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Fermius Firefly

A Dream Log, whenever I remember the dreams I've had.

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Location: San Marcos, United States

Fermius is a pen name drawn from a series of short fiction I wrote when I published the small press magazine Stellanova (on paper.) I play RPG games to escape from my daily grind as a technology wage slave for the state of California. I eat out a lot in order to do my part in supporting our increasingly service level economy. I am butler to 2 feline masters. If you ask them they will tell you I'm not very good at it, late with dinner, don't have enough hands with brushes in them, and sometimes I even lock them out of their office.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lightning Loop

First there was the flash of lightning. Then the long rumble and shaking. Then there was the black and silver loop. We could see it arcing down from the sky. Then the silvery ships.

The Loop was a hyperbolic curve that looped down onto our world from a shifting point near the center of the local arm and barely touched the earth along the shores of central California, then swooped up and out of the atmosphere and out along a path across the milky way. The loop was solid and shimmering at the same time. Daylight rode along it in long stripes and the view of the sky was pinched along either end.

Hundreds of small craft emptied out of the loop in that first day, then spread all over the world. Some governments tried to knock them down, with little success. Several days later, they all merged through the walls of the Loop and headed off in both directions. I had seen three of the speedy little ships the first day they'd arrived. San Diego was one of their destinations, as much as you can call a hundred mile looping survey a destination.

In the center of the loop, mere days after it arrived was a long line of interconnected cylinders, about a hundred or so, all empty and all illuminated by the bright stripes of the Loop. Inside the engine was an invitation to emigrate, pictographs showing the loading and unloading of the cylinders and illustrations of atoms and their proportions and temperatures related to elemental phase changes each associated with "stops" along the way. Only two stops were suitable for us. Then there was a promise of more Cylinders to come. It took some time to discover the other data flowing along the Loop - that it existed was interesting, but it was mostly unintelligible. (I got all of that from a remembered, in the dream, documentary that had come out roughly six months after the Loop appeared. At the time, no one but the military and their hand picked researchers were allowed near the thing. It didn't take long to lock everyone with a camera out, either. There wasn't more than a couple of days of images, mostly shot from boats and light planes before the military successfully isolated the station.

Each Cylinder was initially full of carbon-rich soils, light minerals, useful metals, water and alien tools for moving the materials around. The machines were all docked along a long central corridor. I believed the materials were meant to be a sample of the other inhabitable world. All of the cylinders were nearly perfectly clear, even though the walls were three meters thick. The first and last Cylinder was more of a bullet shape, and though the outside was transparent, it was not clear what all of the mechanisms were on board the engine and caboose, as they came to be known. There were large portals on the side of each cylinder, each had opened shortly after arrival, and it was obvious that the materials inside had shifted on their long journey. The description of the journey soon explained why. Acceleration shifted during the trip. First aligned with the world, Parallel to the wall of the cylinder, then aligned with the caboose, then midway, shifting over the course of what would take most of a year, towards the engine, and then finally, over a very short period, would shift parallel to the wall of the cylinder at the destination, where there would be about two years to disembark. What happened to the train after that was not entirely clear, but we were choosing to believe the whole thing was sanitized for the next part of it's trip. So everything the colonists needed would need to be disembarked. There would not be a return trip for ninety six years. This was a one way trip for whoever went. There would be eight more sets of cylinders coming to follow this one, each about a year behind the launch of the next.

Nowhere were there any images of those who sent The Invitation. And the Invitation was everywhere, all around the world. Every little isolationist group in the world wanted, it seemed, to be selected to go. Engineers offered suggestions for buildings and systems that would rotate inside with the shifting of acceleration, self sustaining rather than stored foods, etc. Someone tried to blow up the Loop with a low Orbit nuke, but the Loop shrugged off the damage, not so much the atmosphere and nearby satellites. Billionaires offered to buy passage - a whole cylinder at a time. Some people made "To Serve Man" references, and there was no small amount of terror at the thought of what might be on the next eight "trains."

The first trip, according to researchers, would take thirty two years, and would touch down on a world much like our own, but nearly abandoned by it's previous occupants. They wanted their world to live again, if not for them, then for others.

Yes I wanted desperately to go. But realized that I would be eighty-seven years old when I got there, if I made it that long. Even with nearly a hundred cylinders, each just over a hundred meters in diameter and about five hundred meters long, it would be, over the course of three decades, more than a little bit cozy. Plus, it looked more and more like the world was going to destroy itself over the thing rather than end up putting anyone on it.

At one point in the dream I was in a VR simulation of the "train" station, and it was every bit as impressive as I imagined. (The application images of the Loop itself were being broadcast on delay around the world and thousands of viewers avatars were able to connect and interact at a time.) I just marveled at the technology, the amazing amount of energy to hold the loop together, and to so precisely land it.

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