The Last Copy Of You

Previously

There is nothing soft to land on in the basement tunnel; the grey-haired woman cries out, having smashed her elbow, skull and tailbone on the cement floor after falling through from above. Mitch is luckier on his landing and his body armour cushions his joints.

A clatter of gunfire resounds and fades in the enormous space above them.

"How do we get out of here?" demands Mitch, who hasn't yet come to terms with the fact that "Mitch" is no longer his shell's name. The woman grits her teeth and hisses with pain as he pulls her upright and then to her feet. "How many people are attacking this building? How far away do we have to get? Is there a safe house? A state line we can cross?"

"I think I've fractured something. I think I'm bleeding."

"What's your name?"

"How can you not know my name?"

"What's your name?"

"...Linisd. Linisd Amarkaya."

"Linisd, we do not have time to be hurt. Tell me how we're going to get out of here."

"But you know! We went over this just a few minutes ago--"

"I don't! Which way? Left or right? We can go through walls, if that makes it any easier. Is there a vehicle? Can you drive it?"

"This way," says Linisd, pointing, and Mitch holds her tightly by the hand and sets off down the tunnel.

After a hundred yards and three right-angled turns they have reached a freight elevator. The car arrives promptly but Mitch stops her from entering. "Before we go, is there any first aid equipment around here? Medical equipment. Bandages."

"No," says Linisd. "Not here."

Mitch enters the elevator with her and lets her select the top floor. They begin to accelerate. Mitch watches the floor indicator above the door, and watches it. "That's pretty poor for a science installation," he remarks. "What about the top floor?"

"We're going to the roof."

"What's on the roof?"

Linisd hisses once more and clutches her arm. "An aircraft."

"What sort of aircraft? Can you fly it?" Linisd glares at him. "Look. I don't know who I was up until fifteen minutes ago. But that person's dead. I'm sorry that you helped write my brain over the top of his, but you did do it. You're the only scientist in this whole situation. I'm not faking it; I don't remember the plan; I don't remember any military training or flight training this other guy might have had. He is dead and I am someone else."

"Then how can you speak our language?" grunts Linisd, leaning against the wall and beginning to sweat. The adrenaline rush is wearing off and Mitch finally realises that her elbow is really quite badly damaged - she is holding her arm as if it was dead, blood is soaking through her sleeve and she recoils instinctively when he reaches for it. Not that he would have the faintest idea how to treat her.

"We've got to get you to a doctor."

"I am a doctor."

"A medical doctor! An emergency room."

"...I don't know what that means."

Mitch starts again. "...Where do people go when they have a medical emergency? You have hospitals, don't you?"

Linisd begins to turn white. "We have temples. Look, Doctor Poole has told us about the medical technology of your time, and it sounds... it sounds like magic, but here, if you get ill, a priest wraps you in holy cloths and you pray to your personal bodily fluid gods. You drink a stinking potion, and that's only if you're formally divinated as being worth healing. We only have literal magic and faith."

"This doesn't make sense. How can you have the neuroscience to bring me back and not know how to set a broken bone? You have-- I saw a spaceship down there. How can you have spaceships?"

"The machine you were inside was a computer. It's just informational plumbing. Do you know how complicated the human body is compared to the brain?"

"Up until now, I thought I did." The elevator stops. Mitch shoulders the door open manually and sees a narrow set of stairs marked as a route to the roof. He hauls Linisd along and begins to help her up the stairs. She's flagging. He keeps talking. "Do you have blood transfusions? Vaccines?"

"No. No."

Mitch fumbles with the lever on the door for a few seconds, trying to figure out how it works. Linisd eventually reaches past him and operates it for him with her good hand. Spring-loaded, designed as a fire escape, the door swings open automatically.

*

The roof of the Hall is a concrete desert - flat, exposed, windswept, scorchingly hot, dazzlingly bright, with seemingly no end in sight. There's not a cloud in the sky. There's a skylight the size of a playing field, looking down on the experiment floor. A final explosion echoes and rattles the roof under their feet, and through the skylight they see the machine which just restored Mitch, with all its major supports now bombed, disconnect from the ceiling of the lab and crumple under its own weight with a deep and drawn-out crash.

On the far side of the skylight, on triangular pads projecting out over the edge of the building, is a pair of freakish, bug-looking vehicles, which Mitch deduces are parked helicopters with their rotor blades stowed.

