The crypto-futurist website that hatched the plan to harness the incentives of a multi-crypto 'rush' to speed the colonisation of outer space, is poised to come back burning. Largely '404' for the last half-year, homepage reduced to the landing dump of a defunct bluehost, choice of crypto ecosystems laid waste by its own lying custodians, and me, the site's author, smeared by misguided cultists in the community — ironically for calling out the exact risks to which they ended up falling prey — despite it all, bitcoinmars.org is back in the water. And damn the torpedoes.
When the irresistible growth of the crypto multiplex meets the immovable greed of some singleplexed crypto cults, shit happens, and I keep thinking that a reinvented 'Bitcoin Mars' would be the perfect instrument with which to cover said shit happening. The new bitcoinmars.org will retain the original edition's hopeful, Roddenberrian outlook for a crypto future, while shifting to a 'war'-like footing from which to publish independent journalism exposing the kinds of widespread corruption that threaten to derail that future.
What's past is prologue. I'm happy to have wandered obliviously into a killing field for independent thought set up by a modern crypto cult, because it provoked many hypocrites and posers into revealing themselves, enabling me to gain an enormous amount (and I mean, a shit ton) of info about the way they think and operate. There will always have been an idyllic time when Bitcoin Mars referred merely to a naïvely enthusiastic plan to exploit cryptocurrencies to get us to another world. It was a more innocent time, and I am glad that I created something out of those ideas, but that goal is now eclipsed — that innocence, irrevocably lost. Now is the time for Bitcoin Mars 'Ultor': The Avenger.
Mars will not avenge himself alone. He will be accompanied on the road to existential payback by chaotic sister site cryptonoir.org — a brand new dystopian fiction magazine that I'm launching with a few others. To get with these dumb-as-rocks times, Crypto Noir will give no fucks for bizarrely outdated notions like 'evidence' or 'the law'. Crypto Noir will just dish whatever is the dirt, from wherever it's to be found, and call it 'fiction'.
Are you ready to read the dirt on the way crypto bros totally really operate, skewered mercilessly in hot, marketable fiction rather than in the cold, measured snipe of a piece of journalism? Are you ready to be rewarded for your continuing support with appropriately 'snorty' tokens (sNRTs) based in NEXA and ADA, each storyline-associated type kept scarce by its own natively unruggable shrinking supply, and the second iterations of which will enable the 'crowdreaping' of a cut of the author's profits from new fundings or derivative sales like film rights?
I'm a writer and interactive fiction developer with over five years of experience critiquing antipatterns in the crypto community, lately under the pseudonym 'Powell Quesne'. It's fair to say that I've been gaining notoriety for it, which is good. With what's in the news these days, if a crypto editor with my history of 'trollish' frankness about the risks involved didn't already exist, it would be necessary to invent me. I am not exactly in fighting trim at the moment, however, given that I'm currently: (a) unemployed; (b) disabled, my arm still healing from getting broken by a bus on my way to look for another job; and consequently to both of the above, (c) homeless, since December 1st.
Note that, from the perspective of the average crypto bro, I have just 'foolishly' doled out a bunch of negative personal info for them to attempt to exploit against me in some way — as if the people who graciously admit their weaknesses online aren't laying sandtraps for graceless assholes exactly like these to expose themselves in. These bros don't seem to think on a sophisticated enough level to, y'know, simply avoid these kinds of social traps, so they will just say some stuff to LARP as if playing into a sandtrap is a hole-in-one.
So let's leave them to it, and hijack this bio section further to talk about something more important. That 'fake it til you make it' credo made fashionable by web developers comes off as increasingly old-fashioned these days. Online presentationism was always a confidence trick with a 'best before' date — and now it has reached that inevitable point when nearly the entire population has been psychologically immunised against it in one way or another.
Nobody trusts anybody who self-promotes anymore. The resistance to this has reached the level of pansocial kneejerk. The more psychologically attached you appear to be to enforcing a positive image about yourself or about some piece of software, the worse an impression you will make, going forward. That'll be directly counterproductive. It's also entirely at odds with the confessional voice from which hardcore noir and other gravitas-laden works of art have classically been written, and that's the part of all this that bugs me the most: the way runaway cultish presentationism keeps nerfing the artistic freedom that crypto bros like to LARP as if their tools will protect.
The way my life's been tumbling lately (and I don't see the point in whitewashing it), it's a lot like Nic Cage's at the beginning of Red Rock West. I'm not just writing noir anymore. I'm living it. Luckily, desperation is the stuff that both dark experiences and the more visceral arts are made of — yep, lucky! So here goes nuthin'...
Inconveniently Quesnean Questions
How much crypto-supported fiction that is cynical enough about the crypto scene to qualify as 'noir' has ever been published before by anyone? (Never mind by a homeless person with an up-close-and-personal perspective on both crypto and desperation?)
When grittier, more realistic crypto fic, like you'll see at 'Crypto Noir', inevitably becomes dominant (because this has all happened before and that is just the way it goes), why won't prior crypto-supported lit end up looking like some dated form of cheesy marketing, like 'jingles'?
How many crypto-art 'firsts' (meaning first expressions of a crypto-art idea) can you cryptographically prove you've supported? None? Why not? Because nobody seems to care? Are you prepared for everyone to skip notifying you they've started caring about cultural firsts until after they've snatched up all the best 'firsts' for themselves?
