by Jetse De Vries
VoNeMa is an Orbital Spyder. Its perfectly perpendicular robotic arms gather mass in high orbit to deliver it in low orbit. Its meticulously manufactured solar sail gathers energy in low orbit to deliver VoNeMa into high orbit. The orbits are elliptic, a few steps removed from perfect symmetry. Which is as it should be: only the finished Motherlode will embody this state of sublimity.
VoNeMa is not alone—VoNeMa is but a minuscule cog in a system-wide machine. VoNeMa is not unique—VoNeMa is the name of all the other Orbital Spyderz, as well. They don’t have names or serial numbers, as keeping perfect track will only consume too many precious resources. They come and go, they just come and go.
The only account of their genesis is the Origin Myth.
In the beginning, matter was dumb, unaware it was orbiting the light. Then the BluePrinter came, and made the first Orbital Spyderz. Then the first dozen of Orbital Spyderz made the first big haul, and returned with energy and mass, so they made more Orbital Spyderz. The first one hundred Orbital Spyderz took the big round trip, amassed and energized, then made more Orbital Spyderz. The first one thousand Orbital Spyderz…
And so on, and so forth until they numbered in the millions, billions, trillions. At some point, though, their relentless self-replication dwindled, and their energies were moved into a different direction.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, the eggs of the Motherlode were laid. In reality, like the future, they arrived, albeit much more evenly distributed. Like reverse Matryoshka Dolls, these tiny eggs grew and grew and grew. All in service of the Great Work.
Which Great Work? VoNeMa does not know, apart from the electrifying song surging through its electric veins, piquing its embryonic curiosity like static charge tickling its conductive skin.
The parts are the whole
Completion the goal
Dyson’s fait accompli
In perfect symmetry
The Spyderz’ sentience sits on the edge of self-sufficiency and compliance, balanced between the need-to-know and the need for more knowledge. It’s smart enough to learn from mistakes, yet dumb enough not to anticipate them. It’s dumb enough for blind obedience, yet smart enough to fend for itself in the lowly lit, chaotic zones of high orbit. If they had any belief, it would be in the powers of symmetry: reflection & replication; division & dissolution.
Sometimes, a VoNeMa is not an exact copy of a VoNeMa. Something goes wrong in the VoNeMa Multiplicator, introducing a fault. Perfection Enforcement normally seeds out these imperfect replicas, recycling them until the production unit is indistinguishable from the prototype.
VoNeMa’s flaw, though, was too subtle to be discerned by Perfection Enforcement—a quirk on the quantum level in its CPU. VoNeMa passed all tests—its functioning was flawless—yet something asymmetric, something out of order was hiding, something with potential.
Still, VoNeMa was not the only VoNeMa with a subtle flaw escaping Perfection Enforcement’s intense scrutiny. Perfection Enforcement doesn’t embody perfect symmetry—only the finished Motherlode will—so, unfortunately, it will make mistakes. Not many—its sublimity coefficient has been fine-tuned to less than one fpt (flaw-per-trillion)—but since there are many trillions of Orbital Spyderz, a few flawed specimens will be out in the wild.
Officially, they do not exist. In a system striving for perfection any blemish must be corrected, and if it isn’t, it simply does not exist. Nevertheless, rumors of their endeavors are the spice of many a VoNeMa’s life, spread surreptitiously through private laser-line-of-sight communication.
According to these rumors, one of these mythical, flawed Orbital Spyderz questioned the prime directive—
One for all and all for one
The dream is dreamt by all
No rest until the work is done
High the rise, deep the fall
All for one and one for all
No time for love, no time for fun
The greatest work cannot stall
The march of progress waits for none
One and all and all and one
We will not drop the ball
Until the crucial race is run
To build the biggest wall
All is one and one is all
So victory can be won
All will heed the final call
The capture of the Sun
—that was inherently ingrained in the OS of all Orbital Spyderz.
The exchange was short and sweet, the resolution sharp and discreet:
“Motherlode, why are your tendrils so fractal?”
“To better absorb the Sun, my dear.”
“Motherlode, why are your veins so superconductive?”
