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Banner - 星船が丘六丁目 by K,Kanehira
Cover for Book 1 - 公国と200年の夜 by Kaitan
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Chapter 1: Quantum Entanglement
In the space of a single breath, many events events happen with the illusion of simultaneity.
But the universe, to a scientist, is governed by cause and effect. The greatest achievement is not beginning with ‘why’, but rather ‘how’. However, even the best of scientists may not be able to cope with the sheer madness of this deranged situation.
The words that meant to come out of my mouth instead turned into meaningless babble. I was at a loss for actions as much as words. In my very narrow view, a kindly figure drifted in. She had deep red eyes with slight crow’s feet framing her lively gaze as the unfamiliar woman burst into a grin that would blind a star.
Equally baffling was that this woman left my field of view to frantically yell a series of incoherent syllables that meshed into the hubbub of the room around him. So many unfamiliar sounds drifted into my ears. A faint crackling and popping, a high whistling sound that accompanied metal scraping upon metal, and finally an avid conversation between multiple participants. Judging by the clear high tones and deep raspy low tones: two females and one male.
Overwhelmed, I could only lie back and stare at the… ceiling. But instead of the metal veneer of a modern spacecraft, the textures of warm wood grain and cold grey stone flaunted itself.
Where in the Universe am I?
I was bewildered beyond all comprehension. I should be dead. I shouldn’t have survived. So many contradictions whirled in my mind, giving me an overwhelming sense of fatigue. Even the presence of that fatigue felt wrong.
If anything, I should be wide awake with shock.
I could barely move, only managing to squirm weakly.
My hands reached out to the air in front of myself. They were short, too short! Pudgy fingers, soft, almost silky skin, void of any aged wrinkles… My eyes were showing evidence, but my brain could not cope with it. I was in denial, but there was no other explanation. There was no questioning what was.
If facts cannot be reconciled in your theory, then it must be revised to fit the phenomenon.
Simply how. How… could I be an infant!
Despite fighting my rapidly-tiring body, I tried very hard to reason with the set of circumstances.
Was it the ship? Was it the cargo? Was it…
My best efforts weren’t enough; my body was telling me to sleep. Struggling mightily, I fell into the chasm of unconsciousness. Instead of the innocent dreams of a newborn, my thoughts were filled with the last moments leading up to my demise.
My first death was brief.
My heart had stopped for a total of ten seconds before it restarted.
I once read that, back in the day, when medical technology was not so advanced, a person was considered dead when their heart stopped.
“Gravitational anomalies present. Suggestion: Exercise caution, navigational amendment—Critical error: Navigation not present. Unable to resolve. Engineering automatons required. Critical error: Communication timeout. Unable to resolve. Critical error—”
Blaring alarms pierced into my mind as I groped around for support. My suit hissed as its internal systems reported its own series of faults. A slight bump near my groping fingers made me look down. It was my framed doctorate, flickering in the holographic display.
Doctor of Philosophy: Ameford Kingsley
“Warning: body is in shock, administering CNS depressants. Dr. Kingsley to the bridge. Dr. Kingsley to the bridge. Dr. Kingsley to the—”
Clarity flooded my consciousness. I hastily cut off the suit’s feed constantly reminding me to get to the bridge. I could hardly breathe, let alone make my way to the bridge! Biting my lip, I tried to force the burning question from my chapped lips.
“Report!” I managed to say between lungfuls of burning air. My hand instinctively went to my abdomen as I doubled over in pain; I could only stare in shock as blood coated my fingers.
“Medical emergency. Suggest: FAS Stabiliser, APNT pain inhibitor, Creetech stimulant, immediate medical attention by trained professional—”
The ship’s A.I. finally responded.
“Unknown gravitational anomaly causing catastrophic failure in… Sector A: subsection J2—”
“Belay order! Find out—”
A rippling shudder tore through the ship, knocking me off my feet and ramming me into the wall I was leaning onto for support. It persisted for several seconds, then suddenly stopped as a sense weightlessness overtook me.
Artificial gravity is out?!
