2034-03-11 1910EST DVT is born
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There is more narrative to come.
The Alien Menace
Tetras, Pentas, and Swarms (or Bees) are descendants of sophants that the Trees encountered in their slow travels across the galaxy. As far as DVT knows there are at least five other sophants that have chosen to join the diaspora, but they are not part of this worldship's ecosystem. They were encountered by other worldships, and this lineage has not encountered those ships in the millennia since.
The small sophants think relatively quickly. Tetras are very much the workers and 'immune system' of the worldships, and as tool users were sent to interact with the clearly intelligent but bizarre and incomprehensible humans.
Trees think big and long and slow by the standards of the wee folk. It took this one several days to consider the slaughter of the Tetras, determine a strategy to stop that slaughter, and to optimize the reaction to minimize damage and establish benefits for the planet based on the action taken.
Live in the water, have a 5-fold structure, look like jellies crossed with sea stars. They are conscious in schools of tens of thousands, and have been attempting to communicate with ocean life.
Hexapodal flying insect-like critters that form a mind out of 1,000,000 horsefly to bee sized bugs. They have been surveying wilderness areas, and avoiding contact with humans. These creatures come in a wide array of forms. A single sophant is usually made up hundreds of different species, from many worlds.
Using what amounts to magic from DVT's perspective, hollowed out asteroids 1000km across somehow contain a star and a good 8 light minutes of space. The interior surface of the spheres are covered by a forest of vast trees - dwarfing sequoias. Each 'world tree' is effectively a neuron inside a single enormous mind - the interior surface of the world ship.
Droo and Tetras at CAF
When the Tetras realigned to form a 10 body pod, they formed a stable configuration. At first the Droo/Vogel personalities were dominant, but this changed as the Tetras began to settle into a bizarre and new kind of mind. The experience shifted from "Droo + AddOnBrainPacks" to a single mind distributed across ten bodies. When they were initially combined that wasn't how it was working. After the Tetra's minds got over the shock of the integration, they began to exert themselves. There was a short window when Droo was Commander Of Many Minds. He used that window well.
A single consciousness is not the same as ‘of one mind’ however. Droo and Vögel are two voices out of eleven. Normal human consciousness includes many drives and motivations that compete for control of the body. They often work in harmony, but being ‘of two minds’ and ‘paralyzed with indecision’ are not just phrases.
The ten bodies and minds collectively formed a new sentient entity that included the memories and experiences of the component beings. Because Droo is independently conscious, his former selfhood had a significant but minority voice in the combined consciousness. In effect, each hemisphere of his brain had the ‘volume’ of four Tetras. This meant Droo and Vögel represented just under half of the collective volume inside the distributed mind that was DVT.
This shift had several consequences. The original intent was to ransack the group memory/knowledge for transmission to humanity. Once Droo and Vogel no longer existed as a separate consciousness, the new sophant labelled itself DVT. While it explored strange new thoughts and bodies, it thought about what it wanted and what was important to it.
Droo and Vögel were agitated when DVT realized that they could disengage from the new sophant if they wanted too – but they were no longer in a position to ‘want’ independently of the rest of the sophant.
The first real emotional connection between Droo, Vogel, and the Tetras was the experience of being a voice within a larger consciousness. The Tetra voices did not communicate in words the way Droo and Vogel could, but the emotions and urges of separate consciousnesses in communication was familiar to all ten bodies - all eleven minds.
°What happened?° Vogel and Drew wondered simultaneously. Nine other minds had coalesced around them, slithering from cacophony to harmony like a symphony tuning up. When the chord was stuck, so rich and full and powerful, they found themselves in the back seat of the collective pod of ten bodies.
°Time to bail,° Vogel muttered internally, willing the human limb of their body to lower the shield to isolate that node from the collective mind. Droo's desires aligned with Vogel's sentiment, adding a somewhat xenophobic intensity to their sentiment.
The rest of the 'pod was having a different experience. Their thoughts did not use words, instead conveying concepts and emotions in fragments of memory and feeling. The nine minds in Tetra bodies were astonished by this human able to join, and felt curiousity as an actual physical hunger.
The Droo-limb of the body patted his pockets, absently seeking the hope of a forgotten snack. Three Tetra-limbs fed themselves nutrient bricks, providing a sense of satiation as the flavours surged through the pod's sensorium.
As the DVT entity began to understand it's body and mind, it tried to directly and immediately describe the experience. That produced an incomprehensible word salad spewing from the Droo-body.
The new sophant took a little more time to settle into itself. Droo carefully examined his body using his sonar and radio senses to calibrate the visual sense for the parts of himself that were new to the concept of vision. At the same time the Tetra-flesh flexed, contorted, and scanned itself for the human minds in DVT. The human parts moved to the window to watch, attempting to integrate the sights and other sensations.