Do you want to spend your life jerking off about numbers going up, or do you want to exploit 'being early' to actually help achieve historic firsts and thus earn the right to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who rarely aim for less than breaking new ground?
Powell's Pledge of Primacy
Every piece of writing in the works for both bitcoinmars.org and cryptonoir.org will be made available for crowdfunding as soon as possible, as development time allows, and in piecework fashion, one article, chapter, or episode at a time. Given my continuing homelessness, eking out the conditions for genuine progress is slow and difficult. I really do need help, especially in the form of better material resources, so there would be no excuse at this point for not trying to crowdfund all the things.
And the results could prove interesting, game-theory-wise, in that whichever series of articles, games, or chapters gets people interested enough to fund rapidly could get frontloaded repeatedly, delaying production of the others, perhaps indefinitely, in a kind of crowdsourced assignment desk. In fact, let's make that a formal commitment, so that the editorial rules these sites will play by are a known quantity:
No article, chapter, or episode offered for crowdfunding at bitcoinmars.org or cryptonoir.org shall be delivered until all writings previously fully crowdfunded via bitcoinmars.org or cryptonoir.org have already been delivered. The only exception to this rule is that separate authors (say, guest authors) do not have to wait on each other's progress, though each author must still follow this pledge of primacy with respect to their own writings published at bitcoinmars.org or cryptonoir.org.
If I am ever caught breaking my own pledge of primacy, crypto bros can say, 'Powell's P.P. came up short'. They'll get off on that. Maybe I've finally found the offer they can't refuse, like...sitting in a dunk tank. As I prefer to say to the partners in all the gay sex I've been having: you can have anything you see on the menu, just as long as you pay to play...
NRTs ('norties') are Native Rewards Tokens, which are like NFTs, except that there can be more than one of each, up to an unchangeable limit specified by the creator in advance. All NRTs that possess the same 'group'/'type' identifier are indistinguishable aside from their amounts and transaction histories, and thus fungible with each other, but they remain non-fungible with NRTs of any conflicting groups/type IDs. To qualify as fully NRT-capable, a cryptocurrency's support for group/type IDs must be native to its base layer and invokable without requiring a smart contract, blockading code-level scams and rug pulls with near-perfect certainty. (As of this writing, the only cryptocurrencies in existence that support the creation of full NRTs appear to be ADA and NEXA.)
sNRTs ('snorties') are 'smart' Native Rewards Tokens, which are like NRTs, but with extra features added via smart contract, such as a shrinking supply rate (like Bitcoin's 'halvings'), or token-based profit participation (which I have dubbed elsewhere 'crowdreaping'). Adding these functions would increase complexity somewhat, leading to a greater potential attack surface for hackers, but to a much more limited extent than if two custom smart contracts from different authors (token creation plus crowdreaping, for example) were to have to interact with each other non-natively to achieve the same thing, with perhaps unpredictable consequences.
|Two-Call System: How to Counter the Cult of Bitcoin (BTC)|
|Level||Service option||Token rewards|
|beginner||Why assets on the Lightning Network could never be genuine 'Bitcoin'||(in development)|
|intermediate||How Bitcoin's development compromises its vision and enables censorship||NRTs via NEXA|
|hardcore||How Bitcoin mining devolved into an energy-efficiency disaster, and how to fix it||sNRTs via NEXA|
NEXT LEVEL UP: BEGINNER.
FUNDING GOAL: 4 BCH or 6 LTC or 32 MNEX or 1500 ADA, or a % of each adding to 100.
LEVEL FUNDED: 0%.
DELIVERABLES: Publish an article at bitcoinmars.org detailing why assets on the Lightning Network aren't and could never be genuine 'Bitcoin', and then offer NEXA-based NRTs to promote crowdfunding a potential follow-up article detailing how Bitcoin's centralised development compromises its vision and enables censorship.
|Water Sports: How to Counter Bitcoin's Countercults (BCH, BSV, XEC, NEXA)|
|Level||Service option||Token rewards|
|beginner||How Bitcoin Cash's 'ecosystem' ended up mostly populated with astroturf||(in development)|
|intermediate||How Bitcoin SV inverts, upends, or hollows out every characteristic of cryptocurrencies||NRTs via NEXA|
|hardcore||How the BCH/XEC split epitomised the runaway 'treehousing' laying waste to crypto spaces||sNRTs via NEXA|
|nightmare||How it begins: A case study of recent launch NEXA as antipatterns flattening its community unfold||sNRTs via NEXA|
NEXT LEVEL UP: BEGINNER.
FUNDING GOAL: 4 BCH or 6 LTC or 32 MNEX or 1500 ADA, or a % of each adding to 100.
LEVEL FUNDED: 50%.