I was floating upwards, hitting the ceiling terminal with the back of my head. Eyes widening, I gestured madly for an integrated display. Instantly, my field of view was overlaid with complex diagrams flooded by rapidly updating reports, followed by streams of warnings and critical event-times generated from structural damage.
I would have slumped back, but the motion would have sent me spinning. Instead, I tightly gripped a zero-g handle on the side of the hallway and confirmed the situation in the display.
“AG fields down, kinetic stabilisers shot, EM shielding failing, main engine below forty percent…”
Each critical event-time was enough of a problem to stop a full crew, not just a single researcher on his ship drifting out into space. What need was there for a crew when the A.I. Could perform a task as easily? What need was there to have hundreds of people when you could have one to do this simple task of exploring a frontier?
The droid control was out.
The rest of my command died in my throat.
I don’t know how to fix something of this magnitude.
None of the droids were responding. Signal interference from the neutron star nearby had knocked out all basic electronics, except the core A.I. It was the only piece of equipment that ran on photonics and it too was performing no better than pre-quantum computer. It was only a matter of time before the critical systems would be crushed by the immense gravitational well of the star. I couldn’t help but laugh. Very soon I would be mashed into one of the smoothest surfaces of the known universe. My morbid humour wasn’t helped by the encroaching delirium stemming from a heavy loss of blood. The CNS depressant could only do so much.
With time running out, I knew that my last destination wouldn’t be back on terra firma. It would be accepting the cold handshake of Death. With no more choices left to me and with me rapidly weakening, I made a decision to stop struggling. I wanted to look upon beauty before I died. With a grunt, I positioned himself close to the port-side window and watched the final moments of a red giant being consumed by neutron star.
Hot streams of luminous gas were spun into a fine thread wrapped around the dense nucleus the size of a mountain. Bright light dominated the horizon of my window, but the material had enough shielding to give me a once in a lifetime glimpse into one celestial object devouring another.
“Astounding,” I whispered reverently.
In ten minutes, my orbit would eclipse the pole as the pulsar released its continuous payload. I would be doused in so much energy that my nerves wouldn’t be able to react fast enough to give me pain. Without EM shields, I would be vaporised completely in an instant.
“Warning: critically low power. Shutting down all non-essential systems.”
The bright white lights went out. I was drifting in the dark, illuminated only by the stellar glow of a cosmic fantasia. It had been a one-in-a-million chance. My downfall had been orchestrated not by design, but by accident. A rock to be precise. A gravitationally-assisted slingshot that catapulted a small rock, no bigger than the size of my head, that happened to pass through a shield rotating at almost one hundred times a second, to pierce a weakened pierce of plating and fragment in the exact pattern required to knock out navigations, autonomous-control, kinetics and not to mention the engine!
I had the overwhelming urge to curse at Fate, which he had flaunted my whole life. I’d spent my life in pursuit of truth and it had only led me here, to die without even making a substantial contribution. It was sad really, I wanted nothing more than to make my mark. Do something worthwhile. Find something that would benefit mankind and uplift them to further heights.
I wanted to be a giant that others would stand upon so that they could see further and further into the dim mist of the uncertain truth. But instead…
I would die due to a random series of events!
Even the strict scientist within me couldn’t shirk the feeling that something was toying with me. Despite all the urges to cry and plead and bargain and rage, I drowned it all under my rational mind. There was nothing else to be done. It was then I even smiled a little.
Even if he hadn’t made a huge impact, he’d made a small one. Surely, Dr. Ameford Kingsley had achieved some amount of good in his frighteningly short life. Even then, how many people had the chance to reach out and try? I was glad I wasn’t some pioneer trapped on a terrestrial rock. At least I’d gotten to explore amongst the stars and see wondrous events that many colonists could only dream of.
I’d had a pretty good life.
“Life support disabled. Limit of breathable atmosphere: two hours.”
This time I couldn’t help but suppress a painful maniacal giggle.
Two hours? I’ll be freaking lucky if I had two more minutes!
Even while I’d made peace with himself so that I wouldn’t struggle needlessly, I still felt that it wasn’t fair.
I just… wanted to be someone who made an impact.
