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John Rodrigues (M)
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    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From johnrod's personal cargo

    Vaticinate - draft part 2b
    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?"

    "No."

    "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.

    Mon, Feb 24, 2014  Permanent link

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