“Me and me and me and me and me and…” DVT listened with some awe and concern as all its bodies took up the chant.
A surge of paranoid irritation from the Vogel voice caused DVT to fall silent. °Sane people do NOT do that kind of thing. We need to get a grip.°
Though the concept of words was new, the Tetra portions of DVT took advantage of new neural hardware to respond: °Amazing.° The word carried rich emotional resonances, trills of memories, and clever observations with it – or perhaps the word was carried by those experiences.
“Maybe we should try this language thing again,” Droo said out loud. All of DVT’s bodies said the words simultaneously. “There’s a lot going on in here, so some of this will be confusing and out of order.” The human part took a deep breath and exhaled noisily. The Tetra parts experienced breath through balloons with delighted curiosity. DVT conceived a parallel inversion between human and Tetra bodies: the human digestive tract was a continuous flow, like the Tetra respiratory system; the Tetra digestive system was a one-hole bag, like human lungs.
“Oh, we breathe in a continuous flow,” they said. The sensation of air flowing continuously in through the trunks and out through the quills was suddenly overpowering. “So different…” DVT trailed off into an introspective examination.
“Droo, how are you?” Willow’s voice was calm, but it cut through DVT’s navel gazing.
°Navel?° The idea almost sparked another tangential line of thought, but the combined mind was able to regain focus. “Getting a grip,” they said to themself. DVT found it was able to continue mulling over the concept of a navel using some of it’s brains, while focusing on their hybrid body and mind with other brains.
“Huh. We can think in parallel a bit,” it said quietly. They shook their human head in befuddled wonder, and goggled at the rapid coiling and uncoiling of the downmost trunks. “We both make involuntary gestures and motions in response to emotions,” DVT said. “Maybe a linguist can make a translation matrix after we split up DVT into a few separate sophants.”
“We completely didn't notice the Penta-jellyfish aliens, nor the bees aliens. Both of which are present in large numbers. And our astronomers didn't see the asteroid worldship filled with Trees. Bees, Pentas, Tetras and Trees are all networked sophants. They basically exist in pods or swarms or schools to create 'consciousness' with skillsets and characteristics that are useful. Trees are also networked sophants but they think super slow compared to the wee-folk. And they are huge.”
“What is happening on the West Coast?” Storm asked. “Can it be stopped? Can the people be saved?”
DVT considered for a moment with a growing sense of dismay. All ten bodies broke into a babble of words before the human body shouted the others down.* “We need to turn off the faraday cage.” Three of DVT’s bodies were already assembling a device like the one Droo and Dan had seen in Atlanta. “Most of the people in the area hit by the gravity lance have been caught by inertialess pods and sent to the world ship. At least 90% of them should be alive.”
“Why do you need the cage down?” Willow asked. She was still calm, but it was a calm with sharp things at the ready.
“We need to talk to the others. We didn’t know…” DVT’s voice choked up with emotion, despite 9/10ths of the bodies having nothing vaguely resembling a throat or voicebox. “We can’t stop the CME or depopulation in time, but the sooner we talk to the Trees the smaller the number of humans abducted.”
“Wait.” Jake was tired from the long hours of training and securing his new neural lace, but he knew what a coronal mass ejection was. “They can make the sun burn the world?!”
DVT’s agitation increased. “It’s supposed to target the …cancerous?… part of the world that is slaughtering us,” it said. “The coronal mass ejection will cut down almost all defences in the US and make it easy to collect the insane wee folk.”
“This is going to look very bad to humanity,” Vögel said. It was striking how obviously different his voice was from Droo’s, once freed from speaking through the same vocal apparatus. So much more cold quiet sharpness in his cadence.
Another Tetra spoke with Droo’s voice. “The Bees have been tagging humans in the US for a while, to make it easier to use the inertialess pods to transport the insane portion of the human hivemind to a safe space on the worldship biosphere.”
Faintly, but just loud enough to be noticed, Icky said, “I know some of those words. Um, what?”
Together, Vögel and Droo said, “Humans are going to see this as genocide. They have no way to know where the people have gone.”
DVT paused for a moment while the implications of this settled in their mind. All ten bodies began to show signs of agitation. On Droo the emotions driving this were clearly fear and horror. A new voice, stilted and haunting, emerged from one of the Tetras. “We feel sickness here,” it said, one trunk curling over to gesture at it’s midsection. Using all four hands as hoofed feet, the other Tetras rocked around like a platter winding down from a spin.
Willow looked startled. “They’re… keening? It is well above human hearing, but it sounds like pain.”