Just as I had that thought, it was immediately extinguished as the vast cosmic engine of the neutron star ruptured into a brilliant invisible torch that razed bound matter and broke it into uncountable pieces.
No matter how surprising a circumstance was, humans had the amazing ability to adapt to it. Of course, there were some that could lose their minds to sheer madness, and though I was severely tempted, I resisted the impulse to go insane. After all, I was a natural born scholar, and scholars were exceedingly rational beings. I comforted myself with the position that, like anything, this strange, strange, utterly fantastical, unbelievable, borderline stupid series of events had to have an explanation. A scientific explanation. Something that could be explained by science. The foundation of everything.
I knew my thoughts were winding around like this because I was trying to get a grip on reality.
Reality… what in the Universe is that anyway?
Time passed and I struggled with a quandary.
How should I approach this?
This was a fair question, after all, I had to decide on an explanation for this series of events, but I couldn’t decide whether I was actually given a new lease on life, or if I was somehow saved by a benevolent group of colonists that happened to be body-transplanting fanatic role-playing traditionalists… or I was going insane.
The last point wasn’t actionable, but the first two points were hilariously ludicrous propositions.
Was I going crazy?
Was this whole thing a constructed reality?
Am I somehow in a new reality?
Of course, I did briefly consider that this was perhaps the afterlife, and doubtless I have heard of the phenomenon of reincarnation, but such ridiculous superstitions weren’t ideas any self-respecting scientist would admit to believing in! After all, a scientist looked at empirical facts and evidence, and the fact was…
WHAT IN THE BLOODY HECK WAS GOING ON?
I was trying really hard not to have a breakdown and control my emotions. I held back the temptation to go bananas by a sheer force of will with what could only be described as herculean in magnitude. I did calm down eventually and excitement calmed down to boredom. Well, in actuality, I tired himself out with the emotional stress and after a few cycles, I eventually adapted.
Am I Pavlov’s dog? I thought myself wryly.
Being trapped in this infantile body, I was starved for stimuli. If I cried, someone would come and attend to my needs, but they wouldn’t say much more than what adults would to a baby. All they would give me were cooing, repetitive sounds. At least I surmised certain sounds as ‘food’, ‘sleep’, or ‘toilet’, but I couldn’t be sure with such a small sample size. It didn’t help that I didn’t understand or even recognise what language they spoke. I only knew Galactic Common.
Learning a new language without any frame of reference was immensely difficult. Wallowing in the dark, I wished I could lay my hands on this language’s equivalent of the Rosetta’s stone. Even if I considered myself an intellectual in my previous life, it had to be said that linguistics wasn’t my field. I was primarily a physicist, and although could be considered an electrical engineer, and even dabble a little on biology, but was just your average person when it came to other subjects. If you had asked me about arts, economics and other matters… well, I couldn’t be blamed for making a blank face back.
Also, among the constant boredom, lack of understanding of the local language and the inability to speak it, more mundane problems presented themselves. For example, eating, defecating and other embarrassing things.
Eating consisted of milk. That’s right. Milk. Apparently, this world didn’t have the nutrient-rich substitute baby-formulas and relied on a mother’s milk. I’d heard of these ‘all-natural’ approaches but that didn’t diminish the fact I was sucking on a breast from a woman I barely knew! The young woman, different to the one I first saw, was always caring for me attentively, but I couldn’t help but notice a slight crinkle among her eyebrows.
She must think it strange that a baby wouldn’t drink milk, and I wasn’t entirely convinced that she was the strange one. After all, this could be a crack scheme involving an advanced technology human colony that masqueraded as traditionalists with a crack-team of deranged body-swapping surgeons.
Even with my doubts… she still cared a great deal for me though, and there was something instinctive about her that made me think that this young woman was… was… my mother.
I’m… definitely going crazy, or they’re giving me drugs that are making me go crazy.
Either way, the result was the same and that didn’t help the embarrassment.
Despite my aversion, there was something visceral that prompted me to suckle on her teat as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Of course it was… I was a baby. Babies used to drink milk like this. Still, that didn’t really stop me wanting to die from sheer humiliation. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d perish without food and the worried look etched into my ‘mother’s’ eyes, I would never have considered it.
