Friday, October 23, 2015

Conjunction : Hettington - Episode 6

Life for Liam had become a rollercoaster. From the time he had the long conversation with Tessa, to the time he was moving to the Norwood University, it had been a whirlwind of activity. Tessa was untiring and unstoppable. Once she had something in her mind, she was like a force of nature; pushing for deadlines, asking for inputs, providing any amount of inputs, and generally hovering around to make sure everyone was doing what she had outlined. Liam realized that at some point, he would have to ask her to make an overall design, or he would never really have a clear picture.
Tessa left the lab and flopped down on her bed, she was exhausted. Jane was lolling in her chair "Hey supergirl, you seem to be going all guns blazing. Make sure you don't burn out. I'm serious!" Tessa grunted grumpily in reply, her mind still on a design problem which she had outlined just today. After a month or so of the modeling, she had hoped to get moving, but data visualization was as much an art as a science. She grumbled to herself in her head. She hadn't spoken so much since she had been a toddler, and it annoyed her. The sheer waste of time!

Liam was still at it when Professor Hector walked into his lab. Liam started "I'm almost done with the outline!" The Professor grinned "Your tormentor has retired. I've just come here to get my laptop." He pitied the way Liam was thrust into working on the simulation. He had started the first day he landed at Norwood, and the Professor did not know when and if he ever got to sleep. Tessa was a real taskmaster, but he understood that it stemmed from her not understanding people at all.

The next day, Jane woke up and made some coffee. Tessa was already awake and getting ready to work. She still had to attend classes, but Jane suspected that she already knew a lot of what they were covering, and Tessa was working on her own problem in class.

Hettington was a big city, unlike Norwood. It's University was a sprawling campus, unlike Norwood, and their physics department had some heavy hitters, including some Nobel Prize winners. They had heard of this child prodigy who was hell-bent on a simulation of a multiverse, and they were intrigued. Ben and Chris were working on a hypothesis which they knew was incorrect. But since no one had been able to prove it wrong, they wrote a paper to challenge the way spacetime curvature could be looked at if gravitons were part of the story. It was an open challenge, and they started the paper saying they were probably wrong. These were the mind games played by scientists to test their mettle. Their Residential Assistant had given up on them, but many serious Physicists took up the challenge. Chris walked over to where Ben was and grinned "We need to look at this Norwood work. We just have to see if we can get what exactly they are working on." Ben nodded "It sounds like the basis has some merit, one has to see where they are going with the whole simulation thing. Maybe try and poach their visualization expert?" Chris grinned back "Let me see if I can figure it out."

Tessa marched into the lab and found Liam working, which made her smile. He was an excellent resource. Now to find if there was some way to get some funding to get someone who could work on one more part of her problem. She headed towards Professor Hector's lab, with a silly grin still on her face. The Professor was also looking for her, before she could say anything, he said "I got a call from the Hettington University researchers, they have a problem which they could use a computer visualization expert for. They have asked for Liam, and I don't think I'm currently in a position to refuse them." Tessa stood stock still for a few moments and then she said "No. We are close to getting this work done. They can find someone else. I'm sure there are other experts." The Professor shook his head "We do have to manage politics Tessa. They often help us with our funding." Tessa heard that and had an evil gleam in her eye "Okay, let me speak to them."

Picture courtesy: Wikimedia commons, Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Conjunction: Multiversal objects - Episode 5

Mary was worried about Tessa and called the University. Karl told her that Tessa had been doing well, though he wasn't sure what she was working on. Mary decided to visit the University and called a cab. She hoped that Tessa was fine.

Tessa had worked with Jane for the past week and a half. She wanted to know what exactly she had done wrong. Jane explained patiently "You need to walk before you run Tess, the old establishment will not take to a undergrad challenging their dearly held theories. And you need to have some more evidence, if not support." She looked distressed. Tessa nodded "They don't even want to listen. This time I will come back with the math ." She had a set to her jaw, an obstinate and unmoving streak that Jane was secretly quite envious of. Jane set down the equation she was working on "You need to make it compact. We are working on esoteric math, but all the great theories have been described in some of the simplest equations." Tessa stared at her, her brain working "By its very nature, if we assume fundamental particle are multi-universal objects, we will have to perforce use polymorphic structures to describe the multi-versal phenomena.  But I have a better idea." She began to draw a triangle and then projected it along various axes. Some which were not even in the original frame of reference. "What if a Universe is actually a frame of reference? That would make for an interesting analogy." Jane stared, fascinated as this slip of a girl just kept pushing the boundaries.

