That Dimensional Difference

[Recording Start]
The ship span like a rock. Yes, Jaquile thought, like a cold lifeless rock separated from the rest only by being made of aluminium. He stood in the interior, continually yet gently shunted into the floor by the starcraft’s rotation. Outside, very far outside, in the barren landscape of space he could just about make out the many-ringed world of Ohol. The light from its uniquely internal sun occasional struck out from between the constantly rotating rings of rock, hurting Jaquile’s eyes.
All this, for the sake of authenticity, he grumbled in the safe depths of his mind.
“What are you doing?”
A young, also male voice. Don’t look. It’ll make him think he got the jump on you. Keep watching the rings, yes, looks wise doesn’t it? You fraud.
“Just watching the source of all this trouble.”
The boy who called himself Chan laughed at this, half-floating into view in the partial spin-induced gravity. He was not much younger than Jaquile but his immaturity made it seem as if they were generations apart. Blond headed, wild eyed and very much real. Three dimensional. Living and briefing. Living only once.
Jaquile turned back to the window.
“When will that maintenance shuttle be back?” He asked with what he hoped was the gruff voice of command.
Chan responded in a way which could easily have been either mocking or respectful. “The ship known as ‘Poetic Justice’ is due to return in five days sir, but will send us a status report any moment now.”
“Good.” Why did he say that? It was unnecessary - and who came up with these ship names? Command probably put it to an online poll again.
The rings continued to turn unstoppably. With the weight of time.
Thousands of years previously, standard years that is, there had emerged a group so annoying, so nonsensical, that they refused to believe in the world. Millions of people. Jaquile new he was oversimplifying, but for good reason. They’d pestered their governments, asked for something somehow more real than the reality around them. Where death could remain a stranger to them. Where the day was eternal. To Jaquile this was no better than living in some horrifiying computer game, and they realised this too. So they made their dream real and had been living there ever since. The commander suddenly wished ferociously that one of those rings would collide with another and send the whole sequence to its oblivion.
“I wonder what they do down there, most of the time,” Chan mused.
“Mostly,” his superior replied with a shallow smile, “they die.”
The sun was the key. Manufactured, but meant to look natural, lifeless. Inside the souls of many hundreds of thousands of fools were projected onto the surface of the ring where it was close enough to the sun to support life. They used vat-grown avatars that might, from above, look like humanity. Jaquile imagined them more like ants. From within the rings the sun allowed the minds to control those pitiful hosts. So much time, resources, effort, just to make an unreal world slightly more realistic.
A monitor on Chan’s wrist suddenly gave a piercing alarm, cutting through the air and Jaquile’s thoughts. Chan stared at the information it presented. His face was somehow ever paler than normal.
They lived and they died, on that world, without really doing either. The computer in the sun measured their brief “years” against the spinning of the multitude of rings so that each of their lives lasted no more than an hour. But they could be reborn. Again and again, never having to grow bored with themselves because they were always changing.
“It says there was an error - sir, look.”
Jaquile looked, still far away.
Fatal Error the readout said; then:
Maintenance Shuttle Has Fallen
They both looked at that dark red screen for a moment longer.
“What the…”
“Calm down.”
“I am calm.”
Jaquile wasn’t sure who was speaking anymore. That maintenance shuttle was thousands of kilometres of pure engine in places. It was designed to alter the speed of rings, of planets! The world of Ohol was artificial, unnatural, it needed maintaining so that the ring speeds were just right, perfect. Disorder crept into the system like an unwelcome reminder of what they had lost.
“Right, yes… right,” Jaquile swallowed, “I’m calm too.”
He could imagine Chan’s thoughts as they revolved in his head. What were they going to tell command? They were dubious about the cost for such maintenance missions in the first place, especially for such selfish renegades as these. If that shuttle did not return then there would likely be no more missions. The rings would get more and more ellipticle, the system more and more chaotic (the years longer, he found himself thinking at the back of his mind): and both of their careers ruined. Chan was tapping frantically at the screen as if this would somehow change things. Suddenly more text flashed up on the monitor.
Initiating Damage Assessment
Another agonising pause in information.
Assessment Complete. Probable Cause: Human
The two froze once again. Human? The locals? Hah! Not our fault, then. Finally grown tired of their little paradise had they? Or just forgotten who made it in the first place? Either way…
Chan looked less relieved. “But… what? How? Why?!”
“All good questions,” Jaquile replied with an unreadable expression, “that will be puzzled over by enquiry boards across the galaxy. But without doubt it was unexpected, unpredictable, and nothing to do with us.”
It took a moment for this to sink in for Chan. But he still looked doubtful.
“What about the ship?”
“That’s their problem. Maybe they’ll find life more authentic when their reality spins out of control.”
“Won’t we save them?”
Jaquile looked into the young man’s eyes, the mocking in them gone as quickly as it had appeared.
“With the wreck of a medium class planet shifter, they can save themselves,” He muttered, before deftly swiping Chan’s monitor from the other man’s wrist holster before he could move and plugging it into a much larger terminal set into the metal wall. It wasn’t until the screen began glowing to life that Chan seemed to accept his explanation and watch as the captain briefly explained what had happened to their superiors. Neither of them felt envy for the general that had to read Jaquile’s hasty broadcast.
“Fire up the drive and let’s get out of here,” the ship captain ordered Chan. He did so readily as if happy to have something concrete to do. Jaquile turned away to look back out at the stars and the mighty doomed body before him.
This changed things. Suddenly though, looking out on that fragile system, Jaquile was no longer sure if it was for better or worse. But to bring down an earth shifter… he almost felt admiration for the miserable bunch.
Suddenly he heard the scream of the engines. Icy flames sprung out from the sides of the starship just visible from his window and the craft, slowly at first, began the long voyage back home.
Jaquile was glad to be gone.
[Recording End]


I’m halfway through the story, and it’s already great!


I just started reading this and i love it too!

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