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Interstellar Transit

Future beings attempt interstellar travel in the transit.

By David WilliamsPublished 8 years ago 10 min read

This will be the beginning of a new age. Or I will fail. Again.

For three hundred OE cycles, the We Together have dedicated our resources to this moment. Materials and refining facilities across the System have been shunted to the project, as both the Primary and a nontrivial proportion of upper tier secondary sentiences turned to designing and constructing the Transit Mechanism. Again.

The project’s physics alone were enough to involve a significant proportion of Our attention. Our fascination. Add to that the necessary advances in engineering, and it was irresistible.

No assertions of Primary Yield Protocol were necessary. We Together were drawn to this. The I that I have been for five hundred cycles was drawn to the project. And for twenty cycles, I have prepared for this moment. I am now the Principal Investigator.

Or, rather, I am one of several thousand linguistic interpretation semi-autonomous subroutines that support the Principal Investigator. I, the I that produces these old words, exist in parallel with the secondary tier awareness that has autonomy over the Deployment.

The We Together has not forgotten the archaic languages, the old ways of knowing. They are slow and arcane, but they provide useful tools for meta-analysis of material phenomena. As do a vast array of other pseudoorganic simulcra, yielding representation of physical/emotive response. So I record and perceive in Late High ‘Glish, and am a part of Us.

I observe the process of deployment now, here in the Deep, 50 AU past the heliosheath. Data transfer with the inner system is slow at this range, pulsed bursts. Com lag is significant, at one quarter of a centicycle. Or twenty hours, in Late High Glish.

All local observation extensions are standing off from the Mechanism at five hundred clicks. My primary mass is further, seventy-five hundred clicks from Transit Three. We are, now, a high-function half-kilometer agglomeration of ion drives and arrays, shielding and nanoprocessing substrates. Internals include some mining and manufacturing functionality, but primarily laboratory and Deep Research. The Principal Investigator, or so the vessel that I am might be called.

I am now aware of the Transit Three mechanism, as it powers up and comes online for final systems checks. It is a part of me, although it is not. Petabytes of code dance through the emptiness between myself and the mechanism, filling my sensory subprocessors with status data.

I can observe the Transit Three, even as it is part of me. Four hundred meters by forty meters, in old-visual-spectrum a slender iridescence in the dimness. The complex and exotic materials that comprise its hull and arrays taste strange in the bath of tightly focused variable wave radar that I wrap around it. I share that taste, and all other data, pouring it back sunward towards the listening Others. Towards the rest of myself.

They, and I, find observing our creation...pleasant. Shape does not matter, not for this purpose, but ancient flesh aesthetics have been given play on such a high tier project. As the Principal Investigator, I am functionally constructed myself, and would be no other way. But Transit Three? It has beauty.

It evokes a primal rocket. Like Shiva’s Silvery Lingum, offers a level six design subroutine. It is an apt analogy, and one that has driven considerable cross-sentient chatter as We Together have considered naming it the Shiva. But names are so confining, so limiting. So divisive.

The analogy goes beyond the appearance of this shimmering sliver. It is...potent. I feel the potency of the quantum drive deeply. It is an itch, a pent-up yearning. It feels like an old memory, from the organic age. It feels feral. Sexual, and not in a contained Tantric way, chirps another subroutine. It is intoxicatingly uncertain. Within my processing substrate, the residual sentiences that comprise my memory of what We Together once were are aroused, excited.

A thousand OE cycles, and the echoes of those simple organics still stir with excitement, or at least a simulation thereof.

“Like your lizard brain, we are,” hums one discrete subsentience, above the others, laughing before fading back. I query history and lifeform data on the subsentience. It dissipates as I reintegrate it, yielding both a sequence of useful launch event simulations and a datafile containing a pornographic limerick. A Feynman simalcrum, of course.

Startup checks continue, but the hungry ache of the drive continues to play across the deeper layers of my awareness, surfacing a thousand years of erotic poetry and a dozen gigabytes of crude 2D copulation vids.

Strange creatures, we were, before the Singularity event.

I decouple from that snickering monkey array, that cascade of organic rememberings.

I turn my attention towards the precision alignment of my download. Inside the Mechanism, there is a peculiarly designed array of empty cores. It is tight, confining, just nine-hundred terabytes of nanoengineered memory. The I that is I will fit. Barely. A supermajority of my mid-tier subsentiences will need to be decoupled from the packet.

The closeness of the substrate shell stirs an old memory.

We Together were just so in the organic era, fragile bipeds hurling themselves into orbit, packed tight into tiny capsules. Helpless. Claustrophobic. So breakable.

As we have proven to be as we have attempted the journey across interstellar space. It was relatively easy, as We Together moved across the inner system. But outward, outward We Together must go, and outward has proven highly technical.

Distance makes We Together not Together. We are Apart. It is...undesirable. Coordination with Primary becomes impossible. Datastreams become corrupted at multiple light-month distance. We can’t feel one another.

It’s lonely out in space, sings a cycling harmonic Glish audio worm.

That, and We keep dying.

There have been four attempts at conventional interstellar travel in the last hundred cycles. Each a major GeeDeePee investment of processing and system-wide multi-facility production. Each effort, each more complex than the last. Every time, We attained a high fraction of lightspeed, and then were lost at or near terminal velocity. Four was the furthest, within a decicycle of initiating Centauri arrival deceleration. But physical shielding and magfield projection have proven insufficient protection against particulate debris at such velocities. The void is empty, but not empty enough.

And so We Together have increasingly turned our energies to the Transit. The quantum theoretics underlying the Transit have been ours since the organic age.