Mitch supports Linisd and they limp towards the nearest chopper. There is nobody around. Mitch has no idea how to fly the aircraft. He probes the deep corners of his new brain just in case there is anything left of the capable pilot whose body he has apparently inherited. Then, as they get closer to the edge of the roof, Mitch comes to see the rest of Science City.

Like every other square kilometre of planet Earth, Science City has been everything, frequently all at once: a vast engineering complex, a Holy Land, an abandoned deathtrap pile of shattered skyscrapers, a fortified haven for two thirds of a million stateless fugitives, an agricultural commune, a solar farm, a financial centre, a major calculation node for The Project, the political centre of an empire spanning entire continents, a warzone and a strategic nuclear target.

But above all things it has been a spaceport, on and off, for almost eighteen thousand years. Every civilisation growing up in the shadow of Science City has its own ideas about what it all means and what should be done with the most impressive constructions - worship them, occupy them, blow them up and carve them into pieces - but sooner or later almost everybody gets around to the idea of duplicating and refining the dreams of their predecessors. Who originally built it, even Anne Poole can't remember-- the first time she led an occupation force on it, it was already a pile of rusted wreckage and half-completed ark ships left over from the previous Crash, overgrown with vegetation and crammed full of terrified families and range weapons. All she knows is that every time she comes back it has grown, buildings bloating and gradually merging into bigger superstructures housing tens of thousands of people, and always a halo of increasingly ambitious launch platforms surrounding it.

There are shiny hangars and chemical refinery complexes bristling with antennae and solar collectors, abutting residential blocks and dusty overgrown parkland like zoning was never invented. There are roads wide enough to drive a Crawler down, fractally complex city walls and, dotted between them all, monuments, statues, blast craters and concrete sarcophagi marking ancient achievements and failures. The buildings don't fit into Mitch's brain properly - they are built according to no architectural style he can make sense of, or maybe a conflation of all styles at once. They look like CGI, not because they look unreal, but because if he was watching this in a cinema he would know that no movie studio had the budget to build it in reality. There are dozens, hundreds of rockets and launch gantries, most of them jagged grey pillars on the horizon, some of them even taller than the Hall. Even while Mitch is watching, there's a colossal BOOM as a stubby red and grey rocketship lifts off from a pad fifteen miles away and accelerates into the cloudless sky at eight gees.

The broad avenues below him are swarming with thousands of people. He sees tiny white square placards and small circles of yellow flame, petrol bombs or similar. He hears gunfire, but can't see who's shooting whom. He hears them roar and sees them surge forward as something or someone is triumphantly brought out of the main entrance. But he can't watch them. He can't keep his eyes off the climbing rocket.

Science City is in the desert. Wide flat planes, faultlessly predictable weather, close to the Equator, an ocean not far to the east for safe splashdowns. At night the gantries creak in the wind and change shape because of the cold. By day, it's huge, it's flat, it's baking hot and there's nothing underfoot but metal and rock and dust. This is hardcore spaceflight, in an environment almost as hostile as the universe gets without leaving Earth entirely. This is hardcore recycling: building vital components of your tin can from the titanium that made up the monument to four men whose own tin can blew up on the same pad one thousand, five hundred and fifty years ago. This is spaceflight for a country - a planet, even - where there's absolutely nowhere worth looking but up; for people with a primal, spiritual understanding of "because it is there" and "forever mankind"; for people who measure human achievement by their furthest living representative's distance from home.

"I'll have to fly the aircraft," Linisd croaks, "get me into-- into--" and passes out.

There's not a cloud in the sky. Just an actinic white star streaking into the stratosphere, shedding stages and already supersonic, and a blistering elliptical noonday Sun, with a luminous streamer of plasma coiling out of its chromosphere and into a vortex in space a solar diameter away.

Next: We had to destroy the future in order to save it

Discussion (53)

2009-09-30 22:22:14 by Lucas:

Interesting. I thought they might have been in the arcology from Crushed Underground, but I was wrong. Now I'm all confused.

2009-09-30 22:22:24 by Scott:

I wonder what is on that rocket?

