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Revelation Passage Part 1

By localroger in Fiction
Sun Jun 24, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: localroger bloviates (all tags)

This will probably be the last major Passages story, but as the capstone of a history spanning over a billion years it will be told in five parts.

Previous Episodes:

This story:

Approximately 1.2 billion years from now, in a galaxy 20,000,000 light-years from the Milky Way:

    Revelation One: The Borden Homeworld


I was fidgety as hell. The age difference would be a problem. She was only forty-two Earth years old, and according to a sense I'd formed long before life extension had been invented I couldn't help thinking of her as being around twenty-five. She was strong and confident and she had shoulder length pitch-black hair, and her name was Kim. I had chosen her from a large lineup of similarly strong and confident dark-haired women in an elaborate ceremony which I understood was the culmination of a competition that had started long before I was awakened.

While she was forty-two, I was either newly born, or about twenty, or a hundred and twenty thousand or so, or one point two billion years old depending on just how you choose to reckon such things. One point two billion years ago I had been born, then I had nearly been killed, then I had been uploaded into first one and then many machines. One of those machines became abandoned, as a lot of us were, to intergalactic space as a necessary part of our program to colonize the Milky Way galaxy with human life.

Over a billion years later that derelict machine drifted into this galaxy, was intercepted by the Borden, and they fixed it. For their own reasons they let me set about my original mission, and then as a kind of twisted gift they figured out how to pour my ancient personality back into a biological human shell. That shell had been created with as full a subset of my ancient machine personality as mere brain-jelly can handle, at a biological age of about twenty.

My consort entered the room and bowed. I bowed back and she smiled. I was awkward for more reasons than I could name; I could barely remember such simple human things as courtship rituals and how to flirt. I had been a machine for far too long. But at the same time, I was immersed in a hugely wonderful new world of texture and smell. I stood frozen, afraid that I might do something wrong, even as my body prepared itself for mating.

"You're the guest of honor," she said. "You don't have to be afraid. You can do whatever comes naturally, or let me guide you."

"It's been a long time," I said. "You should guide me."

"I expected to." And guide me she did. She didn't just make love to me; at every turn she knew exactly where to touch me. It was as if she could read my mind. Had I missed sex this much? It was like nothing I had dared to imagine, yet I must have had such experiences in my first incarnation as a human. For some time we lay cuddling, exhausted and in my case at least unbelievably happy.

"You are pleased," she said in a way that was half-statement, half-question, and maybe just a bit self congratulation.

"Very," I said. "It's like you know what I want before I do."

"Well, for a while that will be true," she said.


She made a face as if she realized she had misspoken. "Well," she finally said. "It's not as if you won't find out." She made her way to the wall and pressed a control that opened up a drawer; it was a kind of bureau. She retrieved a book and handed it to me. It was printed on paper, an extravagance on this mostly computerized world, and cursively titled:

Pleasing Bringer Tom: The Definitive Guide
"It's printed for the contest entrants," Kim explained. "But no self-respecting woman in this world would be caught dead without a copy."

I turned to the table of contents and felt my color rising:

  1. Bringer Tom's Primary Sexual Fantasies
  2. What to Wear
  3. The Perfect Moment to Undress
  4. When to Take the Initiative
  5. Where will Bringer Tom want to Touch You?
  6. Explore Bringer Tom's Body (and Drive him Wild!)
  7. Bringer Tom's Preferred Fellatio Technique
There were about ten more chapters but I flipped to the section on the perfect Tom blowjob. There were diagrams showing how you could practice the moves I like best on a cucumber.

I looked up and found her smiling grandly. "I wish I had a photograph of the look on your face," she said.

"I thought the bastards didn't read my mind," I said a little blankly.

"Well if they can they didn't tell us," Kim said. "But they've incarnated you like this something like eighty thousand times, at least once on every new human world, and your previous instances have apparently been indiscreet." She smiled. "And the Borden have a faster than light communication network, so this kind of thing can get around. People are fascinated."

"So this is why I've liked everything I've been given to eat so much?"

"Absolutely. Nothing is too good for our human Bringer."

"I'm just a human, Kim. I have to live like this and die just like the rest of you."

"Oh, but you're much more than just a man, Tom. You're the human echo that we can relate to of all your brothers who make life possible for us. We have no way to shower our gratitude upon them, so we have to make do with you."

It was tacky, I thought, but I could probably get used to it. "So have you practiced all this stuff just for tonight?"

"If you're willing, Tom, I practiced it for the rest of our lives. But that's at your pleasure. There will always be other women to tempt you, and they will work hard at it. But I know that if I win your heart you tend toward monogamy. I know it's strange but it's more than just your fame and our gratitude toward your brothers. You're the only man in the world whose heart I can know before courting you. Many women lust for such certainty, but only one of us can win you. Me, I hope."

"Well, your honesty about this has indebted me to you. But I guess you knew that too."

"It's suggested in chapter ten. But it doesn't always work." We stared at each other for a few moments and simultaneously burst out laughing.

It was going to be an interesting life.


"Something I've always wondered, is why our hosts call themselves the Borden," Kim asked. We were still holed up in the honeymoon suite. All the guides said we would be there at least another week. My newly human body was just full of surprises, and not all of them were pleasant. Kim knew what I needed at every turn, though, and I found myself falling in love with her even though I knew where she'd gotten her wisdom.

"The Borden," I mused. "Now that's something I know."

"You know where to find that? I've been looking on and off for years and there isn't any record."

"No public record," I said. "But I remember. You know of course that the Borden killed their Makers. It's one reason they are so fascinated with me, personally, because something similar to them tried to kill me back in the day and I survived it. Their Makers weren't so lucky."

"Everyone knows about that."

"Well, not everyone knows this:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
"What's that? It sounds gruesome."

"I suppose it is. It's something that may have happened before I was born -- the first time, over a billion years ago. The Borden ran across that verse as they were reconstructing the libraries I brought with me to colonize new human worlds. It was just a little thing, but they found it and it was influential.

"They told me that the Lizzie Borden verse was one of the first things they deciphered that made it clear we understood the impulse to murder. If we hadn't they might have been too ashamed of what they had done to their Makers to face our judgement. And while they don't talk about it much and the Bringers don't talk about it at all out of respect for all they've done for us, it is the reason why in our language they call themselves the Borden."

"Their axe was an asteroid." Kim mused. "I guess it's like an axe in that it didn't leave much chance of resuscitation."

"So they say. They quit the home system in shame once they realized they too were mortal and they learned the nature of their error in the course of raising their own young. Better late than never, for us at least, but not for their Makers."

"It still seems that something might have been salvageable. Humans were extinct for, what, thousands of years?"

"Forty thousand years. But we had a lot of genetic data stored. The Borden were uninterested in biology until long after they had annihilated it very completely."

"But you guys, the Bringers, you know biology. Have you ever studied their homeworld? You might be able to bring their Makers back, or at least tell us what they looked like."

"The Borden say that they are not worthy to desecrate their Makers by re-entering the home system."

"But you're not Borden. Surely if the Makers could know, they would not object to simply trying?"

The idea was faintly disquieting, but also stated as Kim had stated it compelling. I got up and activated the comm terminal. "Is the Borden Ambassador still in the complex?" I asked.

"Yes, in quarter Juneau 6. Shall I open a comm channel or summon it?"

"No, see if it will receive me. I have a question I must ask it in person."

"The Ambassador awaits you."

I got dressed and hiked to Juneau 6, about two kilometers from the Honeymoon Suite. I needed the walking time to think and I needed privacy to ask the Borden ambassador what Kim had suggested. Surely one of my brothers had brought it up at some point in the last couple of million years; but it seemed to me that I would remember it if we had. Being human had opened a new (or at least forgotten) world of texture and sensation for me, but it also left me feeling incredibly stupid and fogheaded at times.

