In the ship, I slept one last night, lying in my hibernacle, that I can’t stand anymore. And when the first sun rose, I activated the Novark’s lower airlock to take my first step on the planet. I took my light flightsuit, with the kadpak on my back. A technological marvel that uses Calabi-Yau manifolds, notably K3 spaces, to compress matter at ultra-high degrees of density. Once sucked inside, that matter can be taken out with whatever geometrical form one wishes. All with a mere kyrium tube somehow wrapped around my forearm, a mere canon, which can even serve as a rudimentary weapon in case of attack: the morpher.
The kadpak and morpher are the two genius ideas of the Novark’s engineers. To optimize the number of transportable humans and their future autonomy, the arkship’s engineers decided that the ship would transport neither vehicles nor industrial infrastructure, but that all the pioneers would be equipped with an ultra-compact factory at the height of technology. A nano-assembling canon capable of absorbing, carrying, and reconfiguring the molecular structure of raw materials and of then forming, by freeing them in calibrated streams, most basic objects for which you have acquired the skills. I know I can manufacture weapons, simple shapes, objects whose schemes I remember, little things for the moment, but very useful. I just need to gather raw materials and energy sources, If I can find some. On this planet, merely by exploring this forest, I know I will be able to extract stone and wood, compress them in the kadpak on my back, or in the kads attached to my belt, and they will be available for later use. It makes me euphoric.
My portable AI, which I’ve named Lia, already contains the plans for certain constructs that Aphelia entrusted to me. In simulation, I acquired theoretical skills I’m eager to put into practice. So I begin to climb the edges of the impact crater, then abruptly turned around.
A flash, like a thought-wave, a presence. On an intuition, I went back down toward the ship and decide to circle it. The kyrium walls ripple with a splendid blue. The substance’s opalescence is surprising and fascinating. I approach to touch it, to look closer. First I see my reflection, wavering, uncertain, then my helmet in the mirror of the kyrium is as though dissolved, revealing my face, which grows younger, younger, younger still until it becomes the face of a baby. I caress that child’s face and suddenly, the reflection begins to grow older at high speed, I wrinkle, wrinkle violently, become an old man who grimaces and disappears. Alarmed, I back up, an icy shudder running through my spine. When I look at the wall again, I see nothing but the charred crater behind me.
Without knowing why, I climb, scale the sides as quickly as I can and come out of the crater. I set out straight away toward the forest before me and approach a felled trunk. I point the canon and activate the morpher. The trunk disappears, sucked inside before my eyes! Lia projects the result on the visor of my helmet: 4 m3 of wood are now available in a single kad the size of a matchbox!
I hurry toward a clearing and I make a first attempt at construction. I’m able to form cubes of wood, a triangle, a half-sphere. Enough to make a bench. Not enough to build a shelter for the night. I’ll need to keep going, to find some stone, more wood, for at night, according to the briefing Lia gave me, temperatures sink to -30° C.
I pass through the forest sucking up several trees, and I find a pile of rock that I siphon up also with my morpher. Its gravitational compression capacity is just astonishing. I’ve got the equivalent of four sequoias and six tons of rock in cartridges housed in my belt! The worst part is that I don’t even feel their weight thanks to anti-gravity technology!
I took up position on a mound from which I had 360 degree visibility. A little lake was shining down below. And I started to build, with great spurts from the morpher.
To be completely honest, that evening, as the light dwindled, I felt as though I was playing that fantastic old cube game from the 2010s that consisted of exploiting the environment. Except that it was true. And that I could do other things besides cubes on cubes! Beams, arcs, spheres, domes, chairs even. Still very rudimentary, because I didn’t have the necessary skills on this first days of discovery.
But after a week of exploration by foot, I had succeeded in fully coding the construct of a chalet for the night, with a stone space for the chimney and enough wood supply to feed it! I was an authentic trapper. All I needed to do was activate the construct plan with the necessary materials stored in my kads, and the chalet assembled itself all by itself before my eyes.
To eat, I had managed to extract fruit and vegetables, many of this sort of potato found in forests under roots and that can be cooked over a fire.
I met my first pioneer on the third day. Then many others as I changed location and took time to activate my market unit. I was thereby able to trade my chalet construct with built-in chimney for weapons and tools to dig and mine for metals.
With a group of twenty pioneers, we established a small village at the foot of the mountains. We set up our own political system, an enlightened anarchy in which something must be given each day to the community to be able to use one’s constructs. And in which our food and surplus raw materials are shared. Our goal is to gather enough materials and skills and to trade enough constructs with the outside world, while also coding some ourselves, in order to build our exploratory ship in which we could all live. For the moment, some of us use balloons or small hover vehicles to explore the planet. One of them left the area protected by the Novark and was shot down, nobody knows by who or by what! He reappeared near the Novark thanks to the Resurrection Node, a sort of quantum duplication of bodies. Since that incident, we are developing a territorial security system to avert attacks.
And we try to gather energy through solar farms and yellow trees native to Alioth which have a sap resembling a solar fuel, and which I can suck into our kadpaks and then pour back into our reservoirs.
… to be continued
Written by Alain Damasio
Translated by Alexander Dickow