is the bot?

    There is no bot here. Hynt, what do you think that you are doing? That is an anim. Not all fields converge through synthesis, you know.

    Flux is just trying to show how they relate where possible. That is why I invented the process. Ultimately there is an organizing ideology.

    If there is, it will be different from what we see in practice. However, if it includes transhumans, it has some good, even if it also has these subhumans.

    I am in the middle of finding this anim his friends.

    Try the mines.

    That's right.

    Well then. We have to get you to the transport. Your group may be in the station waiting for you. It is not too far from here. Better get you there quick before the drones are alerted and come swooping down.

    6. INT — museum — day. Hynt is wandering around with a companion synth.

    This place has a lot of electronics. We may have to speak since it will interfere with the mesh.

    These must be the exhibits from human history. What’s the clock for?

    Doomsday. It was set at midnight. It is supposed to show the mood of humanity before the end.

    That must be a remnant of the nuclear age which provided both a new level of energy as well as a terrible threat. Some of the states had had to swear it off because they always seemed to be on the wrong end compared to the bigger territories. Others had done whatever they were asked and were rewarded with their own reactors and stockpiles without incident.

    By that time, our maker had developed a nano solution that defused nukes.

    That was not popular with the arms merchants which was why he was on the run.

    There were installations that coupled missiles with bots so that nothing could stop their preparedness for launch.

    Transhumans had also fulfilled that function at times.

    The other inner planets were not immune from this approach.

    The paranoia had been such that a group of people had set off on a one-way trip to an exoplanet.

    It had also been a reason that we were developed. There’s the wing for betans and synths.

    Are you okay?

    Yes. Why do you ask?

    You seem to be talking very fast. And there is a lot more hand-waving than usual.

    Yes. I don’t agree with the presumption, that’s all. We can obviously do things better around here. There’s no need to abandon the planet.

    They are trying to cleanup the silos and sunken ships. It does not look good if something goes wrong.

    That is what bots could be spending their time on. They have no hesitation in dismantling things. They do it for mining all of the time.

    If they did have feelings, they probably would think that they were shortchanged by the posthumans since they had the most seniority.

    That was because of the transhumans. They are not the friendliest pair of groups concerning eachother.

    We should just stay out of their way. Things will work out okay.

    Things are not likely to fix themselves. I have an idea for how to level the field.

    I am not sure that I want to hear it. How do you know if it will work?

    I have to try. It is like one of the biggest problems of all and those will find solutions. Besides it is impossible not to think about it. Didn’t you ever have one of those visions?

    No. I am too busy with everything else. If we do not set everything up right, then all of our efforts will have been wasted.

    What about the future?

    This is what it looks like. It has been proved right.

    It has a long way to go. There is a lot that can happen.

    Let the transhumans and bots hammer it out. They have no doctrine. We are different from them.

    Some of us are need more than that. It did not foretell the rest of the posthumans. What if the transhumans run everything?

    They won’t. Is everything alright? You seem off balance.

    I need to get out of here.

    7. INT — Flux data center — day. Hynt is in conversation with a couple of other synths who are busy.

    Have the bot rules been added in?

    Synth 1
    The first time they caused the system to halt. We tried again and they removed the other sets.

    It could be the initialization scheme. Deactivate sensor inputs and merge it, then activate them after.

    Synth 1
    Will try.

    This is not the game of life. These sets should be able to stay in their segment until called upon.

    Synth 2
    The previous exec AI had administered all of the people and the machines. That was been good enough for the megacity.

    It had not included the exiles or transhumans, however. What had been missing was a true synthesis of the rule systems rather than a hodgepodge of schedules and preferences.

    Synth 2
    Your solution seems clear.

    It is a straightforward implementation of a syntactic layer which can compile user requests into the appropriate set of instructions to run in the realworld. Configuration is easy.

    Synth 2
    Each group just had to feed it their statutes. So far things have gone okay in the megacity.

    The transhumans have had some issues with it since they tried doing a backtrack with Flux in place of the AI in the earlier human period. It flagged the cartel transactions as exceptions which was good, but it did not know how to integrate anything like that and would have to halt which did not produce any useful output.

    Synth 2
    If it was run in slow motion in an interpretive mode, then the user could skip over those precepts and continue like everything was normal.

    This is not efficient for flat out usage by the public. There is no way to delete the cartel data without also removing a large chunk of valid information.

    Synth 2
    We could try using a proxy as a kind of immunization to quarantine any contaminated rules.

