Feb 23, 2020 5:12 PM
Verity portalsnaked to MidChilda
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Handshake.  "We're Verity-and-Araeneve.  Thank you for allowing me to come on this search."

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"I could hardly have refused! It's your people we're trying to find, after all. And this would be trickier without your cooperation, so really I should be thanking you."

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"I'll help in any way I can."

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"Awesome. The plan my crew is working up is brilliant in its simplicity. First, we get you to recall as many constellations as you can. That should let us more precisely plot a search area in galactic space. Once we're in sydar range, we dive and scan for... um, 'daemon bonds', which are apparently quite distinct phenomena. All we'd need from you is your best-effort reconstruction of your constellations and your PADATS data."

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She nods.  "The PADATS was pretty memorable.  I can describe or draw it... or possibly just request the record be sent up?  Would we need to do that before leaving?  I'm not sure how your internet works for interstellar distances.  The stars will be a bit harder to remember, since I usually avoided the stargazing spots, but there were a few notable ones I can try drawing out.  There are more things I remember our longer range scans picking up about the closer stars.

"Should I be doing this immediately?"

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"You just have to share the segment of time in which you were in the scanner," Eelesia chimes in. "As for the star chart, are you good at holosculpting? Or are you more comfortable with, like, paper or a paper-equivalent? It might not actually matter if the patterns are distinct enough. Or if you can't remember the relative size and or color of the relevant stars..."

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She decides to focus on the stars, since those are what will be needed first.  "I'll try holosculpting."  It sounds new, but she's only used real physical paper a few times before and found it unpleasant.  The lack of an undo feature, in particular.

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The Captain suggests making a sphere, standing in the middle, and painting the stars onto it.

But first! It's time to embark.

No one is late for duty, so they need not delay. The Captain sits in her big chair, and the Mononoke moves. It detaches from the dock and turns smoothly towards open space, the wide-open view panning across the gargantuan hanger bay, before, without a whisper of acceleration being felt, the metal and space-city drops away in seconds.

Then, the star-spangled black twists outward-inward in a way that hurts the eyes and is replaced by a dark haze of shifting aurora-colors, rippling and constantly changing. A moment later, those dark auroras twist incomprehensibly and are gone too, replaced by a more turbulent, psychedelic storm of bright hues.

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They watch, occasionally glancing to make sure that the people who know what this kind of travel is supposed to look like are calm.  

After a minute, she turns to Eelesia and says quietly, "Unless there's something else, I'll go back to my quarters and work on the star chart.  Can the terminal do holosculpting, or will I need another piece of equipment?"

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Eelesia decides to demonstrate, speaking aloud for Verity's benefit.

"Give me a new holosculpt canvas." ~Visible acknowledgement, please.~

A little holographic panel pops up, announcing the canvas and a few of its settable properties.

She holds up her hands. "I want a hollow platonic sphere, black."

A sphere appears, positioned to match her hands. "Bright white dot, here and..."

She pokes the surface of the sphere a couple times, leaving white dots behind.

"Now smaller and red."

She pokes the surface few more times, leaving red dots behind.

"Okay. Done. Erase it all."

The sphere and the canvas tag all vanish.

Eelesia turns to Verity with a questioning smile.

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"Sounds straightforward."  She steps out of the bridge to avoid distracting or annoying the crew flying the ship.

"Create a perfect sphere of black around me.  This should be a long gray smudge, brighter in the center," she whispers, making a line just above the sphere's equator, going nearly all the way around.  That will be the backdrop of the galaxy.  "White dots here, here, here..." She points to a number of stars in a 'y' shape, just above the galaxy line.  "With this one being larger.  Make this one smaller, and slightly redder.  Hmm, no, move this one slightly..." she pulls the spot of white over a few inches.

"Add an information tag to this dot, saying 'farther away but a large star'.  And this one gets a tag saying 'third closest star to us, a small star.  Has two gas giants.'  Add a tag to this section, saying 'the way these stars are parallaxed by our movement means the shape looks like it's slowly closing its top two branches as we pass.'"

