Mparntwe

Date 30 July 2015.
Author Palantir palantir@aanet.com.au
Subject Mparntwe.

The author retains copyright (2015) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.

Mparntwe is another tale of the Terran Diaspora. Set in an earlier time to the tumultuous events of 'Attunga', it is based in Central Australia and tells the story of two young people. Jarra and Mirrigan, both with serious disabilities, both with serious abilities, who live in one of the first great underground communities and experience events which change the world.

Mparntwe Chapter 15.


***

Jarra's curiosity levels were way high. Yesterday at home he'd had a talk with Yirgella about his time at Birringurra and Monkey Mia but that had been through the InterWeb because after travelling to Carnarvon and then to Mparntwe an extra trip to Alkere was too much. Now he was with Baradin, Burnu and Mirri in the transport plane which, instead of landing at Alkere, was proceeding at Yirgella's instruction, on a survey flight to check out all the progress at the new solar array. Burnu was particularly eager to see what was happening and after their flyover would be staying for the day to watch how Yirgella's techbots and the human construction teams were able to work together so effectively.

"Look at that! It's hard to believe."

They'd just reached the edge of the array and below them the big solar panels stretched into the distance. Not long before they'd left for Birringurra Country Jarra had seen the earliest stage with several hundred functioning panels. Now the country was transformed with thousands of them and power was pouring out to the excavation machines and materials factories.

"Silver City."

"Yes, Mirri. It's a new Silver City and Yirgella helped build it while we were away."

"When do we see the tunnels?"

Mirri had been seeing big silver arrays all his life so the tunnels in the ground were far more interesting. Burnu laughed and told him to be patient.

"After I get off the plane it will take you to the first group of tunnels and when you get back to Alkere you can see the best one of all."

By the best one Burnu meant the Alkere to Mparntwe tunnel for which the excavation had been completed and the whole length lined with the strongest hardened materials the factories could produce.
As it turned out Mirri liked the uncompleted tunnels best because they were 'proper' tunnels with the associated activity of chains of automated ore carriers. Jarra was intrigued too. Yirgella's plan for the system between Mparntwe and Darwin involved four separate smaller tunnels rather than a big multi-purpose one, with a tunnel each way for materials and general transport and a tunnel each way for express travel.
The biggest interest though was in getting to Alkere and seeing Yirgella again. After four weeks Jarra wondered if they'd notice any change in him. Mirri just wanted to get together with his special friend and talk about all his adventures. The plane landed normally and Jarra, Mirri and Baradin made their way through entrance security.

"Welcome back, Mirri and Jarra. Make your way directly to the lift system on basement level III."

"Yirgy!"

"Hello, Mirri. You are looking very fit and healthy and I can't wait to hear your stories about Karmai and his dolphins."

"The dolphins sing. Why aren't we going to JJ's room?"

"JJ's room has moved and you go a different way to get there. I hope you like my surprise."

Mirri loved surprises, well, good ones at any rate, and Yirgella's tone did sound good. Baradin, with a smile of his own, which meant he was in on the surprise, headed off somewhere.

"Did you move your room, JJ?"

"It's a surprise for me too, Mirri, so we'll have to find it together."

With Mirri eagerly leading they made their way to the third level and looked to the nearest screen for Yirgella to tell them where to go next.

"Follow the green arrows, Mirri, and I'll take you to the new lift system."

Lift system? Jarra didn't understand. They'd just used the lifts to get here. Maybe Yirgella had built a whole new section for some project? Arrows lit up in the floor and Mirri, loving this new game, once again led the way. Jarra saw the giant double-width lift doors and knew straight away what they meant.

"Whoo! Open them, Mirri. I think we're going to have a big ride."

Mirri pressed the standard entry panel and they entered the biggest lift Jarra had ever seen. At twice the height and four times the standard area it was obviously designed for heavy work. A display screen near the control panel showed a silent Yirgella with a big smile.

"Which panel, JJ?"

Jarra looked to Yirgella but he just kept smiling.

"Um! ...Let's try the one that says 'home'."