Jane met with Professor Hector, around the same time that Mary disembarked from her cab and strode along the cobbled pathway to the University dormitories. Jane had been working with Tessa for some time now, but Tessa left her far behind. At some stage, Jane wasn't able to keep up. She told Professor Hector that he needed to step in. Professor Hector looked troubled "Yes, I assumed as much. That young kid needs to take it slower, or she will burn herself out." He strode out of his lab, and nearly banged into Mary who had Tessa in tow. Mary apologized and launched into her request that Tessa be better taken care of. Professor Hector smiled "We have been telling her to go slow as well Mary, she is driven, like a lot of us are. I will speak to the young prodigy." Tessa smiled. She was going to work with Professor Hector. She was already getting the feeling that Jane's enthusiasm was flagging and she did not want to get into an argument with her roomie.

When Mary left, it was just the Professor and Tessa in his lab, and she feverishly sifted papers as she showed him her math and what she had been working on. Professor Hector was impressed. She seemed to have a real grip on her theory. But what if the math was incorrect? What if he was also getting carried away by Tessa's enthusiasm? He asked her to look for evidence. For support. Tessa grinned "I have just the plan to give you what you want." He looked nonplussed. Tessa elucidated "If what I am saying is true, then each fundamental particle will exist in many Universes at the same time. That will explain why gravity is weak in our universe. Why particles get quantum entangled. Why some particles have mass, and others do not. When I say parallel Universes, they are not the popular version of alternate reality. They are actually Universes in which gravity is a strong force, one in which electromagnetism is a weak force, another in which electrons are massless. A lot of these Universes cannot exist, but some can, and the only way to 'prove' it does is create a computer program. Feed in all the data, and look at how Universes will look. Then we can postulate these Universes." She looked pleased. Professor Hector realized that he needed help to manage this. He told Tessa that he would call Dr.Green again. She shook her head "I want to publish this. Help me, and we can publish it together." The Professor realized that there was no going back with his prodigy. He looked resigned "Okay let's work on the computer program to test your hypothesis." They got to work.

In another part of the world, Liam was a computer visualization expert who was reading Professor Hector's requirement for a data visualization and multiversal object programming researcher. He submitted his resume. This was exactly the kind of cutting-edge stuff he had wanted to work on all his life. He got a response in minutes. There was this researcher called Tessa who would interview him in a few hours. He got to preparing for the interview.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Conjunction: Dr. Green - Episode 4

Tessa was really excited, they were going to have the great Physicist Dr.Green come over and talk to them. She could barely contain her excitement at the thought! Jane on the other hand had been quite subdued. Tessa had been unable to understand why, but her natural shyness and lack of social skills led her to retreat to the quietness which she displayed most of her growing years. Her first opportunity came when Professor Hector was discussing the topic of Dr.Green’s talk. The students were keen to talk about string theory, but Tessa jumped into the discussion without any caution “We should ask Dr.Green to talk about his understanding of the multiverse theory and the ramifications.” Professor Hector looked at her contemplatively “So what about it? We need to have something which is debatable, or something which talks about his area of work. You do know he has been studying the math related to black holes?” Tessa nodded eagerly “I am working on my own hypothesis and want to quiz him on certain aspects of it.” There was silence in the room. It was unheard of an undergraduate shooting off a hypothesis without even having done all the grunt work related to years of study. Professor Hector nodded “Tessa you will see me in my lab after class.” She did not bother to listen to the rest of the lecture. The Professor obviously thought her hypothesis was something worth talking about. She felt triumphant.

The day wore on after that; Jane was stressing about some boy she liked, and Tessa only listened enough to know when to nod, but she was already thinking about her future conversation with Professor Hector. When the lab work of the day was about to begin, she decided to miss it and go meet the Professor.

