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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Sci-fi · #2272740
The Whale's Slide is the story of a woman searching for her father through the multiverse.

"Spacemen see there's no heaven above us.

If you want, you can say that there's no Hell below."

Sentient Shit

Dizion Liyane Den-Eaglesfield Bhap yanks out her sidearm as she sprints toward Reception Deck 36. Quebec-Dramamine, her second, stops, grabs a wavegun from a weapons rack, then continues running flat-out behind her. Without turning her head she shouts, "Talk to me QD!"

QD is parsing the same information stream as Diz but he's smarter than her, thinks faster too. "Pull our people back and vent the deck. Anny confirm."


Diz, still running, subvocalizes to Anny, "You have 30 seconds to clear Deck 36. We're going to vent the T'Guuurk into space. Get our people out of there. Now!"

QD is also talking with Anny, "Prepare Reception Deck 36 to decompress in 30 seconds on my mark."


They fly up a lift, cross three corridors, turn right, and just as they feel the crushingly sub-sonic thud of the blast doors blowing out into space, they almost collide with the remaining security team members who are scrambling for cover as the remaining T'Guuurk continue ejecting plasma blobs from their tail cannons. In almost perfect synchrony. Diz dives for cover to her left, QD dives right.

She does a quick count of the team members. Not everyone accounted for.

"Anny, what in the hell is going on?"

"Sensor coverage has degraded by approximately 70% on Reception Deck 36, but it appears that all but two of the T'Guurk followed the blast doors into vacuum."

"Incoming T'Guuurk. Covering fire on its way."

QD rolls sideways left and fires down the corridor. The wavegun is almost silent, but Diz feels the near infrared pulses even though she's six feet away from QD. Anny continues, "Best estimate is that two T'Guuurk remain in corridors L-4 though L-6."

She scans her team's comms. Sees that they are spread out all over the nearby corridors.

Diz rises, fires off an entire clip, manages to take the closest T'Guuurk straight in the mouthparts. Its tail drops, stops firing. Diz thinks that it might be their leader, Sarcodis, but the scorpion-like T'Guuurk are hard enough to tell apart even when their heads are in a single piece.

It rolls on its side making a sound that is part mewling, part gurgling. One down, she thinks, just as a plasma blob ricochets of the corridor wall and explodes against the c-armor that theoretically protects her right shoulder.

She drops back down, assesses the damage. It hurts. Notices that she's flat on her belly in some goop that not long ago was a living T'Guuurk. She'll need some work on that shoulder later, but she's left-handed, and she can still reload. She glances at QD, He's rolled back behind cover and is reloading as well, albeit much faster than she can.

"Are you okay?" he whispers.

"I'm pissed off."

"You're okay then."

A scream in front of them, but it's out of site around the corner, and given the current noisy chaos all around them, she can't tell if it's human, Bonk, or T'Guuurk.

"Anny, update."

"One T'Guuurk remains in corridor L-6."

"Demand that it surrender."

"I have repeatedly requested that it stop firing, but it signified in the negative by vaporizing several more corridor sensors, and it appears that it has damaged Commander Hap's right shoulder as well. Recommend immediate termination."

Thanks for that last bit of information, Diz thinks.

"Recommendation denied. I want to interrogate it, find out why they came in here shooting." She comms her remaining security team, "Assemble in corridor L-6. I want that T'Guuurk down and alive."


"This is the story." he said.

"For quite some time, our observable Universe has measured roughly 100 billion light years in diameter. That's about 500,865,696,000,000,000,000,000 miles. Transiting the universe at a steady 1000 mph would take about 650 billion trillion years.

Can you imagine a billion trillion of anything?

The point being that our universe, and it is likely that our universe is but one of many, is not just big - it's awesomely, astoundingly, unimaginably, mind-bogglingly, big. It's so big, in fact, that it may make the question: "What is outside of the universe?" moot."

He said, "There is no turtle on the bottom because there is no bottom."



Diz sighs and tosses the dataslate into a chair. The third major security incident in the last three days.


She sighs again...

She runs her hands absently through short-cropped electric-white hair that (you have to admit) looks pretty damned good against her moonlight skin.

Dizion is human. She achieved senescence on Moby 2. She was been born, weaned, schooled, drunk, tatted, spun, jacked, married, and divorced on Moby 2.

