ATOP THE WALLS OF ILIUM
Previously: Episode Eleven
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2273, October 22nd (8 Years, 2 Months, 22 Days)
Imagine you’re a Starship, cruising through the darkness of space. Imagine that you have a crew of serious, hardworking, and dedicated individuals from a dozen different races. Imagine, one day, you run into a cloud of micrometeors… and stop dead in space.
Yes. We ran into an anomaly. At first, we didn’t know what it was, but we soon discovered that our warp bubble had been disrupted by the strange substance of the meteors. Slowly, we tried to back out of the field… but it flowed with us, like a spoon dipped in honey. Then the monkeys attacked.
If only I weren’t serious. One moment, we’re pulling away from micrometeors, the next second a swarm of tens of thousands of centimeter high monkey-like creatures are scrambling over the hull, tugging and ripping at anything exposed. A quick reversal of the hull’s polarity later and they’d been flung off and we’d raised our shields. We thought that would be the end of it. But then the monkeys became cavemen and started beating on our shields with their fists… which didn’t work, so they manufactured clubs… which didn’t work either, but put an actual strain on our shields.
Over the course of the first 30 hours, the swarm evolved, steadily, from monkeys to bigger monkeys to cavemen to zulu warriors to greek hoplites to roman legionaries. And their numbers were increasing. From an initial batch of perhaps 30,000, there were soon over a million of the tiny things, smashing their weapons against the shields as the engineering crews worked to figure out why our warp bubble wasn’t forming.
By the time we hit 100 hours, they’d evolved into musket men (taking a brief detour into knights, then samurai, then conquistadors. Of course, the resemblances weren’t perfect, and these are just the names the History department and I came up with as we observed, not wishing to harm the essentially harmless beings. By the time there were a billion of them, around the middle of day 5, I realized they had to be a strange kind of Von Neumann machine. They’d also evolved into tiny little soldiers in fatigues with machine guns that fired infinitesimal bullets that individually would perhaps sting to be hit with, but at the numbers we were being hit with, they were actually causing our shields to fluctuate.
We began to worry about the middle of day 7 when they started developing laser weapons and there were more than a trillion of them and we’d made no progress. I’m sorry to say that, it took me until day 9, when they had evolved to the point that there we a quadrillion of them, each in their own tiny little space fighter, all blasting away at us with protonic weaponry, to figure out what was going on.
“Kill the Warp Field!” I said, rushing onto the bridge.
“We don’t have a Warp Field!” the Captain shot back, “That’s the problem!”
“Yes… Yes we do. We’re still generating it. That’s why we can’t bring it up. They’re absorbing it. It’s what’s allowed them to evolve so quickly. It also might be why they’re so aggressive.”
She gave the order, though we didn’t lower our shields, and slowly, the endless siege stopped. I sighed. After a very long pause, the microfighters pulled back, swarming together. They made a giant head, moving as a single swarm, collectively a couple thousand times the volume of Potemkin. The head considered us for many long moments, then slowly condensed into a single massive moonsized rock and, after spitting out a small copy of Potemkin… warped away.
“They left us a copy of ourselves?” the helmsmen asked, incredulously.
The Captain and I shared a look, and I nodded. She smirked “Open fire, full spread. Vaporize it.”
We’ll never know if it was a trap or not, but the wisdom of the Ancients still holds “Beware of Von Neumann Machines bearing Gifts.”… or Gifts bearing Von Neumann Machines.
Next: Episode Thirteen