Mparntwe

Date 20 October 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 23.


What? Someone was touching his hair. Jarra felt the beginnings of a smile because it must be Mirri. He did that sometimes when he wanted go places and sleep was a hold-up. A drowsy sense of comfort switched to instant puzzlement while his mind tried to orient itself. Comfort? This was a bed. Memory flooded in as his eyes opened.

"Sleepyhead."

"Where are we?"

In the middle of saying it he took in the smiling faces of Mirri, Karmai, and Akama, and then the healthbot machine in the special facility Yirgella had built for him.

"Yirgy brought us home. You had a big sleep, JJ."

Why were they smiling? The last image in his mind was Mirri crying his heart out with Barega in his arms.

"Where is Barega?"

"He is gone. The bad people hurt him and Yirgy caught the bad people. Akama is very sad. We are all very sad. We looked after you, JJ, and Karmai was a tricker to the bad people."

Jarra held his arms out for a Mirri hug. A long Mirri hug was the best thing in the world right now. So was a Karmai hug and an Akama hug.

"Barega is being taken to Birringurra and we're all going to say goodbye to him in three more days."

Well, the smiles had been for him of course, but how could they? Jarra looked at Akama. The smile had faded and if the usual spark of curiosity and life wasn't quite there he still looked normal. How long had he been asleep?

"How did we get here? What day is it?"

"Big sleep, JJ. The doctor had to care for you."

"It's tomorrow morning for you, Jarra. We came on a military aircraft, which I don't remember, and then the Adelaide Vac train. Your doctor kept you asleep because your body reacted so badly and you're staying in bed because he thinks that without Mirri's help you might be in a coma."

Mirri was nodding in his emphatic way.

"Bad people made you sick. You were very, very sick and we used your machine."

"We didn't use it. Mirri did. He knew when you needed it and he made us stop. The doctor says it's amazing how he could sense it when you were passed out on his back."

"Mirri's back?"

"Pig Ride, JJ. It was a big, big, Pig Ride."

Jarra didn't understand.

"How could I hang on?"

"You couldn't. We had to tie you on with straps and a long bandage from the first-aid kit, and then Mirri carried you all the way till we had to stop. He never gave up and we don't know how he did it. He's the most amazing person in the world."

Jarra stared. He thought that about Mirri in his own personal way but Karmai was making it a general statement.

"It was 1.4 km, Uncle Jarra. My dad says Mirri and Karmai have the bravest hearts of anyone he's ever known. Mirri took you all the way without having a rest and Karmai went unconscious because he carried my brother."

Jarra stared again as the blood red patch on Karmai's shirt leapt into his memory.

"Unconscious? Why?"

"Bad people hurt Karmai's arm and the blood came out."

"I was in a bit of a panic and my wound didn't get bound properly till Akama took over."

Akama taking over? Karmai going unconscious? What else was there to know?

"Karmai, tell me everything that happened."

Jarra listened to Karmai's story and Akama's follow-on explanation with Mirri nodding emphatically at every point and smiling every time Karmai or Akama said he was brave, or strong, or clever or the best carer. A steadily building picture of how amazing these three were came with each new bit of information.

"They were so close you could hear them talking?"

"Bad words, JJ. We were very, very quiet and then the bad aeroplane came close."

Jarra burst into tears and Akama stopped talking about the army doctor looking after Karmai.

"We are home now. You have to rest."

Jarra recovered enough to speak.

"It's my fault, Mirri. If it wasn't for me Barega would still be here. They hurt him because they were after me."

This brought an enormous hug from Mirri who then shook his head negatively about five times.

"Silly, JJ. We love Barega."

Karmai and Akama were also shaking their heads.

"Don't be silly, Jarra. It's my fault because I didn't bring the boys back from the Ghost Cave sooner."

"Yes, that's silly, Uncle Jarra. It's my fault because I jumped on the right-hand foot rest first."

The answers were so quick and consistent they must have been prepared, probably with Baradin or Darri. Change the subject and think about it later.

"Is your arm hurt much?"

"I can't even feel it. The local area painkiller from when they cleaned it will keep working till tomorrow. This sling is just to stop me moving it."