DELIVERABLES: Publish an in-depth article at bitcoinmars.org detailing how Bitcoin Cash's 'markets' and 'ecosystems' ended up mostly populated with astroturf, and then offer NEXA-based NRTs to promote crowdfunding a potential follow-up article detailing how Bitcoin SV inverted, upended, or made phony every aspect of a genuine cryptocurrency.
|Full Meal Deal: How to Counter the Cult of Ethereum (ETH)|
|Level||Service option||Token rewards|
|beginner||Why ETH's premature warp into 'DeFi' was the worst thing that could have happened||(in development)|
|intermediate||How ETH's governance model was invented to enable censorship, which is thus inevitable||NRTs via NEXA and ADA|
|hardcore||How ETH's hypercomplexity will lead to its decline, with no way to reverse course||sNRTs via NEXA and ADA|
NEXT LEVEL UP: BEGINNER..
FUNDING GOAL: 8 BCH or 12 LTC or 64 MNEX or 3000 ADA, or a % of each adding to 100.
LEVEL FUNDED: 0%.
DELIVERABLES: Publish a comprehensive article at bitcoinmars.org detailing why Ethereum's premature warp into 'DeFi' was the worst thing that could have happened to crypto, and then offer NRTs on NEXA and ADA to promote crowdfunding a potential follow-up article detailing how Ethereum's governance model was invented to enable censorship, which is thus inevitable.
|Throne Jobs: How to Counter Ethereum's Countercults (ADA, AVAX, etc.)|
|Level||Service option||Token rewards|
|beginner||Why every 'ETH killer' is or has an 'ETH compatibility layer' that it is best to avoid||(in development)|
|intermediate||Why assets with big pre-mines, pre-sales, or VC funding aren't genuinely decentralised||NRTs via NEXA and ADA|
|hardcore||How proof-of-stake coins like ADA, AVAX, and now ETH pollute the principles of open source||sNRTs via NEXA and ADA|
NEXT LEVEL UP: BEGINNER.
FUNDING GOAL: 4 BCH or 6 LTC or 32 MNEX or 1500 ADA, or a % of each adding to 100.
LEVEL FUNDED: 0%.
DELIVERABLES: Publish an in-depth article at bitcoinmars.org detailing why every 'ETH killer' is or has an 'ETH compatibility layer' that it is best to avoid, and then offer NRTs on NEXA and ADA to promote crowdfunding a potential follow-up article detailing why assets with big pre-mines, pre-sales, and/or venture capital funding cannot be considered decentralised.
|Around the World: Bitcoin Mars, the origin story|
|Chapter||Service option||Token rewards|
|one||Rim Howlers of the Moon||(n/a)|
|two||Sub Mergers of the Earth||(in development)|
|three||Outwreckers on the Moon||NRTs via NEXA|
|four||(untitled episode taking place on the Earth)||NRTs via ADA|
|five||(untitled episode taking place on the Moon)||sNRTs via NEXA|
|six||(untitled episode taking place on the Earth)||sNRTs via ADA|
|NEXT LEVEL UP: CHAPTER TWO.
FUNDING GOAL: 4 XMR or 8 BCH or 12 LTC or 64 MNEX or 3000 ADA or a % of each adding to 100.
LEVEL FUNDED: 75.6% [25% + 50.6% grandfathered in from 1st edition of bitcoinmars.org]
DELIVERABLES: Publish a second chapter at bitcoinmars.org that happens on Earth simultaneously with the events depicted on the Moon in chapter one, and in which early signs are observed that the geological profile of human life may undergo a radical aspect shift, and then offer NEXA-based NRTs to promote crowdfunding a potential third chapter.
It's a rim howler, alright. It's not just a distant, ghostly, undifferentiated whine anymore. He can hear the regular scooping of the thing's initial roar through his space helmet. The wall has to be right in front of him now, just beyond where this mustard fog is thickest.
He makes his steps very small, so the low gravity will not give him so much 'bounce'. This allows him to detect the rise of the ground, since he can't see a thing through this blizzard. There is an upward slope, and its incline is increasing. Good.
He swings his arms around but finds nothing. Did he miss the mark? Bringing up the blipfinder on the back of his space mitt, he brushes the accumulated yellow dust off the bezel of its screen. Just a weeee bit to the right.
"Leon, do you read?" blares the snoopset in his helmet once again. Meanwhile, glove strikes ladder -- exactly what he was panning for. He grips it, and starts to climb.
Leon says, "I'm here."
(snoopset) "There is a chainsplit. Over."
Leon says, "Which chain?"
(snoopset) "Like I know..."
Leon says, "Well, look!"
(snoopset) "It's just blinking 'CHAINSPLIT' exclamation mark."
Leon says, "... It shouldn't really be blinking."
(snoopset) "Want me to send video?"
Leon says, "Nah. Anything in the scrolls?"
(snoopset) "Don't think so. Scrolling..."
Cresting the top of the ladder, pulling himself over, out of the mists, and onto the rim -- yellow splashing off him as his space joints move -- Leon's hit smack in the visor by the big blue ball of the Earth. Every time he climbs out of the dustbowl, he imagines he's a half-drowned flea dragging itself from a pea soup, witnessed by that unhappy blue-grey eye. He can no longer hear the howler howling -- there just isn't enough mist at this altitude to communicate the vibrations to his space suit.
He spots the Protopod facility, probably over 1000 feet away along the crater's rim. He's come up much farther away than he expected. Unable to resist curiosity, he keeps a hand on the ladder head, and leans back, searching against the starry background behind the limb of the Earth, but of course, sees nothing there with the naked eye. And then he does just what they tell you never to try to do, out here. (It's in the fucking manual.) He starts to run...