Mirri carefully figured out the right panel and pressed. Their stomachs lurched as they began a rapid descent.

"This is a long-time lift."

Mirri was certainly right about that and Jarra wondered just how deep into the earth they were going. The earlier plans had said 1100 meters but by the time they stopped he had a sense it must be more.

"Welcome to our new home. Just follow the green arrows, Mirri, and I will show you the way."

Mirri enjoyed this arrow game and after some walking and three turns in the corridors they entered a room which surprised Jarra with its size.

"Yirgella, this is much bigger than the plans we worked on."

"Yes, I thought it would be a good idea to have a permanent section for Nanobot research as well as all your standard equipment."

Mirri followed as Jarra toured the room, checking the 3D printers, the electron microscopes, the fancy looking new InfoSystem and the luxuriously appointed relaxation partition.

"Mirri, I have a surprise for you too. Through that blue door is your very own room for whenever you visit. I hope you like it."

Mirri rushed straight for the door with Jarra in his wake and went through to what could only be called a specialised action room.

"My very own room. Thank you, Yirgy. It is the best room ever. Do you want to talk about the dolphins now?"

After a look around Jarra left them to it and returned to his own room.

"This is wonderful. There's a lot more here than I expected. Are you making this the main research area?"

"Of course though it's not as big as some of the others. Professor Allerton's microprocessor team has four times the area, and the space for food research is nearly three times as big."

"You're doing food research? That's new."

"I think it's important and Durrebar has assembled a very good team."

"How far underground are we? It seemed a long way in the lift."

"1500 meters. Exploratory drilling showed a particularly suitable area at this depth so we're making full use of it."

Jarra wasn't sure what that meant but Yirgella went on to explain.

"I had discussions with our Project people and we're building all the infrastructure for a self contained community. I'll show you round in your new personal carrier whenever you're ready."

"A new one? What for? After all the adventures we had with it at Birringurra Country I like the one I've got now."

Yirgella actually laughed and Jarra wondered why.

"You've become attached to a machine. I can't really dispute the sense of that can I?"

"You're not a machine. The bits you're made of might be but that's different to you."

"Thank you, Jarra. This is not a topic I expected to talk about today. Would you be happy to keep your trusty old personal carrier at Mparntwe and use the new improved model I've built for you while you're here at Alkere?"

Jarra couldn't help grinning. The humorous tone was giving him a sense that Yirgella was pleased to have him back. For over an hour they discussed the happenings at Birregurra and Monkey Mia. Yirgella had seen the ComPatch versions which had all been sent through the InterWeb, but for his own reasons liked hearing Jarra's thoughts and interpretations about everything. He'd be doing the same thing in the next room and Mirri would be pouring out his feelings and excitement with all the laughter and happiness that was the trademark of their catch up sessions.

"What was the significance of the Eagle Song Jarara made for Mirri?"

Jarra didn't understand what Yirgella was getting at.

"What do you mean?"

"I've watched five different ComPatch views and they all show reactions I'm not sure I understand. Mirri was completely engrossed, but so was every one else I could see, and Baradin and Burnu had tears in their eyes."

"It was amazing. No one there had ever heard anything like it and it wasn't just special because it was Mirri's song. It fitted in perfectly with the atmosphere of the corroboree, and it made you feel like you were the Eagle."

"Would you be able to arrange contact with Jarara? I'd very much like to talk to him."

"About the Eagle Song?"

"And his other work. He stated that Mirri has been his inspiration and I'd like to understand what he means by that."

Jarra accessed Jarara's contact information on his new InfoSystem then hesitated.

"I know he'll be happy to talk but it's very early in the morning with the time difference. We should wait a couple of hours. Have you started any other new projects besides the food research?"

"The construction and duplication of our surface resources down here has kept me functioning at close to my limit but, along with running the two NanoFactories, I've worked with Professor Allerton and his team to develop a range of techbots around one of his new processors."

"Is that why it's all happened so quickly?"

"Partly. Security has been my biggest concern though and we're on track to transfer my center of awareness in just three more weeks."