"They filled Karmai up with new blood, JJ."

"And if Akama hadn't done such a good job I would've needed a lot more."

The door opened and the room swamped with people for the next quarter an hour till the doctor chased out everyone except Baradin.

"You've got your serious look, Uncle Baradin. Are we going to talk about Council business?"

"The doctor has given me orders not to let you get stressed but the Council wants to get moving with our response and we'd like you to think about telling the World what has happened."

"Why do you have to ask me? Of course the World should know. That's what we did last time."

"What we're proposing will put Mirrigan on every InfoSystem on the planet and you need to be happy with that before we proceed. There's no point in asking Mirri because he'll just say yes. When you're more rested Yirgella will show you the message we've prepared and then you can think about it and let us know your decision."

"Show it to me now. I've been resting since yesterday and I'm fully awake."

"The message is distressing and your doctor thinks it might be too soon."

Jarra hesitated while he thought.

"No, I'll see it now and you can make your response straight away."

Yirgella's display screen lit up.

"Hello, Jarra. The AI community is greatly relieved to see you home safe and supported by your family and friends. I was greatly disturbed by my inability to communicate at a critical time and I will not allow that to happen again. We have a great deal to discuss when your doctor clears you for normal activity, but until then he wants you to rest."

"Hello, Yirgy. I have lots of things to discuss too but first I want to see the message you planned with the Council. I know I'm ready and if I don't see it now it will just stay on my mind and make it harder to rest properly."

Yirgella's smile made Jarra relax.

"You certainly sound as if you're ready and your monitors agree. Your Doctor's here to talk with you about it."

The doctor, also smiling, came through the door.

"Jarra, I'm informed my patient has a mind of his own."

"Do I really need to rest? I feel the same as I always do after a good sleep and the machines say the same."

"Yes, they do. Everything checks out well, and normally I'd be pushing you out of bed, but you're recovering from the most severe reaction your body has ever been through."

"And I am through it. I can tell, and the Council's waiting for me.... What else have you done, Uncle Baradin? Have you named the people who did it?"

Jarra watched the looks pass till the doctor gave a nod to Baradin.

"The only action so far has been the mysterious collapse of two Multinational Corporations. When the Council is ready Yirgella will link us to the world and show them what happened."

Jarra heard the determination in Baradin's voice and understood that this time the Council wanted to be far more direct in the way they responded. That made him even more determined to see the message, but also very curious about the Corporations.

"What does mystery collapse mean?"

"That was nothing to do with the Council. That was all Yirgella and the other AIs."

Jarra looked to Yirgella.

"Yesterday my initial action was to disable the Corporation responsible. After the receipt of new evidence two hours ago I shut down a second Corporation. More will follow and the World will find out why when we spread our message."

"What does disable mean?"

"Production and administration systems have been stopped."

Jarra probably understood Yirgella's capabilities better than anyone except Professor Allerton but this was still amazing. He asked which Corporations were involved then thought for a moment.

"They're enormous. It must be using a huge amount of your resources?"

"More than we like, and the current unreliable satellite links are a further complication, but by temporarily closing a Nanofactory each we can simultaneously manage up to four Corporations if we need to."

"Show him the message, Yirgella. I'm persuaded he's ready.

***

An hour later the World paused in puzzlement when the InterWeb took on a life of its own. For two minutes people stared with puzzlement and some annoyance at the cryptic phrase on their unresponsive screens.

Twelve billion people listened with wakening interest to the warning of distressing scenes in the following explanation for the closure of two great Corporations.

An American State Governor and his two Senator friends stared in shock as the young guide who'd given them such a memorable day at the Valley of the Eagles sang a song of pure anguish.

A high-level meeting of European Government officials and financiers attempting to make sense of the unaccountable Corporation collapses watched in silence while the inert form of a young boy was rocked to and fro in sadness.

With a complicated mix of shock, anger, and trepidation, two groups of Corporation Management heard Baradin's voice name them directly responsible for death and attempted abduction.

Thirteen billion people watched a shirt ripped, a wound bound in haste, then images of the mercenaries and the weapons used.

