Stasis had changed. Was changing. The twelve of us were safe. I’d anchored all of us to my entry point at the node I’d named Blue years earlier. I tried to shift into slow time. I couldn’t. I checked the generic energy around me and found that it was locked into real time.
The mass transition had corrected the flaw in time. It had also restricted movement. I could no longer envisage a place that I wanted to be and just move there.
“Ok,” I said, “The rules have changed. We can still build, but for now we are restricted to this node and the immediate area. Boundaries have apparently been put in place but I’ve locked the boundary to this zone to keep anything from getting in. In terms of ‘land’ area, we have about twenty square miles, which is plenty to work in for now. However, spatially we have what equates to twenty miles up and twenty miles down. This is where we will draw energy from to build and create.”
They all took a few moments to absorb this new information. I could see their furtive minds working on this new problem head on. Finally, Alice broke the silence.
“If we’re locked in here then no one else can come in?”
“That is correct. I will be working on a way to build a back door into other zones. From what I can tell, the whole structure of this place has changed with the mass transition. We can no longer travel by imagining where we want to be. First thing we will have to work on will be extending the basic travel network that I’d started here.”
I looked at the four computing specialists that Alice had recruited and realised that I had yet to absorb their names despite the training I had previously given them. Likewise the mercenaries. Proper introductions were performed and a minute later I could now identify all of my colleagues.
My Tech team consisted of Dan, Ricky, Sally and Scott. All four were recent Computer Science graduates and, according to Alice, had graduated at the top of their class. The mercenaries were a little more cryptic with their names and also insisted that they were Soldiers of Fortune rather than mercenaries. The four of them frequently worked as a team called “The Farm Crew”, so I had Ox, Horse, Bull and Goose. I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at the clichés that this would lead to over time.
I got the Tech team straight onto the transport problem and trusted them to work independently and creatively within reason. I instructed Michael and Emile to teach The Farm Crew the basics in energy manipulation. The least I wanted them to do was to come up with the blueprints for the kind of hardware they would eventually need.
The handgun that we had previously designed was intended not to kill but to disperse a person’s energy signature. The bolts that it fired latched onto the signature and temporarily recoded it. It basically incapacitated a person’s energy signature. Over time, the energy bolt code would degrade and release the person inside.
Of course, times could become more desperate and a longer lasting type of ammunition would be required. I really did not want to be responsible for death, though I was not sure if you could actually physically die in Stasis. Energy in Stasis, like in the real world, could neither be created or destroyed. Energy signatures could be manipulated and recoded, but they still retained their inherent signature. It was possible to permanently lock down someone’s signature. It would take either the reversal code from the weapon or killed hacked to unlock the person.
It was also possible to mutate a signature. This would work almost like a virus. The person would still be able to perform some functions, dependent on how the ammunition was coded. It was possible to inflict various kinds of viruses that would work in different ways. For instance, the ammunition could attack the part of a person’s energy signature that dealt with what could be considered vision in this realm and render them blind.
I pondered these ammo modifications as me and Alice started to work on the problem of our restrictive area. There was no point in being a resistance if you could not move beyond a certain point. And until we got out of here, we knew that Patrick would be building up a force against us to hunt us down. He would be beyond reason now, fully blaming Alice for all of this. And whilst technically true, I am positive that he would not buy the story that it was an escaped piece of my psyche that caused this. That part I was sure of.
I walked with Alice. The scenery was pretty bland at the moment and the looming skyscrapers were ominous in their grandiosity.
“I’m finding the lack of a shadow very unnerving,” Alice said after several minutes of silence.
“First time in Stasis.”
“Yes. I was too afraid to do this myself. Too cowardly I guess. I’m truly sorry for all of this.”
“It’s okay. I understand why you made the choices that you made. If it wasn’t you it would have been Patrick, and who knows how that would have turned out. We would be fighting World War 3 with an army of super soldiers in the real world rather than in here.”
I could see that my words of reassurance were doing nothing to help Alice. In her mind I could tell that she was filing herself along side others whose thirst for knowledge had led to unintended by-products that they had never been able to live down.
“Does it ever get dark here?” she asked after another lengthy silence.
“No. It is always like this, just naturally light.”
“It’s just…well, strange.”
“It took me a long time to get used to it,” I replied, realising it was probably the wrong thing to say entirely.
“Is there anything you can do about it? Could you make a cycle of light and darkness?”
“I suppose I could, but it would take some time. I could teach you so you could work on it though.”
“Thanks. I’d like that.”
“For now, the best we’ve got is a dark and light cycle that affects the interiors of the buildings. Although we do not require sleep here, I still rested.”
“I guess that until I learn how to control the light it will have to do.” She smiled for the first time that I had noticed.
“First of all though, let’s brighten up this area. I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty boring round here. Plus, it will serve as a good introduction to energy manipulation.”
An hour later, we had created a small but picturesque park. Alice’s natural leaning towards science made her a very easy person to teach. With the basic form of the park set, Alice went ahead and created a pond with small boats on it. Without pausing to think, she then created a play area with swings, a roundabout and a see-saw.
“Not bad,” I commented, “Not bad at all. I didn’t move onto moving items this quickly.”
She beamed with pride, “I guess because I know what this place is and you didn’t also helps.”
“True, true. I was going to say that, I just didn’t want to hurt your feelings!” I had finally succeeded in cheering her up somewhat.
“I hope we had planning permission for this park!” she said, now laughing.
“Well, I’m sure the Tech team won’t be bulldozing over it in a hurry.”
“So, any thoughts on how you’re going to make a back door into another zone?”
“Kind of, but it’s only a small thought at the moment. From what I can tell about the way the lock down code is working for this boundary is that it saw this zone as an anomaly and already occupied. We were potentially a threat. It seems like an aggressive barrier, which was why I needed some way of keeping it out.
“It appears that it is a permanently shifting code that is acting as the iron door keeping us in. I have yet to see whether there is a pattern to this or whether it is entirely random. If it is random, then our problem will be significantly increased.
“The problem beyond that is then getting into other zones. I had mapped out the local nodal network quite extensively, but whether the mass transition rearranged this I won’t know until we have broken through the barrier. Likewise, I won’t know if other zones are bigger or smaller than here. This nodal area retained the size that I assigned to it when I built it.
“All my knowledge may well be useless apart from knowing the nodal signatures. When you originally sent code into Stasis to seed the nodes, how did you do it?”
“Just a simple recursive seeding algorithm. That’s all.”
“An algorithm that has the added organic and sentient element of me buried inside it. I guess that the recursive nature of the algorithm means that it will spread and spread.”
Alice nodded, but at the same time she realised what I was getting at. “It’s self-replicated, hasn’t it? When it merged with you, it saw something that it had not encountered during the mundane nature of the seeding programme.”
“And the link back to the real world was the trigger that it needed. It wasn’t looking to get out per se. The gap was there and the expansive and recursive programming took it that way. Out, into the real world.
“I think I know how the barrier is working now. I think it wasn’t the original barrier that was put up. This new barrier is an aggressive response to my defence barrier and is recursively looking for a way in. I think that it wants to meet me and tomorrow I am going to give it that wish.”
“How? And will it be safe?”
“I’m not sure how just yet, but I’ll ensure that it cannot get in and cause any damage. Besides, I’m not sure that that will be its purpose. I’ve always wondered what I will do if I ever met myself. As far as I know, I will become the first person to do so.”