"Down here? What will happen to all the surface Project? Will it become a new AI companion for you?"

"That's a plan for the future. Currently I work at close to my limits and when I transfer the surface facilities will become an extension and oversee many of the routine tasks like operating the two NanoFactories. It will also be backup storage for my accumulated data."

Jarra called up the plans for the underground facility.

"This will make you twice as big."

"More than twice as big in simple volume terms, seven times as big for information storage but only eleven percent more capable in overall terms."

"Eleven percent! That's huge. Why do you say only?"

"It is significant but I'm hoping for an eventual improvement somewhere in the order of sixty percent."

Jarra knew enough about Yirgella's fundamentals to ask the right question.

"How? Your processors are already state of the art?"

"The work with Professor Allerton and his team has produced some breakthrough ideas and we're expecting a practical outcome in five or six months."

"Super processors? Professor Allerton must be very excited."

"Of course."

Jarra suddenly laughed. He was browsing through the plans.

"Is that a swimming pool or is it some kind of research tank?"

"A swimming pool is a useful benefit for any community, along with the other gathering places you will find."

Jarra looked.

"But it's finished. The other places haven't even been started. You built this for Mirri."

"I'm expecting he'll be pleasantly surprised when you show it to him.
Jarra, I've been waiting for four days to hear the ideas and plans you intimated. Are they anything to do with the construction of a space community? You showed great interest in that at one stage."

Jarra was intrigued.

"You've built impatience into your communication program? It's getting very sophisticated."

"Impatience in various forms can be highly productive. I did express my anticipation four days ago."

"A space community? Not really, though it could be helped as a side effect. I thought about it a lot while I was away and I'd like to do something with power and energy. You're always saying things are held up because our supplies aren't nearly big enough so it would be a good idea if we could do something to help."

"Are you thinking of geothermal energy? There are vast untapped resources to the west and south of us at a depth of only five kilometers and our new tunnelling machines would make that quite viable."

"No, not geothermal, and not fission or fusion either. I've looked at them but there are too many issues with radiation and waste management. There's another far more powerful source."

There was a pause of several seconds, one of the longest Jarra could remember, while Yirgella processed his answer.

"... Totally impractical, Jarra. Positron power supplies have been researched time after time for over a century and the barriers are insurmountable. The positrons are just too hard to collect in useful quantities."

"Positrons would come first but there's even more energy available from antiprotons and if we could make that effective we'd never run out of energy."

"You always look into your ideas but do you understand what the barriers I just mentioned involve? We'll have to build a particle accelerator for even basic research."

Jarra was delighted. Despite saying the whole idea was totally impractical Yirgella sounded as if he meant to be part of this venture regardless.

"We'll be able to afford one soon enough but I want to study magnetic fields first. If we can improve them then the collider will be far more effective."

Once again Yirgella took several seconds to answer.

"I've looked at the relevant data and I can see the way to a twelve percent improvement to the strongest currently available magnetic fields, but twelve percent is almost irrelevant. To make any real difference we're talking orders of magnitude."

"Yes, at least three orders to start with, and that would help with storage as well as production of antimatter."

"One thousand times the current strength is not theoretically possible."

"Under very special conditions it is. I spoke with a specialist about it on the InterWeb."

"You did? That's not on any of your ComPatch recordings."

"I know. I woke up one night thinking about it and forgot to put my ComPatch on. Yirgella, how much energy could you get from the geothermal areas?"

"How much do you want?"

"Could you match Alkere's output?"

"Yes. The energy is there in abundance but to match all Alkere's arrays would involve some very large-scale engineering."

"Let's get that going while I start studying magnetic fields."

***

"My friends, I have called this special meeting to discuss a number of situations our community is facing."

Baradin, with Durrebar at his side, was addressing the full Mparntwe Council.

"Durrebar has some news as well as some ideas we need to consider."

There was a murmur from the collective group till Durrebar stood up and attention focused when they saw he was ready to speak.