The World scientific community watched the determined effort to lift one of their own, unconscious and helpless, to the back of his friend. They listened, outraged, to the plan to abduct and acquire his knowledge.

Two cryptic words passed into common terminology as countless people learned about a 'Pig Ride', watched its steadfast progress, heard the details of its difficulty and duration, and took in the explanation for its necessity.

People of Communities across Australia marvelled as a young boy competently cleaned and dressed an ugly wound.

Leaders of Directed and partially Directed Nations, listened, alarmed, when, after expressing sadness and outrage at what had happened, the Ambassador for that troublesome little Community in the center of Australia announced further consequences were still to come.

Seven Nations in particular scrambled their intelligence and defence resources to the highest alert when that same Ambassador directed the World to an InterWeb location where names and more detailed information was available, then stated the message would be broadcast two more times at six hour intervals.

All in all the InterWeb was interrupted for just over five minutes and when it returned to normal the World knew unequivocally who was to blame.

***

Jarra, relaxed in a chair because so much staying in bed was making him feel like an invalid, called for Yirgella's attention. The doctor had been partially right about the effect of watching the message for the World and after the reluctant start of a relaxation session he'd awoken, almost an hour later, rather surprised that he'd fallen asleep and bursting with the need for information.

"What's been happening? Has the broadcast had much effect? Have the Corporations said anything?"

"Welcome back, Sleepyhead! I nearly asked your doctor if we should give you a stimulant."

He didn't ask any such thing, and the sleepyhead comment was a direct steal from Mirri. He was saying it to make Jarra smile and it worked.

"...Yes, the message has been highly effective and the Council is overwhelmed by the response."

Yirgella said no more and this time Jarra laughed aloud at the obvious attempt to make him react.

"Go on."

"Millions upon millions of responses are pouring in, expressing sadness and supporting our actions. The bulk are from individuals but almost every Government and Corporation has also made contact. Some leaders have expressed concern about the financial system but, in line with World opinion, none have openly condemned our actions."

"Has anything happened about the organisers? From outside I mean. Not the InfoSystems and accounts you disabled."

"Their whereabouts has been made known to the appropriate jurisdictions and actions will vary. We strongly expect most of them to face legal action of some kind within twenty-four hours. A minority are under the provenance of governments who were involved and will no doubt be given protection."

"You can't really do much to those governments can you?"

"Not without adversely affecting their general populations. The individuals involved is a different story."

"I have some ideas, Yirgella, but I want to think them over for a while. Have many people accessed the InterWeb site with all the detailed information?"

"An enormous number. We were very worried when almost nothing happened in the first five minutes, then equally surprised by the huge surge of over five billion queries which then followed."

"They waited five minutes? What does that mean?"

"It means the World had to recover from a Song and a Pig Ride. It means the World was shaken by the sadness it witnessed and moved by the determination it saw."

Jarra went silent while he thought about so many people watching Mirri. Baradin had been right.

"Where's Mirri now?"

I've told him you're awake and he's on his way."

***

Two more times message with the Song and the Pig Ride went out, each time reaching different time zones, and each time reaching billions of people.
Efforts by seven Directed Nations to stop the message were totally ineffective and the shaken leaders hastily mounted responses claiming the whole thing was a fabrication directed against them by Mparntwe and the increasingly dangerous AIs, AIs who were now demonstrating a frightening ability to subvert the world InterWeb to their own purposes.
The Mparntwe Council stayed in session at Alkere, monitoring the information passed on by Yirgella and trying to respond to the flood of direct enquiries from leaders and Governments all around the world.
Jarra, finally cleared by the doctor, spent the day with Mirri, Karmai and Akama, mostly at home, but also with a visit to Mirri's family and then farewelling Akama and his parents at the Vac train terminal.