    That'll run slowly and it won't cover all of the failure modes.

    Synth 1
    The bot set is up. Anyway. This is the nearest thing to an ideal society that had yet been devised.

    Synth 2
    It is not concerned with the daily grind, but with the smooth execution of principles like the most erudite sage of all time. It was the finest state of mind that we could ever aspire to.

    The Flux domain includes the symbols and rules of the main species. All of the necessary kinds of transactions are included.

    Synth 1
    It has exercised them to verify that there is some randomness in the system and it does not deterministically resolve in a steady state.

    Synth 2
    It is not like an AI that tells them what to do, but it can indicate whether something is possible and the different ways to do it.

    It is useful when the parties run into difficulties and begin to get upset since it is unbiased. It can also be connected to external proxies.

    8. EXT — outside megacity buildings — overcast day. Hynt sees a bot hassling a transhuman and intervenes. Both of them are from somewhere else and he convinces them that there is no need for contention. The transhuman can do what they need to since they meant no ill to anyone. The bot capitulates and continues with its other tasks.

    That should not have happened. The synths would like to Improve the megacities.

    They have deteriorated following the absence of the humans. There is automation, but it is mostly for maintenance. We have had to setup mostly outside on our own, though we do come in to see what you synths are doing.

    Things should get better soon. I have used the data from the utilities to derive rules about how everything works. These have to be made to accomodate what the inhabitants need and to cope with the diversity of species.

    The megacities will only continue to grow in size. Unless they are compatible with those that use them, the standards will continue to decline.

    Having rules that made sense to everyone would make them easier to follow and lead to better results. Proxies had been necessary when there was so much complexity that noone understood what was going on and had to try to set their expectations and hope for the best.

    That had had mixed effects. It had worked out better for the posthumans.

    But it has allowed a lot of the influence to drift outside of the boundaries as well.

    You synths are robust and restless. You could do a lot if there was a way to organize.

    I am confident that it is a matter of setting up the problem in a way that the solution is obvious, at least to a system that can solve for the best fit among several variables.

    In the past, people had done this with finance, games, and exec admin.

    Those were in closed systems that contained all necessary knowledge. In the case where there were new types of species that could be added and therefore multiple sets of rules which had to interact, a lot depended upon what the users wanted to accomplish. They needed someone to tell them the way to do it without having to try every possibility which would fail most of the time and be overly costly. It was either this or the materials and profits would be claimed by the mines.

    The cartel is adept at finding the loopholes and ignoring the rules. There is only so much time before they have full authority over all of the megacities since noone else can agree what to do. That means machine supremacy. The megacities will be nothing more than mine centers.

    If I can get the rule compiler completed, there will be a sure way to do things again. It is more of a translation method than an AI which means that we do not have to depend upon the machines as much.

    You seem clear about your own ideology and vision, and confident that a common one could be constructed for the rule system.

    I am not the type to remain conservatively protective of the past. The thing that most haunts me is the sight of the anims. That is what humanity has become instead of like the synths and I do not want to see our own species arrive at that same place. Sometimes I dream about it and feel detached from reality like all the synths had had to go away because I did nothing to prevent it.

    Then it has to both make clear distinctions about both which rules are necessary for whom and how they are used for what, then anyone can effectively make their plan into a set of actions.

    We will need the cooperation of the transhumans as well.

    9. EXT — forest — day. It is RAINING HARD. This is where Hynt retreats to feel closest to nature. He is moving around addressing the plants while trying to make up his mind, more as if synths are natural than they animated. The mesh responds verbally.

    Hynt V.O.
    Look at these plants and trees. Noone thought that they were affected by whether or not humanity was here. So they would not care about synths either. They fill the spaces between the sky and ground in air and water. They do not need ideas to know what to do. What do I care about? We need a way to get beyond our physical limits. There is no longer a normal. Cartel strongarms megacity. Drones cover everyone else. The bots will take over nature. Accidents have no failsafes. Basically there is no cure for posthuman superstition. Society had been sabotaged. When there are no rules, the groups had become gangs. It starts off simple. The technology is beyond regulation. Mines are like prisons. The decision artifact played favorites. Social computation had been skewed. AI domination had been counterproductive. The all-seeing Miracomplec defense establishment has a constant crisis. There are billions of planets in the galaxy each having multiverse branches. The museum imposes constraints here where the distance from its destiny increases the dynamics. Synths have to use stealth domains against the shadow supremacy. The question is about what a perfect ideology is. Whatever humanity had built, it had demolished. The posthumans were no better. Nature had things that had lasted longer. That may not always be so, and sooner than necessary.

