Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Stars are Made of Light (0-968)

                Look up, sometime in the dark of the morning when your night terrors wake you up. Just stop. Look. Observe. Look into the eternal blackness of the galaxy spread out in front of you. Ignore your high school chemistry and astronomy. Remove Heisenberg, Hawking, Einstein and three thousand years of cultural knowledge and understanding. Experience the heavens as your tens-removed great grandparents saw them. Innumerable points of light searing out in the indigo blanket covering the sun.
Relive the wonder you felt as an infant, seeing the amazing show put on, solely for you every evening. Realize that even now, with over a thousand years of accumulated cultural knowledge, a THOUSAND, phrases like nuclear fusion, balanced gas mixture and critical mass have little meaning when looking up in the night. The stars are made of light.
Now, without looking away from this sky-spanning chandelier of light, it’s time to do some basic math. Realize that the naked eye can see anywhere from 5 to 2000 stars from horizon to horizon, depending on how close to your local downtown your bedroom sits, and that there are about 6000 stars visible unaided from the surface of our little spinning rock spaceship. Compare that to the estimated 300 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and the estimated 176 billion galaxies observable from this particular dirtball, the resulting number of stars is a mindboggling number that can only be written in scientific notation (5.28x1022, to be precise). So in comparison, night watchers near LA can see something like 0.0000000000000000000001% of the stars, while those in the country can see a whopping 0.0000000000000000001% of the stars while they look up with you. Finally, the (even more guesstimated) estimates put about 1.4 trillion planets in that visible portion of our galaxy, at the lowest estimation, and if even 1/100 of 1% of those spend enough time in the habitable zone around their star to support life, then there could be as many as 14 million other species out there in the blackness, looking up at the same time as you are. You could be unknowingly looking at each other right now, wondering if anyone else is out there.

This exact though process has been completed on a widespread, cultural level by every spacefaring race, and a generation or less later, they flung their best and brightest out into the void to go find those other watchers.

Enter the warp drive. That’s not what it’s really called, but the proper name has all 10 major engineers’ last names, the project name and the facility name as part of its proper title, and numerous seasons of Star Trek rerun infinitely have enshrined the name “Warp Drive” into the collective consciousness of Earth, so warp drive is what it’s called in conversation. There are only about, well exactly 10 people who really understand how the warp drive works, but the explanation to laymen and world leaders alike goes something like this:
“You know how gravity pulls you back to the ground when you jump, and the opposite poles of magnets attract each other and stick together?”
                “Well, yeah.”
“Okay, it’s doesn’t actually function anything like that, but it feels the same.”
“The warp drive doesn’t use magnetism or gravity to generate faster than light travel, but using the plotting computer, the drive locks on to a sufficiently heavy spatial object, like a star or planet, and is then drawn to it at up to FTL speeds.”
“So what stops the ship from crashing into the object?”
“Warp drive travels from heavy body to heavy body in a spatially straight line, so to decelerate, the computer just locks on to the departure object (the one you just left) and the attempt to draw itself back to that point slows the ship. Then you just unlock at the right moment and have a zero velocity spaceship, positioned right where you want to be, assuming you have a good pilot.”
“What happens if you don’t?”
“You slam into a rock planet, get swallowed up by a gas giant or burn up in the corona of a star.”
“Don’t worry, it’s fine.”
“If you say so. Wait, so what about locking onto something really heavy, like a black hole?”
“We don’t ever talk about what happened to the Their Shadows Deep.”

So there we went, doing what Humanity does best. Taking our best and brightest, encasing them in a shell of advanced polymers and alloys, then slingshotting them directly at some galactic object, and hoping their onboard math is good enough to stop them before they hit it.
Governments, militaries, foundations and concerned citizens all vied for the right to install the equipment they thought most necessary on these early missions into the unknown, with varying degrees of success. Early explorers of Alpha Centauri and Epsilon Erandi left in craft named China-US Time Warner Virgin ”Embark 1” and other such titles, equipped with a dazzling array of licensed broadcasting equipment (provided at no small charge by Time Warner), high-wattage chemical lasers (demanded most strenuously by Chinese and American Admiralty) and pretty paint jobs (sponsored by Coca-Cola, Fig Newton and Rogaine). When they arrived, they found exactly what was expected, Alpha Centauri Bb was in fact a “lava world” unsuitable for any form of habitation and devoid of rare elements, Epsilon Eridani b was a gas giant with an abnormally high concentration of super-dense oxygen, but otherwise unremarkable, and Kepler-22b was indeed a super-Earth, with a median temperature of 72-degrees Farenheight, but with the surface entirely ocean, and an almost entirely predatory carbon cycle, it too was passed on for colonization. So went exploration after exploration, and with countless trillions of dollars seemingly wasted, so the golden age of corporate-sponsored intergalactic travel ended.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dreams 10-23-2012

At a party, maybe a Faire.