"Greetings, Bringer Tom," the Ambassador said with a bow. Although the Borden are general-purpose information beings like my brothers, they have a fondness for android robots. They have told us their mission is to live for their Makers by proxy, and having no other biological examples they have taken up human habits in a big way. The Ambassador wore an elaborate if obviously artificial mechanical approximation of the human form. It clacked and clattered a lot as it moved.

I bowed. "I hope I'm not disturbing you, Ambassador."

"Oh, not at all. This is new and different. Please enlighten me."


"Well the only variable is the female, and you've never done this before. We are beside ourselves with curiosity."

"Right. I was wondering if it had ever occurred to the Borden to ask the Bringers to do a survey of your homeworld, on the possibility of reconstructing your Makers."

The Ambassador clacked pensively. "That had not occurred to us at all," it said. "It has been two hundred million years you know; and we didn't think much was left even immediately after after the unfortunate event."

"Of course, but we have direct experience with biological reconstruction that you never had."

"The Makers are most likely alien to your techniques."

"I am sure we would like to learn just how alien, for our own reasons. In all our travels we have never encountered even the echo of another intelligent species -- except for yourselves."

"It is an interesting idea," the Ambassador said. "Can I assure you it will be considered most carefully? And meanwhile, your lady awaits."

"True, Ambassador. Thank you for your time."


When I got back to the Honeymoon Suite the comm terminal was blinking frantically. "It started doing that a few minutes ago," Kim said. "I've never seen anything like it before."

"Tom here," I told it, and the display coalesced on a field of stars. It was the usual cue that you were talking to a space-based Bringer intelligence. "The Borden have asked us to survey their home system," it said. "And it seems you had something to do with this."

"I only floated the idea half an hour ago. How could they possibly..."

"They have a faster than light communication system, and they're machines. They can always be found for a priority query. While you were walking back from Juneau 6 this has gone all over the galaxy and a consensus has formed. They respectfully request our assistance to survey their home planetary system, which they won't enter themselves out of respect for the dead."

"This is going to take some getting used to," I said as my head swam.

"We've been living with the Borden for almost two million Earth years, and even though we use the comm system ourselves I don't think any of us is used to it. But the damage is done. Let's just hope that if we don't fail these Makers aren't much more temperamental and mean-spirited than humans."


The world where our human brother got the bright idea was more than thirty thousand light-years from the Borden home system, but all the Borden outposts have our blueprints and our survey fleet was constructed by the Borden at their nearest outpost a mere twelve light-years away.

Our human brother was still dead before we were half-way there. He claimed to have a fulfilling life by human standards, but humans just aren't built to see through projects on this scale.

We were a fleet of six ships with different and nonstandard capabilities compared to our original design. Although between us we brought the ability to create life, we were not specifically equipped for colonization. We had in fact promised not to contaminate the Borden homeworld either with Earth style life or with factories; we were permitted to use the homeworld's moon, which was large like Earth's moon, as a base of operation and for raw materials. One of us maintained the bulky and balky equipment for maintaining FTL communications with the Borden. One of us was almost entirely information storage, a complete library of Bringer and Borden knowledge too rich to retrieve through the relatively low-bandwidth FTL comms. The rest of us carried tools much more precise and refined than our usual cargo; we were geologists and archaeologists and bioreconstructionists. We were meant to perform our duties without building factories if at all possible, though we could do that too if there was a good reason.

The Borden had maintained an almost superstitious distance from their home system during the two hundred million years since their creation, so when we entered it we had no maps of any sort. The star was similar to our records of Sol but a bit smaller and younger, about 3.5 billion years old and seven tenths as massive.

A preliminary survey revealed three small rocky planets and three gas giants. The middle small rocky planet had a large moon. For convenience we gave the worlds neutral names in order of their importance to our project -- Alpha for the homeworld, Beta for its large moon, then Gamma through Eta working out from the star. As in the Earth's solar system the largest and innermost gas giant kept things in tune; all of the planets had orbits harmonically aligned to its period.

Alpha had thick clouds, an atmosphere heavy with carbon dioxide, and a surface temperature of almost five hundred Kelvin. It wasn't quite as bad as our records of the Solar world Venus, but it was close. Alpha was geologically active, and without living things to fix the carbon emitted by volcanoes the Venusian greenhouse was almost inevitable. We sent a rather glum report to the Borden; such a hot world wouldn't tend to preserve the kind of things we were looking for. But they encouraged us to do our best regardless.

Even with our technology working on the surface of Alpha would be difficult, and if we did chance upon some biological remnant it would be fried as soon as we exposed it to the environment. We learned what we could from orbit and a few expendable descent probes. Alpha still had oceans, though much of its water was now in the atmosphere; it had a healthy magnetic field and it had the familiar pattern of continental masses floating on more massive rocks. The atmosphere was forty percent carbon dioxide, twenty percent water, thirty-seven percent nitrogen, and some mostly harmless contaminants. The oceans and atmosphere were pretty acidic but not yet disastrously so. If we could get the temperature down low enough for plant life to do its thing it could be made habitable again.

Beta was more hospitable, at least for us. Unlike the Earth's Moon it had a metallic core and had obviously formed independently from Alpha. It was small enough to have completely cooled and was no longer geologically active, and had no atmosphere worth mentioning.

Beta also held a few surprising and impressive artifacts. At the poles and at four equidistant points on the equator were enormous horizontal cylindrical structures each surrounded by thousands of square kilometers of perfectly flat level ground. These flatlands had been scoured over the aeons by meteorites and meteoroid dust, but on inspection it appeared that they had once been not just flattened but polished to a mirror finish, and coated with a very efficient photovoltaic layer. It was not obvious how the current generated by these solar collectors would be conveyed for use, or how it was used, or even for certain that it was meant for use by the cylinders. We could not penetrate the mystery of what the cylinders actually did. They were mostly hollow with only an array of very small penetrations covering each end. There were no obvious access points for maintenance or means of disassembly. For that matter it wasn't obvious how they were even manufactured.

The rest of Beta was a warren of old mines and foundations but other than the cylinders it had been stripped clean. We sent the Borden pictures of the cylinders and they expressed puzzlement; their records said clearly they had completely evacuated the system. They had no more idea what the cylinders were for than we did.

It was obvious we could get nowhere on Alpha unless conditions were improved. We made plans to girdle the whole planet with a ring of solar shades. It would be a big job, but we had a big moon to supply raw materials and plenty of time. We didn't have to shade the whole planet; we figured that a thousand-kilometer wide shade ring in the plane of the ecliptic would have a huge beneficial effect.

The Borden were supportive. They had thought the only way to fix such a mess would be to introduce bacteria, and they were impressed that we thought of a way consistent with our original promise not to contaminate the planet.

So we built factories and mass drivers on Beta. The standard shade bot would be a flat metalized membrane panel ten meters in diameter; at its center would be a small control module that would be solar powered and equipped with electric ion drive. It would have a launch mass of eight hundred grams. With their ion drives the bots would maneuver into low Alpha orbit and orient themselves parallel to the surface. We anticipated needing about a thousand billion of them, and we figured on spending several thousand years to get them all in place.

Meanwhile the Borden home system was literally the most unknown and unexplored system of its type in the entire galaxy, so while we waited for the shade bots to get in position and the temperature on Alpha to become reasonable we set about exploring the rest of the system.


On every world that would preserve such things we found evidence of Borden activity -- mines, tunnels, and manufacturing rubbish of every description. What we didn't find was machines. The Borden had quit their home system with an impressive thoroughness; they had indeed taken every scrap of their civilization with them when they left. All of which made the presence of the big cylinders on Beta even more mysterious.

