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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Nexus (Chapter 7)

SEVEN - JANE SOUTAINE V

DATE   : 4129 A.D.


She felt she was a piece of thin cracked glass. Any breath of air could shatter her into millions of twinkling stars. She shivered from inside out. She had never had this feeling before. Yes, she felt cold as always, but this time of chilling air was different. It came from her blood.

"Here put this on," the Traveller appeared and threw her a thick robe. "Come down to the hall when you are fit enough. We will have a meal and a talk that you have always wished..."

"Wh... what happened?" Jane squeaked. Her voice was like tainted with helium.

"I gassed you out, flushed your blood out, replaced your blood with hypersaline solution and froze you to near-death. Cryogenic, in simpler term, or is it a harder term for you? Hush. Don't say a word, we will meet in good time soon. Now settle yourself."

It took her forever to wash up and get dressed. She looked out of the window, trying to recall her last moments before she slept. Yes, she was driven to the Spire and now here she was. Millions of stars could be seen. She never knew night at Singapore could be that pretty, until -

A spaceship the size of two Spires combined drifted in slow motion in front of her. There were a few ringlet structures dotted around the sky. She saw a ship parked within the ringlet and then its engines flared in fierce blue before ejecting into nothingness.

She nearly fainted.

She caught hold of herself. And raced downstairs to meet the Traveller whom she found he was, too, staring at the window.

"Where the hell am I? Is this some kind of joke?" she questioned.

"Sit down," the Traveller offered a couch. She didn't take it. He sat down and sipped on his tea. "You are now witness the golden age of humanity. We are now high above Earth's orbit and we are initiating a new engine. But never mind that. This year is forty-one twenty-nine, October the second. You have been asleep for over a thousand years."

"What is the meaning of this?" she asked.

"Let's agree on one thing first: I do the talking, you do the listening. You are not allowed to ask until I have finished talking. Are you alright with that?" the Traveller asked.

She breathed in. "I am okay with that."

"Alright, I'll continue. Humanity has occupied a wide volume of the galaxy. You do know that a thousand years ago, we barely make it to a solar system as far as ten light years away? Here's newsflash, technology has enabled us to reach out faster than you can blink. In just a matter of a few centuries, two dozens of star systems have been terraformed and settled in. The people you have known have forgotten about your existence. But now, you are going to witness the downfall of men."

"I thought the flash made everyone a memory loss cake?"

"I said I do the talking, Jane. Yes, the flash did, in fact, erase everyone's memories. But this is what I want to show you or tell you. Humanity is going to end. I don't know how to put it in words correctly but now look at this video and tell me what you think of it." The Traveller passed her a glass tile. It illuminated with many lights, slowly expanding to the edge to display a video.

It was a man with tattoo standing in front of what was left remained of the Eiffel Tower, with the tower snapped in half and with the squatting legs survived. Another man which looked superficiously familiar interviewed the tattooed man, "Did you know what is this place?"

"Maison d'or, or D'or Maison. I don't really remember."
"Does the name 'Paris' means anything to you?" the interviewer asked.
"A name for a ship? It sounds nice."

The video ended. Next video was being played.

"Three hundred thousand kilometres per second, that is," a lady said proudly.
"No more?" a young student was writing down notes, perhaps doing a research survey.
"Nothing beats the speed of light, but we are still finding a way to deal with it," the lady said.
"So, maybe Einstein is wrong," the student said in doubt.
"There is no such thing as Einstein in physics," the lady snapped.
"Einstein is a scientist, ma'am," the student said.
"Yeah, I do believe you," she winked and smiled. "Now, run along and find your Antstain or whoever you call it. I have much things to do."

The video ended.

Jane didn't want to watch the video anymore. "What does this mean?"

"Go to sleep," he said.

Before she could open her mouth, she saw a small needle, thin as hair, flew to her cheek. Blackness clouded her eyes and mind.

*

DATE   : 4984 A.D.

Another video after she woke up. This time, humanity had spread as far as 400 light years away from Earth and the bustling 'city' of spaceships was long gone. The video she watched was even worse:

"Six times of four is?"
"I don't know... I need time..." said a middle-aged man.