Professor Hector was in his lab, looking at some reading on a mass spectrometer and nodding to a lab assistant, who was earnestly taking notes. She interrupted the Professor without a thought “You want to see me Professor Hector? My hypothesis is about time travel.” The Professor looked at her, frowned and said “Let’s go to my office.” Once there he motioned her to go on. She opened with “I’ve been thinking about the measurement problem.” The Professor looked surprised, but nodded. “We have been looking at vacuum fluctuations – what we assume is ‘empty space’ but where particles appear and disappear continuously. But there is more to this, obviously. What if these particles are going into another dimension? Then the laws of conservation of energy would work, and then we could postulate a number Universes, which together meet with the law of conservation of energy?” Professor Hector said “And? This could well be a corollary of the string theory.” Tessa nodded “Of course, but the dimensions in the string theory have completely different outcomes. Dimensions smaller than the Planck Length is easy to explain, but what if the dimensions can be modeled to show that all the parallel Universes exist on one plane? And there is some connection here – which could explain quantum entanglement and other strange phenomena.” The Professor told her “You need to do the math. And even then, we need more than speculation. It has to have some evidence.” Tessa realized he was letting her down. She was furious.

When Dr.Green came to the campus, he talked about black holes. Spacetime dragging was his area of interest, and he expounded on the mysterious event horizon and leakage of entropy as expected. Tessa listened and held herself back from yelling at him. She was still seething when he started to wind down his lecture. Finally, she could not hold herself back and she shot out of her chair and talking about how every smaller particle seemed to have a smaller one. But what if that was just a manifestation of energy in another Universe? Dr.Green smiled genially and tried to wave her away. But she would not be denied. Ultimately the doctor said he was not sure she should study physics.
It had been a disaster. She felt broken. She was so sure she was onto something, but the experts themselves were not willing to even listen to her. She had done the math! They should listen to her. She was right. She knew it in her bones. But she had had enough for the day. She sulked all of the next week. It was all of unfair. It only spurred her on to work even harder at it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Conjunction : The University - Episode 3

It was decided that Mary would go to the University. Ted was not happy at all, but even he realized that being with people who 'spoke Physics' would be best for Tessa. He hated having to give way to Mary, but she was an unstoppable force. Once she had decided what to do, she would not be deterred. Ted grumbled all the time while Mary made plans and packed bags, made food, cleaned house and arranged for Tessa to stay at the University. She would go and meet Professor Hector and make sure that Tessa's room was nice and neat and clean and that she would be close to other girls and her mentors.

Tessa was not so smart in understanding day-to-day things. He strength and logic failed her most of the time when it came to everyday applications involving interactions with people. But even she knew the decision had been made. Mary was rewarded at breakfast with a smile as she served up eggs and toast and cereal. Tessa ate slowly, her mind a million miles away.

Karl was speaking to Dr. Hector "We don't have too many women in the Physics department. There is only one from what I know. Tessa will need to share with her, I guess." Dr. Hector nodded absent-mindedly "Yes, of course." As far as the Professor was concerned, the daily living and boarding was something which never really entered his consciousness. Unless it concerned his own living quarters, and that too not very often. He continued to see some graphs showing particle energies which had been observed in a minor experiment. Something. He was missing something in this. Whatever it was, eluded him and he brought himself back to reality with some effort "So when is she coming in?" Karl was ticking off a checklist on his notepad "Today. Her mother will come in to ensure that everything is satisfactory for Tessa." The Professor turned back to his graphs, this conversation was over as far as he was concerned.

Tessa and Mary drove up in a grey SUV which had been booked through her Uber app. Her mother tipped the cab driver and they stepped out into the bright afternoon Sun. The steps which led to the hostel were stone. It gave the feeling of being another time and place. Tessa had a small smile. Karl greeted them and took them to the shared quarters where Jane Elgin was staying alone. Jane was a young woman with a cheery smile; she opened the door and welcomed them in. "Good to see you Tessa, Karl has briefed me about you." Tessa nodded, but it was politeness, not a response.  Mary looked around, the room was neat and tidy; there was a study desk, but it was long enough for two people, there were two beds and a wide window which was fringed by bright curtains in checks. Mary nodded approvingly "These are good quarters." She surveyed the long line of books of the bookshelf mounted on the wall and the computers - there were three! Tessa had only eyes for the books, and she went up to them looking at the titles and the authors. This would take a fair amount of time to go through. She smiled some more.

Karl left with some lame excuse and Tessa was escorted by Jane to Dr.Hector's office. Mary tagged along. The Professor looked up from some papers "Good to see you here. Trust it's all to your liking?" Mary grinned "It's perfect Professor." She looked at Jane uncertainly. Jane grinned at her "Don't worry Mrs. Smith, I'll take care of her. And it will be a nice change having another girl on campus." Somehow that smile did not reassure Mary, but she decided to let it go.