2009-09-30 22:31:46 by qntm:

I'm really interested that nobody spotted that a fairly major character was just killed off-screen in the last chapter. Sorry for the delay on this one. It took me an eternity to figure out what kind of world the Hall was actually part of. I was thinking Mediaeval Dark Ages, but with space travel, holy crusades and Orwellian conspiracy surveillance, and it just wasn't fitting into my head.

2009-09-30 22:50:55 by Lucas:

Please tell me I'm wrong in assuming you're talking about Anne...

2009-09-30 22:54:45 by qntm:

Re-read "Crisis on Earth". It's right there in words.

2009-09-30 23:04:59 by Kwd:

I'm guessing it's either Mike Murphy or NkubeI don't think that the death of either was mentioned before. (But I'm not sure about Murphy.) Anyway, I very much liked the sentence: "Do you know how complicated the human body is compared to the brain?" It's the subversion of the normal ideas like this that I like in Fine Structure. (And it's probably true in some ways. I'm no neurosurgeon, but the brain is redundant enough that it makes sense to me that it's actually quite simple once you figure out how it works.)

2009-09-30 23:06:42 by Kwd:

I really should proofread my comments more... It should obviously be "... Nkube. I..." And now I've "wasted" space by double posting.

2009-09-30 23:37:46 by kabu:

@Sam - Gah! I never really associated "Kuang" with "Ching." He's dead! No! I don't really like the way medical technology is presented - if they have guns, then presumably they know stuff as eliminatory as stopping bloodflow. Pretty much every single culture ever in the world has gotten around to the concept of bandages at some point, it's really quite intuitive. Honestly, this isn't my favorite chapter - I feel like in the last few pieces, we're losing sight of Mitch as a character with a personality, instead of just an exposition mouthpiece. He was much better in the earlier stories, and in Crushed Underground. It's very plausible that the years we haven't seen yet between 2009 and 1016 had changed him, but it would be nice to see that. That's not to say that I don't like the chapter on it's own, on the contrary, Fine Structure is one of my favorite stories. I just feel like this one is weak compared to it's predecessors. Also, from the last story: "I can tell you now that there's no way you can kill Oul with what you know and what you've got. We know what that would take, and it would take hundreds of years of calculation. Maybe even millennia." Millennia of computation. Now where have I read that recently...

2009-09-30 23:46:07 by Merthel:

I noticed that Murphy was mentioned as dead in the last chapter, but due to horrible memory thought it wasn't off-screen. I'm still not sure that is who you are talking about....

2009-10-01 00:15:22 by Jake:

I am absolutely and horribly lost. Well, time to reread the archives again.

2009-10-01 06:44:12 by Ian:

Interesting. Rather, it's an interesting setting. As far as this chapter goes, I'd say it's lackluster. In trying to describe the Hall, you semi-shifted perspective without a segue to Anne, and then shifted back to Mitch in the same disconnected style. A bit jarring, if you ask me. I understand the difficulties in trying to describe the vast history and sheer size of the place through the eyes of a character who has no knowledge of it, but the way you did it was ill-conceived, methinks. Science City is really in a desert and it's near the equator with an ocean to the east? As long as the Earth's climate hasn't changed radically, I say that the Hall is in the Somali desert.

2009-10-01 12:49:11 by Thrack:

I'm not sure how I missed Kuang's death. Maybe I'm getting used to everyone dying? I wonder how Ching died, he had decided to quit after all. Did the government go after him? It seems a little odd that this civilization has no medical technology. Anne surely knows a lot about it by now, wouldn't she have taught them? Maybe she had reasons not to.

2009-10-01 15:20:48 by Kenneth:

So when exactly did the sun become a low mass x-ray binary?

2009-10-01 16:06:10 by AndrewFL:

I'm with Mitch-a society with computers and mind transference with NO medical knowledge or tech to speak of? Improbable if not impossible. Either their gods are more dependable than ours or they are remarkable for anyone living long enough to even think of a computer.

2009-10-01 16:51:51 by Thrack:

"with a luminous streamer of plasma coiling out of its chromosphere and into a vortex in space a solar diameter away." Where did this vortex come from and what is its purpose? Did John "Zed" Zhang put it there, perhaps as a part of the New Cosmology? If not, how long has it been there?