Another video:

"Ar... urr....arrg.."

"What is happening?" Jane asked. "Why did you make me sleep throughout the years?"

"Jane..." the Traveller said sadly. "Humanity is ending, with only a few thousands of them left."

"Why? What happened?" she asked.

"I am called the Traveller for nothing. I was a nomad in the African continent. But even I was the nomad, I never belonged to any tribal groups. I was ever alone, going round the dry continent to beg for food and dig for water. Then one day, something fell out of the sky next to me. It was a perfectly reflective mirror as huge as a house. Curiously, I stood upon it and the next thing I knew, I was at another place entirely.

I can't see myself as a human. I can't even see myself, but my thoughts coalesced into a meaningful entity which I might define it as 'myself', the personality of 'I'. It is just how our bodies made up of tiny idiotic cells which combined to create a sense of own. It happened to me and what I saw was beyond imagination. I saw colours within the infra-red and ultraviolet spectra. I can almost smell gamma-ray. I heard how atoms tick and how gravity hums in low-deep voice like a whale. My thoughts are spread thinly across the universe - if universe is the word for it.

I remembered that there was once a scientists in the early twenty-first century who mentioned that all of us are being held by an invisible thread and only occupy a place at one time. Alright, let's make it simple for you. The world itself is like a picnic mat and we sit on the mat. However, we can only sit at one place at a time and cannot both sit at the same place. The mat is weaved with horizontals and verticals, and those make up tiny squares. Or a grid. Within a grid, there is another tinier grid to form up the larger grid. The maginification goes down till at one point, an element can only settle on one grid. To move the element to another grid, energy is either released, absorbed or both. It's like running, you need energy to run from one point to another."

"And your thoughts are the grids?" Jane asked.

"No, wait me finish. Now, that element, it can be energy, atom, subatom or anything that is so small to our eyes that we cannot detect them easily, actually has an entanglement with each other. But not quite like what quantum entanglement describes. Let's take an apple and an orange, for instance," he said as he picked up an apple from a fruit basket. He placed it on one end of the table. He picked an orange and placed it opposite of end of where the apple is. "Now you see a very distinct and discrete fruits. But according to that theory, there is an imaginary line that connects these fruits whereby one behaviour will affect the other." He bounced the apple hard on the table, and she noticed the orange wobbled a little.

"It's because of the vibration..." Jane pointed out.

"It's an analogy. By the way, think it in another way. When the apple jumps, the imaginary line transmit the information of what happened to the apple to the orange. The movement of the orange is the result of the apple's behaviour and the vibration you claimed is actually noting that how the imaginary line vibrates to the orange."

"It's like a toy telephone we used to play when both end of the receivers receive voices from the vibrations of the string," Jane said.

"Yes, precisely. There is a theory claiming that the tiniest thing in the universe is actually a string. String theory they called it. Each string vibrates on its own frequency and manifests itself as a wide variety of what we see today. These strings are tied by these imaginary lines which I called it the chain. As one string vibrates, it sends shocks along the chain that links the particular string to another. But that was only the case of two objects, or two strings," he smiled. He picked up the fruit basket. "Here is a heap of fruits and each fruit is chained to all other fruits except itself. You are a genius, you know how messy the chains are right now, whereby one fruit's behavior will affect all other fruits except itself. But you can't see it sometimes because the effect is further dampened by the fact that the shock is dispersed to a multiple units. Nonetheless, the effect is still there."

"And you are telling me this because...?" Jane raised an eyebrow.

"I want to tell you, at that moment when I smell radiation, see ultraviolet spectrum or taste temperature, I am dispersed within the grids and..." he trailed off.

"Yes, go on," she said. She tried not to gasp.

"Every cell on my body is melded into the world sheet of ever-tangling mess of chains."

"You are assimilated to the world," she felt the gasping sensation was up to her throat now.

"I became the world," the Traveller said softly.

"You became God himself," she still gasped finally.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nexus (Chapter 6)

SIX - JANE SOUTAINE IV

They weren't heading to the sea but near the beach. There was one tall hotel called the Spire. Around 500 metres tall, the conical hotel towered into empty nightsky and she knew nothing of the hotel because it didn't quite get the popularity ratings from local and foreign tourists. It looked black and windowless.