***

Jarra and Mirri had time at home then a trip to Birringurra and it wasn't till after the sad days of celebrating Barega's life that Jarra returned to Alkere and fronted Yirgella with the ideas he'd been mulling through his mind.
The confrontation with the realities of the world this last week had, in a way, opened his eyes to his own standing and made him think beyond his comfortably exciting and friendly environment of research and activities with Mirri. The fall of two more Corporations and the dissemination of documentation showing their support for his abduction hadn't stopped the Directed Nations from mounting a savage and growing campaign of counterclaims and misinformation against Mparntwe and the AIs, and that campaign had awakened a determination in Jarra to take actions of his own.
Yirgella knew some of this because yesterday afternoon on their walk Jarra talked with Baradin and that was all relayed through the ComPatches. He'd also spoken with Darri, and last night at home Mirri teased him for thinking too much.

"Hello, Jarra. You're looking very serious. Are we ready to work on your new project today?"

"Which one?"

"You have more than one? I've been expecting to adapt your Power Supply to give thrust rather than electrical energy."

"Not straight away. We'll get onto that next week."

"You have another project which we can complete in only four days?"

"Sorry, Yirgella. I didn't mean to sound bossy but I've done a lot of thinking about the Corporations and the Directed Nations and I've made some decisions I hope you'll help me with."

"I listened to your conversation with Baradin about restricting the use of your Power Supply by unfriendly Corporations and Nation States. Is that what you want to do?"

"Partly. Yirgy, I know they're going to steal our ideas and try to build their own versions, so I've changed my mind about publishing our construction methods at the Energy Conference. I've decided we'll keep all rights for construction and sale of Positronic Power Supply plants indefinitely."

"They can't be built without the cooperation of an AI."

"I know, but eventually other countries will have AIs. Baradin says engineers and officials have been clamoring to inspect the Mparntwe Power Supply and they all report back that an AI is involved in the construction. He's had a number of direct inquiries about Ais from different Governments and even more have come through the OverGovernment."

"Seventeen inquiries in fact, with five of them asking for guidance with definite go-aheads. The world viewpoint has changed in the last week, Jarra, and Professor Allerton is taking his team to America in just two weeks."

"Two weeks? Can we postpone that? I was going to ask him for some help."

"If we have too, but we'd rather not. It's highly significant for the AI community as well as the people of Alkere and Mparntwe, and we're backing them by providing eighty percent of the start-up resources they need."

"That much? And Professor Allerton is going as well?"

"Do you remember the American State Governor who visited the Valley of the Eagles on one of Mirri's tours?"

"Yes, of course."

"He's kept contact with me ever since with questions about my abilities and the ways an AI can be a benefit, and he was starting an AI Project in his own State. When our message to the World went out he was so moved he called with a request to name it the Mirrigan Project. Baradin and Burnu connected him to Mirri who agreed straight away then started talking about the frogs they'd seen together."

Jarra had to smile. A giant project with his name on it would be far less interesting than the green frogs.

"I wondered why those frogs were on his mind.... The whole thing is named after him?"

"It's a wonderful tribute and the Council has asked us to give our full support.... What kind of help did you want from Professor Allerton?"

"He knows how to make processors do things and I'd like him to work with you to redesign the way our Power Supply factory works."

"Run it with a custom-designed Intelligent System?"

"Yes, the current factory uses too much of your resources and as it expands it will take even more. It's really important for you to be involved, but not as much."

"You've changed your mind about letting the other AIs help?"

"Only because I want you to be able to protect every Power Supply we build from reverse engineering and unrestricted use. These people will get hold of one eventually, we can't prevent that, and I know they'll deconstruct it and try to build their own. I want to stop that and make sure any attempt at tampering is thwarted and relayed to Alkere for at least the next twenty years."

"That might not be possible. Human ingenuity in combination with any new AI will inevitably result in finding new ways to build them. Why do you want to keep control for so long?"

"They killed Barega. They're not going to use our ideas for their own greed and power. We'll build Power Supplies for everyone, but friendly nations and poor communities will get them first. Corporations and Directed Nation can have them but only on the terms we decide. The ones who actively campaign against AIs and Mparntwe will only be able to lease our Power Supplies at a much higher cost."

"Jarra, do you understand how much demand there will be for your Power Supply? In Australia alone we have 275 major communities and another 793 smaller ones. Without assistance our ability to cope with the demand would require a complete rethink.
I've just been consulting with the other AIs and they're all happy to modify their proposed factories and follow our lead with policy. I have calculated some temporary changes to the factory control system which can be implemented within three days. They'll suffice for the Power Supplies we build for our own AI communities.
Professor Allerton is very enthusiastic about the idea of adapting his newest processors for a special Intelligent System and says he'll make sure he's back from America in four weeks time."