2009-10-01 17:09:57 by Imbenarion:

I agree with the consensus; it isn't really plausible for a space-capable civilisation to not have developed some sort of medicine, even with all of the techno-junk lying around. People like to live, and even in the real Dark Ages medical techniques were still developed. What on (off) earth is that vortex doing to the sun.

2009-10-01 17:58:36 by qntm:

As was alluded to in "Die": "[A]n intelligent mind is more than just a lump of grey matter. This thought process that we have, the ability to think things through. It's a constant. An important shape. [...] [T]here is an operation which intelligence defines. Intelligence watches itself. It loops back around on itself and watches its own actions. And there is a consciousness there. It can be weaker or stronger. [...] There are some equations which the Script seems to think are very important. It isn't a pattern. It's almost the opposite." and "Postmortal": "within a few decades it will become possible to store an arbitrary amount of data in a single fundamental particle, itself stored in a device as small as a basketball... or a thumb... or a fingernail." ...a human mind, being essentially a self-sustaining, self-aware construct of thought and information, is much easier to mess around with than the human body. Information science is of course extremely complex, but once the technology has been devised, it is possible - easy, even - to shunt human minds backwards and forwards in various formats and forms of storage, duplicate them and so on. See also Oul, who telepathic powers are more accurately described as an ability to shape and change other people's thoughts and memories at a distance. This is much easier than, for example, performing a real brain transplant. Mitch is the first test subject for this technology in "Postmortal", and obviously by CE 22985 it is very easy for Anne Poole to introduce its basic principles to any society she wishes. All you need is a computer, and it barely even counts as neuroscience, let alone medicine. It's informational plumbing, as Linisd explains in this chapter. As for the technology disconnect: Technological progress is not linear. There are many different sciences, many of them independent from each other. It is logical to expect a society growing up in the shadow of Science City to develop/reverse-engineer the principles of space travel much faster than any other society growing up anywhere else. They are surrounded by inert, in some cases still-operational, spaceships. They are not exactly surrounded with hospitals, however. In the absence of coherent written or electronic information, a spaceship's functioning principles can still be determined by taking it apart and studying it - they are after all, intelligently designed. Humans are not, and all things being equal it will still take them millennia to, e.g., figure out what bacteria are, and how to repair spinal injury. And remember, of course, that in some parts of the real world, you will still find motor vehicles and automatic weapons coexisting with witch doctors and faith healers. This is not sufficient explanation, of course, as Mitch correctly notes in this chapter. There is another reason why this apparently mediaeval society has rocketships and machine guns but doesn't have plaster casts or painkillers. This is to be revealed in the next chapter, along with the New Cosmology and the reason why the Sun is apparently being drained of coronal plasma.

2009-10-01 20:54:48 by kabu:

I guess I didn't consider the massive amount of reverse engineering going on, then. I figured that the vortex had something to do with the Astronomer's Loss. I'm excited to see how this ends up. I would still like to hear more about what changed Mitch from a happy schoolteacher into a soldier - not talking about his new body, I mean how the US government changed him over the years, up through 2016.

2009-10-01 22:01:01 by Ross:

In one sentence, the injured lady asks "How can you not know me?" A few minutes later, she knows that he used to be in a computer and is now in this brain. What's up with that?

2009-10-01 22:20:57 by qntm:

Kabu: The vortex does have something to do with "The Astronomer's Loss". Kabu again: I'll tell you what changes Mitch from a happy schoolteacher into a soldier: "Sundown", in which it is discovered that Mitch is in fact the current host body of Xio, a cosmic seventy-five-plus-five-dimensional hyperbeing. At that moment, Mitch's priorities can clearly be seen to change from "live a normal life" to "escape universe Alef and return home". And then, "There Was No Leak", when it turns out that his nemesis Oul is still alive and trapped in Alef with him, and "escape universe Alef and return home" becomes "annihilate Oul at any cost": "Do you know who that was?! [...] Do you know how much destruction he'll bring to this world?" At which point Mitch *voluntarily* allies himself with the United States Air Force's Department for Special Flight Research, which, remember, has figured out how to tap some of his (Xio's) extradimensional power and create super soldiers. ("The Chaotician") Ross: Linisd is understandably confused. Mitch is currently inhabiting the body of a man who knew her very well. Linisd thought she had completely overwritten that man's mind. Then it turned out that Mitch can speak her language still, so Linisd thought that she had failed and the original man was still present, or at least that some of his original memories were still present. But Mitch remembers nothing.