"Thank you, Baradin, I do indeed have some news, startling news I would say, but first I want to thank you yet again for initiating and supporting our Alkere project. The benefits to Mparntwe have surpassed all our predictions despite our concern with the adverse reactions from powerful world interests. Like the fabled fishermen with his net I believe we have released a powerful genie.
In fact it could be said we've released two genies as the NanoFactories which are making us world leaders in materials and construction were conceived by young Jarra. Yesterday, after four weeks of research and planning, again instigated by Jarra, Yirgella informed me they are ready to build a geothermal plant which will outmatch the energy output of every solar array on the continent. It will effectively triple our Alkere energy resources."

There was silence till Kyrra jumped to his feet.

"Geothermal has serious heat exchange and efficiency problems. They've worked their way around those?"

"They have. Jarra and Yirgella are a formidable combination. Yirgella will draw any energy he requires from the project but the rest will be available for distribution in any way we choose."

"Triple? It must be enormous."

That was one of the finance councillors.

"At five kilometers depth and an ambient temperature greater than 250C enormous is a good description, but the cost is all being absorbed by Yirgella and Jarra.

"Jarra has resources for something this big? He's still a student."

"Through Yirgella's management and their joint enterprises he is by far the wealthiest individual in Mparntwe."

"Jarra started this and not Yirgella? Income can't be his motivation if the proceeds will be coming to us."

"Not all the proceeds. Yirgella Inc will take thirty percent till their outlay has been recovered and twenty percent after that. They have a new endeavour which will require a great deal of energy."

"Is this new endeavour the reason we're here?"

"Not at all. They are looking at magnetic fields first and then the production of antimatter. Yirgella doubts they will be successful but he supports any research Jarra wants to do."

"Antimatter? No wonder they're looking for energy sources. It needs a collider to make it."

Kyrra took in the range of puzzled looks and went on.

"A collider is a gigantic machine which pushes atomic particles almost to the speed of light then smashes them into other particles for all sorts of research purposes. Minute amounts of antimatter can be one of the by-products."

"What exactly is antimatter? I've heard of it but I don't understand it."

That was the finance counsellor.

"It's like a mirror image of ordinary matter. It only exists momentarily on Earth when a cosmic ray hits the atmosphere or when it's produced in a collider. When it hits ordinary matter there's the most violent reaction known and a huge release of energy."

"Will they build this big machine out at Alkere?"

"There aren't any plans yet. They like to do their research first and according to Jarra it might be several years before it's needed. What we have to consider is how to manage the huge influx of resources this geothermal project will bring. Yirgella informs me that in two years time the combined income from Alkere, the materials project, and geothermal energy will have lifted our current levels sevenfold."

There were exclamations and gasps of amazement from almost the whole council, especially the finance members. Durrebar laughed at this not unexpected reaction, looked at Baradin, then sat down. He'd passed on Yirgella's assessment and it was time for Baradin to lead the discussion.

"Remember our excitement when Jarra's proposal to build an AI predicted a ten to fifteen percent increase in the wealth of the community? Now we're considering an unprecedented seven hundred percent."

The talkative finance counsellor raised a hand.

"That would really be fourteen hundred percent, Baradin. If I understood Durrebar correctly, Yirgella's assessment was against current levels. The materials project now almost matches Alkere."

Baradin looked to Durrebar and received a nod of confirmation.

"Astonishing, but it only emphasises the problem of what we're going to do with it all and how to manage it. Has Yirgella made any suggestions?"

Durrebar stood again.

"Yes he has, but he insists that you treat them as suggestions only. He doesn't want you to feel as if he's telling you what to do. Basically he thinks you should use it all. He's quite worried about the degree of automation his new techbots and NanoFactories will bring and the huge effect they'll have on our job structure. Half the working people in the community can't suddenly become redundant without causing huge problems."

"The new techbots are that effective?"

Burnu spoke up.

"I think half might be an understatement. If we'd built the new solar array at our old rate the techbots could have replaced three quarters of our workers."

There was a buzz of conversation which Kyrra interrupted.

