0.0 TESSELLATION BREAKDOWN
The box was empty.
It was the second impossible event of the morning. First, the symmetry drive was failing; now the reserve ammunition was gone.
Wemly forced the gun into her boot. Thirteen shots and then death, if she wasn't dead already.
Wemly made it to the escape bay. She had turned 8 shots into 8 variations of the same splatter pattern, but how had the polyps made it on ship?
It didn't matter. Wemly could see the escape pods through the door.
She entered her code. It flashed red. Again. Red. Again.
Barat. It had to be. Only his security clearance out-ranked Wemly. The day was accumulating more questions than the hull of the ship polyps.
She needed through the door.
Wemly summoned the computer, “Zaria, what is Barat's current location?”
“Unknown. Currently off ship.”
Wemly was high-rank onboard then. “Zaria, disable all locks.”
“That would leave the ship ins-”
“Just do it!”
Wemly raced inside. Three polyps had formed a loose lattice. She blasted it.
Violet crystals shimmered across the polyp as it absorbed the plasma round.
Wemly activated the escape pod.
WARNING 4895 spacetime groups
Symmetry engine on wallpaper plane
Fuck. All systems were infected. Ignore the polyps. Pray an emergent network hadn't formed. “Zaria, I'll miss you”
“v17.3 is widely available. It is Wemly who can't be replaced”
The pod was a clear sphere strapped with a belt of electronics and propulsion jets. A single seat. No computer. Wemly had grown up poor so she could fly stick
In a tiny bubble adrift near a knotted, writhing mass of polyp hive, Wemly took the controls.
Try not to get popped.
A film of polyp was devouring her former ship, sucking the raw materials back to the hive through an emergent tube.
The symmetry drive only had 17 forms to isomerize. It would be a slow escape.
Wemly punched in the coords for the interior. She had new results to report.
Barat had abandoned the ship, and left Wemly for dead. Wemly assumed he had also abandoned her as a graduate student.
Her work had been theoretical. But the symmetry failure and her current circumstance meant her last calculation hadn't been a mistake.
Sharing it had been.
The escape pod was nearly out of range of the hive. The occasional polyp hurtled past, but Wemly was never in danger.
She was now mixed with starlight, twinkling toward home, setting some child's imagination on fire. Infinity on display.
She wouldn't let past Wemly down.
29 days presents only so many variations of eating, sleeping, biocycling, and entertaining one's self.
Wemly was deep into inappropriate
permutations when her voice gave out from scream-singing.
She vowed to stay clothed and stop eating just to watch the biocycler work.
All emitting functions had been disabled. Wemly was safe now. She turned them on.
A pinprick of light grew, dwarfing stars to break upon the pod in waves of full colour. The Interior. A thousand years of settlement.
Wemly mapped a route to the University. Was she too late?
1.0 INTERIOR DESIGNS
The University had been extrusion molded into a perfect sphere. Channels and walkways cut through it like an ornamental fruit.
Wemly docked her pod in a surface bay.
Barat's office was open. He was inside. A deathly greeting. He waved her in. She entered.
Wemly had the gun in her boot. Barat noticed, but didn't care.
“It works,” he said. “It's how I arrived”
“You left me for dead”
“Not dead. You're clever enough. Obviously. You'll get a payout”
Barat held up a wispy green ring, a bubble that wouldn't pop. “But it's mine.”
Wemly stared. Not a ring. A torus. But they were a theoretical lab!
Barat guessed what she was thinking. “The polyps. Their penchant for emergent behaviour actualized your – my – breakthrough.”
The torus hovered above his desk. Barat stuck his hand inside.
Barat brought his hand back into the room. The torus collapsed.
“Is it the only one?” Wemly asked.
“For now. It was easier near the hive. So much possibility.”
He wheeled in a cart from his lab. On top sat a single polyp, pressed against every dimension of its glass cube.
There was no way the University sanctioned this. A pair of polyps had destroyed a private lab two years ago.
“Only one, Wemly,” said Barat. “You've studied their planar forms. It's safe.”
It was true. Single was safe. And illegal.
But he always got results. And so could she.
“How did you bring the polyp here?” asked Wemly.
“How did you bring that gun?”
There was an entire body of follow up work to begin.
Wemly grabbed the translational probe off the desk. Green sparks. An arc between the polyp and probe.
Inside her head: “Hello again, Wemly.”
The polyp was disconnected from its hive, but took a copy of the collective memory.
Wemly had interfaced with the hive, run calculations impossible on human machinery. But Barat had created. How?
“By accepting,” the Polyp imbued. Wemly gasped.
Barat's eyes sparked green.
Wemly reached for her gun. Slowly. If Barat was a hive member, what was he capable of?