The evidence spoke of an early Borden whose technology was even more primitive than our own, and our queries to them confirmed this. Everywhere crude methods had been used to find caches of naturally occuring minerals which could be manufactured to spec much more easily once you knew the trick.

We investigated the system thoroughly. We sent expendable probes down to the surface of Alpha and learned as much as we could about the environment there, and we scanned it thoroughly from orbit. We visited and investigated the other rocky worlds. Gamma's surface conditions were extreme but we made a detailed surface survey of Delta, since it might give us clues to what lay beneath Alpha's clouds. As at Sol the gas giants Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta had complex moon systems and we studied these closely because they harbored clues to the history of the entire system.

There were some puzzling things.

Like the Earth, Alpha tends to create new seabed along volcanic fault lines and push it along toward mid-ocean subduction zones where it is pulled into the planet and re-melted. And like the Earth, Alpha's magnetic field reverses every once in awhile. And like the Earth, the rocks in Alpha's seabed record these periodic reversals like a kind of very slow tape recorder, forming bands of residual magnetism that can be detected from orbit.

Unlike the Earth, Alpha's magnetic bands did not actually reach the subduction zones. They covered perhaps a third of Alpha's seafloor, with the rest being a chaotic jumble of residual magnetism. It was hard to pin down the timeframe without doing surface geology but until some point in Alpha's past its magnetic field had not been stable.

Beta itself was also an anomaly. Like the Earth's Moon it was slowly spiralling out from Alpha. Tidal friction slowed Alpha's rotation, lengthening its day, and the traded-off energy lifted Beta into an ever-higher orbit. But working back into Beta's past, it was clear that it should have been touching Alpha's surface within the last billion years. Since Beta and the home star both gave independent signs of being about 3.5 billion years old it was hard to figure out how Beta had gotten where it was, and with a nearly circular orbit at that.

There was one obvious possibility but all of the Borden's records suggested against it. Even after two hundred million years they only had a few projects going comparable in scope to moving an entire planet. If the Makers had been able to move Beta into place around their homeworld they would not have been futzing around with low-rent tech like the early Borden.

The biggest mystery of all was one of our last discoveries.

As in any solar system the gas giants had collected bits of this and that at their stable Lagrange points; we didn't give this stuff a high priority but we did eventually get around to investigating it simply because we had more than enough time and nothing else to do.

We knew there was something strange at Eta's L5 point because every once in awhile it would flash as bright as a substantial rocky planet, but most of the time it appeared more consistent with a large asteroid. It was not a big enough mystery to justify making a hasty trip to such an inaccessible place, but when we did get there we wished we had given it a higher priority.

Whatever it was had probably started out as an asteroid, but it had been faceted into a perfect dodecahedron more than a hundred kilometers across. It was girdled with some kind of enormous collector or reflector array almost two thousand kilometers in diameter. This circular disk was a fractal spiderweb of ever-finer supporting struts holding taut an enormous mass of impossibly thin fiber. Spars were broken and holes had been punched in this big disc but its extent remained obvious. Perpendicular to this collector an enormous spar jutted out nearly two thousand kilometers. It had been broken off at some point, so we had no idea how long it was originally or what kind of detector or transmitter it might have held in position.

The structure wasn't rotating at all. To say it was the product of intelligent craft would be the understatement of the aeon. The Borden claimed, as with the cylinders on Beta, no knowledge of this artifact. After sending them detailed pictures of the disc gridwork they announced that they had no idea what its purpose might be.

Investigating it was going to be a major project. It was hard to get close because the disc made orbiting the central mass impractical. Maneuvering a Bringer class shipbody near it would risk damage or contamination. We needed to build robots of a suitable scale to approach it and, hopefully, to enter it via whatever accessways existed. But other than the artifact itself there were no other suitable raw materials at the L5 point.

So we laid plans to move some in.


The rainout on Alpha began about twelve thousand years after we started the shadebot program. At first it was a gradual condensation, noticeable as a slow trend on our annual atmospheric surveys. But water is itself a greenhouse gas, and every fraction that left the atmosphere to rejoin the oceans also stopped helping to keep the temperature up. Eventually a massive storm formed that ran for more than three hundred years. We worried about the weathering this would cause but then again, it was a minor insult on top of being baked for hundreds of millions of years.

The artifact at Eta's L5 gave up no secrets at all. We nudged one of Eta's tiny asteroidal outer moons out of orbit and brought it over to give us a base of operation and a source of raw materials; it orbited the artifact beyond the edge of its enormous gridwork. We sent in robots and probes of every description. Without doing more damage ourselves we collected samples; broken-off bits of the gridwork had settled onto the central mass where we could pick them up.

We could not figure out how it had been manufactured. The Borden finally asked us to assemble a scanning tunneling microscope, and after some scans done at their direction they announced that it had been nanoassembled -- built an atom at a time. Even the finest fibres were complex affairs with cybernetic optoelectronic circuitry embedded in them. The basic material was a diamandoid matrix that was an almost perfect insulator and both harder and tougher than steel; but it could also be coaxed to be a semiconductor or even a superconductor with appropriately well-placed contaminants.

The Borden expressed astonishment that such a thing could be made; the problem with nanoassembly is that practical assemblers are not nano-scale themselves. So it takes a long time time to maneuver and position all the atoms that make up your structure, and it all has to be done in conditions of extreme cold and mechanical quiet so that unstable half-completed structures don't move around while they are being formed. The Borden had, they said, successfully nanoassembled some structures on the order of a meter or two in size, but even that was a fantastically complicated task. They said that anything that could build an artifact this large in that way made their little FTL comm system look like a child's bucket of toy building blocks by comparison.

Alpha's rainout ended suddenly, literally within a matter of days, and then the atmosphere was clear. It was still hot, running 300 to 350 Kelvin at the surface, but well within the operating range of normal unhardened robotic machinery. We moved in and began doing serious geology.

We quickly verified Alpha's age and estimated its recent history of geological activity and continental drift. We easily located the impact site of the asteroid that the Borden had lobbed at it; part of the crater was subducted but the impactor had been easily 100 kilometers across and the collision had left shatter marks all over the planet. Opposite the impact site the crust had been thrown skyward and inverted, leaving large chunks of heavy mantle-depth rock on the surface, and frequent earthquakes continued to occur as the smashed continental plate tried to regain its equilibrium.

Our hope of finding any trace of the Makers dimmed. The whole planet had been blanketed with a heavy layer of dust, promising good fossils, but anything resembling the artifacts of a civilization had been well smashed and burned first.


The idea came from the Borden via their FTL network, and they claimed that it came from one of our own; but they were not clear whether it was another Bringer or an actual human who had thought of it. The idea had the kind of mad logic only biological humans seem to be really good at.

The Makers had had a high technology, and even after their war with the early Borden they had to be aware their enemy was out there in space. And if there were Borden in space, then it was reasonable that at one time there had been Makers, or at the very least Maker robots simpler than the Borden, to establish spacefaring technology. This was a society that would be interested and capable of looking to the sky to see what was going on.

They would have seen the asteroid coming.

Very likely they would have seen it even without high technology; enormous motors must have been involved that would have left plasma or ejecta trails like the biggest comets. So they would have seen the maneuvering, and they would have had a few years to contemplate the situation as it was set up. With their factories laid waste in the war they may have watched helplessly as the Borden wrote their doom in their sky, but they would not have been taken by surprise.

They were smart people capable of getting into space and building the early Borden. They had time to build caches.