"Half our working population losing their occupation would be a social disaster. We'll have to to regulate the use of techbots in Mparntwe till we can provide alternatives."

"Yirgella agrees. He suggests encouraging Education to be ongoing and pervasive, personal and interpersonal skill development for everyone, and development of entertainment and socialisation at the family and friend level."

"I think we should share these resources with Carnarvon, Darwin and Normanton. We can't keep it all to ourselves."

"What about the rest of Alice Springs? Should we help the public communities in some way?"

The floodgates opened and ideas and suggestions poured in till Baradin called a halt.

"We need to inform our general community of these challenges and provide opportunities to hear their suggestions and submissions before we make any decisions."

"We'll have a thousand different ideas if we do that. We'll end up discussing them for ever."

"We might with some but that won't matter. Most ideas will trend into major areas like the ones Yirgella has suggested, and that's where we can start acting."

Half an hour more was spent organising a strategy to build public awareness then Baradin finished the meeting and thanked Durrebar for his help.

"Is there anything else you'd like to say before we leave?"

"Yes. Yirgella invites you all to take part in the inaugural trip of his vacuum tunnel train next Tuesday."

***

"Buckle up, Mirri. We're going to go very, very, fast."

"Very, very, very, fast! This is Yirgy's train."

Mirri liked repeating 'very, very, very'. It was stuck in his mind from a talk with Yirgella about what it would feel like to travel in the vacuum tunnel. The six week prediction had been over-optimistic and the completion time was extended by nearly two weeks when some major redesigning was needed to fix faults which showed up in the testing process. After almost continuous faultless runs for the last twenty-four hours though, the engineers working with Yirgella were elated.

"Hello, Jarra. Hello, Mirrigan."

The friendly greetings continued as the full Council and Alkere project staff filed past on the way to their own seats. Every one of them knew Mirri of course. He was out there so often with Jarra and talking with Yirgella. Jarra was also impressed that the Council members all smiled and said something as they went past. Baradin paused to ruffle Mirri's hair before sitting in the seat in front of them. The red warning lights went off as everyone took their place and Jarra looked up, startled, when Yirgella's voice sounded over the speakers.

"Welcome aboard. I see that everyone is secure and comfortable so in a moment we will start this inaugural trip of what my good friend Mirrigan calls the Vac train."

"Yirgy!"

"Yes, Mirri. We are about to start your very, very, very, fast ride."

Where was he watching from? Not their ComPatches. They were always working but they wouldn't show the state of everyone's restraint harness. Jarra found out later that there were tiny high-resolution lenses observing every part of the carriage.

"The standard acceleration is set at eighty percent of Earth gravity and will last for sixty-eight seconds. There will be fifteen seconds of coasting while your seats automatically reverse their orientation, and then there will be sixty-eight seconds of deceleration. The trip duration will be two minutes and forty-one seconds and the train will reach a speed of 1920 kilometers per hour."

There were several seconds of gentle movement then Jarra was shocked by the force pressing him back into his seat, then further shocked when it didn't let up. This was nothing like the short bursts of acceleration in the lift systems. Mirri laughed and grabbed Jarra's arm.

"Fun ride!"

It was too, and the powerful force was more an impression than a burden as Jarra realised he was quite comfortable. Yirgella had explained that since the human body was designed for one full gravity, eighty percent would be easy to cope with. Just as he was adjusting to the sensation of gaining speed it stopped, the seat swivelled to face the opposite direction, and then started again. Jarra couldn't help calling out. It was so exciting. Mirri was right. This was total fun. The pressure finished and after a few seconds all the buckle up signs turned green. That was it? They were at Alkere already?

"Thank you for travelling on the first vac train in the world. Durrebar will meet you on the platform."

Into the rising buzz of excitement as everyone started unbuckling and getting to their feet came Mirri's happy voice calling out.

"Very, very, very, fun! Thank you, Yirgy!"

***

End of chapter 15.
I hope you've gained some enjoyment from this story.
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My email address is palantir@aanet.com.au
Palantir.