When Mary left, Tessa sat and started reading. She almost missed dinner, and if not for Jane bugging her continuously, she well may have. The next day was much of the same, but she had to attend classes, and Jane dragged her along from particle physics to Schrödinger's cat to Nanotechnology to Light. At the end of it, Tessa was worn out. As evening approached, they had to visit the lab. Jane grinned "You're in for a surprise." Tessa walked into the lab- which was a very large building for a Physics lab. Part of it was underground. Jane looked at her "Are you ready?" Tessa just nodded and walked on. The door opened and she was in the lab with a particle accelerator. It was a small one, just a little bigger than a football field. But it was a particle accelerator! Tessa just said "Wow!" She had read theory for so long, it was fascinating to see the tools of the trade face to face. She just stared.

Jane was laughing at the look on Tessa's face, she was enamored with the machine. Jane took her hand and took her away "Hey roomie, we have an experiment to do with a tuning fork, remember?" Tessa looked abashed and they walked into a smaller room. This was going to be an adventure!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Conjunction : The Professor - Episode 2

Mary was quietly triumphant.... and she waited for Ted to come home to break the news to him. He was late, his meetings at work had gone on interminably, and he was glad to finally pull out his keys and open the front door. "Honey!! I have incredible news! It worked!" He was taken aback, but he set down his briefcase and listened patiently. Even the normal unflappable Ted was amazed at the progress and he hugged Mary "Maybe we can get our little baby girl some real help now?" Mary said softly "She's chosen her own form of help dear. All we can do is support her." Ted frowned, but he nodded "I guess so."
Dinner was a quiet affair, but Mary couldn't help kissing Tessa every now and then. She was beside herself with the successful meeting with Karl, and had trouble suppressing it. Later that night when Tessa was asleep, she spoke to Ted about the University and what she had planned as the next step. Ted was still not convinced, but he had no better plan, so he went with hers.

Two days later, Tessa and her mother were at the University. Karl greeted them and took them to meet with Dr. Hector, who was the head of the Physics department. Dr. Hector was a balding professor, who defined the cliché; he was avuncular and absent-minded. But when it came to matters pertaining to physics, he was sharp as a tack. He stood up with the small retinue entered his office.  "Hello there Tessa, Karl has told me about you." Mary wrung her hands awkwardly as Tessa ignored him completely. Karl nodded and began speaking about the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics. Tessa interrupted him shortly "The description of reality was sufficient for its time, but fell short of explaining the measurement problem. Wave function collapses only set off an additional domino effect as far as a nth-dimensional object is concerned." She stopped and looked at Dr.Hector. He took her in the corner and spoke to her. The conversation seemed to go on forever.

Dr. Hector left Tessa at his desk and came to where Mary and Karl were waiting "How old is Tessa?" Mary smiled knowingly "She's eleven." The professor looked shocked for a moment and looked as if he was lost somewhere, a look which was very familiar to Mary. Shortly he nodded, "We can give her free food, lodging, a place to stay and put her through our graduate level physics examination." Mary said "Oh, but that won't be necessary, she stays with me and my husband. I just got her here since she doesn't speak anything which is not physics. At the most I get a nod from her." She looked at the professor hopefully. Dr. Hector looked at her as if seeing her for the first time "She needs to join our University. She speaks at a level far above most researchers here; and while we are not a renowned University, we do think that we should be able to provide her some tutelage, at least for the next few years." He adjusted his spectacles as if to expound on the physics department..... Mary held his hands "Professor, you don't know how happy that makes me, but I need to consult with my husband. And despite her brain, Tessa is just a slip of a girl. She needs her mother." The professor nodded "Do come back with an answer, we need people like her."

When Mary and Tessa had left, the professor turned to Karl "There is no 'just' about that girl. She is a prodigy, mark my words. As of now, she's just testing her boundaries of knowledge, but there's no limit to where she will go." He turned and tried to get back to his memoirs, but he had trouble concentrating. This was a once-in-a-generation chance, and he didn't want to blow it.

At home, Ted and Mary had long and heated conversations. They took care to make sure Tessa did not hear them arguing. In the meantime, Tessa was reading a book titled " Quantum physics & observed reality: a critical interpretation of quantum mechanics" She was doing her own homework, and it seemed to be at a tangent to what had been discussed.