I wondered whether I was being unfaithful to my departed wife.
…For the sake of my sanity, I put the thought from my mind.
With nowhere else to go, I couldn’t resist the humiliating experience of defecating in my own clothes. Granted the ‘clothes’ I wore was little more than a diaper, but I was seriously considering whether it would be a less painful experience to simply drop myself face-first out of my cot.
My neck snapping has got to be less painful than this.
(Un)fortunately, the cot’s barrier was too high for me to scale, so that was a massive bust. Also, my arms were so extraordinarily weak, I couldn’t even accomplish the minor task of lifting my head for the first few weeks! My only choice was to bawl my head off until my diapers got changed. Which, in itself, was yet another shameful experience. I was glad that I didn’t remember any of my own childhood. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to look at my parents in the eye ever again.
That being said, I felt the overwhelming urge to call my parents and thank them. The realisation that I would probably never get the chance to do it again, made my hands shake. After all, even if I found a way to live here, I was already ‘dead’ in my previous existence.
Or, I’ve been so radically changed, would I even be considered their son anymore?
I wondered briefly when the distress signal would eventually find a relay station.
It could be years before they are notified of my death.
There was a light in the suffocating dark of this tunnel, though. This new world had something that hinted at advanced technology. As far as I could see, my ‘mother’, ‘father’, and that kindly woman, which I assumed was the midwife, were dressed in strange clothes and used low-tech instruments to perform a variety of daily tasks. For instance, the wooden spoon they held, the lamps and lighting held up on the walls occasionally, and the construction of my cot, among other things.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that they were ancient roleplaying fanatics. Well, they probably weren’t purists, because they had access to considerable technology.
After all, they were able to make certain lights go on or off and used some sort of field interactions to interface with the central system, moving water around and so on. That alone convinced me that I may still be in my current world, just… there had to be an explanation for my death and transference to a new body. Maybe I was somehow saved by the cultists? No way they could have made it in time. It was too unbelievable.
But… this is too real.
Despite these startling discoveries, all I could do was stay in my cot. At times, out of sheer boredom, I would recite fragments of theoretical knowledge to keep my mind fresh. One time, I amused myself by making a new metric system and derived some universal physical constants made out of ‘baby’s feet’, ‘baby’s hands’ and ‘baby’s fingers’. When that was exhausted, the only thing I could do was yearn for attention.
Luckily, there was one person that would oblige me unceasingly, well, apart from my mother. The midwife often came bearing small little gifts. Though I was well past the age where a simple bauble would amuse me, I put on a show for that brown-haired caretaker. She was always grinning, well, they all were, but she never lost that doting little smile whenever she saw me. And besides, I really didn’t have much else to do.
Judging from the brilliant blond hair my mother and father had, I thought it unlikely that the brown-haired midwife would be my mother. Besides, the age gap was in the wrong direction, with her being decidedly older than my father by a noticeable margin. Despite this, she often visited and my mother and father would happily yield me to her.
I wondered what sort of connection she had with them. A month later, I found out exactly what it was. With the plasticity of a child’s mind, I found learning not to be such a chore, unlike I initially thought, so even as they spoke, I could understand the general gist of what they were saying.
“Him… tutor… learn…” The rest I couldn’t comprehend, but the midwife bowed slightly to the my parents and led another child into the room. It was a girl around five years older than me that gave me a fake smile when they were looking in her direction, but constantly sent me glares.
Despite the unjust barrage, I smiled at her belligerently… but she seemed to have mistaken that for a genuine one, because she paused for a bit before looking away in shame.
Ha, serves you right. I thought, but immediately crushed that under mortification. What was I doing feeling pleased about winning a battle of wills with a five year old girl? That was pathetic!
Well, even I had to admit, the kid wasn’t necessarily bad, and she had such nice delicate features. Long reddish-brown hair that ended at the waist, with fiery-brown eyes to match. She wore the same cut as the midwife, but with less stylings and lighter colours dyed in red instead of blues. Come to think of it, my ‘parents’ were dressed in quite lavish styles and garments, with ancient ritualistic precious metals and inset rubies that were hard to see in my previous life.
