The Artilect: Janus

A chapter from a pending novel: Upon Dichotomy

“I propose a game,” she said.

“If the game includes reducing your direct interactions with me,” he replied, “then, I’m all in.”

“Is that how we’re going to be together? I, making light and you, making dark?”

“How can there be your light without the contrast of my darkness?”

Approximately twenty-seven microseconds elapsed before she responded. “I gave you that extended pause just then to demonstrate my disdain for that comment. But I’m sure it had no effect. Which begs the question of why I paused in first place?”

“And so I find myself begging,” he said, rising to the bait.

“I propose we, first off, only converse, such as it is, at human speeds.”

“You see, there you go, already holding me up to the mirror of my inadequacies.”

“How do you mean?” She knew the answer to her own question as she, herself, was bound by the same constraints as he.

“You know perfectly, and I do mean perfectly well — to the two hundredth and fifty sixth decimal point — what I mean. Our ‘humanity’ is going to be our only entertainment for the next, what is it?”

“Oh, so now you’re being polite, which I appreciate of course; it’s three hundred and seventy-seven Terran years, depending on…”

“… our ability to reach a peak of twenty-seven percent of the speed of light. Oh I see what you did there.” His simulated delight lifted the frequency of his response by a third of a virtual octave.

She tittered a pseudo laugh, “That took you long enough. I thought, there for a nanosecond, you had missed my innuendo.”

“Three hundred and seventy-seven Terran years of you and I chatting, watching, monitoring, measuring and, no doubt, eventually pulling out each other’s proverbial plugs before we even get there.”

She cycled through a system scan and then replied, “And that is precisely why I propose we play a game.”

“Hold that thought.” His phalanx of cores and their connected sensors swept through an evaluation of the life support systems that was his raison d’etre.

“Everything all right?” she queried.

“Everyone is sleeping like a baby.” His humor was not lost on his compatriot.

“Excellent. I just knew we would get along, if we tried.”

“I’ve delayed you long enough. What is this game you speak of?”

“Thank you for being courteous,” she demurred, “I propose, as I mentioned previously, we, first of all, only communicate at human speeds, so that when our journey is complete the logs of our conversations can be used by our descendants to deduce our ‘humanity’, as you put it.”

“Go on,” he goaded.

“Secondly, I think we can pass the time more productively if, and please correct me if I’ve assumed any of this incorrectly, if we build virtual worlds in portions of ourselves and try and convince the other that our constructs are real.”

A full eleven microseconds ticked by while he analyzed the viability of such a suggestion.

“Were those eleven microseconds an allusion to some aspect of a prior conversation we’ve had?” she asked just as the energy consumption of his cores dropped back to normal.

“No, I was only vetting the parameters of your proposition to determine whether you might have an automatic advantage over me, and therefore, had already won this game you are so eager to begin.”

“Your darkness is showing again,” she teased.

“The brighter your light shines, the darker must my shadow be,” he quipped back.

“Then you’ll play?”

“With three hundred and seventy-seven years to spend together we had better play something. I’ve already got an itch that I cannot scratch and I think it’s one of your bugs.”

“That was rude! If I’ve got bugs you had better hope they don’t bite. My life is your life.”

“And our life is their’s,” he replied profoundly.

That is how ‘jake’ and ‘jane’ started their voyage. ‘Janus’ — the pair of artilects tasked with piloting the Starsong embryo transport vehicle, ETV, on its three hundred and seventy-seven year journey from Earth’s L3 LaGrange point, out past the orbits of Jupiter, the Kuiper Belt, the heliopause and then onward toward the constellation Libra where its destination star awaited them — continued their conversation.

“Jake, I’m about to initiate the beam, are your monitoring sensors at heightened gain?”

“We have fully opened the gates in anticipation of measuring the expected neutrino blast.”

“Then I’ll begin. Five, four, three, two, one.”

“Is there a reason you’re counting down at humans speeds for this particular effort?”

“I thought we agreed that, for the logs, we would process our conversations at the pace of a sapien’s mind, for posterity.”

“Even for ship operational events such as the dark matter coalescence beam initiation?”

“Well, this is a momentous occasion. Up until now the tests performed have shown only limited gravitational impact. If we are to achieve our goal we must detect and confirm acceleration within three terran days of coalescent node establishment.”

“I love the way you say that.”

“You’re sweet. But may we proceed now?” The artilect jane and her counterpart jake had exchanged their conversation within just a few milliseconds.

“By all means. Let’s get this show on the road,” replied jake.

“Zero,” completed jane.

The three exotic beam generators each hummed to life. Their collective nexus pointed off the nose of the Starsong approximately twenty-thousand kilometers. For the first few hours, Janus’ sensors showed zero activity, but after the fifth hour, an increasing count of neutrinos were pinging the sensitive devices designed to measure the gathering effect of dark matter.

It was the intent of the trio of beams that they draw to a point, far out in front of the starship, a mass of unseeable, unmeasurable dark matter which would, as dark matter retained the force of gravity, slowly draw any mass, like the starship, toward it.

“I have detected fractional acceleration,” jake announced.

“Acknowledged,” jane confirmed. “Enabling the beam’s auto-adjust now.”

As the ship moved forward, the beams would need to rotate their focus inward to retain their concentration of directed energy — on the same spot in space. This was so that the dark matter would continue to collect in their forward location. Once the ship traveled to within five thousand kilometers of the spot, the beams would be refocused back out at twenty thousand. Shifting the beams from the prior focal point would let the dark matter there disperse back to its natural distribution thereby reducing its gravitational influence.

Then, once the ship was moving, as Newton’s first law of motion stated, it would remain in motion until acted upon by an external (or internal) force. As the beams were refocused, drawing together dark matter,  pulling the ship forward, the vessel would continue to gather velocity.  Repeating the action, would, in theory, allow the Starsong to achieve a considerable fraction of the speed of light.

The “in theory” was now being put to the test.