Humans And Houses
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"The O5s about shit in their pants, Craig. What did you expect?"

Stanley Scott shook his head at his colleague as they walked through the hallways of Site-01's computing lab. The persistent low hum of high-power computing pervaded the air and coursed through feet, and the ever-whirring fans of so many clusters and blades and cooling systems made for convenient white noise to keep unwanted ears out of any conversation that may take place.

"I don't know, Stan. I thought they'd have considered the possibility. This isn't even a question unique to our line of work. I was picking wildflowers on an acid trip in Glasgow in the seventies when it first came to me, and—"

"And I'm sure it was a great day, Craig, but let's not stray from the issue here. I don't believe you've covered all your bases here and now you've stirred up the hornet's nest."

Craig Baird stopped in his tracks, a welter of emotions playing across his face before settling on agitation.

"Come with me, then."

The pair walked briskly to the southern wing, largely due to Craig's insistent pace. They settled in around a terminal, and Craig began logging in as he resumed the conversation.

"Now, stay with me here. You know what the XACT system is, right?"

Stanley sighed and nodded.

"Yes, Craig, it's the XACT Analytical Computation Terminal."

"And you know I wrote the architecture, upgraded the bleedin' thing to crunch larger numbers than any super-computing cluster in the world, wrote the specification for the memory it uses, and generally know the thing better than anyone else on the ruddy planet?"

"Don't belabor the point, Craig. It's your baby. I know. Get on with it please."

"The fact of the matter is, it's not wrong. I've looked at it from every angle, checked and double checked and triple checked myself so I wouldn't look like an ass in front of the bleedin' O5s, and I've answered one of mankind's biggest questions. We're a simulation, and I've got the number that proves it." Craig jabbed a finger at the screen.

var atoms = 1340780792994259709957402499

Stanley blinked.

"And? What's the significance of that number?"

Craig set his jaw and typed one more command.

var atoms = 1 x 2^512

Stanley whistled.

"You mean to say, the number of atoms in the universe is a perfect power of 2?"

"Bright lad!" Craig grumbled, "To answer the next question I can see on your face, the number came from the anomalous carnies they got in Site-76. The ones with the bucket of sand."

"Carnies," Stanley repeated in a flat tone. "You're basing the solution to a transcendent philosophical issue on Robin Marx and whoever the fuck from Hoboken, New Jersey? You had me go to bat for you in front of the O5 council on the word of carnies?"

"I was afraid you'd feel that way. But they could count higher than that, so it's not that. And they're just confirmation of the same number I already had from two other sources, a book I requisitioned after flying down to that endless library and the scale they have in Cape Town."

"That library has so many books that don't apply to this universe that it's hardly a source, and maybe the scale has an upper limit," Stanley objected, putting a palm over his furrowed brow.

"That's one of the things right there, the library. We know there are multiple universes, right?"

"Well, insofar as we can be sure of anything in this field, yes."

"Those universes, they're separate simulations, different variables being tested. We're running in a sandbox! Those instances where we interact with them are sandbox breakouts! We—"

Stanley motioned with two hands for a pause.

"Let's work on the assumption you're right. Not saying I think you're right, because I don't. But what does this knowledge do for us? And if you mention The Matrix, I'm leaving."

Craig took a deep breath, trying badly to mask his irritation.

"It would explain a hell of a lot about the damn skips, for one. It would answer long-standing questions in mathematics and biology and physics and God knows what else. Speaking of, it would sort of put the nail in the coffin on the whole God thing too, wouldn't it?"

"Craig, I know you're a secular man, but you're talking about ripping away a moral cornerstone for much of the civilized world. Look, let's get some lunch and you can tell me more about your theory."

Stanley and Craig stood up, and headed for the door. Stanley looked at the terminal one last time before shaking his head, flipping the light switch and closing the door.

Congratulations! Your humans have reached true self-awareness!
Achievements: 32/110 (29%)
BigTendrils ....... 196431
GameteHunter2 ..... 195034
Primates4Dinner.... 195011
BigTendrils ....... 191766
CarapaceSoSoft .... 190573
You ................. 8456
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>> Ugh, why am I so bad at this game?
<< You probably put too many points in military early.
<< That's a pretty common mistake.
>> Ah ok.
>> I had a huge population spike...
>> And then the research points just came in too fast.
<< Use your natural disasters more.
>> But they're my humans. ·.{.:
<< Don't get sympathetic, they're not real.
<< How many chromosomes did you give them?
>> 23. Do they need more?
<< More? That's way too many.
<< I never play with more than 14.
<< Then they lay eggs. Eggs are the best.
>> Oh! Maybe I'll try that next time. ·.}.:
<< ·.}.:
<< So are you playing again or what?
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