The next morning when Ted and Mary were talking again. albeit quietly, so as not to scare Tessa, she mumbled to herself as she was getting her school bag ready "The probabilistic nature of any measurement makes unique ones irrelevant." She hoped she would be taken into the University.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Conjunction : The Quiet Girl - Episode 1

She was a quiet little girl and her mother did not understand what was wrong or what to do with her. Though Mary tried very hard to get her to play, Tessa did not play with other little girls or share their interests. Mary had tried everything. She even ended up bribing the neighborhood kids with presents and food. But this was just the beginning. When Tessa turned sixteen, she shut down completely. Ted and Mary were at complete odds to understand how to get through to her. That was when they took her to the psychiatrist. Dr.Susan Goodwin was quite a local celebrity in the town of Norwood. She was happy to give them an appointment, and Mary jumped at the chance.

The following day, she tried to talk to Tessa, to explain where they were going. She knew Tessa was a very bright girl, but her eyes did not respond to the cajoling. In fact, she seemed as distracted as ever. On prodding, she nodded listlessly. The signs were not good, and Mary was not sanguine.
The visit to the psychiatrist's office was short-lived. After all the attempts made by the doctor, Tessa had been prescribed some meds. They were at a loss to understand why even the doctor was unable to get Tessa to talk. Ted suggested that maybe they should introduce her to someone with shared interests. But what? All she was interested was physics. 

Since Tessa had learned to read, she had read voraciously. The house was full of rows and rows of books which she had begged her parents to buy for her. When she was not reading, Tessa would be logged into her computer for days on end. School was merely a distraction. Tessa has breezed through most of her subjects, but she did miserably at language and geography. The psychiatrist said she had been through some trauma. Dr.Susan Goodwin and written down a prescription and looked sympathetic, but there was little else she could help with she said.

Ted had been crestfallen. In his mind, they had taken a huge step in going to the brain doctor. He had expected something better. Mary on the other hand had secretly always known that Tessa would not respond to the doctor. She knew she had to get a physicist to talk to Tessa.Ted had inadvertently given her a clue, which she was determined to pursue.

Contrary to what one might assume, it's not as easy to contact physicists and get them over. But Mary persevered. She spoke to one person after another. Finally, an undergraduate student named Karl from the University nearby offered to come over and speak to Tessa. She told Ted about her plan, and he looked unbelievingly at her. "I'm not sure this is something that will work, and it may just drive her deeper in her shell." Mary ignored his counsel.
On the day Karl Sodenheim was to come over, Mary cleaned the house just a little bit better. She made tea and cookies and hoped that her gut instinct had not failed her. In a few hours, she would know for sure. Tessa ignored her completely, lost in her own thoughts. Or so she imagined. Ted had not supported her decision and was away on work. But Mary was sure that she had made the right decision.

Finally it was time. Tessa's eyes were dead when Mary told her that Karl was coming over. She decided not to push it. The bell rang. It was the physicist "Good morning, my name is Karl Sodenheim, I would like to speak to Mary Smith. Mary smiled "That's me. I was the one that spoke to you. Do come in and take a seat. There are tea and cookies on the table, help yourself. Let me go fetch Tessa." Karl nodded, absently and poured himself a cup.

Tessa sat on the sofa opposite Karl. Her eyes were glazed over when her mother introduced her to the young man. Karl looked uncomfortable "She doesn't speak at all? This is not something I can help in Mrs.Smith" he folded his hands in his lap and stared. Mary bashed on "Speak about the atom. Tell me - or Tessa all about it." She waited. Karl began to speak hesitantly..."The atom is mostly nothingness. It is formed of elementary particles called quarks. These and electrons make up the structure of the nucleus and the electron cloud." He waited. Nothing. Mary looked at him to continue. He sighed "Electrons are governed by the quantum rules of stable states for every atom. They can only exist in predetermined states. And can jump to the next higher state.... Tessa interrupted "The states are predetermined only in this Universe. In the multiverse theory, one would assume there would be intermediate states. Or something completely different. Nothing is as it should be." Karl almost fell off the sofa. He stared "So we are talking about Quantum Electrodynamics?" Tessa nodded animatedly "In the rush to describe non-singularity based solutions, partial differential equations are used, but the spherical standing wave of matter leads to obvious conclusions." Karl's eyes widened "And what would your conclusion be?" Tessa looked at him earnestly "There is no reality. Or rather there is no single reality." Karl had an incredulous look. "Mrs. Smith, I must ask for Tessa to come to our University. There are people more qualified than me who can speak to her. Please, you must do this." He looked like a man with a mission as he left, he kept repeating that Tessa should come to the University. As soon as possible. Mary had to literally push the young man away with promises of getting Tessa to the University.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

