[A Mission story]
A month into the trip she asked Takihara, the shipboard Mind, about time. His avatar leaned against a console, drinking Sake from a small flask, and he sighed.
“You gotta stay in the same time frame as the planet, right? Otherwise, if you need rescuing, it’s already too late, because we’ve skipped into the past if I just Displace us here. So in order to have a chance, you have to stay sublight.” He swigged again from the flask, looking at her as if explaining things to a child.
She looked at him, one eye narrowed.
“Do you have to affect doing that? It’s all show, no possible liquor could affect you.” He looked at her, holding her gaze, and slumped down a bit.
“It coul’ if I wanna,” he slurred, “’kin be drunk or high or whatever I want, right?”
“You’re just full of bull pucky is what you are.” She threw a cup at him, which disappeared right before making contact. “What about this time? We’re 10 minutes away from the planet anyway, a radio signal can’t do any good.” Takihara straightened up.
“Alright, but I’m not restricted like that, you know all Minds talk to each other instantly, so if I really needed help someone would come by Displacement, but that can’t happen if we’re not in the same inertial time frame.” She looked at him and thought about it for a bit.
“We’re not in the same inertial time frame, we’re too far away. Lightspeed.” He sighed again.
“Yes, but I can talk to Fatima right now like you think of right now when being in the same room as someone. It’s the same limit, but you’re too close for it to matter. So you communicate ‘real-time’. It’s all real-time, but when you’re in front of each other it’s too short to matter compared to any possible reaction time you might have. It’s not the same for us. We’re always waiting around for you to finish,” he swigged from the flask again, “your sentence.” He turned the flask upside down and a sad little drip fell onto the white, white carpet. “If we came here by breaking the rules, we’d be running into the future, light speed, or running into the past, Displacement.”
“But you do this all the time between stars.” She said, reasonably. “That’s why no one really knows what year it is anymore.” She waved her hands as if to indicate a confusion that wasn’t hers.
“Yes, but the distances are so vast, that for the most part, it doesn’t matter. Most star systems are more or less isolated by their Oort clouds. Remember the Fermi Paradox? Wasn’t a paradox once you got a light year away from Old Earth, because Voyager could see the universe clearly for the first time. Everything else was filtered, that’s why you can’t see the other species transmissions, they’re all in the hydrogen line and all filtered out. Everyone does it. Accident of physics. There’s precious little signal to see in the first place.”
“Alright, if you say so.”
“I do.” Said Takihara walking over to a cupboard and taking another little flask. “You ready to dive in the sun now?”
“Yeah well, I’d be nervous too. Remember what I said about the wings, you’re controlling them so don’t dive below the boundary layer, a few thousand degrees, the suit can handle, but a few million? You won’t even know you’ve died.”
The suit like all ‘dumb’ suits, was thick, bulky; reminiscent of the suits Nasa used to put men on the moon from Old Earth. The difference was that you climbed in the back and shut the door behind you, and the suit sized itself around you and you and the suit were one. Everything recycled. Everything. She was in, and the little artificial intelligence, just smart enough to be a Mind, two kilos of substrate spread around the suit booted up and greeted her with diagnostic information. As was her preference it was silent while it did this, and she took her hands out of the arms to make a few adjustments. Like all suits made for extreme radiation environments, it was bright metallic pink.
She entered the airlock, and Takihashi’s systems interfaced with the suit and checked everything again, clamping the SunWings to her back and flexing them open and closed to check the mechanicals.
“Ready?” Said his voice in her ear. She nodded knowing what was coming. A brief flash, a moment of blankness and duality and the Mind had taken a copy of her mind state up to this point. Then the airlock outer door opened.
She suppressed the moment of fear and vertigo, the tiny medical nanites all over her body changing and absorbing the adrenaline as undesirable as she did this, putting off the moment of excitement until it could be savoured. She brought up her nanite control system and adjusted some settings, combining with the suit so that her vision became dependent on the suit’s systems, which could efficiently block and filter certain wavelengths of light, and so that her retinas wouldn’t burn out. Then she adjusted her perception of time, running her perceptions about four times as far so that the universe, from her perspective, would run a quarter speed. She wanted to get the most out of this she could.
Then she pushed off, out of the small vessel, into the corona of the sun.
First published Feb 2022