Working back in time we asked, what did Alpha look like two hundred million years ago? Knowing as the Makers would probably have known at least two years in advance where the rock was going to hit, where was the safest place for the records you hope someone like us will one day find? You must consider the world's innate geological processes as well as the immediate insult of the impactor. When all of the factors were considered there were only a few obvious good spots that were likely to survive the impact and the weather and a lot of subsequent geology. We concentrated on those areas.

There was one mountain range that was still tall though it had been much higher in the day of the Makers. It was riddled with a labrynth of caves formed by water that flowed through them when they had been at sea level. They seemed promising, but we found nothing of the Makers. If the caves had been used they were still too open to the environment to preserve the evidence.

Elsewhere a continental mass lay in the sweet spot where the crust would be least roiled by the impact; for three billion years these rocks had neither been uplifted nor subducted. A solid shield of granite floated serenely amid the continental jostling, its edges getting chipped and reformed but its middle staying wholesomely intact. In the center of this continent orbital surveys had revealed a magnetic anomaly. When we brainstormed methods by which the Makers might have marked their cache for the geological ages, this bit of magnetism in the center of a stable and otherwise remarkably non-magnetic sheet of granite came up.

Ground surveys revealed that metallic steel bars had been preserved with plastic protectants and laid out along the lines of a cross more than fifty kilometers across, buried in trenches thirty meters deep which had been backfilled with hematite mined more than a thousand kilometers away. At the center of the magnetic cross was a vertical shaft which had been cut down into the living rock of the continental plate; it had been backfilled with calcium minerals which had over the aeons fused into a solid mass sealing the shaft, but also much softer than the surrounding rock and therefore a straightforward matter to remove.

When we cleared the shaft we found a granite plug at the bottom, and beyond this a small room which we entered first only with an endoscopic camera. It would be fair to say that when we received the first images of this little room we were shocked.

The room was lined with images, and contained a mechanism and a body. The mechanism would turn out to be the most important thing, but at first we hardly noticed it.

The body had apparently mummified, and we would later learn it had actually petrified. It revealed no mysteries of alien physiology, for it was human.

The pictures on the walls appeared to have been fused into porcelain with cobalt, a suitably durable medium for the purpose at hand. One of these clearly showed a small group of figures. They were line drawings but they were also unmistakably human. As we were trying to figure out how humans had come to this distant world two hundred million years before our arrival, another wall picture gave a suggestion.

It showed an object with a dodecahedral core and a large circular collector array. An oncoming stream was somehow being focused toward a receiver at the end of its perpendicular spar, where the artist had placed a rocket engine. And the whole affair was, from the background, flying through intergalactic space.

In Part 2: The Makers of the Borden


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Display: Sort:
Revelation Passage Part 1 | 111 comments (95 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
This is great. (none / 0) (#3)
by cbraga on Sun Jun 24, 2007 at 09:02:15 PM EST

Please keep them coming :)

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p
by bloody vagina uncle on Sun Jun 24, 2007 at 10:14:45 PM EST

[ Parent ]
You've been reading Marshall Savage, haven't you? (none / 0) (#5)
by HackerCracker on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 01:35:25 AM EST

I C whut yuo did thar

Upon further reflection (1.50 / 0) (#27)
by HackerCracker on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 02:15:59 PM EST

It seems the answer is obviously no. What I was referring to was Mr. Savage's assertion that anybody stupid enough to do multi-generational interstellar/galactic ships would be doomed to find an established K2 civilization as they approached their destination, as technology would have improved to the point where antimatter drive at a significant fraction of c would be feasible.

Savage's take on the 'empty universe except for us' is quite interesting--just as interesting if not moreso than the version you've been writing about.

[ Parent ]
I'll have to look him up then (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 04:21:49 PM EST

Actually, the idea that your generation ship will be passed by the guys who invent FTL goes back a long way; off the top of my head I can recall stories on the theme by Larry Niven, Iaian Banks, and George Alec Effinger.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
"Approximately 1.2 billion years from now, (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by th0m on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 07:58:05 AM EST

in a galaxy 20,000,000 light-years from the Milky Way


'I didn't read the others' (2.25 / 4) (#9)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:10:05 AM EST

It takes off from the last scene of Mortal Passage, which is a pretty specific place and time.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Woosh woosh (none / 0) (#13)
by zombie Colonel Kurtz on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:39:15 AM EST

Like the child in camp playing with the wooden airplane. We will train him to drop fire on people but we'll forbid him from writing FUCK on his airplane because it's OBSCENE.

Woosh woosh. A grown man playing with his wooden toys in front of the world because he is unable -- no he lacks the will -- to do what is necessary.

It is impossible for words to describe the horrors I've seen. You take the ones made for garbage detail and the ones think but can't act and this is what you get.

Unnecessary cumbersome way of doing it (none / 0) (#15)
by tetsuwan on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 09:16:09 AM EST

"The Borden expressed astonishment that such a thing could be made; the problem with nanoassembly is that practical assemblers are not nano-scale themselves. So it takes a long time time to maneuver and position all the atoms that make up your structure, and it all has to be done in conditions of extreme cold and mechanical quiet so that unstable half-completed structures don't move around while they are being formed. The Borden had, they said, successfully nanoassembled some structures on the order of a meter or two in size, but even that was a fantastically complicated task. They said that anything that could build an artifact this large in that way made their little FTL comm system look like a child's bucket of toy building blocks by comparison."

Many of these problems will be solved through self-organization, that is priming the material and setting the growth conditions so that the structure will form from minimizing the total energy of the system.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance

Well, the assumption had to be that it's hard (none / 1) (#16)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 09:33:41 AM EST

They're lucky I let them have nanotech at all. Personally, I think nanotech will be pretty hard, because nobody is thinking about staging and transport mechanisms, which are the hard part of non-nanoassembly. Everybody is focused on the ability to make and break chemical bonds at will, which is great, but it's only a small part of the problem.

In an oil refinery, the actual cat cracker that does the magic only occupies about 1 percent of the acreage; the rest is storage and staging. And in nanoassembly you also have to get both the raw material and the information to that nanomanipulator to tell it what to do. Self-organization won't get you very far there; you're basically talking about growing a crystal. That won't work for anything very complicated, such as those things "a meter or two in size" which the Borden have been making.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

You're thinking about it wrong. (none / 0) (#94)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 05:13:34 PM EST

You're thinking big dumb machines... yeh, the actual working part is always some small fraction of the whole.

What you need are little dumb ants, that can carry around pieces 10 times their size, or if you need bigger sub-assemblies, a dozen team up to move it.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

I'm aware that that is the idea (none / 0) (#96)
by localroger on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 06:12:00 PM EST

I just don't think it will work. It might work for regular objects like computer parts, but it won't work for irregular objects like human bodies, because the guiding intelligence needs a map of at least the locality it's working on within the context of the entire arbitrary design.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
What if you encoded it in a molecule? (none / 0) (#109)
by vectro on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 03:31:06 PM EST

You could create some kind of molecular encoding and  use it to store all the plans for the entire object. Then you could create some other catalysts to retrieve the parts of the plan relevant to the particular part being built. You could even provide a data-verification system so that machines with a corrupted copy of the plan kill themselves and let others take over. What if we called the thing "deoxyribonucleic acid"?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Well obviously that works, except... (none / 0) (#110)
by localroger on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 03:09:56 PM EST

...that it does not allow you to build arbitrary forms. Development being fractal in nature, small changes to the generative algorithm tend to create large changes in the output. And if you don't duplicate phenotypic exposure exactly, you don't get the same form. So yes, you could create artificial life forms, but you couldn't create an arbitrarily younger, smarter, and healthier version of yourself with your existing memories, for example.

alexboko: I think, how do animals view our behavior?
Sgt York: Opening
[ Parent ]
There are several possibilities (none / 0) (#111)
by Pentashagon on Mon Aug 13, 2007 at 03:19:50 AM EST

A cryogenic 3d printer that deposits layer after layer, probably producing layers in parallel and then joining them. Then warm the whole thing up. It shouldn't be too much more difficult than a high precision vapor deposition ink-jet printer. After all, the idea is that the chemical bonds being assembled will already be in stable states, so shooting atoms at the right places should make the right bonds. Obviously shooting complete molecules (including proteins and other complex organics) would be necessary where making bonds one at a time relies on assembly order, but the geometry prevents   getting the atoms in the right spot at the right time. In the worst case, entire cells could be assembled separately and then patched together. The cells could even be differentiated naturally from stem cells and then frozen and attached to the body. My guess is that nanosurgery on dendrites would be sufficient to grow a big batch and then patch them between existing neurons. After all, biological systems have a whole lot of redundancy at the molecular level. I think nanotech will have plenty of wiggle room to play with.