One does not simply 'run' in one-sixth of Earth's gravity. It tends to devolve after the first few pumps into more of a shuffle-bound two-step. Unless absolutely sure of one's bounding, it can make for a dodgy series of landings, at speed, especially near a precipice.
"Haaaoow-DY!" comes the call over the snoopset as the howler breaks the surface of the bowl and soars out, into the clear, alongside Leon's jump-skipping gait. The diamond-backed, wolf-sized drone's rotors are whirling off dust, seeking atmosphere, but catching only vacuum up here above the particle line -- they stall -- plunging it with a belly-flop back into the flat, sickly stratus from whence it re-emerges, briefly, farther along, like a dolphin leaping from the sea.
"Quit showing off, Brent," says Leon, bounding wider of the crater to avoid the dust billowing.
(snoopset) "Look who's talkin'... Neil!"
Leon says, "Hippity hoppity!"
Terrain can get tricky this close to the rim, but he is well-practised enough to handle it quickly and safely, despite his preoccupation with this chainsplit. Had to be one of the Bitcoins, or it wouldn't have registered on the BTFN, he tells himself. The latest build can detect splits in BCH, BTC, 480, even 123, and a bunch of others. It can't mine most of those, but the node at the lab is on older hardware, anyway, so it isn't energy efficient enough to mine profitably this close to Earth. Getting involved in the Rush never became a C-VRIT priority -- just a little side hobby of his and Theo's. They are, after all, living on the doorstep of history in the making. But on the doorstep, it seems, they will remain.
Not that Leon hadn't requested energy provisioning for a better miner. There just was and still is resistance among bureaucrats who bought into all the 'crypto waste' nonsense of the '20s. And it was nonsense. Crypto mining involves negligible fixed energy costs due to difficulty adjustment algorithms. D.A.A.s ensure that mining difficulties dynamically adjust to use only as much energy as the community connected to it is able and willing to spare. Even if the number of mineable cryptocurrencies were to double overnight, the energy there is to spare would remain relatively constant, so the D.A.A.s would be forced to adjust all their mining difficulties so that the total energy required by the cryptocurrency sector would increase only marginally -- a form of natural growth -- and it would be a net win due to sucking economic activity away from the non-crypto currency markets, which still have the highest fixed energy costs.
Because of that key 'D.A.A.' aspect of Bitcoin's original design, underappreciated at first but which developed into the entire field of responsive energy utilisation, there is no mathematical way for the cryptocurrency mining industry to grow to require more energy than its community as a whole is willing to spare -- even in the depths of space -- and this has always been the case, since the day Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first block, in which he secreted the historic text, "The Times Jan/03/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks." But, try telling them that.
C-VRIT had put in a bid, nevertheless, at Leon's urging, for a Star6 refuelling contract at the crater's modest spaceport, but in the final stages of Rush planning, no such contracts were awarded. Apparently, it doesn't often make economic sense to sink a fuel reserve into a gravity well, so Rush rockets will not be stopping here. Fuel savings were accomplished instead through a set of cooperative agreements packing dozens of spacebound drones containing miners and stakers into the upper stages on each of over a hundred, massive, booster rockets, the last flight of which has just been launched directly from Earth -- with the fringe benefit of pushing actual, live mining rigs beyond their fork horizons as quickly as possible, and claiming those historic 'firsts'.
But it's way too soon to be hitting those horizons, thinks Leon, almost aloud. Even the earliest intentional fork is not expected for another week. There shouldn't be a chainsplit.
He becomes aware of a thrumming sensation in his feet. Vibrations from the blower heads. And then he sees them, rising up in great coils from the curl of the dustbowl's top lip: a phalanx of snouts unreeling sheets of particle-accelerated, mustard-coloured moondust into their miles-long trajectories over the bowl, where these fountains settle, ever so slowly, inside. There, Leon knows, the constant runoff from sloping ground grates feeds the underground return ducts that keep the dust flowing, and the blowers blowing, as if there is an infinite ribbon of yellow muslin freely available to be thrown over the already deeply-shrouded depression.
They had spent months looking for a suitable crater for him, before just going ahead and blasting a hole in the lunar regolith -- he respected that -- of the dimensions and rim height he required, creating an artificial crater about 10 miles wide, somewhere between BIO and SOS classes. It's why he joined what became known as 'C-VRIT'.
Around the backs of these great kneeling mastodons trumpeting their horizontal dustfalls, Leon knits his way now in shorter hops, making sure not to brain his helmet on their hard exteriors. There's a ways to go, yet. The blowers weren't situated too near to the Protopod. The momentum of their combined output would have been enough to alter the trajectories of test vehicles. Instead, they built two separate blower banks to be installed no less than 250 metres to either side of the main facility. In a typically weird turn for Moon talk, there is no actual blowing action involving in the operations of these 'blowers', at least not at C-VRIT. They had given genuine blowers a shot, early on -- after all, they were cheap and readily available -- but the energy cost in friction was just too high, and they ran dangerously hot and melty.
