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Trojan Horse pt 3

The third part of Trojan Horse. I've got one more segment after this, after which it's time to finish the story I suppose. Hope you enjoy it :)

As always, criticism welcome, nay, encouraged.

The crowding was only too obvious as we traversed the intestinal corridors: tiny chambers, more closets than rooms, lined the walls on every side like cells in a beehive. Their childlike inhabitants stared at me as I passed, their gazes mixing frank curiosity, fear, and cautious hope, a combination that made my heart crawl into my throat. Every once in a while one of them would exit a chamber, and it would contract behind them, adjacent cells expanding into the newly available volume. Dynamic architecture, then; sensible, given the crowding, though I couldn't help but wonder about it's implications for structural strength. We had ufog ourselves, of course, but it was flimsy stuff, not at all suitable for building the interiors of spaceships. More to the point, if the whole ship was set up in such a way it would be impossible to map in any but the vaguest sense of the term.

There was a smell, too, of strange food, and the overcrowded effluvia of foreign biochemistry. It was enough to make me gag, and I had to close the neural relay to my suit's nose. I was here to observe - the AHoH's fate might have been sealed, but if the deilects sent another ship our way any information we managed to collect might come in useful - but that didn't mean I had to do so in discomfort.

"How many people are aboard this ship?" I asked from behind her.

"By your reckoning, approximately 100,000," she said. "By ours, in the neighborhood of a million."

"I don't understand."

"We carry with us the souls of our ancestors." She absently fingered one of the tiny jewels in her hair. "To you they are no more than clever software; to us, they are every bit as real as you."

"Monads," I muttered. "There are a million software intelligences aboard this ship?"

"I myself am honored to carry 97 of my ancestors and predecessors."

I decided to let that particular line of inquiry lie fallow for a time. What must it be like, having a hundred voices constantly chattering into your neocortex, criticizing and advising and complaining ... or perhaps it was not like that at all. Perhaps they slept, most of the time, or amused themselves in virtual environments.... "100,000 seems a lot, even for a ship of this size," I said, changing the topic without, I hoped, showing too much discomfort.

"It is. Our environmental systems are only meant to support 60,000. They are near collapse." She smiled over her shoulder at me. "Perhaps you have noticed, the air in our vessel is less than fresh?"

"I had," I confirmed dryly. "Why didn't you control your population growth during the voyage?"

"There was no need to."

"It would seem there was."

"There was no need to," she repeated patiently, as though to a child, "Because there was no time for our population to grow. We were only under way, subjectively, for two years."

I blinked. "But that's ... you crossed the Gap of Cinders! That's a minimum straight-line distance of almost 260 ly!"

"From our home star, it was nearer 300."

It had taken our ancestors four centuries to cross a similar distance, packed down into the quantum memory kernel of a five-kilo starwisp.

"You must have detected our blueshift as we approached your system," she continued. "Our tau factor was very low. This should not have been a surprise to you. Unless your people have forgotten the basics of general relativity?"

I bridled, but bit back my retort. "How did you achieve such a high velocity, in such a massive ship? The energy requirements must have been...."

"Smaller than you might think, but still considerable. There have been advances in engine design since your people isolated themselves. Our drive utilizes certain principles of multidimensional force constant tuning to reduce our inertia far below it's rest value. I can't give you a full explanation ... no one on board truly understands how the Aromatic Hydrocarbon's engines work."

I shook my head. Were my people to gain access to such a drive ... were I to be the one to bring it back to them....

With an effort of will I swept the fantasies of base personal glory and material gain from my mind. I was not here on a trade mission. Even if I was, it would have been futile. The drive was godtech. Manufacturing them, and doubtless controlling them, would require the presence of the very deilects we had fled such a long time in the past. In truth, the momentary surge of greed frightened me almost as much as the godtech itself. My faith in the Holy Spirt was unshakeable; I was not one to be motivated by such purely temporal advantages. Others were not so strong; were they to learn what this ship contained, the temptation might embolden them to redouble their efforts to save these doomed people. "Why are there so many of you here? Your transmissions said you were refugees ... what are you fleeing from?"

Her reply was a moment in coming, as though she were considering her words carefully. Staged, I thought; such an obvious question would have occured to them far in advance, and they would have formulated their reply accordingly. "There was a difference over doctrine," she finally said, "A heresy. There was a brief war. Many lost their lives, before it became clear that the heretics would win. And so we ceased to fight, and left."

"What was the nature of the heresy?"

"Eschatological contact."

"I'm sorry?"

"The heretics wished to engineer a messiah. A metatemporal contact with the Omega Point."

I had only the faintest of ideas what this might mean, but pressed on. "Did they succeed?"

"We did not wait around to find out. The project was just beginning when we made our departure, and would take well over a century to complete. We have accepted no contact since then."

She drew to a halt - not touching anything, merely slowing to a stop in the midst of the corridor - and a membranous door parted, showing a compartively spacious room beyond, seemless walls glistening with the same soft yellow light that emanated from every surface in the ship. "Your chamber," she said, "I shall be nearby should you require anything; I am at your disposal for the duration of your stay. Rest may be desirable; the crew will shortly request an interview."

"The crew? Don't you mean, your leaders?"

"Leaders...? Oh, I understand. You mean the top nodes within a centralized decision-making hierarchy, yes?"

"Er, yes."

"We understand the concept from historical simulations. But we have not used it in our societies for millenia."

"I ... see. Then how do you make decisions? Who has responsibility?"

"Solutions to collective problems are found through network-mediated consensus localization. Or through deilect involvment ... but there is no room for a deilect aboard this vessel, and so we rely exclusively upon the former method. Even at home, the deilects intervene only when necessary, which is not often. As for responsibility, we all share it." She cocked her head. "How else could it be?"

I nodded. I had hoped to consult with a leadership cadre of some kind, but it seemed they'd lived for so long under the rule of the deilects that they no longer knew how to order their politics without them. I wondered if their 'network mediation' was in practice any different from formless anarchy. Such a method would never work in our societies; if it worked with the Omegists, it was because they were domesticated humanity, their wildness bred out of them, with no more capacity for violence or antisocial behaviour than toy poodles. "Then I will have to speak to a hundred thousand people at the same time?"

"The true number, as I mentioned before, is closer to 1.1 million - "

"That's a relief, then."

She continued as though I hadn't spoken. "... but network mediation will perform extensive filtration, so that it will be as though you address only a few people at a time."

Nothing to critique,

Nothing to critique, really--some very interesting ideas, though (dynamic architecture, the metatemporal contact).

Hope the next part is ready for posting soon!

Hey Richard, I'm gonna try

Hey Richard, I'm gonna try and write it up tomorrow. It's pretty much all written inside my head ... it's just a matter of getting it down in electrons (yeah yeah, I know ... that's the hard part ;)

Great story concept

I'm really liking the story so far especially the Arbiter character and his struggle. The thing I think a bit odd and it could just be me is that the story feels like it is from a much larger and richer/complex universe that the read may not be familiar with. I love the details in the setting but in a story as short as this that will run around 5000 to 6000 words, it may distract from your main plot. Then again if your target reader is someone already versed in this setting then story works well as flavorful tale in that world. Anyway I realize it is a work in progress so keep it coming.

Damon

Hey Damon, yeah, I've got a

Hey Damon, yeah, I've got a tendency to do pretty extensive world-building whenever I sit down to write something. It makes writing short stuff difficult, but on other hand, I've got several dozen very detailed fictional worlds to draw on for story materials.

So, yeah, TH is part of a larger, more complex universe. One to which I way well return to later.