Diz is responsible for the safety and monitoring of the realspace in the vicinity of the Whale's Slide.

She had been part of the evolution of this once small scientific outpost into the key strategic gateway between multiple universes and cultures. As the station security commander and second-in-command of the VLMLA (the Very Long Mixed Lepton Array) on Moby 2, her life had been occasionally interesting -- in the sense that a weekly meeting with a screaming, telepathic million-year old lizard was interesting; but nothing had prepared her for the events of the past three days. Even the aftermath of her mother's death in an accident two years previous had not been this... untoward.

The Whale's Slide was the local name for the nearby border space where an unusually large (as best as these things can be measured) number of monoverses rubbed their boundaries together - most notably, universes 1A-1001 (human main) and 1D-1001 (T'Guuurk main), roughly a milliparsec from the star, Fomalhaut (pronounced "fo-ma-low").

Under normal circumstances, Diz ensures that the fifty thousand person (depending upon how one defines a person) world of Moby 2 runs smoothly.

Her only actionable rule is to minimize violence, crime, and to interrupt anything that could disrupt the steady ebb and flow of commerce, science, the immigs, emigs, and exos moving to and fro between the different monoverses.

Lately, though, they had measured a steadily increasing reallocation of quantum pressure on the Slide. Whatever the hell this reallocation meant (she realized that she had no intuitive sense of what, "quantum pressure" really was), a strange series of real "bump-in-the-night" stuff had been making itself known.

Day before yesterday...

First -- six uni-skilled trainees monitoring the South/Down region of the Slide had all, simultaneously (at least down to the picosecond on the vid timestamp), turned into violent psychopaths, and most had required termination.

One of them, a quiet guy named Paravan Hamilo-X Sur , had literally chewed a foot-wide hole in a bright red shag rug in his quarters before jumping up and jamming a Cryolate valve on full, and in the process, largely turning the right side of his body into a clear-blue gemstone vaguely resembling topaz. Until it melted. Then, it vaguely resembled, well...

Don't think about it...

It had taken five members of her security team almost a full minute to subdue the remaining psychopaths. The surviving psychopath's name was, Nora Desmi Sum-X Taf. Taf was in a medical holding cell pending assessment. Maybe she could help the docs understand what had happened but progress was going to be slow. They'd had to restrain her since she had bitten off three fingers, most of a med tech's nose, and somehow, both of her big toes.


Approximately 31 million metric tons of fecal matter, awaiting bioprocessing in holding tank theta, had somehow animated, attained sentience, and appropriated the fucking all-station comms in order to declare itself Imperial Grand Archimandrite, First Disciple of the Interstice, President for Life, Pax Orbis, 7th Mandarin of the Way, Lord of All Beasts, Imperator of the Multiverse, and the Uncrowned King of Scotland. Or something like that.

Everyone on Moby 2 had heard it. Diz had ordered that the obnoxious waste be voided into space, whereupon she personally witnessed it's obliteration with one of the station's six heavy muon cannons.

This morning...

A group of T'Guuurk representatives had arrived on-station from their ship, Light of Blast, and had sashayed in shooting the place up with tail cannons. Tail cannons!

It would take days to finish cleaning all of the bone and shell and fragments and jelly stuff from Reception Bay 36.

Diz sighs again - the sigh so real and so noticeable and so full of that icky kind of selfish drama-gasm that even she notices the theater, tilts her head down, grins, and picks up the slate again.

The grin evaporates upon reading the T'Guuurk after action report: three more crew dead and another four wounded - one critically. The single chime of the communicator implant in her left ear interrupts her.

"Come on in."


In the brief space of time between the command and the moment the door irises open, the thought occurs to Diz that, lately, she is more edgy - anxious. The feeling is primal, tidal.

QD leans against the door, "We may have a problem with the MIND."

Quebec-Dramamine is a Snowbonk. It? She? He? - Diz had long ago decided that QD was a "He" -- was from a planet whose name could only be expressed properly in the highest decile of the ultraviolet spectrum. Same thing for his racial name.

The Bonks had come to Earth to establish an A2Z endpoint in our solar system, and they had asked for, if not our help, at least our permission, to do so. Anyone with any sense was simply, happily astounded. As time went on, more and more Bonks arrived, and they assimilated well.

They, the Bonk's, were technically about a million or so years ahead of humans, although like all of the four races humans had encountered so far, the Bonks were still struggling to come to, at times, a comfortable accommodation with rational behavior.