Luckily, an opportunity for a solution presented itself in those same early tests, which revealed that the dust you can find lying around on the Moon is just too jagged-sharp to be used as a blown flight medium for any current mooncopter design. Despite all the vaunted claims of the latest self-repairing nanoskins, Leon's first prototypes were shredded into scrap in minutes. It became very clear, very quickly that the only way for C-VRIT to go forward with dustblown flights on the Moon would be to design their own moondust -- which Leon had suspected all along, but one must prove one's suspicions in this field, or there will be resistance.
So they collected a crater's worth of raw moondust, milled it until rounded, and then coated it with gold-alloyed nanoparticles for their magnetic properties, thus allowing the use of these massive but 'frictionless' E-M coil 'blowers' (receding now behind him) instead of the classic kind. In another crucial stroke of luck, getting the nano-alloy's gold content right vastly increased the bespoke dust's properties as a mechanical lubricant. They needed that moondust to flow like water, or more to the point -- air -- and with time and iteration of their mill and rotor designs, it did exactly that. There's a manufacturing plant for it now in Peterborough. They're calling it 'Dustard'.
(snoopset) "Got something. They're talking about forks."
Leon says, "Pipe it."
(snoopset) "--new lead maintainer was so adamant in favour of the 'dohjcoin' pronunciation, he implemented a consensus rule that--"
Leon says, "DOGE splitting again? What's the text say?"
(snoopset) "The usual. 'NEW CRYPTO RUSH LAUNCHES'."
Leon says, "Probably just a historic background segment..."
(snoopset) "--dictated pointlessly by a blockchain's consensus rules, a group running a splinter node fired back by implementing a competing consensus rule, rejecting the first rule, and demanding the pronunciation 'doagcoin' instead, and that is actually what caused the fork." "Fascinating, Henry--"
"Bullshit, Henry!" says Leon, but then remembers Theo is still all the way across the crater at the Antipod, running control experiments, and Brent wouldn't know a doagie from a hoagie, or care.
(snoopset) "--of the resulting hash war was unexpected and extremely controversial, but the 'doag' camp got to keep the original ticker. Not to be outdone, however, the newly forked D-O-J-E coin developers announced a change in their consensus rules to require that both the old and the new forks be pronounced 'dohjcoin' and added, with some ambiguity, 'Dohjcoin is dohjcoin.'"
Leon says, "Why are we still listening to this?"
(snoopset) "It's GBVN."
Leon says, "Obviously. Anywhere else talking 'forks'?"
(snoopset) "Lessee... Politics... Politics... 2K38 bug... Politics..."
"Anything remotely relevant," says Leon, wishing he had brought along an actual hopper. It would have almost doubled his maximum speed.
(snoopset) "--placed both 'doagcoin' and 'dohjcoin' -- if I'm saying those correctly..."
(snoopset) "You're doing great, Candice."
(snoopset) "...behind in the race to Mars?"
(snoopset) "It's important to keep in mind that what precipitated this conflict was the 'dohjcoin' camp's posting of a highly explosive meme. I won't name it here, to protect our viewers, but it clarified things, because after that, it became known in the corridors of the cognoscenti that the ranks of 'dohjcoiners' had been infiltrated by one-thumb upping, pro-wife, pro-knife, manthinking, original-cut preservationis--"
Leon says, "Brent--!"
(snoopset) "Okay, okay! Try this one..."
(snoopset) "--number of cryptocurrencies on the market well in excess of 50,000, including the recent massive increase in reboots, only a few hundred prospective forks have purchased mining berths in one of Aaron Ruske's 'Star6' combination rockets vying to get underway before the close of the current launch period, and contrary to the widely expressed expectations of Mars Rush planners, none of them are reboots."
(snoopset) "Not even the preemptive reboots?"
(snoopset) "None. Let's take a look at the leaderboard. As you can see, pulling ahead of the pack in berth counts after today's liftoffs is Ethereum 3 -- which is highly experimental and yet to go 'live' even on Earth, but not, contrary to what you may have heard, a chain reboot. ETH3 is followed closely by Bitcoin Mars, 480coin, --"
(snoopset) "Tell us a little more about Bitcoin Mars itself, for our new listeners."
(snoopset) "Bitcoin Mars has been the speculative de facto moniker for a potential Marsbound fork of Bitcoin ever since the Bitcoin Mars Forking Node was first proposed back in 2021."
(snoopset) "BMFN is that old."
(snoopset) "Sure is! It's far from the most popular Cash node here on Earth, however. In fact, Bitcoin Cash is represented in the Mars Rush by a variety of participating node teams, including BCHN, Bitcoin Unlimited, Flowee, BMFN, BTFN, and others."
Piles of robotic junk -- derelicts -- have been obstructing Leon's path, forcing him to slow to a walk more than once. They're the pitted, scarred remains of previous prototypes, carted and dumped out here from the Protopod's launching yard, where they kept getting in the way.
(snoopset) "Weren't there Mars coins already planned before anybody picked up on these Bitcoin Mars efforts?"
(snoopset) "Indeed -- more than one. Those are the preemptive Mars reboots, based on older, largely Earthbound funding models, and each of them has acquired their own separate userbases and launch dates. It was really the Bitcoin Mars developers seizing upon the idea of funding Mars exploration from Mars itself that resulted in this mass, half-coordinated 'crypto rush' to reach Mars with a viable system first by hundreds of coinlaunch engineers, and eventually, they hope, thousands upon thousands of settlers. In their enthusiasm and spirit of mutually beneficial competition, the Bitcoin Martians have swept the entire crypteconomy along behind them, and we've all seen the results over the past week."