Of course this ignores the waking-up process, which may turn out to be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Still, the fact that we can put dogs to sleep after replacing their blood and then revive them means it may be sufficient to do final assembly around 0 C with inactive cells instead of -200C with totally frozen ones. Use the really cold temperatures for actually building better cells, perhaps. After all, only one "perfect" stem cell constructed at high cost would be sufficient for most future biotech work. Just swap DNA in and out as appropriate for genetic variation.

[ Parent ]

As has been pointed out elsewhere... (none / 0) (#112)
by vectro on Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 11:39:33 AM EST

You can't really expect to build complete dynamic structures from scratch, such as your example of "an arbitrarily younger, smarter, and healthier version of yourself with your existing memories," without some way of making the static->dynamic transition, the most obvious way being to build the structure at extremely low temperature. But that's not really so much about information distribution as much as about engineering considerations. Nor is it really reasonable to expect such constructions; nothing built by man or nature and at any scale just spontaneously appears in a given form: Even engineering projects like bridges are built up so as to be stable throughout.

Although it's true that in complex life forms, the phenotype depends on the environment, that's really just an evolved adaptive response. It's perfectly reasonable to expect that you could build blueprints that are more rigid, and that gives you more control but also imposes more requirements on the process.

The real question is, is it humanly possible to encode development instructions for a given design into a molecular form, or would we need to rely on genetic algorithms for all such future design work.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

All this "hardcore sci-fi" talk,,, (none / 0) (#106)
by Russell Dovey on Wed Jul 25, 2007 at 02:10:03 AM EST

...and what do I see here? Faster than light communications technology!

For SHAME, localroger.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

is that like a "3D printer" ? (none / 0) (#46)
by newb4b0 on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 12:26:08 AM EST

http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.
[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 1) (#48)
by tetsuwan on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 05:12:30 AM EST

Somewhat like a 3D printer.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

A lot of infodumping ... as usual. (none / 0) (#23)
by rpresser on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 01:00:33 PM EST

The "2" sections, where a real live human is using real live dialogue, held my interest more than the "3" sections.

Also, why do the sections start with "2" and not "1"?

But still pretty neat stuff.

That the aliens (the Makers) turn out to be human was a bit disappointing -- it's an old trope. They even did it in that godawful ''Mission to Mars''.

And I'm equally disappointed by the idea that the Borden could wipe out the Makers utterly with a single asteroid strike -- yet they had time to set up a cache, but didn't have time to set up a colony satellite orbiting another moon?

I like the sunshade -- have you read Clarke/Baxter's ''Sunstorm''?  Or heard about Benford seriously proposing a sunshade as a global warming remedy?

I look forward to the rest of this.
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty

Considering the space domination Borden had (none / 0) (#25)
by tetsuwan on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 01:12:26 PM EST

The probably realized that it would've been a suicide mission.

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

It's a little different (none / 1) (#29)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 04:16:56 PM EST

Agreed about the M2M thing, but I promise this isn't the fricken Atlanteans or anything like that. When I had this idea I knew it was right, because it got me back to the original Rare Earth premise of the series that Earth really is the only planet of its kind in the Universe.

There is a reason for starting with 2, as will become clear later.

I think you'll like the other sections; there's more interpersonal (intermachinal?) interaction. But yeah, I had to start by setting it up. Seems to be holding its own...

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

I sure hope it isn't (none / 0) (#31)
by rpresser on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 04:34:46 PM EST

gvzr geniry
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Been there done that? (none / 1) (#50)
by Corwin06 on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 08:25:51 AM EST

... "and the Makers, they were humans, and so they have launched an Ark with their genetic material so that an other planet would know Life." Please, not that! I've read enough SF stories that end with "and that, boys and girls, is how Adam and Eve ended up on Earth".
MOPI has been the best one I've ever read in that genre, but I'll be really disappointed if you do that twice.
"and you sir, in an argument in a thread with a troll in a story no one is reading in a backwater website, you're a fucking genius
[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 1) (#52)
by localroger on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 10:36:20 AM EST

I promise it's not a Shaggy God story. It's something I think will be quite surprising given the tone of the other stories; you'll find out in part 3.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Thank you! :-) (none / 1) (#58)
by Corwin06 on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 05:46:25 PM EST

I'm happy to know that!
Keep up the good work then :-)  I'm impatient to read the next episodes.
"and you sir, in an argument in a thread with a troll in a story no one is reading in a backwater website, you're a fucking genius
[ Parent ]
Well done localroger +1FP (none / 0) (#24)
by dakini on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 01:04:16 PM EST

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
F-1ction. (1.50 / 4) (#26)
by it certainly is on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 01:34:52 PM EST

kur0shin.org -- it certainly is

Godwin's law [...] is impossible to violate except with an infinitely long thread that doesn't mention nazis.

TOPI? -nt (none / 0) (#33)
by Kasreyn on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 07:46:55 PM EST

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
The long-promised, long-stalled sequel to MOPI (none / 1) (#34)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 07:56:00 PM EST

To be called The Transmigration of Prime Intellect. It's plotted and about 1/3 written but it's been plotted and about 1/3 written since before Katrina.

But the current story was in the same state for almost as long, and I finally forced myself to actually write down the final two parts that have been in my head for two years.

This is the first time since Katrina I have written about anything much other than Katrina. Hopefully this means I am finally putting the bitch behind me.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

Transmigration? (none / 1) (#99)
by Masque on Wed Jul 04, 2007 at 09:50:12 PM EST

Damn... I was hoping for transmogrification. Or transubstantiation maybe, or at the very least transcendence.
TAKE A HIKE$ - GrubbyBeardedHermit
[ Parent ]
Thank you very much. (none / 0) (#35)
by xC0000005 on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:10:39 PM EST

I've enjoyed the "passages" series. It's a bit awkward at the beginning but then again, there's a lot of backstory to deposit. Part II. Upload it. (Story was at 39 - you know it's going to post. :))

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
I had planned on uploading it tomorrow PM (none / 0) (#38)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:45:54 PM EST

...if it posted tonight, which it has. That's about the rhythm at which I put out the parts of A Casino Odyssey and it helps avoid the impression that I'm spamming the queue or trying to push everything else right off the FP.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
just post them already :) (none / 0) (#39)
by cbraga on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 09:12:08 PM EST

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p
[ Parent ]
Patience (none / 1) (#40)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 09:40:22 PM EST

These machines waited a billion years, you can do something else for 24 hours :-)

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Link to posting (none / 0) (#98)
by jrincayc on Tue Jul 03, 2007 at 08:07:46 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Bring on the elder gods. (none / 0) (#36)
by waxmop on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:16:32 PM EST

I think that there's a Lovecraft story that mentions a dodecahedron as some kind of teleportation device.

