Simon’s Backup Weblog

Flash Fiction: Getting in is easy, getting out is the hard bit.

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on November 24, 2007

A feral Matrioshka Brain is a dangerous place. The wild evolution of self-replicating machines makes it a playground for Darwin – and deadly for anyone that tries to venture in. But if you’re scavenging the ruins of dead civilisations, there’s really no other place to go.

The first ships that tried to make it into the whirling zombie hell of a Matrioshka died quickly. All those fresh resources in a solar system made of nothing but cannibalised computronium drew the autonomous hunter-seekers in, moths to a metal and plastic flame. The next few ships were shielded, armed and armoured. That only meant they lasted a few hours longer. We heard their screams as the machines ate their way through the hull plates.

They put the name of the team that worked out how to get in to and out of a dead transcendent up in lights. They also made them richer than Buffett and Gates put together, as we all ended up working for them. They built the gizmo that got us in, and the gizmo that got us out. All we got was a percentage of anything useful we brought back.

A couple of AU out from one of the more recently zombied Matrioshkas, our small convoy was drifting, waiting. Most of a scavenger’s life was waiting: waiting punctuated with a few hours of more than extreme danger. Getting in to the Matrioshka was easy. The hard bit was getting out again.

We were going in hot and fast, following a relativistic comet. Its megatonnes of ice, pushed to nearly .9c, would punch a hole right through the Matrioshka, burning a tunnel into the heart of the system, killing the brain’s components in a hail of hot particles. Our ships would come in right behind it, hiding in the storm. Peeling off to scavenge the rubble of its passing, we’d grab what we could, wait for the trail of the next comet, and then boost out behind it before the wild machines returned.

The secret to getting in was this: If you leave FTL travel just that little bit wrong enough, you don’t slow down that much. All we needed to do was stick one big old chunk of transcendent technology onto a cometary body out in the interstellar void, fire it up, and let physics (and a lot of programming) do the rest.

Voices crackled through the ship’s net. “Fire in the hole.”

“Engines on line.”

“Targets acquired.”

Clocks scrolled down the displays, words flashed on screens, numbers blurred into insignificance. The moment was upon us.

The comet flashed past, screaming X-rays as it burned its way through the Matrioshka’s attenuated solar wind. The engines kicked in and we fell, following the fire, into the angry maw of entropy.


4 Responses to 'Flash Fiction: Getting in is easy, getting out is the hard bit.'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Flash Fiction: Getting in is easy, getting out is the hard bit.'.

  1. mymatedave said,

    cool stuff. Here via

  2. razorsmile said,

    Awroight! I knew you couldn’t stay out of the game forever 😀

    Whirling zombie hell, heh …

  3. sbisson said,


    More to come soon.

    It’s all part of the Midden Moon story – I’ve realised where the hole goes…

  4. krinndnz said,

    I will read this again.

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