888888888888 Eurvojt, Sahnonhas 888888888888
Local Media Bubble
City Preserve 12
Garden of Infinite Facets
When one - perhaps a human, for the purposes of this narrative - imagines places where an artificial, interstellar macro-intelligence responsible for overseeing four billion lives, fifty billion robotic platforms and thousands of automated facilities and star-ships might be held, levitating in the middle of a tranquil, open-air garden is very rarely one of the images that springs to mind.
The garden is hardly the first unusual thing about the circumstance. When one begins to imagine the artificial intelligence itself, monoliths of gleaming steel and twinkling lights or possibly some twisted, alien device of uncertain geometries are not unreasonable guesses. But the knowledge of the Blendecs is so vast, that the greatest of their works are not things that can be borne in the material.
The super-intelligence Eurvojt was designed at the sub-quantum level, and is little more than twisted gravity and imaginary virtual particles meekly half-existing in an elaborate if highly compressed complex no more than 12 attometers in volume. It is unconnected to any power source, and governs nearly every computational device within space controlled by the Technocratic Embassy of Sathanas with the exception of private devices and those governed by other A.I. - which all defer to it anyway. Its avatar in physical space, presented in the outline of a Blendec, resembles the planet's horizon if it had been taken and compacted into a ball of distorted space, though the outline and form of the A.I. are clearly discernible despite the optical trickery. Even though every last connection of its could be severed by a determined enough enemy (leaving it powerless), and even though it was technically incapable of imposing its will upon anyone (due to a maze of redundant and overlapping, not to mention very carefully worded integral safeguarding), it was still the sort of thing that could be mistaken for a god.
The garden is little more than a convenience for biological visitors, but even were nobody to ever set foot in the place it would have been made the same. Blendecs trended towards their historical aesthetic design philosophy in all things, including military assets. Surrounding it is a hollowed rotunda, with a thin stream of wine-colored liquid cascading down from the roof to form a veil that pools and runs in twelve channels that converge upon the dais in the center where Eurvojt's avatar dwells. A number of preening, resplendent crimson plants with hydrogen bladders float obliviously through the air, nutrient tendrils lazily sifting through the waterways of the garden where recessed lights cast the place with a dark, but golden shade.
The wine-colored veil of falling fluid at the edges of the garden are not merely for show - hundreds of images appear, unwavering and in perfect crystalline clarity despite the falling liquid. They depict images of stars, planets, vessels, cities - and give the garden its name.
<Eurvojt.> The noise that sounds through the garden is that of wind rustling through leaves and grass. The veil of rushing fluid parts as the tentacled visage of a Blendec ambles forth from the rotunda. The veil closes behind the creature as it passes and stops before the dais.
<The twelve technocrats have reached consensus. Ultimately the ecological preservation of planetary biomes and ecosystems has been deemed insufficiently scientific for the purposes of investigating alternate avenues of resource acquisition. We have also completed our comprehensive joint review of the Embassy's current mining operations and vessels in regards to their efficacy and cost-effectiveness. You are to command that all recommended modifications within the review are to be acted upon within the parameters of mining protocols 144-CTS-Planets-CA. You are also to command shipyards four through nine to allocate all production to mining platforms in sufficient quantity to begin systemic strip-mining of all Embassy controlled planets, with priority given to planets belonging in category ferrous.>
The most accurate description for Eurvojt's response would be the sound of glaciers rapidly melting and crumbling.
<Indeed. 108 hours shall be fine. We are in no hurry. Furthermore, there is no need to obtain information from every species. Sample the most successful ones and any that are convenient to obtain, but do not allow mining operations to be impeded by their presence. No further City Preserves are to be built - the progenitor Embassy is stretched out enough. Within our review we include recommendations for significant alterations to the self-replicating spindle platforms. Assign all available logistic infrastructure to their placement; we have no need for settlement.>
The sound of ash swirling in the wind followed.