No Return - Mission Impossible 39

Captain Dranke stared at the spacecommand extension center which had changed substantially from the last time he was here. Ed was by his side. He had been a revelation. Galactic politics was not really about right and wrong. It was about what worked. And what did not. It was a sobering thought.

Ed had been very talkative on the way back to Earth. He pattered on about the Hnnesset and its role and the individuals running it. It was extremely ad hoc, and that troubled them both. Sette and Kell just listened as Ed revealed all he knew about its workings. The stories were fascinating. There were so many different types of aliens! Just to accommodate them all, the Hnnesset had changed over time. And now the original intention of the founders was lost to them. It had become a political animal. Whoever had the winning vote could make decisions which impacted all beings who were linked to the Hnnesset. The Jexx were an outlier. They wanted to have autonomy, and their paranoia helped in driving them to extremes.

Other living beings stayed away from the Hnnesset. They had self-determination. But they did not have the technology or the power to make a difference to the overall setup. It was depressing in a way. Ed felt that the system was democratic, but unfair. There had to be a better way.

As Dranke was ruminating on their discussions, the Raven was preparing for docking. The spacecommand module rotated slowly to maintain the artificial gravity inside. The darkmatter starcraft matched the spin and slowly it seemed to be stationary as its relative velocity reduced to almost zero. The extruded docking tube locked on and Dranke and his crew strode into the passenger area of spacecommand. Since they were not military anymore, they were ushered into the a waiting area. It looked very plush and comfortable. Not at all like the cramped military quarters and meeting rooms which Dranke remembered.

Settle and Kell were taking in the sights. It was a different world as a non-military person. The lounge was bedecked with "Support our military" messages and posters. Advertising. Sette snorted with derision.

The General walked into the lounge, looking very refreshed. He grinned at Dranke and the others. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed Ed. They followed him to a private conference room, where he hugged them all "Great to see you folk, you are a sight for sore eyes". Dranke nodded to them all as they fell to ease and relaxed as the General continued " We have been following you and getting your updates". His eyes twinkled. You had a lot to report, and we had a lot to disseminate. Some of the information on the Jexx and Hnnet is invaluable". Ed smiled, looking much more natural than what Dranke remembered.

Dranke told the General of his impressions of the Jexx and how they felt excluded from the Hnnesset and galactic matters. The General soaked it all in. He was filing it all away. The General also had news for them "The Leader has been appointed head of the Hnnesset. I believe he wishes to do away with it and create it as a one person system, with the rest of the Hnnesset as advisors and ministers." Ed was staring away, but Dranke nodded. The politics of the system did not interest him, but the impact could be immense. The General understood "It will make little difference to you as a trader Dranke, but it is likely to streamline decision making. Or make it less democratic, depending on your point of view". Dranke understood. He was suddenly very glad that he was no longer in the military. He was a trader and a spy. And as such he was his own boss. His team looked at him. He felt a kinship. They had all made their choice, and from the way things were panning out, it was the right choice.

Without giving anything away, Dranke and the General went into a private office for a secretive debrief, while the others were left waiting in the conference room. In a few hours, they were back in their ship and preparing for departure.

Sette went upto Dranke and asked if there was something she needed to know. He smiled sadly "Not really. From now on, we will go dark. No coming back to spacecommand anymore. We are on our own".

The Raven slid into the inky darkness of space as the cycle of shiptime started to accomodate her crew. It seemed to be the end of an era. Hopefully, it was the beginning of a new one.

----- The End -----

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ed - Mission Impossible 38

The Raven ate up the light years in a rush as the darkmatter starcraft jumped all the way to the Hnnet homeworld. Dranke looked at the Hexe spaceport swim into focus in the hologram in the center of the bridge as it rotated slowly. Giant booms extended way into space like fingers clutching at passing spaceships - it was a familiar sight now, but the alien look of the spaceport shocked him every time.