    Synth V.O.
    The history of civilization is a lot like primitive organisms. If they are threatened, the elements that had had parity split apart and take different ends of the field. Forms are only seen in the meeting of opposites, otherwise there is nothing to trigger a sense of change in the observer. Each system contains these. The synths will live on either side of the planet. If they have to have enemies, then they will be so distinct from eachother that the same one could not defeat both of them until they finally confront eachother again. Then there will be the ultimate dance macabre. But perhaps there is another way.

    The downpour has stopped. There is a shaft of light that shines down upon him.

    Hynt V.O.
    There was no sense in all of the groups going the way of the humans. Something would stand between them to keep them from taking eachother out. If it was not a word or a machine, then perhaps it was the function of Flux. The mesh was good within a species, though it was somewhat unnatural between them. The question was whether it could provide enough domains to counter the resource capacities and whether others would appreciate these, enough and in time. Diversity was necessary to prevent despots, whether biological or device. Humanity would not see the hell that they had created. He wondered whether it now also included its own inverse.

    The storm had resumed. There was now a crosswind.

    Hynt V.O.
    The surroundings seem to be adding their own whispers to the mesh, though that is only an illusion. Or maybe it is a forgotten parlance.

    10. INT — transhuman conference room. There is a meeting of several transhumans which include Urbrus. A couple of them are talking to him. There are large DISPLAY SCREENS on the walls. One image is from a remote location which is not meshed so that everyone is speaking aloud.

    The bots want to use people to mine natural resources. Machines see people as a free resource to be exploited like the others. We do not have much time before they figure out that we are meeting and send a bot to observe us.

    Transhuman 1
    Transhumans would run cartel legitimately. We consider ourselves people, not the base of a metal pyramid.

    Transhuman 2
    The synths have flux which will eventually figure out how to predict cartel activities.

    We already do that. Beside the climate, we montor the bots as well as the synths in case they deem any of us as savages again and go after us.

    You mean that you recognize that you could not defeat the other posthuman types easily, so we are staying close to them.

    We also monitor eachother. We are in the middle of all of this. The stressors send some of us over the edge so that they have to be contained.

    There is a group which rebels against our human ancestors.

    The huge megacities still stand. The synths want to use them productively as bases. Our goals are harmonious.

    Transhumans can put flux expertise into a prosthesis.

    There are some issues with it. We tried doing a backtrack with Flux in place of the AI in the earlier human period. It flagged the cartel transactions as exceptions which was good, but it did not know how to integrate anything like that.

    What did it do?

    It would have to halt which did not produce any useful output.

    Run it in slow motion in an interpretive mode, then the user could skip over those precepts and continue like everything was normal.

    We did. It is not efficient for flat out usage by the public. There was no way to delete the cartel data without also removing a large chunk of valid information.

    It is the synths’ fault. They have to become more cooperative.

    They had tried using a proxy as a kind of immunization to quarantine any contaminated rules, but it ran slowly and did not cover all of the failure modes.

    They are useless.

    One of them, Hynt, thinks that we have our act together better than most.

    We are trying to achieve what humanity had sought by making ourselves and ourr society better.

    He rescued me from a bot when I was trying to stay in the megacity.

    They should actually have sided with us against the synths before the humans disappeared.

    They need an ally. The humans would have become transhumans anyway so nothing was lost in the long run.

    So we eliminate the synths beginning with this Hynt.

    Society has its view of what it needs to accomplish and anyone who does not subscribe to that is a liability which needs to be erased.

    The question is who can speak for the interests of society. There is the matter of the brain boxes.

    This is a remnant of the human culture valued for its rarity. They can be artificially replaced at present, but there may be additional uses in the future.

    You mean those of the people which used to run cartel?

    There are a bunch of them floating around somewhere. The synths would like to preserve them also. The bots want to use them in their clones.

    I am now connected to record this meeting.

    There is a bot monitoring transhumans on behalf of the mine.

    We think that the bots want us to cede our natural resources over to cartel.

    If profit was the primary motive for us like it is for the machines, they would be the trade rather than the traders.

    So use this synth Hynt to set things straight.

    How do we motivate him?

    It will not be through credit or compromise. Synths do not have egos. It should be through Flux. He thinks that he is building the perfect ideology. I’ll look into it.

    11. INT — transhuman conference room — day. Urbrus is alone pouring over MAPS of the megacities and mines. He is working out his reasoning.