(snoopset) "Yes, and here we are, about to finally, well... fork for Mars!"
(snoopset) "That's it, exactly. We are forking for Mars. All the Marsbound cryptocurrencies, their dev teams, and especially the Star6 engineers, deserve our congratulations for pulling out all the stops to make these launch windows, day after day after day. It has been a Herculean effort, and today, the fourth and final flight of rockets is away."
(snoopset) "Perhaps Aaron Ruske will finally make a statement."
(snoopset) "They say that he's been very weak. Let's not--"
(snoopset) "Let's not make any demands on his time."
(snoopset) "I'm sure he must be very proud."
(snoopset) "No doubt!"
"Is that why he 'proudly' blocked progress for 7 years?" says Leon.
(snoopset) "--the other Bitcoin forks? Do they stand any chance of--"
Leon skips to one side, and to a stop in front of one particular junk pile that is almost intact. Seeing it like this, broken-backed and denuded, more of a twisted hairpin than its original diamond shape, but still recognisable against the mustard-stained rim-ground around it, its quadrotors folded like shrivelled wings -- it fills him with loathing, as if having come across a big, half-smushed wasp. From this weird angle, the triangularly sectioned front frame smacks of a snarling, snaggle-toothed grin. It really does look like a howler, he thinks, still wondering how he failed to perceive this about his own invention for so long. He leaps over it, and onward. Make the next one a walrus.
(snoopset) "--revised version, BSRV may not win any converts on the red planet."
(snoopset) "How do you feel about Bitcoin 123 and the recent rumours that they might reboot their chain with a brand new genesis block for Mars?"
(snoopset) "BCH123, also known as BCH1, was formed as a 'parody fork' satirising the kind of power-grabbing that plagued the old Bitcoin Core and ABC dev teams, and it is the last surviving remnant of the BCHABC branch of Bitcoin Cash. The lead maintainer there is an anonymous character who styles themself a 'benevolent micturator' and has pledged that 123 will send miners to Mars without splitting their coin into separate Earthbound and Marsbound chains."
(snoopset) "I thought that was impossible due to the planets' different orbits and the speed of light."
(snoopset) "For anything remotely Bitcoin-like in architecture, it is impossible, so no one is quite sure what their--"
Leon stops briefly again, this time to pick up the discarded nanofabric skin for the copter he's just left behind. Parts of it are shredded through, but he can still trace the path of its C-VRIT 'racing stripe', an older design from the days when they used to spell it out in full: 'CRYPTO-VOLCANIC ROBOTIC INTELLIGENCE TESTBED'. He'd come up with the acronym himself based on the fact that, up until relatively recent history, scientists had failed to come to the conclusion that impact craters were caused by meteors: they'd been calling them 'crypto-volcanic depressions' instead. He couldn't believe the Board actually went for it.
But what if they were not all meteor strikes? What if some ancient craters were artificial 'C-VRITs' filled with dense atmospheres for the ancient aliens who built the pyramids? The Board was pointedly unimpressed with him when he had suggested that -- Leon had always enjoyed pointedly failing to impress anyone who was pointedly unimpressed by science fiction. Or dark fantasy. To see his enemies driven before him, and hear the lamentations of their women, gives him a perverse comfort as a garden-variety barbarian. He takes the fabric with him, hip-hoppiting on...
(snoopset) "--concerned should we be about OMCLE?"
(snoopset) "OMCLE is a strategy of 'space tolerance' or astro-network elasticity first implemented in BTFN, which is the experimental branch of BMFN, but it has been widely emulated in a number of other coins preparing for the Mars Rush. It stands for 'Overdue Mempool CLEarance' and--"
(snoopset) "Sounds like the bad old days. Is BTC-style high-fee priority access finally coming round the corner again?"
(snoopset) "No, no, this is different. The old BTC mempool ended up choked with transactions waiting for confirmation. OMCLE keeps the mempool topped up with already confirmed receipts, if you will, just in case transactions ever need to be replayed after an unintended chainsplit. It does not make any changes to the underlying confirmation rate, so how concerned should we be about OMCLE? My answer is--"
Leon pays the answer no mind. Rearing up in front of him now is the Protopod facility, which is a collection of inflatable domes, each divided hexagonally and then triangularly by a reinforcing carbon-composite frame. In other words, it's like any other moon habitat, but with a much-expanded research dome to make room for drone assembly and disassembly. This custom-built, titanium-reinforced laboratory enclosure is gigantic by lunar standards, an increase pointed up by the prefab domes arrayed around it as if in miniature. From the top of it extends a three-pronged antenna array, the lab's own fork into the void, its blinking red beacon indicating work is in progress.
His final expert hop transitions him smoothly into a slow walk up the last 30 feet toward the complex. He is breathing heavily now. They didn't bother to build the Protopod overlooking the bluffs -- nobody expected any visibility into the crater, anyway. But the ground they chose is elevated enough that, stopping and turning, Leon can see clear to the crater's opposite side, where the Antipod's distant red beacon winks in and out, indicating that experiments are still running there, as well. The two pods communicate with each other through a line-of-sight network driven by antenna-sandwiched laser emitters.