“Droo, what’s going on?” Storm said, her voice demanding.
Droo’s body said, “Human sophants have a permanent integration to their specific biological shell rather than 'being sophants as a group' like us.” Three of the Tetras stopped their rocking to finish assembling their communication device. “Human personalities have an emotional attachment to their bodies because they never have the chance to change who they are made of.”
DVT shook it’s Droo-head. “We are panicking now because we figured out that humans are going to view the arrival as a potentially hostile invasion, and view Portland as a massacre and a permanent loss of millions of sophants. Humans do not have the technology to understand the what is really happening.”
“I don’t like this,” Jake said, using a private channel. “We just went from one alien invader to four invaders? How do we know he isn’t lying to us to get us to open a channel?”
“Think it through,” Storm said. “If he is lying the aliens are going to kill us or capture us, using tech that looks like magic and there’s nothing we can do about it. If he’s not lying the aliens might be reasoned with. Do we have a choice?”
There was a long moment of silence, interrupted by Icky playing the theme to Jeopardy.
“Fine,” Jake said, with some bitterness. “Even though this is exactly what we were trying to avoid by coming out here and going to ground.”
“Four of the board are out of the loop right now,” Icky said. “Is this something that can wait until they are back in contact?”
“I’d love to talk to them,” Storm said, “but I don’t think we have the time to spare.”
Icky nodded agreement. So did Willow.
“Ok, then," Storm said. "Let’s open it up.”
The hanger doors broke open, allowing radio signals in and out of the building.
“Thank you,” DVT said. One of its bodies stood amidst the whirling, floating lumps of metal. Three more surrounded it. They said, “We are controlling the signal generators and their direction.” Three more bodies scampered over to the metal box containing Droo, and began cutting through the thick steel with powerful lasers.
Droo’s body said, “We are reaching out to the Trees now with the transmitter. We are also looking for any Bees in the area. They are better at thinking than we are.” The last two Tetra bodies wrapped their trunks together like a twisted rope, and then pulled several devices off their belts.
“We are going to send a message over the internet as well, to reach terrans and aliens alike. Hopefully this will open up some communication options.”
“Perhaps we can help with that,” Q said, stepping into the augmented view of DVT and the others.
...at which point Q introduced the AIs to all 7 of 'the sudbury 7' , + the tetras. and the tetras warned us of the specific areas of the depop coming, right about at the same time as Genie freaked out.
- There is no hierarchy of ‘command’.
- The Trees run the ships and understand ecosystems and how to manipulate spacetime. They don’t make all the decisions any more than an occipital lobe or amygdala makes all the decisions. Anyone listening to the broadcast will interact on it’s own recognizance.
- the messages coming back from all three aliens include a lot of the kinds of feelings that went through your brains when you first connected into a pod as DVT.
- The Bees don't have vocal apparatus like humans or a built in sound system like the Tetras - but they comprehend the idea of constructed language much more easily than the Tetras do. One swarm engages DVT for a little while, exploring how our languages work.
- Q and IOTA join the interaction. The Droo-meat and Tetra-meat portions of DVT practice making the same language sounds out off all the bodies at once.
- Tetras don't have language centres the way we do, so it is a difficult and tedious process for them.
- The Bees have a fluid neural architecture. This swarm actively reconfigured itself to create a homologous cognitive machine. Over the radio link to the board and the AIs it said, "Call us Buzz. DVT, we believe we are in a good position to communicate now."
- As far as DVT knows, the world ship is located between the Earth and the Sun at the L1 point. That is 1.5x10^6 km or 5 light seconds away. The reason it hasn't been seen is not clear to DVT. It's impression is that the technology that allows the world ship to be bigger on the inside makes it smaller on the outside. As you approach it, it seems to expand dramatically - far faster than what happens in flat space.
- In effect, there are 11 hemispheres in this mind. You have 2 of them and both are more independently conscious than a single Tetra.
- Tetras have a hierarchical network structure, but it is very loose - like IOT devices. Each pod is conscious, but almost any set of 4-6 Tetras can form a pod with a new consciousness. Then they split, and form a new one. Consciousness and personal identity are not married for them. And personal identity is like a delightful meal. It gets dull if you have it over and over.
- When it first became conscious, DVT
- experienced some wonder at how humans are conscious at all with only two brains each, and trapped in a single body until death?
- experienced some wonder at how Tetras are conscious at all with bare fragments of brains so distributed, and refactored regularly. (edited)
- DVT was also aware that the communication failure between humans and Tetras and Pentas and Swarms and Trees is based on the simple reality that humans are the first internally networked intelligence that the interstellar races have encountered.