She wondered why the driver is taking her there.

Something burned the corner of her eyes far away from the beach, at the horizon. She squinted and saw a gigantic dome of light in undefined colours is expanding.

The flash, she gasped.

"A memory eraser something like one in an ancient movie?" she asked the driver.

"The world is bigger than you think, Jane. It's not only about the 42," the driver said. "The flash is not a memory eraser in a real classical sense because you can still remember what happened before but not me. I will leave the remaining answers for the Traveller." He parked his car, opened her door and pulled her out roughly.

"Why can't you just tell me?"

"It's not my job. I don't want to open a can of worms with this topic."

"Worms or not, I need to know."

"Later, you will." He took her to the lobby and strangely, there wasn't anyone there. He grabbed her waist and pulled her close to him, so that his head was just right next to hers. He whispered, "Listen, from this point onwards, you cannot turn back or we all will die. Not because of the tsunami, but something worse than that. You have to listen to me now. Go to Level 42 and meet the Traveller. He will be there waiting for you. We are counting on you. Don't find me again. I won't know you anymore after the flash hits. Now go."

He spun and ran out, shortly before a wave of bluish light washed over the entire area, piercing her eyes even though she shut them.

Seconds later, she opened her eyes, blinking a few times to clear her retina afterimages. She ran out to find her driver but he was gone. She went back to the lobby and tried calling anyone she knew. But there was nobody who knew her. And as if there was an electromagnetic interference, her phone went dead immediately after.

She sobbed. She felt so lonely now.

Wormhole Tech Inc. was her life as well and her colleagues hadn't heard anything about her. She remembered the sequence of the massive earthquakes. It started from the Sahara desert, then some happened at Italy, Indian Ocean and now Acheh, Indonesia. But those earthquakes from Italy and Indian Ocean weren't massive enough, although they sparked a new interest on tectonic science as well as a new fear of underground volcano belching.

She cleared her throat of phlegm.

Patterns. The earthquakes formed a pattern. She mentally conjured an atlas and traced those earthquakes in lines. And she didn't know what to do. They happened in a sloping-southeastern line starting from Sahara. And if she extrapolate the line, the next quake will happen at Australia, or US, allowing some deviations.

"Hi, Jane," a voice rang in the lobby hall. It was Dave. He was holding a gun at her. A very peculiar gun. "And, bye, Jane..."

She saw his fingers twitched at the trigger. She leapt away and Dave missed his shot and he scowled. He took off running after her. She ran into the back of the lobby and found herself in a corridor of ten elevators.

"Don't run, Jane," he said in a very maniacal way.

"What do you want from me?" she screamed as she waited for the elevator to descend as she pushed a button.

"Now, that's a bit hard to explain," he said. He placed the tip of the gun on his lips. "Actually, I don't want anything from you. I don't want you." He pointed the gun at her, once again.

"Wh-what?" Jane panicked.

The elevator pinged.

Dave knew she would dive into the elevator. He pressed the trigger once again. But he was sluggish. She still managed to enter the elevator and shut the door, not before seeing him being burnt into ashes in a few seconds. And a man with dark skin tone stopped the elevator door from closing. He was bald, dressed in elaborate tribal design cloak and holding a crystal staff. He looked like a wizard.

"Jane Soutaine?" he asked. His voice was deep but calm. But the voice could be deceiving.

"Get out! Get out!" she screamed.

He shut the elevator door and pushed the button "42". The elevator sped upwards and she could feel her weight increasing. "I am the Traveller and you are safe now."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nexus (Chapter 5)

FIVE - JANE SOUTAINE III

Dave grinned and pulled out a pistol. He made a kissing mouth to her and winked as he fired. Multiple bullets - and she could trace their needle shapes - raced to her car. The car shuddered several times as if it was choking.

Out of nowhere, a small hovercraft appeared above Dave's car. Turrets had been lowered from its belly and she knew she had no time. Her survival or her love. Damn the love, she thought. She fired. The energy charge hit the nose of the hovercraft and it lost control, flipping over and over again from head to toe, spreading debris in a wide area. Dave spun off his car to avoid any damage and he vanished in another street but she knew he would be back soon.