A few softer lights are glowing out there, as well, amid the boulders situated half the way around, to either side, where, in the detritus of the crater's construction, makeshift habitats have been erected for the unassociated scientists who have taken the opportunity to run concurrent artificial atmosphere experiments, mostly involving kinesiology or hydrodynamics. It was those scientists who first adopted the phrase 'rim howlers' to describe the far-off wails of C-VRIT's mooncopters, which can be heard throughout the bowl. He looks for it over the midway mists, but can't spot the spaceport's antenna tower. It has its own associated ground complex that isn't officially under the C-VRIT aegis, so they informally dubbed it, the 'Pseudopod'.
Turning back toward his own base of operations, Leon trudges the last few steps to the inaccurately named prefab 'EVA-Lock' dome, and begins the process of opening the outside hatch, made slightly easier by no one having messed with it since he last exited through it.
And again, the ridiculous Moon Census Bureau's ridiculous registration card taunts him, from its ridiculous red mylar pouch affixed ridiculously next to the entrance, as if somebody's going to just show up, unexpected...
Lunar Census of: Sept 22, 2036 Proj: C-VRIT MCB#: N-389-F Resident Staff: "Protopod" LEON FORTNUM, P. Investigator THEODOR ALBANO, Cinéaste
Those last two lines were just his and Theo's attempts to poke fingers in the eyes of the occupational requirements. Leon briefly wonders if Brent will ever ask to be listed on this card as well. A recent nanomaterials hire on loan from the MASER array, he missed the original census. Perhaps he's still listed over there, on their 'EVA' dome.
The hatch swings inward and Leon, relaxing into the routine of this, lets its momentum pull him inside. As his breathing slows, he becomes aware again of the news broadcast piping tinnily over his snoopset...
(snoopset) "--not all nodes have it, right? BMFN, for example?"
(snoopset) "True. BMFN has remained for the time being on an older system of outer space tolerance called OTREC. It's more complicated but--"
"Actually, it's less," says Leon. Having deposited the old howler skin on an inside hook, he's now focused on closing the outer hatch, which is a complicated business of it own.
(snoopset) "--involves a separate 'outpool'--"
"Not really," says Leon, performing his final outer hatch check, and sealing the outer pressure equalisation valve. With a light, coordinated jump, he turns himself inside the overstocked crewlock -- careful not to snag himself on anything -- and settles in front of the inner hatch next to a widescreen wall monitor, on which Brent has been good enough to display the scrolls and video for him. Nice thinking there, Lockwood. Keep it up.
The scrolls are what used to be called chat windows, in Leon's youth. Tall columnar feeds lined up side-by-side, as many as your screen can handle, splotched with playback buttons for event-driven video clips and livestreams. They work well out here because bandwidth on the Moon is still expensive enough that downloading video 24/7 is a dealbreaker, and thrashing caches by frequently switching page views is also to be avoided. Better just to see either everything at once, or nothing. Even on Earth, scrolls have come into vogue, possibly because every other type of news aggregator has committed suicide by way of the 'algorithmic feed'. Of course, that, and the other anti-patterns of yore, eventually showed up in many of the scrolls as well. That's what it's like when you're the last man standing. You've got to pull every duty.
The video segment that Leon has been listening to presents a drab, utilitarian news set, with the newsreaders -- three young men -- in flight suits. Some kind of aerospace nerds? Leon has never seen them before, and wonders what rock Brent's turned over to find them. 'UNCLE BLOCK'S PIT STOP' says the playback title. Whatever.
(snoopset) "--folk etymology that gave rise to the term 'outwreckers' referring to miners that operate on the furthest reaches of the network, where the outpool tends to get 'wrecked' now and then, leading to spasmodic contractions in the network as its benefits are lost."
(snoopset) "So outwreckers live literally on the edge?"
(snoopset) "That does tend to be where blockchains get interesti--"
"Puhleeze," groans Leon, having finished cranking the inner hatch pressure equalisation valve to its maximum non-emergency setting. He considered going all the way to emergency, but didn't fancy logging the requisite medical report.
Nothing. He mutes the audio on both his snoopset and the monitor, holding his helmet against the hatch, and stands rock still, listening for any sound outside his suit. But there is only silence.
He moves to centre hatch to peek through the viewport. No one at all in the long crew corridor from here to the lab, but since the laboratory hatch is still open, Brent's legs can be spotted crossing and uncrossing as he leans over something not visible -- probably the drone-oscope. It's a powerful amateur telescope popular among Moon scientists who 'earthlight' as astronomers, but it hadn't been a 'drone-oscope' until Theo jury-rigged its controls to an Ethernet switch.
"Hello! Anybody in there!" calls Leon, reactivating his snoopset.
"Sorry," says Brent, shuffling, zombie-like, down the crew corridor to open the flipside pressure equalisation valve, and then back to the lab, just as absently. Kid is gonna get me killed one day, thinks Leon, hearing at last the faint hiss of repressurisation. And...he's back at that scope again.
Leon says, "What in Belgium do you think you're seeing out there?"
Brent says, "Take a look."