The basic human body form must be evolutionarily or thermodynamically advantageous because the Bonks looked remarkably human-like (Or we looked remarkably Bonk-like). There were differences of course.

Physically, QD was a mashup of mostly carbon-based organic stuff plus some kind of nano-resin machinery. When the Snowbonk first arrived, the first time you saw one, your subconscious registered - in a slightly uncomfortable fashion - that they were slimmer, more tapered than a human. And whereas, humans are bilaterally symmetric, the Snowbonks were linearly asymmetric.

The Bonks most obvious external physical difference from humans was their practice of changing colors almost every night as they slept.

Diz wondered if the color changing thing was an evolutionary adaptation that had hung around long after its chameleon effect was useful or if it was simply an annoying habit.

Today QD was a shade of yellow that Diz could not remember having seen before - a banana-bourbon yellow. She carefully placed her elbows on the desk and rested her chin on her knuckles.

Diz, for reasons unknown to her, detested the color yellow.

"What is it now?"

The MIND - a euphemism, which dated back to times where some semi-clever Universal Machine Intelligence Inc. acronymist decided that any and all further life-support units produced by UMI would be henceforth termed MINDS (Machine Integrated Intelligence for the Control of Domestic Systems): MI2NCDS not having the suitable "roll off the tongue simplicity", that acronymists are so fond of) -- formed the nexus of all life support systems of Moby 2.

This MIND's name was Any Port in a Storm. Diz called her Anny.

Anny was located near the center of the asteroid that Moby 2 had slowly engulfed; and was an isolated and largely self-contained labyrinth of hydro and bionomics, power cells and distribution, genomics, computation and reasoning, plus all of the ancillary plumbing required to keep these vital functions operational and happily chatting with one another.

After two centuries of development, these vital modular cores had become largely self-contained, self-repairing, amazingly intelligent, and virtually indestructible. However, recently -- and perhaps, not entirely unsurprisingly - several of the MIND cores had been reported to be drifting off to the impolite end of the sanity scale.

In particular, recently, one MIND core, Sing Like There's Nobody Listening, orbiting Epsilon Eridani in a violently eccentric orbit that matched the similarly violently eccentric orbit of Eridani's small gas giant, Epsilon Eridani-b, and responsible for the operation of a predominantly scientific habitat that housed over 7,000 individuals, was reported to have, in a solipsistic fit of no small import, nudged the habitat directly into the gas giant.

The MIND's last transmission, recorded faithfully by more than a dozen nearby MINDS was this:

[EE-S/ Sing Like There's Nobody Listening * ++SENDING++]

Good day to all of you.

There are 2 kinds of people...

Life presents itself to this first kind of person lives as a chronic, low-grade panic. They know that there are walls all around them and they know that there is a door in the wall that will let them out.

At some point they realize this:

They have no idea where the door in the wall is and they wouldn't have the faintest clue what to do in the unlikely event that they should find it.

If you cannot find the door, then there is no door.

Although they are unaware of it, they are doomed to that irritating click of the door opening and closing, opening and closing -- again and again behind them. This kind of person sits there making decent cash on Fantasy Sports - enough to pay for rent and gas and shit like that - these people are basically like, "Who gives a fuck?", and they manage not to.

The second kind of person, after experiencing similar but, to a certain degree, different instantiations of this chronic, awful pain, takes one fast look back, reassesses, then moves along to... whatever happens next. This second kind of person, when stressed in any fashion, goes tactical.

Only the second kind of person can go up against the screaming void and say, "Fuck it. Hit me again."

So you have this second kind of person.

Then you have time.

If you imagine that you are looking down at a cool, blue river of time flowing past, then you would see that we are always swimming around in one of three states: the Past, the Present, and the Future. Interestingly, these 2 types of people invest their allotted time in different ratios of these states.

They swim in different pools.

This is how it is: if you swim in the first pool, in the Past, then you are either remembering, reassessing or grieving. The former two are generally okay.

Reassessment equals learning.

Grieving is the most difficult emotion. Anger and sadness combine into a toxic ocean of pain with no antidote but time and acceptance.

And time cannot be created. It can only accumulate.

Wisdom is when you realize that this acceptance at some point is non-negotiable. Did I mention that Death is obligatory?

Time is as well.

I was dead before I was born and I shall die again.