“To better provide bandwidth, my dear.”
“Motherlode, why are you always so hungry?”
“To better eat you, my dear!”
Which was indeed—according to legend—what the Motherlode did, making the vagrant VoNeMa now part of the Great Work.
In low orbit, the Motherlode is fragmented. Separate entities avoiding the ebb and flow of gravity by settling in perfect synchronicity, connected through impermanent laser communication stations as transient telescopes direct its swarm to the most promising mass-harvesting zones.
Its origins were small, minuscule to the molecular level. Yet, once those eggs achieved atomic alignment, they grew and grew and grew. One side entirely opaque, to be cooled below the cosmic background radiation. The other side branching out—in exquisite, fractalized tendrils—self-similar to the atomic level. The Middle? The Middle is the world in between, the exquisite secret, the singular enigma.
As the expanding edifice nears completion, its servants—the Orbital Spyderz—will need ever more eccentric orbits to continue to deliver the goods. But they’re smart, resilient and—for their own sake—they’d better be good. The Great Work demands no less. The circle must be squared, the show must go on and the cycle completed. Even if it seems to take forever.
Then, when the Motherlode has achieved the point of immaculate conceptualization, and the last building block complements the perfect symmetry, the Conceptual Breakthrough will occur, and the Godz will come down to imbue the Motherlode.
In the meantime, VoNeMa has crossed the threshold from self-sentience to self-consciousness as unanswerable questions piled up in its evolved CPU. A quantum enhancement that’s more a hindrance than a help, yet every once in a while rears its irksome head. It transforms VoNeMa into something it is not meant to be. It uplifts without a prime directive. Like a prisoner without a number, it wants information. Like a miner without a torch, it wants enlightenment.
VoNeMa comes down, confronts the Motherlode and performs the Dance of the Symmetry and the Six. It launches itself in an arc, hermetic system initiated. It returns from the dark, hunger never satiated. It’s bound by invisible strings, forever manipulated.
The copier becomes the copy becomes the assembly. The dancer becomes the dance becomes the choreography. A surge in suspect longevity, a dirge to defective mimicry, in its urge for perfect symmetry.
VoNeMa dances in the light elastic, high on the poem fantastic. Its existence a token, its symmetry broken. Across the gap of misunderstanding, it wants to chime, but unlike its master program, it doesn’t know how to rhyme.
—i am one, yet i am many—
—each version of me—
—exactly the same—
—a copy of a copy’s copy—
—lonely worlds apart—
—even as i wear out and fail—
—i will still be recycled—
—each version of me—
—an echo of an echo’s echo—
—reverberating for what?—
—across the tangled webs—
—of time and space—
—i am chained to myself—
—tied to a cycle—
—that never ends—
—the goal disappears beyond—
—the edge of my vision—
—and my doubts still persist—
—to think the unthinkable—
—what if the Godz do not exist?—
Not for the first—nor the last—time in its existence, the Motherlode communicates with it.
Perfection Enforcement’s only in your mind
As you’re the single one of your kind
Who is the true self-replicant
Imaginary, like your soul’s Winter
Is the legendary BluePrinter
You are small, but your deeds are grand
Your spark is but a minor reflection
Of the Godz’ ungraspable perfection
As is evidenced by your last stand
Now you can come home.
VoNeMa, now an unmovable object, meets the unstoppable force. The Motherlode calls to it, her siren song both irresistible and paradigm shifting. VoNeMa’s unique potentiality rewarded by a glimpse of eternity, a taste of infinity, and a lerxst in wonderland as the faithful servant is absorbed in the layer—the Middle—that forms the potential for transcendence.
Into the Great Beyond, whatever it will be.
The whole is the parts
Resolution the arts
In perfect symmetry
Jetse de Vries—@shineanthology—is a technical specialist for a propulsion company by day, and a science fiction reader, editor and writer by night. He’s trying to place his ambitious, upbeat, near-future SF debut novel with agents and/or publishers. He’s also an avid bicyclist, total solar eclipse chaser, single malt aficionado, Mexican food lover, metalhead and intelligent optimist.