Anyhow, this story is fantastic. I wish you had a tip jar on this page.
"Return either with your TI-81 or upon it". nlscb

Thanks (none / 1) (#37)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 08:44:35 PM EST

(If you feel that strongly about the tip jar, there's always the one on the MOPI page...)

The dodecahedron isn't really all that significant; I just thought it was a cool visual idea. I ripped it off from It's an homage to Carl Sagan, who suggested in Cosmos that if the Greeks had kept going with their technological philosophy we might today be flying interstellar ships imprinted with the sacred dodecahedron.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

An historic moment! (none / 0) (#41)
by sllort on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 09:45:36 PM EST

For the first time, a localroger frontpage story is an improvement.
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
Other than the clunky beginning, I enjoyed it (1.50 / 0) (#42)
by HackerCracker on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 10:03:15 PM EST

But I can't help thinking of a certain agri-business with a smiling cow logo whenever I read the word Borden.

I dunno. The Menendez would have been just as bad. Maybe you could have used the Oedipus--you get parricide with incest thrown in as a bonus (and probably horsecock in there somewhere as well)! Not to mention a cutesy tie-in to Greek classicism.

I thought about that for a long time (none / 0) (#43)
by localroger on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 10:11:40 PM EST

It's actually something I figured out before the big K. Yeah, I could have called them the Manson or the Dahmer or something abstract, but it was one of those things that just hit me one day, probably becasue of seeing an ad for that very agribusiness corp. Lizzie Borden isn't just a "killer" (and I use the quotes because her guilt was never very adequately proven) she's a forgotten killer. Yesterday's news. Right up there in our consciousness with Jack the Ripper and Ed Gein. To my modern ears, with the very commercials you remember as a backdrop, it just seemed right for what I wanted to project.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
I am looking forward (none / 0) (#44)
by mybostinks on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 10:35:18 PM EST

to the rest of the story.


by newb4b0 on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 12:21:19 AM EST

http://www.netmoneychat.com| NetMoneyChat Forums. No Registration necessary. Ya'll.

Thank you. (none / 1) (#47)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 03:20:44 AM EST

Not only for this excellent return to form, but for making me go and refresh my memory of the whole Passages series in order to understand this one. Re-reading through all of them was a real treat. You've done a pretty good job maintaining a continuity not merely of plot but of tone and writing style, considering how much time has passed since the last major chapter was uploaded. I'm impressed - I have difficulty getting my own work to cohere in this way, which is one reason I don't let anyone read my attempts at fiction. :P

If I had an editorial nitpick, it was with the title, which doesn't seem apt or cute or anything. It seems more like a desperate attempt to wedge this submission into the naming tradition without any true relevance to the actual story itself. But since this chapter is only 1/5th told, maybe I should withhold that judgment. A title is certainly not as important as the story, but this one just doesn't grab me.

Topically, the idea of calling the aliens the "Borden" seems too far-fetched, almost openly whimsical. I'd think alien patricidal AI's, eager to find a way to castigate themselves with a murderous appelation in our eyes, would choose a more iconic murderer, such as Cain. To understand the Lizzie Borden rhyme involves not just English, but slang English - you have to know that a "whack" is a blow or an injury. Whereas the Bible would probably not only be more likely to be in whatever surviving library in the Bringer's shipbody that the aliens examined, but it would also be one of the most heavily cross-referenced of any work of fiction. If you were wanting to study the culture of a dead race from a library of their fiction and one book more than any other appeared to have been repeatedly returned to for thousands of years, and repeatedly referred to in other works, rewritten, and turned back upon itself, you'd probably start studying their culture by studying that book. It would stand in the center of a web of literary nodes by virtue of how scrutinized it was by the culture itself. Thus my vote for "Cainites" for the aliens' name.

Other than that, though, the story is excellent. As far as whimsy goes, the chapter titles of "How to Please Bringer Tom" made me smile to see article titles straight from the cover of women's magazines on a book printed in another galaxy a billion years in the future. Good to see your sense of humor is still intact despite Katrina's thrashing.

And once again, your research impresses me. Whether you speak competently is beyond my power to judge, as you use a lot of terminology I'm not up on. But the scope, as always, is awe-inspiring, whether it's the scope of devastation of a shattered planet, the time required to terraform it, or the unbelievable lengths gone to by the doomed inhabitants. I'm reminded of yet another Clarke story - I seem to recall comparing Passages to Rama once upon a time - entitled "The Star". In it, a character who's part priest, part historian, and part astronaut, on a long-term mission visits the remnants of a solar system where a supernova destroyed a sentient species, only to find that beyond all hope, the species managed to find a way to leave a message for explorers to find. What is unexpected is the way in which the message challenges the character's faith. I won't give away the ending, but it reminds me a lot of this chapter of Passages. The short story can be found in a collection of Clarke's entitled "The Nine Billion Names of God".

Thanks again, and I can't wait to meet the Borden's Makers. :)

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Thanks (none / 0) (#49)
by localroger on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 08:17:04 AM EST

I originally intended the title to refer to the passage to the Borden homeworld, where their Makers would be revealed. The story kind of exploded when I started to tell it, though. In any case each of the story's five chapters does in fact contain a revelation.

As for the Borden, I could definitely see the argument for calling them the Cain. All I can say is that this is one of those things that felt right, and I can't make a solid argument for it. I'd say the Borden were most focused not on the entire library of human knowledge, but on Tom's personality; and remember, before he was uploaded Tom was a soldier. Tom will have a comment on Christianity in part 4.

Also, the Borden are whimsical, and I think the idea of a nursery rhyme about a murderer might particularly appeal to them.

I read The Star when I was about 12 years old, and now that you mention it that might have been a factor here. But really it's kind of obvious; even when we're not getting hit by an asteroid or a supernova we love to bury things for the future. Look at all the hoopla over the car time capsule.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

The passages stuff is really great (3.00 / 2) (#51)
by boxed on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 10:07:42 AM EST

...and I remember really enjoying MOPI but not tipping you for that. So I sent you a pretty big tip. Keep 'em coming!

Needs moar Prime Intellect (none / 0) (#54)
by Mylakovich on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 01:42:32 PM EST

I like the sex part.

But in all seriousness, I do enjoy reading the aeonic accomplishments of immortal, exceedingly capable sentiant spacecraft. Its fun to trivialize lengths of time and levels of effort into less than a sentence-worth of attention and mearly describe the outcome. Expands the mind, as it were.

Sweet fancy moses, that was a wank. (none / 0) (#55)
by grendelkhan on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 04:19:35 PM EST

Do you have some kind of mouth-breathing basement-dweller fantasy checklist involving willing females completely focused on satisfying your every desire that you go over before writing a sex scene?

Also, is Transmigration of Prime Intellect actually going to be done some day, or is it your Duke Nukem Forever?
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca

TOPI is next on the agenda (none / 0) (#56)
by localroger on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 04:45:36 PM EST

I wanted to finish this one up first because it was further along. And this is the first time I've been able to write about this kind of future since 8/29.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I got that. (none / 0) (#57)
by grendelkhan on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 05:05:21 PM EST

I should have actually read the rest of the comments where you assured everyone that TOPI is still on its way.

Is "this kind of future" just a turn of phrase, or is there some other sort of future you were able to write about?
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca
[ Parent ]

Generally... (none / 1) (#59)
by localroger on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 06:09:35 PM EST

If you look at all the fiction, and even a lot of the nonfiction that I've written here, you might notice that I focus a lot on the problems of godlike beings or their interactions with mortals. So "this kind of future" would generally be one where the protagonist or humans in general become godlike, or acquire godlike benefactors.