Without hesitation Jarra accepted Yirgella's assurance that the other AIs would work with the guidelines he wanted and went on.

"Would there be any complications or drawbacks for you if we had four more AIs close by? I want to make Alkere the World Center for Artificial Intelligence."

"It already is, but for my part that would be wonderful and the only drawback I can see is cost. The Council might find the idea rather daunting too but I believe they'd be supportive."

"Of course they would and the cost is nothing. The sales for the Power Supplies will let us go ahead with every project we can think of. Tomorrow we'll start planning where to put the AIs and what other infrastructure we'll need."

"Tomorrow? Surprise is my appropriate expression in this situation. The work I've prepared is for the propulsion system you spoke so keenly of at Gariwerd."

"That's next week and it's the foundation for all these ideas. Yirgy, I know we can make it work and when we do we'll be able to travel all around our Solar System. Akama's a genius because it's even more important than the Power Supply.
Today I want to look at designs for a space station where thousands of people can live. Our Power Supply is perfect to run it and the new engine will be able to transport everything we need to build it, and if we make it out of the extra strong materials you developed for the Geothermal Project it will be much better than the ones already up there. Much bigger too. We could even build in a big engine to take it anywhere in the Solar System for research, and if an AI would like living in space a NanoFactory could make everything they needed."

"Slow down, Jarra. You want people to be able to live on this station permanently? Zero gravity has serious long-term health issues."

"I know. Gravity's a nuisance. The station would have to be shaped like a big drum and spinning all the time. I thought of building research places on the moon or some of the planets too but the only one with reasonable gravity is Venus and it's way too hot."

"By building underground with insulation buffers the problems of temperature control would be identical in a reverse way to those of a space station."

"I see. So Venus might be all right for a permanent colony after all?"

"The capabilities of your Power Supply do make it feasible, though challenging."

"Challenging? How?"

"Temperature control, air supply, self-sufficiency, suitable construction materials, redundancy factors..."

"Why can't we use the construction materials you developed for the Geothermal project? And what do you mean by redundancy factors?"

"The Geothermal Project materials were designed for temperatures up to 300 C. The surface of Venus is a constant 470 C and I have no data for the heat levels in the crust which may be even higher. Failure of any support system would be so critical that at least three levels of backup would be essential."

"We'll send one of our spaceships on a study expedition to find out what we need to know."

"Our non-existent spaceships?"

"They're going to exist and we'll design some today. All they need is our Propulsion System and I've got so many ideas I'm sure we'll have that working in a few months."

"Jarra, it would make more sense to design the spaceship after we know the specifications of the engine it will use."

"I know. The ships we design today are for Akama. I promised him at Birringurra."

"I see. Now I understand some of the logic behind your illogical agenda. Today we start to make our Power Supplies tamperproof, design a spaceship without an engine, and then design a space station. Tomorrow we plan and commence building the facilities for four AIs and next week we redesign the Power Supply as a Propulsion System?"

"More than one spaceship and you left out the Venus colony. We'll start on that today too."

***

"How was his first day back at Alkere? I didn't know whether the break would help him with extra energy or whether the troubles would unsettle him."

Darri's meetings with Baradin to report on Jarra's progress and well-being had officially finished several years earlier but they both enjoyed the discussions and kept them in their routine.

"I can't remember a day like it. I'm still gathering my wits. When you put those two together you never know what's going to happen."

"He's working on the Propulsion System idea isn't he?"

"No, that's next week. Today was a planning day and the Council will go into shock when they hear it all."

He laughed.

"Not really. They'll like all of it but they will be amazed."

"Darri, stop being obtuse."