Standing on top of a ridge with a group of other people, many whom I knew as aquaintances, but no lcose friends.

All of us gathered around, and sitting on some object, a picnic table or maybe an el camino.

chatting, talking, dueling with sticks.

Someone was talking to me and mentioned that the girl in back was a fencer like me.

"who fences?" she asked in response to overhearing our conversation, looking up and disentangling herself from the much younger man she was entwined with.

"link does" my nameless conversation partner replied, giving me an opening, while my dream transformed her into Sonia Tyburn.

"yeah, foil and epee-" the rest of my statement is cut off as she walks way too close to me. I can smell her perfume, a hint of sweat from the heat of the evening, the smell of something sugary in her mouth that she's chewing on. The proximity reveals her to be blonde, amazonianly gorgeous, generic for a time, then my dream morphs her into Jenn O'Syde.

"Want a gummy beetle?" she purrs at me. I open my mouth in acceptance, and she places the very real-looking beetle in, which I crunch and chew, disgusted for a moment then realizing that it really is gummy, with a hard candy shell. While I'm processing this very odd sensation, she leans in, almost bashfully and kisses me, in the close-mouthed way preteens do. Her lips soft against mine.

The action is over before I realize it's done, and she's leaning back, a blush visible in the dim light. I half-awake in that instant, aroused, before falling asleep again.

"Well, that could have gone better" I jokingly reply and pull her back into me. She resists the kiss for a moment, then relaxes into it. Behind us, I can hear the young man, make exasperated noises, then he walks past the fence we are leaning against, and goes down the hill toward the other people.

As we break apart, "I'm sorry. I didn't realize you two were a thing. I'm sorry I messed that up."

"No, it's fine, my boytoy doesn't like it when I kiss anyone but him on the mouth." I look confused at her. "But he does get so horny when he catches me kissing them elsewhere." She says suggestively, her hands sliding off my shoulders and down my chest to my waistband, where she stops. "I need to go find some more nightbeetles, they're so delicious."

She giggles at my expression and skips off. I wander around the group, looking for something to rinse the bug out of my mouth with, and run into Sonia, returning from elsewhere. She gives me a drink from her canteen and we play-duel for a moment. Me with a tire iron, her with a broom.

"Man, I really wish I'd brought my rapiers." I exclaimed to no one in particular, leaning against the fence again.

The Jenn-creature returns from the darkness behind me, now mostly unclothed, but fully covered, gauzy tunic open to the bellybutton, clasped with a leather belt, then draping to cover her upper thigh. She looks exactly the same, but is now completely inhuman. She is holding out a wriggling beetle, several more in her other fist. "Um, no. Thanks though." my stomach turns at the sight, and I half-awake again, nauseated in real life as well.

She laughs a dark and ominous laugh as she wanders back off into the night. "It's already too late for you."

I awoke in a cold sweat.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dreams - 10-8-2012

I dreamed about Helen again tonight.

This time, we were in the past, a past that had never happened.

After we broke up, she threw a big "end-of-HS" grad party at her adopted parent's (?) house in Temple, TX. A big old mansion in the middle of the warehouse district. I attempted to crash her party four times, but not as if I kept showing up, it was if it was a video game level and I kept resetting the level and trying again.

Once, I walked in the front door and attempted to fake an invitation. I was grungily dressed in military surplus and she was radiant, in a white prom dress, her hair coiffured and her blue eyes cruel as she ridiculed me in front of all her guests and threw me out. I responded by drawing a revolver and shooting her in the face, then putting the burning hot barrel in my own mouth and killing myself.

Another time, I snuck in by climbing the wall and entering through a window into the master bedroom on the top floor. I heard people coming, so I hid in an attic access in the ceiling. The door was perforated, and I was able to watch, dismayed, as she lost her virginity to every guy I had ever known and been envious of in a laughing, joyous orgy. I fled then, not caring about the noise I made in my exit. Her laughter as I ran revealed that she'd known I was there all along, maybe even that I was going to crash her party, and specifically invited those people to humiliate me. After making it to the street and vomiting, I found gasoline, chain and some locks, sealed the house in to the tune of her joyful moans, then set the building on fire. Walking away all "cool guys don't look at explosions" before crossing the street, where I was suddenly hit by a dump truck.

