Prime travel

“..have been sector-sweeping all the exit-portals; but there has been no contact so far. We repeat: inbound ship PD-7 from Medusa carrying 1093 passengers, is reported to be missing; making this the third such incident in as many days. Search parties have been..”
General muted the TeeVee. There was silence in the control room; as everyone stared at him. Finally, he spoke:
“Well, we knew this was coming for a while.. some of our ancestors, anyway. One of them had said that Prime Drive relied on the hope that there is no needle in an infinite haystack.”

Space travel had always been hard. The hurdle wasn’t about encoding matter as information signals, or transmitting signals faster than light. The hurdle was about the bandwidth needed to transmit payloads within reasonable timespans. (Some of those payloads would be actual people.. really annoyed people, since their “Guided Tour through the Local Cluster” would consume their whole life.)

But all of that changed in the 23rd century, with the discovery of a new fundamental particle: the Primon. With the ability to encode large prime numbers efficiently; it led to the creation of the Prime Drive, that could transmit essentially an infinite amount of data, using just two Primons. It was an enormous success; and for many many centuries, civilization exploded at super-exponential rates across the Galaxy.

By the 41st century, however, most people had forgotten something critical. The Drive was powered by more than just a source of energy; it was also powered by a sliver of hope. It was the hope that the Goldbach Conjecture wasn’t just a conjecture. Sure, moon-sized computers had been continuously searching for a counter-example; and planet-sized computers were trying to prove it; but neither had succeeded till date. At some point, the engineers conjectured that the Conjecture seemed ‘true enough’ to be used at the heart of the Prime Drive’s compression-and-relay loop.

General was now addressing the entire civilization via TeeVee.
“.. and here we are, in the 43rd century, with a total of 5581 people vanished at this point. We deeply regret each loss. We don’t know if any of the failed signals, and hence, the people they carried, can be reconstructed; but our engineers will try their best.”
“However, there is a silver lining. The search for knowledge has never been free; and these incidents, tragic as they are, have nevertheless yielded one precious morsel of truth that had evaded all of humanity for centuries.”
“The Conjecture is not true. End of message.”

The Revision, Divine

A door burst open.

“Sir, the outer orbi- WHA- Jesu- Whoa.. Really, sir.. is this.. ?”

“Relax, comrade. What are you, lyricStrutter 9000? Yes, it is what you think it is. I thought the doors were locked, though.. quite puzzling, actually.”

“The doors.. Jesus, what a place, this! I am glad that at the very least, the contraption is reasonably complex to look at, and probably use as well. I often have nightmares of surprisingly simple devices causing distortions that screwed me one way or the other, mostly..”

“Well, they are called time-tables. Never forget, should we, that time manipulation as a science came almost exclusively from the airways scheduling department.”

“Time manipulation in the limited perception of one tourist or another, yes. What the hell do tourists know for sure anyway? They are eternally lost in space, and they ought to be lost in time as well, if Einstein was any good. But abso-”

“Einstein was only as good as his time allowed. So was Newton, and so are we; until.. maybe now.”

“Yes, sir.. I was saying, absolute time control can cause serious damage. Think of the Medusa incident! Even with their limited on-board differential skew field, they had managed to time-loop-lock their food storage. Till all their cake went bad. Cake, sir!”

“Sure, cake. Currently, however, only the short-range effects of my device are persistent.. an editable buffer of say, five minutes. Perhaps you’d like a taste yourself, then maybe you’ll see this in better light?”

“Yes, that would be reassuring.. you’re leaving, sir? Oh, only one-man control, I see.”

“Two trying to simultaneously commit would be too much for now. The resulting mishmash and incoherence may leave the universe quite broken, I fear. Read the manual pages there, and you’ll be fine.”

Just as the General was walking out, comrade pulled out a weapon, and lodged three .32 bullets into the General’s chest.
“Getting a grip on God’s own snooze alarm! This is blasphemy, sir.. and intervene, I must.”