2009-10-01 22:34:29 by Fjord:

@Ross: She probably still doesn't believe him, but she certainly doesn't have time to do anything but play along. I want to know more about Anne. I mean, we know what happened to her, for the most part. (I think I remember that the lightning was Xia's influence?) We know who she is. We know some of the stuff that she's done over the millennia. What we -don't- know is what her true goal is, how she came out of the coma-like state, why she was made the way she is in the first place. I don't know, at this point her character sort of seems like a sideshow, something that's present but not particularly important, but she obviously is more than that and I want to know -why-. I hope there's a reveal coming...

2009-10-01 22:52:58 by cray:

I am confused about Anne as well, as the 1970- series seems to imply that she can survive being buried for over a century and at least maintain enough of her mind to overthrow an entire civilization, yet in one of Sam's posts he implies that being buried will always have the same detrimental effects. How did she manage to not lose her mind, or was mitch able to retrieve her and restore her somehow?

2009-10-01 23:17:45 by qntm:

The latter.

2009-10-02 02:26:40 by Imbenarion:

I sort of just assumed Anne passed the English language to them for simplicty as Mitch seems to be revived on a fairly regular basis. I don't know if I can accept all other parts of the brain being overwritten except the language centre, especially when Linisd considers the process akin to plumbing.

2009-10-02 03:21:57 by Fjord:

I think that if Anne can build a machine capable of downloading Mitch into a willing host, she can most likely program it to be selective about which bits she overwrites. If you can do the one thing, it wouldn't be hard to just -not- do it to anything dealing with using and comprehending a language. Heck, she could probably add one to the other if she wanted to and make him bilingual. She has had like 20,000 years to figure that bit out, after all.

2009-10-02 03:22:14 by sunburstbasser:

I hope you go into more detail about Science City's geography. I already have some glimpse of what it could look like.

2009-10-02 03:30:08 by Mick:

Sam, I just wanted to thank you for being such a wonderful, generous author who grants feasts of understanding instead of the usual crumbs. For stories of this depth and complexity, it's quite helpful to hear from the mind that made them.

2009-10-02 15:06:10 by James:

Another comment/postulation about the medicine: those that have figured it out may have a "magic potion" that cures all ills (as alluded to in this story). They conceal their knowledge with ritual to make it seem out of reach of those not in their "cult of knowledge". But I'm not going to step on Sam's toes here, if he has a different idea!

2009-10-02 19:33:46 by kabu:

What I'm speculating about the language thing - So far we've seen two (or three) ways in which a mind/hypersystem can be manipulated while still "active" in a living person: 1) complete override, where a Mitch was written over this soldier. 2) Addition of information - when Ching received the telepathic message warning him about Oul, or to a much greater extent when Xio's consciousness was added to Mitch's. 3) Zykov/Oul's telepathy, which is a form of thought-manipulation and addition. Perhaps portions of the mind can be selectively modified, allowing for the learning of a new language -- which is an entirely different part of the brain from that which controls memory and thought. Perhaps it is possible to give people knowledge through technological means. @Sam - Also, re-reading to earlier stories, I was wrong -- we do get a much closer look at Mitch's psyche than I remembered. I guess I was too focused on the scifi bits when I first read them :). I still want to know more about that freaking vortex! Gah, another month of waiting.

2009-10-02 23:05:45 by Boter:

Once again I lamentthe release rate. I am thankful that they're still being released, but I get so lost with so much time between sections. I really hope for a printed version, with the stories all released in the order they were originally published. It'd be incredibly disconnected at first, but that's part of the fun.

2009-10-03 02:04:50 by VDOgamez:

