2.31 The Bifurcated Ship

I like to think that when Ktleteccete and Metabang’s old crew finished their project it was almost exactly the same time that Ni’a was trying to decide whether or not to follow their impulse to twist that knob all the way to the right. But I really don’t know. I haven’t bothered to double check the actual times of both events. Because the systems of the lab are completely separated from the rest of the Sunspot, getting that timestamp would be a bit of work for me. But also, I’m afraid I’d be disappointed that it wasn’t significantly close.

In the end, the only place it really matters is in this book and the way I’ve written it, anyway. So, I’m creating the illusion that it was simultaneously, because that’s more fun. It might as well have been.

Here’s the big thing that happened first.

Metabang managed to get swift majority approval from the Crew for the second Bridge. It had not been expecting that. It hadn’t expected to get any responses. But, apparently, most of the tens of billions of Crew, who were still essentially sequestered away in their private Netspaces, living their lives almost completely oblivious to what was happening all over the ship, each took one look at this urgent notification from a Tutor with a yes or no response attached to it, and thought that “Yes, a second Bridge is an excellent idea in keeping with the spirit of the original governance of the Sunspot, let’s do that!” and responded without much more thought than that. Or so it seemed.

There were those who were violently opposed to it, of course, and they came out of their shelters to try to put a stop to the work. But they then encountered a vanguard of Elder Crew who were supportive of it, and the entire Pembers, and Phage Pember. And though Phage Pember does not have the full capabilities of Phage itself, it can still do some disturbing things.

All of this conflict was contained to the deeper Network of the Sunspot, and the populace of the Children didn’t feel it or notice it for the most part.

The weird thing about conflicts on the Network is that no one gets physiologically hurt. It’s possible to psychologically scar someone through communication. And the Network provides all sorts of channels of communication, many of them unexpected to someone who is not used to taking them into account for one reason or another. But no one can be erased. That’s just not a function that’s allowed. And as long as no one is on the Bridge dealing them out, there are no Council sanctions. But all sorts of personal sanctions ended up being erected. And there were many already in place.

Some people unblocked their worst enemy just to yell at them and see their reaction and then immediately block them again.

And with no one able to access the first Bridge, those of the Crew who were building the second Bridge had the upper hand. As soon as it was done, they could shore it up and quell the conflict. And the dissenters were opposed to building a whole new Bridge in the first place, so they were unwilling to start a third one. And at the point that they realized that, their cohesion and morale began to flag, and they were outnumbered to begin with, anyway.

It’s very possible that Ni’a’s influence on the ship at the time helped it all to turn out much more peacefully than it could have been. They maybe even tilted the conflict further in favor of the side that won out. They had spent a good deal of time that morning working hard to set things straight and back on track.

Still, the end result was the creation of a great number more personal sanctions than there had been to begin with, and a lot of hard feelings. And a second Bridge.

Which was then forcefully merged with the first Bridge.

Which is what interrupted the discussion between Geselete and myself.

It’s very hard to describe the sensations of being aboard the Bridge when that happened. There were some weird side effects that I don’t think anybody expected. Both Bridges had drifts built into them. And when they connected, they flared synergistically, and all of a sudden we were all seeing out of each other’s perspectives simultaneously as if they were fully our own. All senses, all perspectives, all at once.

One moment, I was sprawled on my rock. The next I could see myself sprawled on my rock from thousands of different angles all at once. Only a fraction of the Pembers were on the second Bridge, but that was enough for thousands. They are a huge system.

I can still call up that memory easily at a moment’s notice, and it’s so vivid. And my mind still can’t parse it correctly. I’m not sure if it’s even an analog to what Phage experiences when it tries to access its memories from before it boarded the Sunspot, but we both end up describing it in the same terms.

The end result is what we have today, a Bridge that is two Bridges, with two separate drifts, after some tweaking. And neither one can be controlled by the other.

It’s still not perfectly secure, though now everyone knows that a solution to someone taking control of both of them can be done once again if necessary. And we can just have more Bridges if that’s what it takes.

And to prevent that happening, some practices have been implemented. Practices, frankly, that should have been in place long ago. For instance, each faction of the Crew is required to have a member present on the Bridge at all times, and for that member to remain aware of the Bridge and not otherwise engaged in externally focused activities such as touring the Garden.

When Gesetele took the first Bridge, Eh and the rest of the Council were still on it, but they were focused through the virtual terminals there on their exobodies in Gopra Pyle. And Gesetele’s props had distracted them enough that keh was able to make kihns moves before they could take notice or act. The only way to prevent that, and a particularly easy way, is to have guards on the Bridge at all times. No more empty Bridge, no more vulnerable Bridge.

But this all took time, and negotiations between enormous populations of people, and the records are an ocean of data and arguments. And someday I’ll add a better summary of them to this document (or I’ll get Metabang to do it for me), but that day obviously hasn’t come yet, as you are reading these words instead.

And we’re also getting ahead of the rest of the story.

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