Her necklace beeped noisily. She kept the guns to her side, closed the seat cover and gingerly pressed her necklace blue gem. The blue gem projected a map zooming in from Earth, Asia, Southeast Asia and finally Indonesia, near Acheh.

"Instability level 5,' she muttered under her breath. "Tsunami warning alerted at all coasts..."

"We are going to the beach," the driver said.

"It is up to 10.1 Richter scale," even as she spoke, she could feel the tremors. Trees began to sway gently and trashbins fell and rolled. "You have no idea how immense that tsunami is going to be. Take us to Malaysia mainland, far away from the coastlines."

"No," the driver replied.

"I can alert the police if you don't. This is kidnapping!" she shouted.

"We are going to be forgotten soon. What makes the difference? Listen to me. I am to bring you to a person who nobody thinks he existed. I need to bring you there before the flash spread to Singapore. That would take approximately less than 20 minutes to happen. Now shut up and just wait for it," the driver said.

"Who are you?"

"Your driver to heaven."

"Tell me or I will shoot you with that gun," she warned.

"You shoot me and all of us are going to die. You listen to me, you will live. Choose wisely, Jane."

"At least tell me something I should know," Jane pleaded.

"You know one thing that nobody does..."

"Keep going," Jane said.

"The Sahara quake. Remember that? Nobody knew that thing happened before, except you. I don't even know that quake existed but it was him he told me. He told me it will be your turn," the driver said.

"Who? What? It is impossible. The earthquake was a 11.2 giant. It is hard for people to not notice it!" Jane said. "If not why so many scientists went to survey that area?"

"Who are the scientists, Jane?"

"Alma Ricksons, Deri Luise and Harry Blanco lead the team, no?"

"They don't know a thing. Call them up. They are your research team members right? Here, take my phone."

She took it and called Deri. She asked about the quake and quite surprisingly that Deri knew nothing about the quake. Deri was being told there was a thing to research there but nobody told her the details.

"The flash is erasing all information, Jane," the driver said, looking at her through the rear mirror. "There would be huge crack cutting across the face of Africa if that is true."

"It is true the quake happened!"

"Then you have found another anomaly, true?"

"Yes, how did you know?" she stammered a little. It was a highly classified information. The news was never uploaded to any electronic systems in fear of public outcry because of that piece of information.

"He told me."

"Who is he? Why is he so important?"

"You are important," the driver corrected.

"You are lying. You don't know anything. I didn't find anything strange."

"Does the number 42 mean anything to you?" the driver grinned as he looked at her hard through the rear mirror again. "Don't lie to me. You can be truthful now, but I'll tell you, after the flash hits here, I won't be remembering anything anymore.

42. She breathed.

42...

Nexus (Chapter 4)

FOUR - Jane Soutaine II

Date    : 3044 A.D.
Place   : SINGAPORE, EARTH

Jane Soutaine, a thirty-year-old scientist from the latest Wormhole Tech Inc. had just finished her case. Lately the world had shown signs of instability and she was given a task to identify, investigate and possibly put a stop to it.

Instability was the only correct word to describe it.

16 years back, there was a massive earthquake measuring up to 11.2 on the Richter scale hit the northern Saharan desert, kicking up sandstorms that travelled almost to Alaska. Strangely, when scientists all over the world raced to the quake site, ever quite expecting a drastic geological impact, were puzzled to find nothing was there, except some great amounts of sand had been reduced.

But that quake somehow sent a hidden message to young Jane Soutaine who was about the age of a late teenager. She was at France when the quake happened. She could feel it, and so did everyone, but she was quite sure that something went amiss. There was a very, very deep whisper in her mind telling her that the quake was not natural and the scientists had overlooked something.

She never believed in extraterrestrials, of course.

Her determination made her ambition into a reality. She was a genius. She knew almost everything in the world. Everyone adored her, even her boyfriend Dave loved her even more. She made detailed field study on the quake site for more than 3 years and travelled around the world to collect sand samples from Sahara to find its significance. she crunched the numbers in her head and started calculating and weighing.

