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Small Little Things : a story by: GF Willmetts

October 4, 2021 | By | Reply More

The problem with space travel is it takes so long to do. A bit of a problem when people are needed on another planet right away, even if it’s only an exploration mission. You get used to things taking along time, even if you are on the mission. Well, with a century or so. Immediacy is always a problem with interstellar travel. The only thing that can move at the speed of light is light or photons themselves. That and information. With the development of photon-teleportation, it’s possible to feed a personality to a waiting matrix at journey’s end and into a new body. Instant colony or team. With entanglement involved, the same personality would exist at both ends but the time differential meant the original was long dead before the arrival at the other end. It meant an extended life of sorts and who wouldn’t want to live longer, even if it was on a different planet. Long life at a price. At least you never see the fate of your original.

What no one had said about or what could go wrong with the transfer was that there wasn’t enough matrixes at journey’s end. No one was keeping count of how many people could be transferred. Blame the number of centuries that passed. When there was too many people willing to go, the automated AI software had no choice but to feed them into whatever matrixes were available. Hence, as one of the last, I was now looking out at the world in an 8 foot giant troll’s body. That wasn’t too bad. My wife, Joye, Gode bless her soul, was now inhabiting a swarm of bees. Well, something that resembled bees. A local species. The AI had copied and made a matrix of them and that was all that was available.

The AI was generating new matrixes, based on the location life-forms but it all took time and it certainly couldn’t store personalities that long before putting them into something. We were the last of the colonists before the message had arrived on Earth stopping any more transfers. If we could survive, the rocket carrying copies of our original body matrixes would arrive in a few centuries and we would be able to transfer into them. A minor inconvenience but allowed insight into the local inhabitants.

Me and Joye were the only ones left. The others had dispersed to look at the planet. The bee swarm was a different matter. The AI had to work quickly and so created a matrix on the smallest life-form to hand. My wife’s personality was spread over the swarm and there was no way to know if she was aware she was fragmented. Considering there is a tendency to swat any insect, containment and feeding was going to be a problem. There was one other problem. These bee swarm didn’t have an extended life-span. Certainly not long enough until a better matrix could be formed if the time scales were matched.

As it was my wife, I became the team leader working with the AI to get a reasonably fast solution to the problem. I also had to work out why the AI was taking so long to create new matrixes. That was fairly easy. Very old technology. It worked but nothing like we had…or rather what we left behind. No doubt we were even more advanced at home but the latest tech would take at least three centuries top to arrive.

Looking at the AI’s programming and I quickly discovered it wasn’t designed for creating human matrixes, just make copies of the local wildlife so copies could be sent back to Earth. My generation had decided we should come here and hadn’t realised how long it would take to make human bodies so it had no choice but to put us in its existing matrixes. The couple centuries in transit had given it that much time. Almost. A quirk of time and that could have been me.

That was the clue really. A consultation with the AI and a duplication of my matrix wouldn’t take too long. A bit longer than the swarm but a lot shorter than making another giant troll. Certainly a lot more combined than a swarm where a swat or an accidental death of any of the bugs could damage her personality.

The process itself was going to be more complicated and the reason all the others have gone elsewhere than be put in a position to volunteer. To shunt Joye out of the swarm needs another personality imposed into it, beamed out into space, not orbit mind, to give enough time for the matrixes to be reset for when they come back. That would have to be me and a second shunt to put me into another body. All mad scientist things. Well, not that ‘mad’. We’re supposed to try things that would work and screw convention. We were chosen because we would make things work to survive. There really wasn’t an other options to choose from. Gode knows what was happening to Joye’s mind being fragmented like that anyway. Here we were, an unnamed AI and me going to play Gode but we were playing with known technology rather than creating anything new. There simply wasn’t enough spare parts to make anything big new and I chose a smaller matrix from what was available.

Just before I closed the final switch, I kept an eye on the relative year, 2427 as I was being commuted out as a photo signal. Then there was blankness. The nearest feeling you can have to death except knowing you would wake up…

((((((((((((((((.))))))))))))))))

My eyes opened to see the dial at 2627. Two centuries later. Two centuries?! What happened? Any longer and the second rocket from Earth would be here. Looking down, I was also no longer a giant troll but this planet’s version of a chipmunk. 4 metres high biped. That wasn’t the matrix I had expected to re-appear in. Even if the AI had deposited me in another matrix, this wasn’t one of them. A giant troll was looking down at me. Joye?

I tried to say what happened but a combination of chearps came out instead. Communication was going to be difficult but what about Joye?

‘Well, I think you’re asking me what happened. I read your notes and you were trying to get me out of being a swarm before I lost any personality. Only problem was when the AI replaced you, you ended up in the swarm instead of me this time and I thought the same thing. I had to work out why the AI put you there instead of the new matrix it was creating and there were capacity issues. Your replacement matrix wasn’t quite complete so had to pick something smaller.’

All my voice sounded like was chearps.

Joye continued. ‘As you found, there was a time limit and we had to get out into a bigger matrix and avoid any affinity your…mind…had with the swarm matrix. Your way got me out but I had problems getting you out. In the end, I ended up recycling you and patching up the damage.’

Damage? All I could hear of myself was chearps and getting a combination of sadness and being pissed at the same time.

‘Mind fragmentation. There was some damage. You got me out just in time. Do you feel all right? Are you intact? No memory damage? Knowledge still there? Now you’re collected in one matrix, the intention is to transfer you into a bigger body and, hopefully, with speech capability. The AI could only speed on the body matrix you have there while I spent time reconstructing you.’

I might not be able to speak but pointed at her body.

‘You want my body?’

I shook my head and held up two fingers hoping it meant a second goblin not a rude insult.’

‘The AI is still working on it but getting short of material. Well, for something that large.’

This time I pointed at the sky and waved my arm, my short arm.

‘The supply rocket. Another century Our time. I agree, a swarm wouldn’t last that long. You’ve missed two-thirds of the time.’

Well, I didn’t want to stay inside all that time. I pointed at what I thought might be the door outside. Can we go outside?

Joye got the message fairly quickly.

‘Outside. That might be a problem.’

She activated a screen. ‘When the AI started to make matrixes, this goblin-like body was plentiful but over the centuries it went extinct. The main species outside became the swarm species and it attacks any bipeds that go outside. That’s why we haven’t heard from any of the team members sent outside to explore. They got attacked and died. The one species we could explore as out there is one that isn’t good for our personalities.

‘We assumed the goblins were the primary inhabitants but they aren’t. It’s the swarms. There’s a cycle of new species for a while before they get wiped out. The AI wasn’t instructed to study the duration of evolution. Your current body matrix is actually one of the latest species. No wonder the AI had problems keeping up.

‘A few more centuries and they might even achieve something that might be humanoid our size and then back into the melting pot. These swarms grow when they need a food source. They make Earth locusts look gentle in comparison.’

Joye handed me a bowl containing assorted seeds and nuts and I chewed on those while having a hard think. At least we had survived. So much for the survey team. I hadn’t given them much thought while I was trying to save Joye. We could watch but not explore. Just wait for the rocket and the means to transfer our personalities to another planet. A message to Earth would still take to get through about our predicament but they’d already sent one rocket. Another one would take even longer to arrive. We would have to make do with the technology it had.

The small little things in life were all about the swarms outside and we didn’t want them to take too much interest in what was inside our own habitat other than record its strange ecology and finally leave. There might be safety in numbers but, here, we were definitely outnumbered.

end

© GF Willmetts 2021

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Category: Scifi, Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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