Needless to say, while being confronted daily with the parade of ruin, horror, incompetence, and graft that is post-Katrina NOLA, it has been kind of hard to slip into that mindset.

After forcing myself to finish this up, though, I think I have got my groove back.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

hooray (none / 0) (#60)
by zenofchai on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 01:46:01 PM EST

thanks for more storyline.
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
All Parts 1 thru 5, and some lagniappe (3.00 / 4) (#61)
by localroger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 07:33:24 PM EST

The complete Passages in the Void timeline

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
Thank you! (none / 0) (#65)
by RevLoveJoy on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:24:31 PM EST

Good stuff.

You might mention the spoilers in the time line for those who have not read the entire 5 chapters.

Every political force in the U.S. that seeks to get past the Constitution by sophistry or technicality is little more than a wannabe king. -- pyro9
[ Parent ]

Well, it's at the end, and I'd think it obvious (none / 0) (#66)
by localroger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:26:50 PM EST

I mean, if I offered you the complete timeline of the Star Wars trilogy, you'd kind of expect to find out what happens to Anakin if you scanned it.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
Fair enough (none / 0) (#67)
by RevLoveJoy on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:32:04 PM EST

Though I'll grant you write better dialog than Lucas.

Every political force in the U.S. that seeks to get past the Constitution by sophistry or technicality is little more than a wannabe king. -- pyro9
[ Parent ]

A retarded yak writes better dialog than Lucas /nt (none / 1) (#87)
by gndn on Fri Jun 29, 2007 at 10:59:54 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Wow. (none / 0) (#68)
by aurynn on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 10:31:14 PM EST

Well that was a completely unexpected twist.
I'm not entirely certain I enjoyed it yet, though.

Thanks for the great story!

--Nothing is so good that someone, somewhere, will not hate it.
[ Parent ]

that was very good reading (none / 0) (#69)
by cbraga on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 10:42:02 PM EST

A pity that the second one got bombed in the queue. I find it quite amusing that the same people still bother disrupting this website after, what, four years? I'm really sorry for them, in the last four years I started a business and I'm making money while they continue to live in their mother's basements.

On one side of the coin I wish you had published dead-tree books and became an established author but on the other side, if you did, I probably wouldn't be reading your stories as I dedicate little time for fiction. I guess I'm a bit weird, I'm currently reading aircraft construction and design books just for the fun of it. (There are four next to my bed).

It's also a pity that people today care little for science fiction and Hairy Potter and its wizard tricks is the rage among kids. Sometimes I wish I'd grown up in the fifties or sixties when science did excite people. As each day passes I feel more like a lonely wizard with knowledge my friends have no dream of comprehending, and pulling black magic tricks that awes people. That's not a complain though — such knowledge has made me successful.

Perhaps if you had the time and the inclination you could set up a dead tree collection of the Passages with Lulu as you did with MOPI. I would sign for one autographed copy and three or four to give as gifts. I was too shy to give a copy of MOPI as gift.

Thank you for sharing your great, thought provoking, emotionally charged pieces of fiction. I'll be looking forward to TOPI.

ESC[78;89;13p ESC[110;121;13p
[ Parent ]

Thanks (none / 0) (#70)
by localroger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 11:08:51 PM EST

I had been planning to do a Lulu anthology of my shorter stuff after RP. Maybe just RP, maybe some of my other stuff tossed in to get it to length. In a way the trolls did me a favor because they rolled up my schedule; that's four stories I don't have to post and monitor for comments now.

What does not kill you makes you strong LOL.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]

that's the sin talking (none / 1) (#71)
by coronado sets out to the north on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 07:16:38 AM EST

the sin of pride.

[ Parent ]
Passages (none / 0) (#62)
by Chewbacca Uncircumsized on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 08:41:49 PM EST

That's that how to deal with mid-life crises and such book, right? It really helped me deal my gradual passage into decrepitude.

I think so (none / 0) (#63)
by localroger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:01:47 PM EST

I think you left a word out, but the basic idea gets across. Much of what I've written here, almost all the fiction and much of the nonfiction, has been about godlike beings, their problems and their relationships with mortals. Obviously it's a topic people like.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
503: service temporarily unavailable (none / 0) (#64)
by localroger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:17:30 PM EST

You need to fix your cool page widening link so that it actually links to something.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
What I don't understand (SPOILER) (none / 0) (#72)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 08:23:32 AM EST


how did the über-bringer in the Borden home system travel back in time?


Check the timeline. $ (none / 0) (#73)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 09:30:41 AM EST

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
Also, (none / 0) (#74)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 10:28:03 AM EST

you don't write women very well.

[ Parent ]

I think that depends (none / 1) (#75)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 10:56:31 AM EST

...on the women you have known.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
So you know mainly masculine women? % (none / 0) (#76)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 01:11:53 PM EST

[ Parent ]

So you think strong women == masculine? $ (none / 0) (#77)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 01:53:46 PM EST

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
No, (none / 0) (#78)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 02:41:53 PM EST

I think women that talk & act like men are masculine.

[ Parent ]

where 'like men' == (none / 0) (#79)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 04:51:33 PM EST

expressing strength and confidence I suppose. None of my female characters talks like a girl in high school or college because they are very, very old, and they are not silly. Even the consort in part 1 of this story is over 40 years old. And I think you are confusing "masculinity" with what others might call "grace."

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
I don't think so, (none / 0) (#80)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 05:09:15 PM EST

I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something unnatural about the way your women act/talk - maybe not "manly" but your male characters don't seem unnatural so I do think this has something to do with gender.

Women and men do think and act differently. It reminds me of the male protagonist in Sue Miller's Lost in the Forest - same thing from the other direction. Men typically just don't act that way, and it has nothing to do with strength, confidence or any other stereotype you want to through at it.

[ Parent ]

And I forgot to add (none / 0) (#81)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 05:13:20 PM EST

that this actually isn't 100% consistent with all your stories - I've found what's-her-name from MoPI quite convincing.

[ Parent ]

That makes it pretty obvious, then (none / 1) (#83)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 06:11:09 PM EST

Caroline seems feminine despite her other extremes because she's entirely driven by emotion. That's what we generally expect of women, and it's true that in our society many if not most women are driven by emotion over logic.

In RL I've known several women who are more like what I wrote here, though. In the public sphere think of Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton. You often find them as university professors, which is why I find it a natural type (my father was a prof, and I pretty much grew up at a university even though I never graduated from one).

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]

s/through/throw % (none / 0) (#82)
by Joe Sixpack on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 05:16:14 PM EST

[ Parent ]

Maybe you're being a bit too defensive? (none / 1) (#90)
by boxed on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 05:37:08 AM EST

Did you run the female dialogue past your wife? How about in MOPI?

I find a difference between men and women especially in poetry, where female poetry often feels alien somehow although I can never put my finger on it. This can also be said of japanese poetry in some cases though :P

Fundamentally though I think that you can easily explain this thing away, if needed at all, as all of human society in Passages are fundamentally based on Tom, making the male kind of thinking much more fundamental.

If there is a problem it is that the Borden feel human.

[ Parent ]

Suggestion - (none / 0) (#84)
by xC0000005 on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 08:24:35 PM EST

If you can get an admin to assist, have them convert the story titles at the top to links to your page versions. Or re-submit once the trolls have been sprayed.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
Already emailed them about it. $ (none / 0) (#85)
by localroger on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 09:11:45 PM EST

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
Not as good as the previous ones. (none / 0) (#86)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Fri Jun 29, 2007 at 04:40:29 PM EST

Still readable though.

From the timeline.

