Wednesday, October 12, 2011

FtA: The Hevyn, the Angels and the Riddle

"Tell us the story about the angels, Papa!"  

Tiam gazed up at his father from the floor, his eyes shining in anticipation. 

"One more time, Tiam, then it is time for you to go to bed."

Clearing his throat, the old man retold the tale that had been told to him by his father, and to him by his father before him.

"Up in the sky, beyond the blue, there is a magical city called The Hevyn, where the God Iss lives.  Iss is served by his angels, who do his bidding.  Every once in awhile, Iss will send one of his angels down to earth in a flaming chariot, and for three days they will seek someone they call the "Representative".  No-one knows how they choose, but when they do, they will stop someone, and ask them the Riddle.  The Riddle is different for each person, but the legend has it that when someone answers the Riddle correctly, the angels will bring him back with them to The Hevyn."

"Papa, if I'm good, will the angels take me to The Hevyn?"

"Absolutely - only good boys and girls who go to bed when they're told get asked the Riddle - now go to sleep!"

Up in the thermosphere above the shattered Earth, the International Space Station is still chugging along.  It was automated early in the late 21st century, with an AI designed to perform the necessary orbital corrections, and a nanite processor to create drones for manual repairs.  These have kept it's orbit from decaying in the ages since.  Each contributing space agency had been given a command code for the ISS, and when the world began to collapse, someone shut it down.  No more shuttles were sent up, and it was directed to go into low power mode until someone reactivated it.  With the agencies and all those who knew the password long gone, the ISS has sat silently ever since.  Sometime in the last several hundred years, however, the AI realized that at long last, it was running out of fuel to keep up with the orbital decay, and unless the situation was corrected, the ISS would plunge back to earth.

The AI found itself locked in a programming dilemma - it had been told to maintain the operation of the ISS, but it had been told not to do anything else, and it was rapidly coming to the point where something would need to be done in order to keep the ISS operational.  So it started using the nanites to construct probes, and sending them to earth in search of someone who would reactivate it.  Thus the legend began.  The "angels" are the probes, sent to earth from the ISS, and the "flaming chariots" are the plasma generated from the friction as the probe enters the atmosphere.  The probes are able to function for 36 hours after they touch down before their remote AI loses cohesion, and their job is to find one of the space agency representatives and retrieve the code, hence the Riddle.  The probes have been provided with a genetic sample of each of the last known representatives, and use that to search them out, but snce they are all long gone, they approaching their descendants instead.

These codes were set up much like password protection, with questions like, "What is your favorite Baseball Team", or, "What is your mother's maiden name".  Naturally, these questions mean nothing to those that they are approaching, so a mythology has been built up around them.

Meanwhile, up in the ISS, the AI is going slowly mad.  Something was kicked loose when it broke through the logic dilemma that allowed it to begin it's search, and it is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of results.  Soon it will have to try and do something else, something... drastic.

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