I've been doing some reading back through the story, and I noticed something interesting about Science City. This chapter gives this bit of information: "Like every other square kilometre of planet Earth, Science City has been everything, frequently all at once: a vast engineering complex, a Holy Land, an abandoned deathtrap pile of shattered skyscrapers, a fortified haven for two thirds of a million stateless fugitives, an agricultural commune, a solar farm, a financial centre, a major calculation node for The Project, the political centre of an empire spanning entire continents, a warzone and a strategic nuclear target." I then noticed in "Crash Zero": "This part of Cahagan was originally built as a suburb, with leisurely winding roads and large forested gardens separating semi-detached houses. Then it was enclosed by a minor arcology, and lots of the houses were demolished so that heavy chemical processing plants could be installed. Then the arcology was destroyed, the plants fell into disrepair and the suburb became a favela. Some time later still, the largest plant, being vaguely temple-like in its construction and central in its placement, became the centre of a holy city. And then, over the course of uncounted more years, this part of Cahagan was repurposed another half a dozen times, each new development built into, or over the top of, or out of the pieces of what went before." Also, in "Crushed Underground", the chapter takes place in an arcology in which there are many huge chemical plants keeping the people docile. If you haven't noticed the paralells, read these chapters again. I think that these were all the same place. Unknown Suburb --> Talmansk Arcology --> Unknown Holy City --> ... --> Cahagan --> ... --> Science City. All of these descriptions seem to go in the same order, too. I wonder if there are any other things like this.

2009-10-03 02:14:29 by Fjord:

@VDOgamez: It's possible but not necessarily the case that all of these locales are the same, but at different times. After all, we're talking about 20,000 years of human history. As Sam said, "Like every other square kilometre of planet Earth, Science City has been everything..." implying that you could say exactly the same about, say, the geolocation of your house as you could about Science City. For all we know, every future locale described in Fine Structure has been a different place. Although, I admit, there would be a certain amount of beauty in the simplicity of confining the major events to one city.

2009-10-03 06:03:48 by Boter:

I'd almost be tempted to say that Science City is the Unnamed Holy City - science to this civilization is sorta "meh", like a band-aid to us, but religion seems to be sorta where it's at. (I could be entirely wrong.) Just open to the distinct possibility that Science City is not the penultimate permutation of that particular geographic location (that was a lot of syllables for "not the last thing there," wasn't it?).

2009-10-06 16:19:25 by Isaac:

Maybe whatever is protecting the Earth in the "New Cosmology" uses the Sun as an energy source, hence the vortex...

2009-10-07 21:41:40 by Raphfrk:

So, Anne is being sent into the vortex to kill her? Even without the vortex, sending her into the Sun would de facto kill her, as she would be unreachable.

2009-10-07 23:34:12 by Boter:

In the foreseeable future, perhaps. Eventually the sun will die, and she'll be free to move around. How? I don't know, but then I haven't thought for the billions of years that she will have :P

2009-10-08 00:30:39 by Kwd:

My first guess was that the vortex was removing something (Helium, Mass in general, etc) from the sun in order to make it last longer... but the date is way, way too early to worry about that. They have another 5 billion years. I wouldn't think that they created/brought home a real black hole to get rid of Anne. I doubt that they have faster than light travel, and even having one in the solar system is far too dangerous. It would, however, get her out of the way for a very, very long time. (Though if things went wrong, or depending on how much planning they did, if things went right, then they could have the same fate as Anne, minus the "eventually get back out" part.) My new theory is that the vortex is something created with script technology, and that they're launching Anne up in the rocket that Mich saw. I don't really think it can be true, considering that the ship is fifteen miles away, and Anne was buried under considerable weight, and that this entire chapter took place in at most 10 minutes, but it's the best I have.

2009-10-08 05:48:54 by Fjord:

I think the vortex is Script tech as well, but it's more likely that the ship is like a maintenance flight or something than it is Anne. You know, like a fuel shipment for the vortex or something.

2009-10-08 21:33:41 by Isaac:

Well the Sun and the vortex are the only two destinations for a space craft now, but I think we need to know more about the "vortex" to know if it will actually "kill" her. Maybe it leads "outside" the "New Cosmology" you know,where Oul is? Pretty sure Oul could kill her...

2009-10-09 12:28:12 by Val:

This vortex seems pretty much like a black hole. Sending someone there would ensure she will never get out.

2009-10-09 18:36:39 by Fjord:

"Seems" being the operative word. Okay Sam, we've debated this one into the ground. That's your cue to post the next one. Please?