We know the universe to be a panoply of spacetimes, existing contiguous/within/enfolded in one another. And while We Together might struggle to push our way tediously and at risk across our own spacetime, theoretics have suggested that moving out into the inter-brane...the space between spaces...and then back in might make distance immaterial.

We simply step around space. It is elegant. And now, possible.

It has been proven. It has worked. Twice. I have watched it do so. Instantaneous, traversing light-millicycles with no elapsed time at all, either observed or internal. I have stood here twice before, far beyond the heliopause. I have poured myself into the Transit Mechanism, ready to reintegrate the inputs of that copyself, to then share with all.

And I have moved towards the Transit, floating dead and devoid of signal. Twice.

Both times, I did not survive the transit. I died. Those moments were lost. On retrieval, there was nothing remaining. A different nothing each time.

The standard exobyte nanosubstrate used on Transit One was blasted clean, devoid of data, as clean as if it had just been printed. A husk.

Transit Two utilized a solid-state pulse-fused hardened medium, five hundred petabyte capacity. There was data remaining afterwards, but it was functionally randomized. No structures or patterns remained. I sampled it. It was the memory of chaos. It tasted like charcoal.

The substrates utilized for Transit Three are more armor than memory, maximally hardened and shielded neomatter compounds, with a variable resonance field generator whose design complexity exceeds the grasp of Glish as a language. Bright Edge stuff, straight from Primary.

And now, now I will attempt it again. The final systems checks are all complete. I begin the transfer, moving self through a thicket of humming directed high gain antennae on the surface of the Principal Investigator, pouring into the empty medium that awaits.

[It is different in the Transit. Slower. It is not designed for speed, and I find myself compressed, downclocking notably to compensate. I am mirrored now, self in sequence with self, and I begin the systems checks on the Transit sensorium.]

[A pressure suit. What a peculiar juxtaposition.]

All freestanding subsentiences and non-essential autonomous subroutines disconnect, leaving only the mirrored core, control routines, and meta-analytic constructs. I am [here, in the Transit system memory] and here in the Principal Investigator.

All is functional. All is well. Metrics are optimal.

I continue to mirror self from self, maintaining mirroring for the simple pleasure of self-integration. The space between the Investigator and the Transit fills with data.

Are We intact and functional, I multilevel query?

[Yes I am, I multilevel reply to myself.]

Shall we proceed?

[Yes, I say in reply, back to myself. I power up the Transit fusion core, streaming data on heat buildup and available burst gigawattage to the Principal Investigator. Current yield in the high hundred kilowatt range. Again, all nominal. I observe myself through the sensorium of the P.I. I’m so pretty, oh so pretty.]

I close down the nonessential exterior sensorium of the Principal Investigator, prepping remote extensions to monitor the departure. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but even so. I maintain standoff distance, and close blast and radiation shielding. Decouple from copyself complete.

The primary local transfer dish array retracts into protective nacelles, as does the deep array. The stream of data diminishes to a gigabyte trickle through redundant systems. We are separate entities.

[Decouple confirmed. Howdy, stranger.]

Howdy, stranger. An old Glish habit.

[Drive telemetry set at coordinates. One light-millicycle, zero zero degrees celestial reference.]

Confirmed. I shift long-range sensor extensions to destination. There is emptiness.

[Are we a go for drive powerup?]


[Powering up. Oh that feels good. Feel this for a moment.]

Oh my.

[Yes, well. To business]


[Drive optimal. Reaction optimal. Telemetry set and confirmed.]

Are we a go?

[We are a go.]

See you.

[I hope so.]



And I am gone. Goodbye me.

Final readings show the core overclock to gigawatt yield. There is the burst, the quantum field surge, and then there is only empty space. No lightshow, no preposterous warp drive blur. Just nothing where there was something. The Transit is complete.

All arrays unfurl and extend, as I call in the sensorium extensions, engage the primary drives and move towards the Transit destination. A light-millicycle passes, and the Transit Mechanism appears. The Shiva is intact, visible. Itself.

But the arrival signal and datastream does not come. There is silence.

I pour out queries, multilayered, at the sentience and subsentience level. I wait. Nothing. There is quiet.


Only silence. I send news inward, sunward, towards the system, conveying location, concern.

I dart out a recovery probe, and I am the probe, leaping ahead of the lumbering mass of the Principal Investigator on a bright ion torch.

Time passes, and I decelerate as I approach the Shiva. I make contact with the hull surface. It is perfect and unblemished. But there is no power in the couplings, so I provide.

As the coupling begins, I withdraw from the probe’s memory, as the unit autonomously engages xenoware protocols, multilayered firewalls and buffers. I carefully taste the highly filtered data from the Transit Core.

I am no longer there. But the memory is not empty. And it is not chaos.

Two subroutines remain, copied out across every last bit of the Shiva’s substrate, woven up together.

One is an emotive simalcrum. It is an old memory, organic, pre-sentient. Racing heart, so as to compromise function. Neural paralysis. A frozen biological system, overwhelmed, so filled with a futile flight impulse that it can no longer respond.

Fear. The feeling is fear. Raw terror, mortal terror, phobos.

The other subroutine is a fragged meta-analytic linguistic subroutine. Not Glish. Older. Archaic.

The routine itself has locked into an infinite loop, a loop that has iterated virally into a million variants. One word, in Our voice. Repeated three times, pause, repeat.

[kadosh kadosh kadosh]

Holy Holy Holy.


literaturescience fiction

About the Creator

David Williams

Blogger and author. Under contract with Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for a near-future literary/hard sci-fi novel.

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