More dots are added.  She knows more information about what (unsuitable for life) planets are around the closest handfull stars than exactly how they look, so a lot of the information is contained in floating text.  The star at their destination, decades away at the speed the fleet is travelling, gets a paragraph.  One of it's planets is the right distance and size to be terraformed into a livable world.  A few of the closer stars she doesn't know where they are, only their descriptions, which go into a seperate set of text notes tacked onto the sphere's dark top.

She takes a minute to try and think of anything else, but has run out of things to add.  "Save this thing as-is but shrink it and move it into my hand," she whispers to it at last, then goes to carry it back to the captain.

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The Captain appreciates her attention to detail! This is definitely enough to find the search area.

"Pattern-matching across a bounded infinity of possible galaxies could take days if you're not just from a divergent timeline, unfortunately. We've procedurally mapped totalities more than we've ever explored, so I'm confident there will be a match, but in the meantime we can fly aimlessly around likely parallel regions!"

The psychedelic storm accelerates, breaking around the forward tines of the dimensional cruiser.

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"You think the mirror-faced thing that brought me to this civilization was able to send things through dimensions and not just space?"

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"Actually, your arrival might even be exogenous! They still haven't detected any trace of spatial or dimensional travel, which means you came in on an axis that might go hundreds of layers deep, or more!"

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"I'm not sure what that means.  Layers?  Also..." she tries to formulate a question, but isn't sure where to start.  "What is the color-stuff we're travelling through?  Are we going through different dimensions now?"

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"Sort of? This is just five-space," Eelesia says.

"So, Dimensional Theory 101. The basic idea is that in the eigentotality every layer has a calculable inverse relationship with its dimensions. Three plus one is only three steps down from infinite size. It's not actually infinite but it might as well be. So we dive down to five plus one where our entire galaxy fits in a space not much bigger than a solar system. The trade-off is that we are flying in five-dimensional space right now. This is still relatively easy to navigate so it makes for a convenient way to get around in adjacent three-spaces quickly, but the relationship holds all the way down to Imaginary Space. The further you dive, the more axes of movement exist and the less distance matters, and the more getting where you're going becomes about aiming precisely enough rather than going fast enough."

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She's quiet for a minute, trying to figure that out.  "The captain mentioned divergent timelines.  Can you go through those in five-space too?"

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"Actually no! To get to an alternate quantum branch of your own timeline you need a second temporal axis. It's not actually as simple as going 'sideways' in time, but access to that second temporal degree of freedom is a prerequisite. You have to go down eleven spatial layers before its even possible to rotate on a second time axis, but this is actually a limit of our physics bounds; the totality doesn't enforce any particular relationship between number of time axes and number of spatial axes. Actually, the theoretical mathematicians say that the same imaginary space lies at the nexus of infinitely short infinite temporal dimensions the way it does at the infinitely small infinite spatial dimensions, but polarized matter---what we call matter or anti-matter---can't exist in even three temporal dimensions because it starts randomly flipping polarity and annihilating itself."

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"Hmm."  Again, a long pause.  "How far down can the ship go?"

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"The Mononoke is is an older ship, but he's rated for up to ten-million degrees of freedom," the Captain proclaims proudly.

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"That's far enough down that you could walk from one end of the universe to the other over lunch," Eelesia adds.

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"Ah."  She can't visualize that scale at all, but still manages to be impressed.

She tries to think of other questions.  Specifically, she tries to think of useful questions that couldn't be taken as possibly insulting or silly, like 'and you're sure you can get us back to the right timeline once we're done?' or 'is it possible to misstep and accidentally squish a planet when they're that small relative to us?'

"The Mononoke is a boy ship?"

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Those would indeed be silly questions but no one would blame her for not instantly groking a field of physics she's never met before.

"Does your culture not do the thing where vehicles get gendered male for no particular reason?"

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"No.  All of our ships and shuttles are 'it' pronoun-wise.

"Though, that brings to mind... do the humans from your world have an imbalanced gender ratio?  It didn't occur to me before today, but most of the people I've seen since arriving were women."

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"We don't have a statistically significant gender imbalance in the population, but I'll admit our society hasn't completely shaken off the sexism we inherited from our pre-technological past, yet. Some things are still considered unmasculine in a way that clearly influences statistical averages of male interest in things like finance, sports, and combat magic. It doesn't help that women do, in fact, have a statistical advantage in mana capacity over men."

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