2009-10-10 01:06:20 by Thrack:

Could John Zhang have been the one who made Anne immortal? I'm not sure how he would do that or how it would be possible but I don't know what he is capable of so it may be possible. My argument for this is that Zhang may need someone to live forever for the New Cosmology to work. Anne's immortality is also quite different from the other human possessed powers that we have seen (the Line and the Powers derived from Mitch's reserves of Power, and Xio and Oul). Anne can't be the embodiment of the Prison Ward (who is the only high-dimensional creature left), the way Mitch embodies Xio because I can't think of any reason for the Prison Ward to do this and I can't think of any reason for the Prison Ward to bury her if that were the case. Anne's power seems more like the Line's but more refined and focused somehow. Zhang may have used his Zhang Device to refine and then redirect Power from the Line to Anne. I'm certain that this isn't everything he did, of course, but it may explain why Anne's immortality exists. One more thing; I don't think Crushed Underground has happened yet if only because there was no time for our modern world to create such devastation during the 4 days that remained. (Unless Oul's plan was not fully stopped, and he caused that instead of the Earth's complete destruction.) Anne and Mitch have been keeping people from advancing too far technologically so humans would not have been able to cause it during the last 20 thousand years.

2009-10-10 02:43:07 by Sgeo:

Thrack, I think Crisis on Earth takes place sometime after when Anne is discovered to be immortal..

2009-10-10 04:41:16 by Thrack:

Yes, I know. I assumed I wouldn't have to mention that time travel would be required for it to work. (I usually don't make that assumption. I guess that's why my posts are generally rather long.) And I also know that Kosogorin went back in time to make time travel impossible, that is why I wondered if it would even be possible for Zhang to do this at all. It's probably someone else who caused Anne to become Immortal.

2009-10-10 20:22:57 by kabu:

@ Thrack It's much more likely that the Prison Warden made Anne what she is, for whatever reason.

2009-10-10 21:55:28 by Scott:

We have proof that Anne was immortal when Zhang began devising the New Cosmology; for one simple piece of evidence, her immortality was (once) discovered in a teleportation accident, and Mitch said in the last chapter that teleportation was locked out by Year Twenty. And we also know that time had become linear by Year Twenty, so Zhang could not have made her immortal retroactively. Note: there's no reason I can think of that the Warden couldn't suspend (or work around) its own corrections, including the one which locked out time travel. But the Warden would need a reason far more compelling than any we've seen so far, and that would be... improbable.

2009-10-10 22:13:16 by Lucas:

I agree with Scott. I'm pretty sure the reason for Anne's immortality has already been explored- the transporter accident she was involved in sent her spinning in tiny circles through the fourth dimension (the same one Mitch can "phase" through) at nearly the speed of light, making her appear normal yet age very slowly and not take damage from anything. As far as I can tell, the Warden had nothing to do with this. I have my own theories on the Warden's power; it seems He has only the ability to restrict Script technology, not interfere with the 3-dimensional, physical world.

2009-10-11 02:18:57 by Kwd:

@ Lucas The "vibrating" theory was proven wrong by Mitch. If it was true, she should react to stimuli very slowly. The explanation that he gave was that there was an outside force actively preventing damage to Anne, or something like that.

2009-10-11 05:19:50 by Lucas:

My mistake. Still, Anne's invulnerability seems like it should have something to do with the accident; no other human has survived one like that. Maybe this is a better question for Sam, but should we assume that if another scientist had survived a teleportation accident in the same way Anne did, would they have similar resistance to harm?

2009-10-16 03:09:02 by Kassil:

A completely wild hypothesis is that, if the Warden is more than 3+1, and was able to restrict time being two-dimensional, perhaps it made Anne the way she is and dropped her into the coal seam /in order to erase her mind/ via trauma. If the project they're working on is how to deal with Oul once and for all, she certainly seems to have been a key point in it - without her immortality, none of the others could really have survived to pull this off. Perhaps the Warden deliberately shielded her so as to allow for the final destruction of Oul.

2009-10-21 21:51:12 by Adin:

@ Kassil I think we're giving the Warden too much credit. He seems to be more along the lines of "keep it trapped" than "Destroy it". All of the Warden's actions in Alef are on the order of altering the universal constants to prevent escape. So am I right in thinking that Anne's immortality is the only super science that hasn't been explained? Everyone else's powers have come from one of the two higher dimensional beings?

2015-06-24 06:09:22 by Toafan:

Mmm, healing magic and rocket physics... So many ideas!

2019-12-20 16:49:50 by AGM:

@Adin: I think you're right. Anne could actually have her powers be a Resonance between Oul & Xio, though.

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