And then she got a message from a person called the 'Traveller' who seemed to be an omniscient human even though he was not with her. It was as if he could be anywhere on the Earth at the same time. He asked of her. She refused.

And trouble came.

Multiple assassins pursued her. Burning her house and slashing her family, they never stopped looking for her. She ran and ran. She was supposed to meet Dave at a Conference at Singapore. And on the way back, she got attacked by several gunmen.

"Get in the car, quick!" A hooded man drove up to her.

She had no choice. She boarded it and the man drove her away fast, although the assassins were behind her. She lost her phone. She couldn't call Dave in time.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked the driver.

"Shut up and focus. Stand up, remove the backseat. Do it!" the driver ordered.

She did and she saw a huge silver gun laced with red lines like lavalines.

"Take it and shoot them down," the driver ordered.

"I never handle a..."

"Do it or you'll die," he interrupted. "We will die." He corrected.

"The canisters are artilery shells. Take one, insert into the gun and aim at one of them. Fire at them accurately. We need minimal damage," the driver said.

"Who are you?"

"Shut up and shoot..."

"Maybe I should drive..."

"You have no idea where you are going to, Jane Soutaine," the driver pronounced her name ever so carefully and dangerously.

"You know my - " she trailed off. The car swerved. A blast hit near them, tearing down a street lamp. The assassins had gone violent now. "Mother of..."

She fired. Blinking purple streams of light replaced the lavalines red and a jet of red energy slammed on one of the pursuers' cars. The car engine died and caught fire. The gun cooled down to red lavalines again.

She dropped the gun. She never knew she could use a gun, besides she was able to fire a gun that accurate.

"Take the other car off our tail, or we can't make it safe," the driver commanded.

"Are they dead?"

"If they aren't, you would be," the driver said.

She nodded even though she knew the driver couldn't see her gesture (probably too busy avoiding the messy traffic right now). She inserted another canister and aimed at the next car. Her finger closed on to the trigger. Purple lines began to take over the red lavalines once again.

Then she paused.

The driver of the assassin's car was smiling evilly at her.

He's Dave, her boyfriend.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nexus (Chapter 3)

THREE - JANE SOUTAINE


Orbfly, or orbflies in plural, was not a new toy. Its spherical body embedded with numerous sensors and tactile arrays can reveal more information than anything else. Nothing could hide from it. Powered by microbursts of nuclear matter and antimatter, the orbflies could fly to the moon and back. But one of the most favourite features is, it has (or once had) the intelligence of an inquisitive ant, or bee.


This time, after so many years, almost be forgotten, they were in use again by him to scour the region where the source came from. And for seven days they had been sniffing and prodding. Visuals and other data had been squeezing into his mind through tiny neurotransmitter. He slowly analysed the data while waiting for the source to reply again.


And of course, after a week, the data was consumed and displayed logically and the source also had replied. First, all the intelligent-testing puzzles had been solved with great accuracy but there was still some margin of errors, indicating that it wasn't a machine or a super computer which completed it. Second, visuals and sensors from the orbflies revealed that there was a huge black vehicle hidden in a dense forest at the southern hemisphere just being activated. The heat signature suggeated that this vehicle was under hibernation for at least five hundred years. But nothing was revealed. X-ray and gravimetric sensors drew blank.

And now, it sent messages again:

"WHO ARE YOU?"

"Sir, do you think...?" the servitor twitched.

"I am weighing the issue, in case you are wondering," he interrupted.

"The ship is prepared, sir," the servitor announced after it ran through pre-test from the control board.

"Alright. Suit me up, I am going to hit atmosphere," he said with a silent sigh.

"Are you sure about this, sir? The threat of dying might be inevitable," the servitor warned. "Do not forget how you become the last human standing."

"I am not the Pilgrim," he replied sharply. "She left a very long time ago." He then recalled the bitter story of how humanity ended. Ever so quiet and ever so brutal. "She should be executed, just so you know."

"She didn't know that it is coming to her all the time, sir," the servitor replied.

"I will not forget her name. Jane Soutaine," he gritted his teeth.

"She tried to protect humanity, sir," the servitor replied.