<Yes. Even if we cannot immediately mine them, each new system we claim represents potential future resources. Send expeditionary forces to systems along the boundaries of the Great Rift and the Lesser Rift. The twelve technocrats have concluded that expansion in the direction of two stellar voids shall not expose our supporting limbs as much as it would if we claimed systems adjacent to others in every direction.>
An island sinking into the sea was Eurvojt's reply.
The Blendec's maw-tendrils flexed in the equivalent of a polite nod before it turned and left the garden, the veil of liquid parting and closing as it passed once more. Several moments passed before Eurvojt intoned once more, though the Blendec was long gone and did not hear the sound of a planet's atmosphere bleeding away from it as the sky burned.
888888888888 Sahnonhas, Machdrom, Kais 888888888888
Sahnonhas, foremost expert in the field of Diverse Sciences, emerged from the Garden foyer and ambled onto the plaza - a golden surface, faintly reflective and kept flawlessly clean by a field of static invisibly running across its top, laying at the very top of Canalization hill. It was here where the current members of the twelve Technocrats made their homes, in the ornate towers that ringed the plaza with the Garden at the very back. As the hill was positioned at the Southernmost portion of City Preserve 12's containment wall, the Northern view allowed one standing in the plaza to literally see the entire city and beyond, all the way to the horizon.
Cehate's axis was aligned so that the Northern pole pointed directly at the star Tafari, and so though the planet spun there was no night and day cycle. There was the day side, and the night side. City Preserve 12 had been purposely built right on the boundary, almost artfully placing the illuminated city within the darkness to create an illusory caste of permanent, early dawn over the whole of it. To the north, beyond the city's Northern wall, one could see the light gradating along the landscape from early dawn, to twilight and then to daybreak. And at the end of the horizon the star Tafari loomed, just out of sight of the city itself, though its glow still cast itself upon the Northern walls.
The view the light revealed was one of desolation.
All of the land and earth beyond the city's walls was a fetid wasteland, charred, broken and torn in a wretched way that was less a sight of horror and more one of disgust and pity. The ground sloped away from the city, turning from craven dirt to mottled ridges and uneven chasms punctuated with boreholes and littered with massive craters. There were parts where the land sagged, as though there was nothing beneath the surface to hold it up - which was very nearly true.
The city itself rested upon a nearly endless pile of waste debris ripped from the ground by excavator ships. Below the pile of debris was the city's base, a more or less solid block of isometric aggregate running five miles deep, with colossal rods of triple-composite alloy sunk into it and affixed to the city proper. Despite there being no firm earth for the city to rest upon, even with planetary mining platforms coring the planet out, never did the city so much as shiver from the never-ending tectonic catastrophes and upheavals. Never did it notice when another super-volcanic magma shaft was uncapped and shook the world as though the end times were upon it.
Sahnonhas appreciated the simultaneously lovely and cursed view - a shining paradise immediately adjoined by and built upon the sickening waste and ruin it produced. They found it helped to keep things in perspective. The city below, as usual, was spare and empty. Once home to over seven million Blendecs, the population had dwindled down to just over two million as new City Preserves on other planets had been established. Blendecs reproduced rarely, and preferred lots of living space between each other - and so their cities were disproportionately huge relative to their actual populations. Built to house twenty million, City Preserve 12 lent its inhabitants so much space it was almost like the dawn of automation all over again - each Blendec lived so far apart, and they saw other Blendecs so infrequently, that they had once more become mythical creatures within their own mythology. Sahnonhas had not met another Blendec maw-to-maw for over seventeen years now. Other members of the twelve Technocrats often passed each other in the distance at the top of Canalization Hill, but they never stopped to talk. Their 'meeting' where they had reached consensus on the issue of conservation efforts had been done by remote, with each never leaving the confines of their towers. Now more than ever though, Sahnonhas felt a desperate need to lay patch and nerve upon another member of their own species, that wasn't some elaborate simulacrum or ghostly light construct.