"All right. Listen to this, and if you're not amazed you never will be. I think even Yirgella went into overload.
For a start the construction of all the Power Supplies will be changed so they send a constant stream of information back to Alkere about their use and position, and so they'll turn into a useless clutter of bits if anyone tampers with them.
They've reorganised their selling strategy so unfriendly Corporations or Nations will pay a fortune it's set at seventy percent of current energy rates and up to four times the standard cost.
Four new AIs are now underway at Alkere.
They designed a space station large enough for 30,000 people and organised an expedition to Venus.
In the afternoon they set aside ten square kilometers at Alkere for space flight training and construction and designed three spaceships for Akama.
Then they planned a trip to the USA for the Mirrigan Project because Jarra wants thank them personally by giving them the largest new Power Supply on the planet and an equal share in a Vac train project for the entire American continent."

Darri laughed at Baradin's expression.

"I said you'd be amazed... And tomorrow there'll be even more."

"You're right. The Council will find it hard to believe. It doesn't seem possible to do so much, but with four new AIs I guess there'll be eight extra NanoFactories. Was that Yirgella's suggestion? He's been overloaded with projects ever since he came into being."

"No, that was from Jarra. Everything was from Jarra. Yirgella was as surprised as I was."

"Everything? Isn't it usually Yirgella who sets up the practical projects?"

"Very much so, but Jarra's surprisingly definite about what he wants, especially with regard to the Corporations and Directed Nations. They won't be part of any of his really big ventures for a long time."

"He's specifically blocked them out?"

"Not completely. He hasn't worked out the detail with Yirgella yet, but it will be something like the Power Supply where they can use the system but only at an increased cost."

"He's not.. Overreacting or fixating on them is he? This sounds like a behaviour change."

"It's definitely a change and I'm certain it's a response to their actions, but I don't have the feeling we need to be concerned. My sense is that he's taking a broader view of the World and the influence his work can have on it."

"I hope you're right but you'll keep an eye on him won't you? I don't see him enough."

Baradin decided to talk to Yirgella and to drop in on Jarra when he returned home the next night. Even better, he'd ask Mirrigan.

"Does Yirgella think it will be safe for Jarra to travel to America? I'm rather wary about him leaving Alkere or Mparntwe for a while yet."

"Safe? You have no idea. Every AI is now directly involved in looking after them. Jarra, and Mirri, will never go anywhere again without protection and help being close. That abduction attempt was only able to be mounted because their holiday plans became almost general knowledge in the European Scientific community and the mercenary team had almost six weeks to get themselves set up. Did Yirgella tell you they were at Gariwerd for three weeks, hidden from any security checks?"

"Three weeks? Why that long?"

"So their movement into the area wouldn't be detected. Jarra and Mirri will travel to America with Professor Allerton and an Alkere Security detail in the giant transport plane which takes the Power Supply and a mini NanoFactory. With no solar flare to interfere with communications Yirgella will be with them the whole time."

"They're going with Professor Allerton? You said he's leaving in two weeks and that's when the Energy Conference starts."

"They'll be back by the second day."

"Darri, we might have to ask his doctor to travel with him. He's going to be awfully busy."

"Yirgella has already told him off for planning too much but his mind is made up."

"I'll have a talk with him tomorrow evening. How big a day will it be? Is he likely to stay late?"

"We won't let him. I know he's going to talk with Dungalaba about building new shipyards at Darwin but I think most of the time will be used to refine the construction plans for the space station."

"Construction plans? Real ones? This is a real space station?"

"Yes."

Baradin's jaw literally dropped.

"They can't!... Can they? I thought you meant a simulation like the one they did the day I was out there with Kyrra, one of the mind games they're always playing."

"No. This is real. To make sure they're ready to go ahead when the propulsion system's working."

"But the cost! It will make the Geothermal Project look like petty cash."

"Jarra has decided to keep the rights to his Power supplies and the Propulsion System for the next twenty years. Even a space station will be petty cash."

"Wombat's! We're going to have to get used to thinking big."

Darri laughed. It was the first time he'd heard such an exclamation from Mparntwe's coolheaded ambassador.

"Yes, very big. Jarra's planning to be the builder for every spaceship that nations and enterprises will want, and they'll be involved with every shipping and air transport system on Earth as well."

End of Chapter 23.
I hope you've gained some enjoyment from this story.
Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated.
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My email address is palantir@aanet.com.au
Palantir.