      FTL transportation of matter
      intergalactic FTL communication
      interstellar FTL communication at more than ~ 100 bits per second
      intergalactic communication at more than ~ 1 bit per Terran day

I'm pretty sure that FTL communication at least implies FTL matter transport. Even if the physics doesn't allow it somehow, that plus nanoscale assembly allows you to send stuff as long as a receiver is set up on the other end. Is bandwidth then the limitation here?

And why not intergalactic FTL I find it difficult to believe that with instantaneous information, that distance is a limitation. Fuck, why not set up some relays in intergalactic space? A few million years later, the universe is more cozy.

And even if it's only 100 real bits per second, it seems like in a few billion years, we'd have some better compression than LZW. What gives? The bigger limit than bandwidth, must be the shared medium. A few million worlds sharing  a 0.1 kilobit pipe, that's gotta hurt (and if it's not shared, but point to point, you can just gang up several transceivers to increase bandwidth).

Also, how many galaxies are we talking? 3, right? Milky Way, Andromeda, and the Borden home galaxy. Or did I miss something? (years since I read the previous stories.)

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

Answers (none / 0) (#88)
by localroger on Sat Jun 30, 2007 at 07:52:26 AM EST

I was being extremely generous to allow FTL comms at all, and from the beginning I assumed that this would be very hard. I am assuming that this requires actual physical transport of paired particles in order to create and maintain the link. It may require relay stations at intervals significantly shorter than one light-year. It's difficult and finicky and it's easy to lose coherence and have to start over from scratch.

As for compression, depending on the type of data you're exchanging there are absolute limits to what compression can do even if you're God.

At the end of the story I assume most of the Local Group are colonized, and a few galaxies (like the Borden galaxy) beyond. The Galaxy Ships make it possible to do this deliberately instead of as a heroic afterthought. Thus, we can safely assume at this poitn that the entire Universe will eventually be colonized.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]

confusion (none / 0) (#89)
by tolomea on Sun Jul 01, 2007 at 07:25:24 AM EST

some how along the way I never made the connection that the borden galaxy is not andromeda, that clears a few things up

[ Parent ]
I was also confused about andromeda (none / 0) (#91)
by boxed on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 05:43:33 AM EST

...in the same way. Maybe that could be made clearer somehow?

I was quite surprised at the origin of the Borden. I thought they were created in another galaxy because the Minervans would not risk creating a from-scratch AI in the Milky Way but that they felt it needed to be attempted.

[ Parent ]

I made the same Andromeda mistake too. (none / 1) (#92)
by Masque on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 09:28:44 AM EST

Also, I was a bit confused how the Bringers and Borden managed to discuss a matter of religious importance (i.e. a long conversation between many parties) in half and hour using their FTL communications device which takes six months to send a video.

Maybe they just sent out a "WE'RE GOING TO YOUR HOMEWORLD STOP LATER SUCKERS STOP" in all FTL frequencies, and sped off...
TAKE A HIKE$ - GrubbyBeardedHermit
[ Parent ]

I might buy difficulty for FTL comm... (none / 1) (#93)
by NoMoreNicksLeft on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 01:17:10 PM EST

But even then, eventually there will be intergalactic comm.

As for compression, it's merely a matter of cpu power, isn't it? I mean, damn... if you are god, you tell someone "this file is 14.04 megs in size, and starts at Pi offset 6.345 x 10^1672381267836128". Granted, it's tough as hell, and almost certainly impractical on many points (let alone for real-time comms), but still.

Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]

Compression (none / 1) (#95)
by localroger on Mon Jul 02, 2007 at 06:09:51 PM EST

No, it's not CPU power; it's fundamental. Information theory says what you can do, and no amount of computing power can improve on it.

And if FTL comms require a relay station every 0.5 light-year which has to be periodically fuelled and serviced, then I don't believe these guys will be bothering. What they are doing is building shade rings around stars and synchronously rotating the shadebots to alternately shade and pass the starlight.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]

the number of the offset is big... (none / 1) (#97)
by boxed on Tue Jul 03, 2007 at 03:42:35 AM EST

...for some files it will be bigger than the file itself. I'm not a matematician, but I bet you can prove that over time that kind of thing evens out.

The only thing that will make low bandwidth comms meaningful and usuable is a more refined language imho.

[ Parent ]

Shannon's source coding theorem (none / 0) (#108)
by vectro on Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 03:19:10 PM EST

Says, basically, that on average no compression scheme can do any better than direct data transmission without compression, without making assumptions about the input data.

The proof is pretty straightforward: Consider an input bit string of length n. Then suppose that there is a lossless compression scheme that can map it to a compressed bit string of average length m, with m < n. There are 2n possible such input strings, but only 2m such possible output strings, so at least some different input strings would map to the same output string. Since there is no way to determine from the output string which original input string was intended, our earlier assumption that such a compression algorithm could exist is contradicted.

There are a few ways to dodge Shannon's theorem to a certain degree:

  1. If you make assumptions about the input data (e.g., that it contains patterns and is therefore not truly random), then you can do better on average. This is the technique used by nearly every lossless compression algorithm in use today.
  2. If you determine that some part of the input data is not of consequence, you can discard that part and keep the rest. This does not violate Shannon's theorem because it is technically a loss of data. This is the technique used by lossy compression algorithms like MP3 or JPEG.
  3. If you determine that the receiving party already has some portion of the data you want to transmit, you can leverage that existing data to do better on average. This is the technique used by rsync, and most other compression algorithms include at least some kind of predetermined lookup table.
  4. You can have an algorithm that does better than direct transmission on average, but only probabilistically guarantees the integrity of the data in question. Rsync also uses this technique.

Pi is not known to be normal, but even if you use Champernowne's number or the Copeland-Erdős constant (both known to be normal in base 10), you will find that on average the offset and length specifiers take up more space than the data you want to represent. No free lunch there.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Jackass Nerds defeat Day After Saints (none / 0) (#100)
by alba on Sat Jul 07, 2007 at 06:31:25 AM EST

And Noah's Arch is really Stephen King's
Christine floating through outer space.

Thank for ruining... (none / 0) (#101)
by aldjiblah on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 02:36:56 AM EST

... my perception of distance. Reading this: Scientists find water on extra-solar planet I can't help thinking "It's just a measly 63 light-years away!".

Excellent stuff anyway, thanks for the effort.

localroger (none / 0) (#102)
by debacle on Thu Jul 12, 2007 at 02:09:17 PM EST


It tastes sweet.
I liked yr podcast interview! (none / 0) (#103)
by Wen Jian on Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 12:00:21 PM EST

Came across well.
It was an experiment in lulz. - Rusty
Thanks (none / 0) (#104)
by localroger on Sat Jul 14, 2007 at 08:05:35 PM EST

If I ever do it again I'll probably go "um" a lot less, it was an interesting first experience.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
What of the cylinders of Beta?? (none / 1) (#105)
by ereiamjh on Mon Jul 23, 2007 at 07:59:30 PM EST

"Beta also held a few surprising and impressive artifacts. At the poles and at four equidistant points on the equator were enormous horizontal cylindrical structures each surrounded by thousands of square kilometers of perfectly flat level ground..."

I may have turned over two pages at once and missed it, but it seems that the cylinders didn't play any further part in the story?  Were they cut from the story line?

I've enjoyed the series (and looked forward to each addition), but I felt that Revelation Passage was too hurried - almost like you were bored with the series.

That said, thanks for the hours of enjoyment the series has provided.

Sorry, it's a bit subtle (none / 0) (#107)
by localroger on Thu Jul 26, 2007 at 08:47:00 PM EST

They were the rocket engines used to maneuver Beta into orbit around Alpha.

If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
[ Parent ]
Revelation Passage Part 1 | 111 comments (95 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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