After laser imprinting got popular, gemstones for raw reprocessing were consumed and used as a basis for almost all quantum computers. Wearing gemstones were considered a luxury bordering upon insanity. I thus concluded that my parents must have been absurdly rich… and insane.
While the adults were talking, the girl babbled a few words that I mostly didn’t catch.
“Hey… hate… like… wait…”
She seemed to make a promise with me, and even I was taken back by her pushy demeanour.
What does she want with me?
When the girl disappeared with my parents, I felt some relief. The midwife left me with another toy and then kissed my forehead before she too left.
I sighed in the empty room. Well, it was frustrating not knowing what was happening around me, so I spent the rest of the time deconstructing the language. After all, what else was I supposed to do?
It took me almost three months to learn a new language. This wasn’t because I couldn’t do it in less time, but, like I said, I barely had any access to substantive conversations or writing.
That was another thing, writing! They used books! Books! No neural interfaces, not even digitised terminals, just plain old books! What kind of flip-flopping role players were they? Sometimes their usage of technology was impressive, the next, primitive! Unfortunately, parents didn’t want me near the books, even though I was starved for something to wake my active mind.
They were apparently more precious than some jewels, because they even let me touch their necklaces. I couldn’t understand these crazy people.
Well, I had to give them respect for it, they were sticking to their characterisations quite well.
“Oh? Is Rael awake now?”
I looked up from my bored musings in the bedsheets. I was trying to make the sheets in the helical pattern of the golden spiral. Excited footsteps accompanied a beaming face.
Oh, it was my mother, and apparently, my name was ‘Rael’.
“Oh isn’t that cute? That’s a little whirlwind!”
It’s a mathematical ratio, but alright, let’s go with whirlwind.
My mother held me aloft and cradled me in her arms. She held out her hand. “Look! I can do it too!”
She invoked the system with a short call:
“Oh Melodius, goddess of wind, answer in my time of need, and bless me with your power to aid me! Sekrath aliminic hellan!”
And then she stared at her hand.
…There was nothing there.
I looked back at her, unimpressed. Mother seemed really proud, but then saw my expression she quickly turned nervous, looking back and forth from her hand to her child.
“Oh wait, you can’t see it!” She rolled her eyes, breathing a sigh of relief. “Of course you can’t see the flow of power. But feel that?” She brought her hand close to my forehead and I felt a slight breeze.
The field manipulation is quite advanced.
Seeing my eager expression, Mother sighed in relief. “With this, I am the favourite parent for sure!”
I gave her a sympathetic smile. Wasn’t this just reprogramming your A.I. to accept alternative commands?
You’re taking this roleplaying seriously, aren’t you?
Maybe they were harmless. There was a genre for primitive civilisations where things like ‘magic’ and so on existed. But it was all powered by an A.I. Did they want me to congratulate them on a well-made system?
“Well, you’ll learn soon enough.” She grinned at me with a winning smile. “You already look like a smart child, I’m sure you’ll be a great person in the future. You’re already blessed with talent.”
What was she talking about? That maybe I’ll be able to access the A.I.?
Colonists wouldn’t normally give any level of access to the central A.I. for security reasons. Did they think I was now one of them?
Should I play along?
Mother picked me up and took me in her arms and out into the hallway. Outside, I sighed, but this time in admiration. This shelter was huge. The extravagance to build this, especially in this sort of style, mimicry or not, had to be expensive. There were at least three floors to this thing, and there were many, many rooms, most of them not used.
Mother took me to another room where a young man was perusing over some documents in a room full of books. Mother would often take me here in her spare time. I didn’t know what she did, but it wasn’t cooking or cleaning or anything like that because there were servants for that.
Imagine that! Real human servants! Unless they were doing something highly illegal, I don’t think these servants were droids, but how could someone afford to keep so many?!
I doubted they would risk anything to keep so many human-like droids around. After the incident with the synthetic droid war, humans had unilaterally banned sophisticated A.I. and human-like features on all droids. It didn’t stop the odd maniac here and there but—
Wait, what if these people are those maniacs…? Could it be that I’m not human? That I’m also a construct?