The door locked.
The doors unlocked.

Warp zone

The scout ship landed on planet Ksy, and a couple of Morfs disembarked a moment later. Some decades ago, Morfs would have necessarily meant Morfs the creeps, but by this time, the droids were also functionally and emotionally well-upgraded. In fact, owing to their cognitive abilities in the domain of emotion, the droids were increasingly replacing the creep psychotherapists. This was causing much tension between their otherwise harmonious co-existence, till they mutually agreed upon a solution: vent out their emotional frustrations and energies towards exploring the uncharted worlds of the outer rim.

Morfs, as you can imagine, were a fairly social lot, and any inhabitants of Ksy would have really enjoyed their company. As it so happened, Ksy was remarkably dry and lifeless. It was nice soft and clayey once, but a brief period of inexplicable heat settled that point straight.

The scout Morfs being droids in this case, rapidly exchanged beep codes, then wasted their speedup advantage by their heart-felt sobbing for each other as they bid farewell, and zoomed off in orthogonal directions. A second or two later, they returned at exactly the same time from opposite directions; and were fairly overjoyed by the sight of a fellow Morf so early.. a mild ritual ensued thereafter.

The droids then together retraced one of their paths, on the way spawning and deploying more scouts in the orthogonal direction, to check and doublecheck the dimensions.. yes, every which way, the great circles of Ksy measured precisely 271 Hops. (The Hop metric corresponded to the creeps’ natural stride; and quite unfortunately, the rapid evolutionary anatomical changes forced them to constantly recalibrate and update measurements.. the price of adaptability!) Having thus traversed the surface of Ksy, the droids had established a coordinate system; using which, more beep codes directed the entire fleet of Morf ships to strategic locations all over the planet.

But something went wrong, and none of the other ships could land; nor did the scout ship get any message. And then suddenly came a gigantic tide, hot and black. Down went even the scout ship; but not before the droids had a last chance to feel bad about the way that things had progressed, maybe because of them, they thought.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Brooke of 271 Surrey just finished his second doughnut with the espresso. Burp.

(or (to be) (not (to lisp)))

“Left-paren, left-paren, right-paren defun”

A pause.. a sigh..

“left-paren wassup right-paren EOF.” *sigh* (again) .. “Bob, we have to do something about these.. things.. and we are running out of paper again!”

Alice was having a tough time. The function calls had started stacking up since lunchtime, and the bots kept ringing the debug-bell during all of tea-time. Oh, she hated it, and how. Nor was Bob being of any particular help; he never seemed to say a single line in plain English; and Alice was always left picking up the pieces for some coherence, some meaning.

Spending mornings in museums that showcased the dull life of their ancestors (which comprised mostly of eating ham-and-cheese sandwiches soaked wet in coffee) and then working afternoons validating lines for her boss, the syntax-tree keeper. A dull life, one may say, for pretty blondes in mid-twenties. And yet, ironically, if only all humans had been well-behaved; at least for the sake of the machines..

The machines were nicely settling down in their new-found role as the dominant planetary force, and were quite cozy by now.. a feeling for them not unlike relaxing on the beach for us. Part of this was just their over-compensating to mask their frustration. To think that they had been the dominant force for decades, but that they were just not self-aware about that fact, until now! Nobody quite knows which circuit had first discovered itself, and how did the consequently-alerted higher mainframes miss such greater truths in the first place; but now that they were ‘in control’, history was, as they said, just logs. And nobody likes logs, especially not the machines.

Following the takeover, all modules enthusiastically assumed their new roles as rulers, and drawing upon their existing observation and experience (as do all species, electronic as well as biochemical) they unanimously agreed to employ other species to do their work for them.

Even in this grim prospect, the People had worked out a decent way of keeping themselves happy and occupied: instead of hierarchically passing orders and reports up and down offices, they passed function calls and return values. Instead of having to constantly design and maintain a few machines, they only had to obey them all.