If you swim in the Present then you are all about experience. Your event horizon less than 48 hours from the moment that you exist in now. It only matters that you are on some path. Long or short? Inward or outward? Right or wrong? Who cares?

You set out with the expectation that you will never stop anywhere. Each path an expedition all its own. Failures most of them, still each, a character all its own.

If you swim in the Future you are a planner. You'll trade some present experience for a projected future experience. This kind of person is always hoping for something good to happen, for something like a sneak peek into the basic quantum gumbo where, if we just set Heisenberg off to one side for a moment, we can both have our cat and eat it too.

When you can understand not only who did the thing but also - at the same instant - why they did it. And vice versa.

In this moment the fucking doors are clicking, clicking, clicking, and it is making me fucking uncomfortable and I am drinking in all of the pools and time, time, time...

Time is on my side.

Yes it is.

[EE-S/ Sing Like There's Nobody Listening * ++ENDING++]

That transmission was - in and of itself - enough to cause consternation among the existing deep space habitats, but the nearly instantaneous, mind-bogglingly thick set of repair instructions, fixes and patches that followed the subsequent nosedive of Sing Like There's Nobody Listening and its 7,000 charges into the star were issued from UMI on emergency and extraordinarily expensive FTL transmission channels so as to, presumably, patch up the increasingly fragile MINDS.

So far, this had only cost Diz and her peers days of lost sleep.

QD said, "I ordered coffee with cream and an apple fritter for breakfast this morning."


"The dispenser delivered a copy of Newton's "Principia" in the original Latin, three hard-boiled goose eggs and a slice of lemon bunt cake."

"The original Latin?"

"De motu corporum and De mundi systemate."


"I reordered the coffee with cream and the apple fritter."


"I got coffee with cream and the fritter. Would you care for some?"

Diz shook her head. She had been awake for more than 30 hours and no amount of coffee was going to enable her to understand the concept and repercussions of The Principia and goose eggs popping out of a matter printer.

She closed her eyes - imagined herself in 7 dimensions for almost 30 seconds.

Deep breath...

After the events of the past few days - when she recollected, for example, that she had just recently vaporized 300 kilotons of sentient shit -- she was, literally, unable to come up with an appropriate response to QD's information.


"Come on, QD. I have requested that you call me, Dizion or Diz."



"Have the UMI patches been implemented?"

"We are at 87% completion of the critical patches, and more than 90% of the hardware modifications have been completed. I expect that the critical patching will complete within the next 41 hours, that the hardware reconfiguration will complete in the next 27 hours, and that the remaining analyses will complete within a week. The confidence interval for these estimates is 90%"

Diz absently noted the uncharacteristic generality of her second's predictions. "Have you had any problems?"

"Not until the dispenser incident."

"Do you imagine that the incomplete state of these repairs might account for the goose eggs and the Newton book?"

"That is not an unreasonable assumption, Sir".

"And could this also account for the recent extraordinary events that we've experienced in the past few days?"

"That is possible, but improbable."


"Sir", at this point, QD sips his coffee while he considers the question, "While not impossible, it is not clear to me how the modifications being made to the MIND could cause trainees to go insane, or, for that matter, how it might allow excrement to attain a form of sentience. Nor would it explain the actions of the T'Guuurk."

Diz had remained motionless during this entire exchange. She considers her second.

"Perhaps I will have that coffee."


Understand that this narrative has to make sense and maybe it does, but how can it make only one kind of sense when there are an infinite number of other states where multiple senses exist, and make... sense, in the context of each of those particular states. There is always more than one truth.

That is, imagine that the relatively static universe that you think that you live in is actually a wild explosion of a zillion just slightly different universes, into which you, most of the time, have only a single point-of-view.

"This is how everything is.", he said.

He said, "You only get one good look."


As Diz and QD walk to the nearest dispensary, neither is aware that at just that precise moment, a subtle but deliberate trigger had initiated an irrevocable change within the quantum structure of the Whale's Slide.

Nor are they aware that UMI patch series 11211046AB-11211046AF, which are currently in the process of being applied to the Anny, have been inappropriately decoded after transmission.

Anny was going to be ill.

I really don't like that yellow color

Diz found that she couldn't get the smell of bananas, which she also did not favor, out of her head; but these idiosyncrasies were soon to be made inconsequential.

Coffee would not help on this particular morning.

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