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John Rodrigues (M)
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    Vaticinate - draft part 1a, Nate's pov
    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?"

    "No."

    "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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