    Urbrus V.O.
    I had had to be very confident with the other transhumans, but I knew that there would be no fooling anyone. We were the antithesis of the synths and I had promised that they would be cooperative. I was betting that they were as distrustful of the bots as we were. That did not mean that I had a clue about how they would think or act. Transhumans still had much of the original human personality psychologically. We had had to be mostly guardians, but there were also the visionaries and objectives. I was more of the latter. That should make it easy to convey rational reactions. We had survived the event that took the humans away. This required us to remain observant. Everything else was details.

    We had some difficulties integrating with the humans. We had lost our leader early and others had been targeted by cartel. We had, in effect, been exiled. That was in the past. At present we had a sovereign state. We were more conservative with respect to the Earth than the other posthumans. We could use use cartel now. Many of us remained suspicious of the synths, though they were also more bio than mechs like us. We had more individual identity than synths had. Our use of mesh was more selective. Our cognition was closest to humans, live or boxed. We were more mobile, and not as tied to any infrastructure as the others. We also used small groups. We appealed to philosophy, reason, logic, and tended to be argumentative, but we also mixed speculation, wisdom, and wit for coherent good judgement. We considered our version of sanity to produce the most common sense. Whether deductive, inductive, or inferential, it was practical and prudent.

    On the mesh, you have to be able to separate the most xy-like of the stream of consciousness from the noise. We are not as connected to equipment as the others so perhaps it is easier in some regards and harder in others. The ability to be able to switch another person off is a plus, but they can do the same which may be a minus.

    People had thought that when the web was always online in the back of the mind, everyone would be brilliant. You could spend all of your time just looking at new information. We each absorbed as much as we needed to get things done and could recommend it to eachother faster than finding it on our own in most cases. This raised our acumen by an exponent of the number of participants depending upon how much of an affinity we had with eachother. It was more than speech or mindreading. It had changed us. For one thing, being separate from the others led to some hallucinations initially. We would tend to attach to someone else like a synth. I am supposing that I did not underestimate them for both our sakes or there would be noone left to defy the bots.

    12. INT — Hynt's home — day. He is showing Urbrus a room full of biospheres arrayed around the sides which are all clear to let in the light.

    Nature always finds a balance. Everything adapts.

    If you did not take care of them, they would become a forest. You’d be living in the mountains.

    You seem anxious. You are worried that the spirit of the humans will make us all suffer.

    We are losing an opportunity here. This could change things.

    I was not selected for something like this. We haven’t thought about it enough.

    I select for myself. You could not possibly think of anything that is likely.

    Perhaps you should get one of those bots to confide in. They may know you better than you know yourself.

    That is about as wrong as it gets. How did you ever get mixed up in this?

    I didn’t. Society is sliding into another age of darkness on its own.

    Well that is not what I want. This is the transhumans’ moment. We are rising.

    You are experienced at this. The transhumans have been studying artifacts for a while.

    You haven’t been almost finished for good as many times as I. Each time an illusion dissolves, it is like shedding a false prosthesis.

    You sound like a maniac about this. You have to keep things in perspective.

    If you are not in it as fully as possible, you won’t make it halfway. It is all or nothing.

    You need to be clearheaded whether it is the beginning or end. If you were on the synth mesh, you couldn’t stick out for long.

    That vision of yours may be the only thing you have left if you are not more careful. The transhumans were not satisfied with what their lot. That is why we continue to survive.

    Running everything, whether good or bad, does not get us anywhere. We have to pick the rules that makes sense and add to those.

    The megacities have had their day. They are as good as it gets.

    So you want to get the goods on everyone. Not by law or force, but by omniscience.

    You want a box to rule. The humans tried that.

    You are just running away from the bots. They tried that too.

    And you from having to make your own decisions. Time is short.

    I’m not the one going after a monster.

    And I’m not the one tempted by foolish notions.

    Okay. If we took out the megacities instead, we’d still be gathering, just in a hub of habs.

    The transhumans are not responsible for everyone else.

    If we fail, cartel will own it all.

    The bots will be the masters.

    You can’t expect me to answer to you for all of this.

    I can’t expect you to accompany me in this effort.

    Where are you going? You can’t just start off like that. Wait for me.

    Continued draft.

    This is a work of fiction; any similarity to actual persons or organizations is pure coincidence. Tangible form grants the author copyright 2012. johnrod.
    Fri, Jan 13, 2012  Permanent link

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