He was greeted by the boom operator, who quickly took control of the darkmatter starcraft. In a few seconds,  tractor beams took over the docking and landing ops. The operator was brusque and all business, which already told him the difference from earlier times they had visited Hexe. They waited as the extruding passage opened up, expecting to see Vaxe. Instead Ed walked into the ship and smiled at them all. Good to see you again my friends!

Sette and Kell watched in amazement as Ed proceeded to seal the entry point casually. He sat down with them on the bridge and looked at all of them directly "You are right to have visited Jexx before coming here. The Hnnesset is not a democratic grouping, and a lot of us felt that they were hasty in vilifying the Jexx. I am here as a private entity, not as part of the Hnnesset." He stopped, waiting for a response.

Kell looked at him, a tad suspiciously "How do we know you are the Hnnet called Ed?" He shrugged in response "Your subroutine will verify my identity. In any case it does not matter, we do not understand loyalty the way you humans do." Kell nodded slowly "So how come Vaxe did not come with you?" Ed smiled "She is actually here with the subroutine. And she can answer you through me if required." Dranke hastily cut in "We are here just as traders. It is not in our power or ambit to take sides." Ed grinned "I figured you would say that. I wanted to defect as you humans call it. Join your team. But more importantly, I want to make my own way in this Universe" Dranke was taken aback. This was the last thing he had expected. And he did not know what to say. Luckily, Kell cut in "We have tried in the past to take aliens on, it has never quite worked." Ed smiled sadly "Yes, I know of the Jexx commander and his retinue. I will make sure not to kill myself in your presence." It seemed he was mocking them. He stood up abruptly "To make sure this seems like a normal visit, I will take you to the Hnnesset. You have some time to decide before we come back to your ship. I hope you will consider my request seriously." He stepped aside and the mouth of the extruded passage opened up again. He led them out to the spaceport.

Vaxe was seated with the Hnnesset in full attendance. It struck Dranke again how diverse this group was. Aliens of all sizes and shapes mulled about. The usual pleasantries were exchanged. As the proceedings took on more of a ceremonial tone, Dranke switched on his Jen subroutine. Vaxe was waiting for him - Tread carefully captain, Ed is one of the good ones. But you should be aware that he has not taken permission join you. Does he require permission? Not actually, but it would be good protocol. The Hnnesset is not a homogeneous group. They could well take a contrarian view. What is your advice? Hard to say captain. It's your call.

After the meeting at the Hnnesset, Dranke walked out following Settle and Kell as they looked to teleport back to Hexe. He had a dull sense of foreboding, but he brushed it aside. Ed was chattering with the rest like a tour guide. "And the Hnnesset has been working on making starcraft redundant....." Dranke tuned out and followed as they entered the Hennesset. Vaxe came up to them and hugged them all exuberantly, though she looked much more a part of the motley crew that made up one of the most powerful decision making structures known. She grinned at them "The Leader has been pushing to be included into the Hnnesset, and it looks like they have agreed to let Earth in as a full-time member. There is so much we do not even know about the workings of the other species that make up this group." They decided to get lunch at the spaceport. It was educational. They said their goodbyes to Vaxe and Sette and Kell lingered over their farewells. Dranke asked Vaxe quietly if there was something he needed to know about the Hnnet. She told him what he wanted to know.

Dranke now had to make a decision and as if on cue, Ed came up to him - looking very much like how Dranke remembered him from the first time they had met - just a silvery orb hanging in the air. He asked "I would like to know your decision Captain. I am coming to you without defense or artifice. You may have to bear the brunt of the Hnnet backlash if you let me stow away with you." Dranke nodded "There is no way for me to refuse you, but you will have to help me handle the Hnnet if there is a problem." The orb bobbed "Of course." Ed resolved back into human form "Humans are better than we think and worse than we expected." Dranke smiled at the thought. It was interesting to be judged by an alien. It made for a perspective humans were not used to.

