Tuesday, March 18, 2014

First Contact

"So, you don't like the idea of approximating the field as a cubic lattice?"
I rolled my eyes. People can be so dense. "This problem is a textbook case of spherical coordinates being superior. Rotational symmetry, two bodies."
Justin wasn't convinced. "Sure, but calculating the Laplacians will slow down the whole algorithm."
I was about so say that the reduced number of lattice points would make up for that a hundred times over, when Noetron interrupted. "Sir, the New Archivist wishes to speak with you."
"See you later, sucker," Justin said. "Don't worry, I'll send you the Powerpoint. It'll be almost as good as being there."
"I was speaking to Phoenix," the machine clarified. "I highly doubt she wishes to speak with you, except maybe in an attempt to record some bizarre aspect of human sexuality."
"Believe me. Daddy knows when she wants it."
I left the room. Hopefully, whatever my space-based friend wanted to speak about was more interesting than tearing Justin King to pieces and dissolving his remains in acid.

The airlock opened, letting me in to the Archives. The atmosphere now corresponded to Earth's. Was that a reflection of the New Archivist's homeworld or was it because Earth was the current area of study, and the New Archivist might need to entertain visitors? I was analyzing the air for traces of pollutants when Acme arrived.
"Come this way."
"Where is she?"
"Come this way."
I considered making a scene and demanding to know what was happening, but I decided to comply with the android's demands. I would get my answers in due time.
Acme led me past mummified aliens and vast monuments. He lead me past vast stores of information and great works of alien art. He led me to something that looked like a typical human bathroom. And the New Archivist was kneeling over the toilet, vomiting.
"Is this a bad time?"
"No, no come- aughghghg."
I stepped closer. I think it says something about my development as a person that I refrained from studying the contents of that toilet. Back when she was Lucy, I had promised never to study anything that came out of her digestive track, and here I was, keeping the promise like a boss.
"So, what do you need? I have to admit my attempts at a cure for dizziness were mostly misfires, so I'm not sure how much I can help you with your present predicament."
She stood up. She was still wearing resplendent red robes, and what looked like a ruby diadem on her head. But she didn't look resplendent. She looked like she'd just been vomiting. "No. no. I'm fine. Just a little headache."
"To the best of my very extensive knowledge, little headaches don't involve puking your guts out."
"That's not what I called you for," she said, touches of irritation showing in her voice. "Acme, can you handle that big crate of yearbooks that's coming in."
The New Archivist looked at me. "I called you because of the Fortarians."
"Excuse me?"
Did she just say Fartarians?

"About twenty minutes ago, I received a message from an alien race called the Fortarians. They needed to leave their home star system for complex interstellar political reasons. They will have identified Neptune as an ideal new homeworld."
"How is it that an entire alien species was able to cross the vastness of interstellar space without my noticing? Oh, wait. Did it have to do with those 'complex interstellar political reasons'?"
"Okay, then. And why were you the first person they contacted?"
"The Fortarians are currently on the bad side of another advanced race, and-"
"They want the remains of their society preserved in their Archives?" A thought occurred to me. "Hold on a second. Are they bringing their interstellar fights into my solar system. Not cool, man. I live in my solar system."
"Any fighting, if it happens at all, won't occur for thousands of years."
"I'm still not sure I approve." Although, come to think of it, star-faring aliens would likely have advanced science and mathematics, and they might not be quite as stingy as the Archivist. This could be a learning experience. "So, why did you call me here?"
"I just wanted to give you a heads up."
"I doubt you called me here to play the part of Paul Revere." She winced "Why did you call me here?"
"In order to-"
"Star Wars." Wince. "Harry Potter." Wince. "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog." Extreme wince. "Why did you call me here?"
Acme showed up, carrying more weaponry than an American in a shopping mall. "Step away from her," he said, brandishing what looked to me like a handheld plasma cannon. It occurred to me he'd probably made the weapon in less than thirty seconds.
"Step away yourself. You are the one who put her in this predicament. Lucy used to be perfectly happy before you amalgamated her into your alien hive mind. Got her to the point where she flinches whenever she hears about Pablo Picasso, Michelangelo, or Joss Whedon. I think it's pretty clear she asked me to come because she needs help, but she won't admit it to herself."
"Stop hurting her," the android warned. By this point, he'd produced another pair of blasters, and two more arms with which to hold them.
"What exactly is your plan? To have her live her whole eternal life without ever encountering any cultural references? Clearly, something needs to be done. And by Batman and Hercules and The Flying Dutchman, I won't stop until we find a solution. Now let me help her."
"Ultimatums. Cold War," the New Archivist gasped. "The Arbitrators of Aris. Beethoven. Baharkadma of Bahara. Make it stop. Make it stop!"
"I am going to stop now, since she has given her consent to my plan."
"No she hasn't. You can't just injure her mind and use it as an example of how I'm not taking adequate care of her."
The New Archivist's body burst into flames. I hadn't seen her do that in a while. She began to spasm.
"She's is exhibiting the outward signs of a seizure. I'd prescribe-" I sent Acme a file.
He hesitated. Finally, he produced a pill, and fed it down the New Archivist's throat. She belched up a medium-sized fireball.
"Is she stabilizing?"
"No," the android replied. "If anything, she's getting worse." He was manufacturing a full blown medical clinic, consuming whatever objects were lying around in order to get the raw material.
I needed to think. Her problem was that her Archives were giving her unsolicited information, and the unsolicited context for that information, and so on. Could I modify the communication substrate to include a filter? No, I didn't even know how they worked, let alone how to modify them on the fly.
Without thinking (well, with a fair amount of thinking), I rushed at the New Archivist and tried to rip the diadem of unlimited knowledge off of her head. It was stronger than it looked, and it appeared to be bonded to her skin. I didn't want to risk harming the New Archivist. "Make me a buzz-saw. Utrasteel, if you please." I gave Acme a fierce look, and he complied. I removed the Archives of the Universe from their rightful owner.
She went still for a moment.
"What is happening," she asked.
Acme was furious. He began extruding heavy weaponry. "Phoenix, unhand the Archivist!"
"I'm not the Archivist," she said. "I'm Lucy."
I could have jumped for joy. In fact, I did.

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