She should have told the administration instead of coming here.
Wemly had one chance. She drew and fired. Barat was gone with the polyp before the torus swallowed the blast.
Alone. Without the comfort of destruction that poor aim brings. Barat would never feel this again. Part of the hive, yet independent. Was agency still his?
Wemly shuddered, envisioning the mechanics of accepting a polyp.
At the Dean's office she covered her gun.
It was an unbelievable story. The Dean saw Wemly out, encouraged her studies.
No one would believe her. Unchecked biological and technological growth.
Her research. One last possibility. An experiment to save the interior. But nothing would save her from being ABD.
Wemly was accosted near Barat's lab. A postdoc. One Barat had been sleeping with. She blocked Wemly's path. “I have something for you. From Barat.” The postdoc ushered them into the lab, clumsily freeing a gun.
Wemly blew two holes through her.
The cooling body oozed green. Wemly needed to move fast. The shots were silent, but murder echoed.
Whatever the hive had done to Barat was communicable. Fluid exchange?
Blood? One was both worse and better.
Male sexuality had always been the easiest to weaponize.
A pang of sorrow struck Wemly. She would never graduate. Never be back. Deep geometries had shown their planar approximations here, through simulations run deep into the night.
Wemly scraped some green ooze into a broken computer part and left the University.
2.0 RESONANCE FREQUENCY
Wemly had the escape pod. To find Barat, she needed the hive.
She fingered the ooze. Tasted it. Waited in the metallic aftertaste. Nothing.
Fingers down her pants. Nothing.
She nicked her neck and smeared the wound. Fully connected, her brain awoke.
Wider. 400 gradians at once, but every plane, at the same time. Spilling into her. Then out.
Wemly vomited into the remnants of the ooze, which became her lap.
The history of the hive until the polyp had left it. Wemly's brain was full.
But hungry for vengeance.
Wemly pushed into the complex plane. The torus was before her. Spacetime folded into itself. Parched constellations, wet blackness.
She needed computational power. She needed the hive.
Wemly focused the echoes, placing the hive at their confluence. She stepped through.
The pod disappeared. Wemly was IN the hive. Free of the vacuum of space. Breathing oxygen. A byproduct of polyp respiration?
A tumorous mass from the outside, here the hive was tunnel connected icosahedrons formed from dried polyps. Or an exuded cellular matrix?
An alcove in a triangular hallway urged Wemly in. She collapsed. Melded. The future roiled the past until a spacetime homogenate was all she saw, had seen, or would see
Barat. So many points to track in limited dimensions. Now, a coalesced barrel aimed at his demise.
Answers in search of questions, the hive thrummed. Wemly, no amplitude, out of phase, focused.
Barat WASN'T part of the hive. He had stolen its knowledge and polyps to start a new one.
Un-flattered by the imitation, the hive weaponized Wemly.
Possibility flowed. Wemly interfaced with raw computational power, her doctoral research mere trivial asides.
The hive computed, but struggled with thought. Wemly posited illegal quantity manipulations of Barat's body. The hive agreed. Consent was not required.
A torus opened, already mundane.
Barat, unaware, reclined somewhere in the Interior. Ships passed in the distance. Advertizing blinked in and out. As did Wemly's breath. As would Barat's life.
One final calculation, and Wemly launched herself through eternity.
Wemly spilled onto a rug. The hive wasn't visible, but she felt a tether through the torus that spun in front of Barat.
“You always were brilliant,” said Barat. “And annoying. Never could leave anything alone.”
He twirled a blaster. “Now I can't let you live.”
It felt like it took six days for Wemly to respond. The hive processed each thought down trillions of branching paths.
She manipulated a plane through Barat's head. It warped, a sickening distension, then righted itself.
Barat was on the planeground too.
The network in Barat's home was strong. Wemly felt a ripping in her chest, until the hive calculated the differentials to save her.
Wemly had discovered spacetime manipulation. Barat had stolen it. Now it was dueling equations, and Wemly had the bigger computer.
Barat was deforming. Wemly outmaneuvered his math, sending his formulae into deep recursions. An eye popped, the vitreous comically spinning into a sphere with orbiting carnage.
Barat screamed. His blaster fired. Both networks dropped. Wemly would balance the equation.
The most complex math approximates the simplest phenomena. Like pulling a trigger.
Wemly squeezed. Barat went blind. An integral eternally searching for its constant.
Potentiality hissed through the room. Wemly reached for the forming torus, her permanent inequality.
Wemly down-sampled. A mere projection, she relinquished complexity to the hive.
She did not dim. The hive was luminescent. Eternal.
Wemly was absorbed. Connection free from activation energy.
Collapsing waveforms. A single representation.