The jumps away from Hexe took them towards spacecommand. Trader Dranke had to get a debrief. He felt like a spy. Like a traitor. And he did not know why.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Trader Dranke - Mission Impossible 37

The familiar darkmatter starcraft responded eagerly when Kell handed the controls over to Sette. The Raven was ready to take on her new assignment. Dranke mock-saluted his two second-in-commands, and they grinned back at him as the ship jumped. Again, and again the Raven jumped, heading into the dark inky night. The route they had chose avoided most galactic clusters, reflecting the feeling of blackness pervading the ship. Dranke strolled up and down the bridge pensively. Had he made the right decision? He remembered that the General has insisted that he not remove his subroutine; and while he realized the wisdom in that, it filled him with a sense of unease. He resisted switching on the Jen subroutine; he would use it only in emergencies.

Kell on the other hand had no such issues. She was perpetually connected to spacecommand and the Hnnet. This would be an interesting dynamic once they had to decide whether the subroutine was to be ditched. Dranke decided not to influence things at this stage. One small step at a time. He smiled at the irony of his own thought. Here they were eating up lightyears with the jumps the darkmatter starcraft was undertaking. In some senses, they were time travelers. No in all senses. He knew that every time they went on these trips, there was that much more time which elapsed on Earth. They had stopped counting. And they were frankly in the business of moving forward. In time. He mulled at this as they saw the outline of Jexx on the hologram.... just an instant before the whole planet rendered in 3D glory. Dranke looked at Sette "Open comms with the Jexx; I want to explain our new status to them." Sette complied. The Jexx commander who responded was not someone they had seen before. He looked openly hostile "You are being surrounded as we speak humans. This time we will not let you escape." Dranke motioned to Kell to engage the shields, and replied calmly "We are no longer part of the military. We come in peace." The commander looked taken aback "So you are rogue?" Dranke watched the commander 'swimming' in the fluid as he spoke "No we do not have that concept in humans. We have come to trade with you." The hologram went blank.

In a few minutes, the hologram showed three Jexx. It was the traditional triad one had come to expect. Dranke suppressed a smile "Welcome back. I was hoping to have an audience with you." The Jexx looked curious "We want to board your ship. You have not allowed us on board. Not like true partners." The translation was getting laborious. Dranke nodded imperceptibly to Sette "We will get to that as well. Are you going to host us, or should we leave?" The commander seemed to get the wind knocked out of him "Yes, please dock. We do want to trade. The Hnnet makes it impossible for us to trust anyone." Dranke smiled gently and signed off, with a vague feeling that all was not well. The docking station in their space station started to bleep blue and red as they indicated the docking area. Kell and Sette got to work docking the old style. They did not want to reveal the Hnnet modification just yet. The Jexx docking tube docked in the traditional style with the docking aperture in the Raven's lock. Dranke waited as the the Jexx commander entered with his two attendants, his name was Nexe. He spoke "So what do you want human? Are you representing the Hnnet again?" Dranke kept his anger in control "No, we are not. I wanted to know if we can trade. Especially, we are keen to know about your microtechnology which allows you to build such small ships." The Jexx made a noise sounding like something between a cough and a grunt "Of course. We want to know about your shielding technology. It is very good." Dranke nodded. He was prepared for this. They had old shielding designs which were used by spacecommand from before they had met with the Hnnet "We are happy to share those with you." They began to talk in earnest.

After a while, Dranke noticed that the hostility had vanished. Nexe was beginning to boast about their advances, revealing much more than was necessary. He filed that away for future use. The Jexx commander was saying "For the first time, you have come as partners. We are happy to trade. But only with you. No more humans will be tolerated by us. They are liars and cheats." Dranke decided not to come to humanity's defense. "So why have you been fighting with the Hnnet?" "They do not respect us. They treat us like outsiders. They think they are better than us." Dranke understood, it was but natural. He was learning so much. "And why do you travel in threes?" "We are mates. And three of us are a unit. A family. We preserve our identity and sanity in this fashion." Dranke nodded. He absorbed ever little scrap of information like a sponge. It was intelligence and it was priceless.

At the end of negotiations, Kell sent over the schematics of the old Earth technology shields and got the schematics of the Jexx microtechnology in return. It was a successful trip. The Jexx also gave them some wood analogue as a gift. This would be priceless on Earth. The crew was going to enjoy the bonus. They parted friends. Dranke smiled as the ship undocked from the Jexx station. Sette looked at Dranke inquiringly. He grinned at her "Set course to the Hnnet homeworld. Time to pay them a visit."

The Raven accelerated rapidly away, searching for enough distance away from Jexx to make it's first jump.

Pic Courtesy: via Flikr -