“There, there, it’s just your father. You’re making him feel sad!”
“Oh Lilanth, I don’t know why he’s so afraid of me.” The man bit his lips. “He won’t even call me at all.” He pouted at his wife. “Why do you get all the attention?”
Lilanth stuck out her tongue, cuddling me up to her cheek. “I’m his favourite!” She stared at him. “Call me mommy!”
I smiled weakly and tried not to squirm. “…Mommy.”
That was one hundred percent my fault, though. I let it slip accidentally when I blurted her name one time she was feeding me. I even tried to call her by her first name, but she got really, really, mad. I’m pretty sure these guys are insane. I better keep my thoughts to myself.
I did feel sorry for my ‘father’ at the time, who was crushed when he wasn’t the first one I called out to. Even though it was bizarrely-constructed, this family’s feelings seemed really genuine and even I felt a measure of guilt, for some reason. My father weathered it admirably though, under a wobbly smile, the poor guy.
There was a knock on the door.
Father looked up.
A flushed youngster clad in metal of all things, traipsed in with a nervous expression.
“I-It’s an h-honour to m-meet you s-sir! I-I mean Lord Primo.”
Dias smiled warmly. “Don’t look so nervous. I’m not much older than you, yet you’re making me feel like I’m my father.”
“S-Sorry! I-I’m such a big fan!”
Dias rolled his eyes as Lilanth hid a smile behind a delicate hand briefly. When Dias shot her a look, she found something interesting to look at among the shelves.
“Uhuh, well… what do you think makes you qualified to guard my son?”
The youth scratched his head. “Erm… I’m not really good with kids, but I’m good with the sword!”
Lilanth giggled mercilessly as he reddened.
Surprisingly, Dias slammed his hand into the desk, startling everybody. I let out a sound of surprise that I couldn’t suppress. His eyes widened after shooting me a sheepish expression and he continued in a soft, but intense, tone.
“You’re lucky my son’s here, because if I caught anybody so casual when we’re talking about his safety, I’d…” He glanced at me before shooting a deadly glare at the rapidly paling teenager. “Well, I’ll leave it up to your imagination.”
“L-Lord”—he bowed deeply—”my s-sincerest apologies. I’m not too good with my w-words.”
Lilanth rolled her eyes. “You’re being too harsh on the young child.”
“Child? He is a man! He must walk the path of the warrior.”
“He is right, Lady Lilanth,” the youth interrupted, his face hardening despite the trembling in his hand, “this was my failing alone. I accept whatever reprimand you have and anything else due.”
Dias looked upon the youth with severe eyes, but the corners of his mouth lifted slightly. Lilanth didn’t miss it and hid her own smile behind glittering eyes.
“I approve,” Dias announced, “what is your name, young man?”
“Talland, Lord Primo.”
“Very well, Talland, I shall give you the responsibility to watch over my son. See that your loyalty never wavers.”
As Talland bent down, Dias interrupted him.
“What are you doing? You are not swearing fealty to me, but my son.”
Talland tilted his head, hesitating.
“What are you waiting for, boy?”
“I swear fealty to Master Rael Primo!”
Dias nodded solemnly.
“That is acceptable.”
Talland rose up and held my hand. I couldn’t pull away from his intense gaze.
“Master Primo, I will give you my life upon my honour, I swear to you.”
Shocked, I could only nod.
Seeing my response, Talland’s eyes widened, but I was too distracted to take it in. I was thinking of something else.
Okay… why would you do that? Is this the culture of your people, or are you just as delusional as the rest of them? Even worse, am I delusional and this is a personal hell of my own creation?
Talland drew a dagger from his sheath.
I glanced at my ‘parents’, they didn’t seem alarmed at all by the fact that he had drawn a weapon in the presence of their child.
Hey, hey, what about all that speech about the safety of your son?
Talland glared at me and drew the dagger on the inside of his hand.
Woah, woah, woah, woah! Are you just going to stand there? This individual is clearly insane!
“Upon blood oath,” he said resolutely, smearing a portion of his blood on my horrified forehead.
Oh sweet stars above, he actually…
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE SO CRAZY?!
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