The next attempt got weird. Instead of trying to crash the party or sneak in, I waited in the snow (?) until the party was over, then following her as she walked home (I thought she was home). I confronted her on the seawall next to the docks (?) telling her I still loved her and wanted her back. I am unable to remember the words of her response, only that they were hurt, bitter and angry. She then told me she'd been learning to fight, and if I could beat her, she'd give me another chance. I accepted, desperately. She then went on to tell me how her biological parents had left her a present before returning to their home planet (?) and that she'd been using it in her fight training. A giant robot/combat machine rose out of the water in the docks and she entered, pummeling me to death on the docks with missiles, lasers and her screaming voice, shouting how she'd loved me and I'd ruined it. And that I would never deserve to love someone, so she was really doing me a favor by killing me.

The final time, I simply ignored my objective, knowing I'd just die again. I waited for the party to end, then followed Kate Swope (? Kate doesn't/didn't know Helen ?) as she left the party, we walked for some distance, before Kate started talking to me, letting me know she knew I was there. Abandoning my failed attempt at stealth, I moved up to walk next to her, and we talked about things I cannot now recall. She promised me a non-confrontational introduction, as she was Helen's roommate (?) and so I followed her up to the loft apartment they shared. Helen was angry and spit on me and cursed me to Kate, never speaking directly to me, before Kate calmed her down, then I was allowed to sit at one of the desks, the windows in the wall overlooking the dock. Helen had changed into sweatpants and a hoodie and after Kate changed, they sat and talked about the party, Helen pointedly ignoring me. Helen then started recounting all my failures, first just retelling fights we'd had in High School, then the times later (? but this dream was set just at the end of HS ?) when we'd met and she'd privately laughed at my attempts at reconciliation. She then started talking about my failures that night, when I'd tried to bluff my way in, sneak in and then fight her robot. She didn't seem startled or dismayed that I'd killed her when my attempt didn't succeed, just laughed derisively at my failure. During her storytelling, I was shrinking further and further down into my chair, that horrible empty feeling of embarrassment and humiliation. The sensation was so intense I woke up in a cold sweat, physically nauseated, letting my heart rate drop from over 120 back to 60 before I could fall asleep again. Apparently, the conversation between Kate and Helen had continued in my absence, which Helen commented directly to me about, the first time she'd spoken directly to me in this variant of the level.

"Awww, can't sleep? Is this too upsetting for you? I'm sorry, but you're going to have to weather the storm." Her voice was actually sympathetic when speaking to me. As if my journey through anger, humiliation and powerlessness was all part of some plan, and she, Kate and all the others were specifically present to make this happen for my eventual, if painful, benefit.

They resumed talking to each other, and I sat, quiet, taken aback that a dream character had spoken directly to my conscious self. After a while, Kate remarked that she was quite thirsty, and since they didn't have any food, she was going to go to the store. I offered to go instead, so that she didn't have to go out into the weather. Then timidly asked Helen if she wanted to go with me. Helen considered my face for over a minute, then agreed, smiling a little at me. A voice in my head said "everything went better than expected!" and I saw an overlay on my vision of the memeface that accompanies that phrase, as if some heads-up display was registering my minimal success.

Since I was still dressed, I went outside while Helen got changed into warmer clothes, and got my car started (? I walked to the loft with Kate ?) and was letting it warm up when a tatty Jeep pulled up on the street and a close friend of mine (Preston?) opened the door and told me to get in, that it would only take a minute. I complied, and we started driving, leaving the city shortly and proceeding up a mountain pass. He told me he was saving me, and we stopped the Jeep, then I followed him up a valley between two mountains to a concrete guard station. We entered, and he began speaking in Russian to the guard captain at the station, paid him some money, and was given a green duffel, then sent to what appeared to be a bathroom. The captain then approached me, "You are going to go with him. You do not have a choice. You must leave everything you have here, and take only what we give you, including your name." I must have looked hopeful, because he said, "No, you cannot be 'Krysa' you have not earned it. You get to be 'Zanudnyy'." While those were obviously Russian words, I understood them for some reason. The first was "Rat" and the second was "Wimp".

The door to the bathroom opened, my companion was not inside. The captain handed me a similar duffel and pushed me toward the room. When the door closed behind me, there was a loud click, and a section of the floor at the back of the room dropped away, leaving a shaft down with a ladder attached to the side. I turned away and opened the duffel, reaching in to find a half bar of some coarse soap on top, then losing patience and dumping the whole thing out. It contained toiletries, a full change of clothing and a Makarov pistol with one magazine. I changed into the clothing, but the toiletries back in the bag, put the gun in my pocket and descended down the ladder, leaving my old clothes on the floor in the bathroom. The trapdoor clicked shut above me as I descended, leaving me climbing down in darkness. I awoke just after the door shut and total darkness, my heart racing again.