"She didn't. She allowed meteor to hit Earth and she brought so many disasters!" he got very angry now. "If only I know where she has gone to, I would have hunted her down and slaughter her."

"You know she has gone to the Traveller's side. You couldn't have any possibility to get her right now, sir," the servitor replied.

"Well, it is believed that she has gone to the Traveller's but not much data is obtained from that since the deletion of all human culture and information was part of the disaster."

"I still have some data. Should I patch it through, sir?"

"Patch it through while I am on my way down to Earth," he replied.

"You might get yourself killed by any remaning elements of the disaster, sir," the servitor warned.

"I take the chances," he replied firmly.

Another beep frightened them. He stared at the screen and he shivered at the message received:

"JANE SOUTAINE"

"She is there and she can hear us..." he said in horror.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Nexus Book Cover


Get the meaning behind this logo and you will get the ending of the story.

PS: I wonder who will print this short story for me?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nexus (Chapter 2)

TWO - CONTACT

There, he heard that beep again. He wiped the sweat on his brow.

"It couldn't be..." he muttered under his breath.

"Sir?" the servitor cocked its head.

He ignored the servitor. He checked his system again. Restarting and reconfiguring. But the beep was still there. And each time he restarted his system, the beeping noise grew louder as if telling him: I have told you three times now, you idiot.

"Plug yourself in. I want to know whether this is a glitch," he turned to the servitor.

"Now, sir?"

"Yes. Now," he said sharply.

He watched the servitor whisked a silvery tube - hardly solid but not that liquid - into one of the ports on his console and the servitor's lights began to flicker wildly. He sighed. He didn't know what to think. All these years he had been alone in this vast manmade megastructure around planet Earth, called Near-Orbit Nexus and this was certainly not the time to surprise him.

He glanced to the window on his left and saw one of the hubs of the Nexus drifted by in pseudo-orbit. Usually he would ignore it, but this time, he imagined there were roomful of humans staying in there. Another hub passed by in another direction. The chaotic pseudo-orbit of each hub was certainly adding more dizziness to his mind right now.

Few thousand years ago, the Nexus was heavily populated by the humans. More than thirty billion people inhabiting in every hub and that did not include those who chose to live in spacecrafts as traders. It was a serious megalopolis that brought serious fame and fortune before the disaster struck.

"Verification complete, sir. No glitch reported," the servitor replied cheerily.

He held his breath.

That particular software was designed by his ancestors to detect sentient life. According to them, once an organism is able to think, construct, communicate and innovate constantly, the mind is automatically 'upgraded' into a higher status, or in other words "sentient". And also according to them, sentient life leaves "footprints" on space-time (a theory derived from a historical scientist called Weyl from the early 19th to 20th century). The footprints are barely detectable but the existence cannot be ignored. That software will detect any changes on space-time fabric and analyse it to present any meaningful data.

And now, he was uncertain whether the data was meaningful.

"The footprints are strong. Very strong," he murmured.

"I concur, sir. It seems like..."

"Like a sentient mega-organism fixing at that point..." he continued. There was a way to find out. He called it preliminary testing. It is always a big no-no for a person to go deep to find the answer. Rather, as though embedded in human natural instinct, send a decoy or a scout to track it. "Can you dispatch the orbflies to monitor the source? Collect some samples if possible. Photos or videos. Or maybe just throw in a transponder..."

"Noted, sir," the servitor spun away and wheeled to the opposite side of the console. The servitor's fingers raced across the keypads and in no time, it faced him and nodded, "Dispatched, sir." A cloud of spherical robots sped towards the surface of the Earth.

"Meanwhile, tightbeam the location and send in those puzzles. If that... life is not reponding to the beam, try sending it by orbflies," he added. He remembered that there was a huge stock pile of puzzles to verify whether a thing is actually sentient and intelligent.

"Beam is ready in three... two... one... and sent," the servitor said. "Iterative process number one, three, six, seven..."

Before the servitor could continue counting, a message popped up on the screen of the console. The message was short but enough to still every heart of any organism. Even he nearly fell from his own footing.

It wrote:

"I WANT TO SEE YOU."