They ambled to the tower of Machedrom, foremost scientific expert amongst the Blendecs in the field of Astrameteorology. Deeply religious, Machedrom often focused less on the physical arrangement of the world around them, often lost in disturbingly nonsecular speculation and meta-analysis. A respectable scientist, but also one to toy with expectations. They had approved of the mining scheme simply because they found it fitting, not because of the conservation proposal's lack of scientific merit. It made Sahnonhas' ridge-line quiver in their maw. Passing into the foyer of Machedrom's tower where they would receive visitors (it was improper to intrude too deeply into the home of another Blendec), Sahnonhas was surprised to see that not only was Machedrom already present, but so was Kais. They were the foremost scientific expert amongst the Blendecs in the field of Applied Physics Theories, and the unusually darkened sheen of their skin along with the lowered rear fold of their head's hood stood in contrast to Machdrom's ashen and unusually narrow visage.
<And it is as I predicted. The Master of the Sciences comes to speak with us.> Machdrom said - their voice was like smoldering embers in the rain.
<It is a shame that Beryues is not here. They could have predicted what the Master of Diverse Sciences would say, and have saved us all the trouble of gathering here.> Kais' voice was like boulders bouncing down the side of a mountain.
<And Iflen would be able to guess what you two conspirators are up to if they were here.> Sahnonhas rebuked.
<So harsh.> Machdrom wrapped their frontal tentacle around their head in mock injury. <But we have no time for further accusations or any pleasantries. When I knew you would come here, I contacted Kais. I require you two to look at this.> Machdrom twitched, activating a cerebral implant and causing a light construct to be projected before them all - it was a simple arrangement of the Tafari system. Four planets and the star - although Sahnonhas immediately noticed the rare addition to such maps. In orbit around Tafari, The Red Anomaly had been highlighted. Once both they and Kais were peering at it, Machdrom twitched once more and a table appeared on the projection next to the highlighted anomaly.
<Beamed gravitics. Not primordial origination, but emitted by the anomaly. That can only mean one thing.> Machdrom spoke simply. The weight of his words did the rest.
<Not a significant finding. This is not the first time they...it...whatever has attempted to create a stable beam.> Kais said impatiently.
<No. But this is the first time the beam held. The beam generated a compatible entity this time - it only lasted for moment, but it did manifest.> Silence reigned.
<This means nothing.> Sohnonhas finally said. <Remember that we are a secular gathering, Machdrom. We do not act unless we have proper scientific validation. This single instance is hardly proof that the old record is accurate. As far as I am concerned the record is nothing but the delirious ravings of a madman exposed to too much trace gamma radiation by peering so closely at the anomaly.>
<Oh, I didn't expect I'd sway you.> Machdrom said, an idle twitch causing the light construct to fade. <I was just letting you know. If the record is true, the signs will begin to show. And as you know, IF the record is true...several of them already have. All I want from you is to put that famous Blendec inquisitiveness to work and verify the record's words with recent... happenstance. And as for you, Kais...well...> Machdrome turned away from the two and began to leave the foyer. <If I were you, I would figure out a way to destabilize a stable wormhole from our side. Just in case.>
888888888888 The Embassy 888888888888
All at once, there was movement.
Forty-Eight vessels, all in different regions of space, all received new orders simultaneously and immediately powered up their state shift generators. Shortly, without even adjusting their headings, each bled out of view as each ship antipositioned itself in preparation for faster-than-light travel. Each vessel would arrive at one of four different locations - each, an empty star system bordering one of the two voids present in the Central Perseus region, with twelve vessels for each region - and they would arrive in perfectly arranged formations despite their scattered starting points and varied headings. Embassy ships did not need to turn in any direction in order to move in any direction - though it often proved useful for pointing weaponry in the right direction.
Meanwhile, within the Tafari system, five deep-space automated ship-yards sprang to life. Several berths remained empty, awaiting two-score mining vessels to arrive for maintenance and modifications. Several more berths however, sprang to life, and more than eight hundred million kilometers away, in City Preserve 4, a Blendec looking over a report on expenses began to flail its maw-tendrils in alarm as the production costs tab began to accumulate millions of debt worth in Merit.
They were going to have to deal with that...