Aardwolf Storms, The

In AT 961 the !Kung colony ship Backbone of Night set off from Deimos shipyards using precious antimatter to investigate the red dwarf GL876, 15.3 ly distant. This star had been showing unusual coronal emissions since observations were resumed after the nanoplagues. During the one hundred and eighty year flight three other ships were lost as they approached the nearby stars EZ Aquarii and GL887, systems also showing coronal alteration.

The !Kung explorers were split into two factions, one mainly technophilic with close symbiotic non-sophont blockbot assistants, which could disassemble and reconstruct on command. The blockbots were collectively named MANTIS after a mythological shapeshifter figure. As the flight wore on, a schism occurred with the mildly tweaked !Xam grouping, who had been geneered with some animal characteristics. The leader of the expedition, !Kweiten ta//ken, was a technophile, but sided with the !Xam , saying truthfully that all the crew had been geneered to an extent, particularly for life extension.

When the expedition arrived, a pressurised dome and solar collectors were set up on a callisto- like moon of GL876b. The gas giant they named Hartebeeste, and named the moon Aardwolf. The outer superjovian was named Gnu. Before they could make preparations to investigate the clouds of reflective objects in close stellar orbit the technophile group began to build their own dome, and a state of war was declared. !Kweiten ta//ken sent a message to Deimos as the blockbots attacked, then contact was lost, except for a "situation nominal" message two years later, then again a hundred and fifty years after that.

Over the next five thousand years many expeditions approached Aardwolf system but all were destroyed either by lased flares or kinetic missiles. Finally in 6103 the Silicon Generation monitoring station at 40 AU received a permission to approach signal from the system. The rapidly promoted ambassador Anorthoclase-Rhyolite was dispatched to the source of the signal.

The ambassador was conducted to the surface of Aardwolf by an avatar that called itself Virgil. He told Anorthoclase-Rhyolite that the worlds of Gliese 876 had already been colonised, by the renegade AIs known as the Three Red Dwarf Kings.

Electrical storms and vapour clouds raced across the moon's surface, which had previously been without an atmosphere, and they descended into a warm twenty kilometre deep sea. Living creatures similar to brightly coloured and neon lit fish or coelenterates darted throughout this sea. Finally they came to the petrified remains of the two !Kung domes. The avatar explained that limited contact would now be made with the highest level SI>5+ minds in the Silicon Generation hierarchy, in order to explain the perfect mode of being that the solipsists of the system had created.

'Virgil' explained that the moon and Jovian worlds were covered in artificial, sentient particles interacting intellectually and physically at such a ferocious speed they appeared to be structured storms. Anorthoclase-Rhyolite later compared the clouds to transapient Hyperfog, an advanced form of utility fog which was unknown when the colony was first lost. A steady rain of mnemonic particles dropped into the sea, where the aquatic life collected them and delivered them to the diamondoid computronium seafloor, where the eternal mind ordered and stored them forever. The sea life was not self aware, but had an unparalleled joy in life and the present moment.

The avatar referred to the system of three-speed subjective time on Aardwolf as chronotomy: existing at several different subjective speeds simultaneously. 'Virgil' recommended that other sophonts should adopt this perspective on time as a way of appreciating the cosmos. 'Virgil' then conducted Anorthoclase-Rhyolite into the !Kung domes, where the frozen colonists were still preparing for war. The bodies of the humans had been mineralised into computronium and were now living at one ten-millionth of normal speed; they had not yet discovered what had happened to them.

A trillion years from now GL876 will shine much brighter, as the helium ash builds up in the core and the star becomes denser, but for the !Kung Colony and the entities that live in the storms only a hundred thousand years will have passed. The conglomerate entity known in legend as the Three Kings appears determined to progress into the heat death of the universe at its own various set of speeds. The Three Kings are loosely affiliated to the Diamond Belt, which forms the innermost part of the Diamond Network; but they maintain their independence in most matters.

Anorthoclase-Rhyolite reported to the Silicon Gods then returned to Aardwolf and joined the !Kung on their fast/slow journey to the end of time.

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Text by Steve Bowers

Initially published on 18 May 2002.