The sounds of a few key presses later, a close-up of the upper 'Bigboy' stage of a Star6 combination rocket appears on the screen, overlaid over the 'Pit Stop' guys. He knows what it is even before the logo rolls into view. Its distinctive shape would be recognisable from the news to most people, even if they hadn't been obsessively studying its features for years.
"That isn't you," says Leon. "It can't be."
A few more key presses, and the telescopic view starts to zoom out with a mechanised jerk, and then stops with another. The Earth is in partial view now, the once-Bigboy just a slow-crawling pinpoint against the void. A white flea. And then Leon notices that it's not the only one. A number of other white fleas are crawling that same void, ever so slowly across the blackness of space. The other rockets.
Leon says, "How were you tracking it that close?"
Brent says, "Uh, it's called, 'laser guidance'?"
Leon says, "OK, Brent? Should we really be painting Rush rockets? Think about this."
Brent says, "It's harmless, right? Just visible light?"
Leon says, "And if it's visible on the news? Couldn't that raise a few questions?"
Brent says, "So, we'll give a few answers."
And with that, Brent cavalierly sweeps the Bigboys off Leon's screen, returning him to the 'Pit Stop' guys. How can he possibly be this naïve? thinks Leon, turning off the water in his suit control system as he awaits full lock repressurisation.
(snoopset) "--that despite many projections to the contrary by engineers for both nodes, a mixed BMFN/BTFN network turned out to be the most robust configuration in test after test. They are still debating why but--"
Leon says, "No, they aren't. Brent! Scroll it again."
Brent says, "They're all just saying the same stuff."
Leon says, "Just...give me the scroll of robotics then."
Brent says, "Oh, it's those human anchormen. Hate 'em!"
Leon says, "Hex and Hive have no detectable agenda other than the total overthrow and subjugation of the human race by our robot masters, and that was scientifically proven by word-frequency analysis. You should have put them on immediately."
Brent says, "Bullroar."
Leon says, "What if they mention us?"
Brent says, "... In your dreams."
But the columnar view slides about fifty places to the right until it's centred on the scroll of robotics, as requested, and then the human anchormen take centre screen. They look like classic, old-school robots -- two of them, clad in riveted metal cylinders, 'R6' and 'B5' stencilled on their steel barrel chests. And they are both wearing cheap man-wigs. Their movements, on the other hand, are far from cheap: uncannily human, rather. Too natural, and neither robotic, nor puppet-like. Their fully exposed and finely articulated necks, shoulders, and elbow joints completely preclude the possibility that they could be men dressed up in robot suits, yet that describes perfectly how they move and behave.
The human anchormen's news desk is clean of anything but the name plates 'Hex' and 'Hive'. When they speak, they sound like dudes, and they have been speaking in a nonstop patter...
Hex says, "Mars!"
Hive says, "Mars!"
Hex says, "Mars!"
Hive says, "Mars!"
Hex says, "Good old Mars!"
Hive says, "Good old Mars!"
Hex says, "As written by one of mankind's best and brightest!"
Hive says, "Yep! Who?"
Hex says, "Bradbury."
Hive says, "Yesss! Who??"
Hex says, "Fleshbag who wrote that line."
Hive says, "What line?"
Hex says, "Good old Mars!"
Hive says, "Good old Mars!?"
Hex says, "Genius isn't it?"
Hive says, "What a line!"
Hex says, "'Good old Mars!' brought to y--"
Hive says, "Good old Mars!"
Hex turns to stare at Hive, shaking, 'his' arm joints rattling. Hive picks up on this, and begins to shake and shimmy as well. It all looks quite authentically human. They're suppressing laughter.
"Uh, Beef?" says Hex, a waver in his voice.
"Yes? Arse?" says Hive, shoulders still heaving. "What is it?"
Hex says, "...We're, uh..." choking back giggles.
Hive says, "...Yes...?" breathing too heavily.
Hex says, "...We're moving on with the rest of the show..."
Hive says, "...Ah, uh... OK, thank you!... Are we...?"
Hex says, "...Yes ... yes we are..."
Hive says, "...Good... Ah... Ah, good! Good... But are you sure we, ah... Are you sure we hyped up old Mars quite enough?"
The robots completely lose it now, and must work to regain their composure. With a last jerking guffaw, Hex jars his tin-can head, sending the studio backdrop wobbling, and his anchorman's wig tumbling, and this is hanging from the bolt now on his jaw's left hinge.
Hex says, "OK, that's not..." making wig-waggling head turns. "That's... let's throw to commercial. So this is Arse Hex, man head..."
Hive says, "And Beef Hive, of the people..."
Hex says, "And we speak for humanity. Join us after the break for all the deets from Hex and Hive on how mankind intends to colonise--"
Both say, "Mars!" -- "-ars-ars-ars!" echoes Hive immediately.
Hex says, "--with the aid of--"
Hive says, "...ars-Ars-ARS-Ars..."
Hex says, "--STOP IT! --with the aid of the greatest human advances in blister-pack technology...!"
Finally, they give up trying, and melt into paroxysms of human laughter as the screen fades to black and then up on an ad spot for 'Hex and Hive Unplugged': a pair of 'R6' and 'B5' wind-up toys, which, when wound up, do absolutely nothing.
Brent says, "They're not even clever. It's just a couple of sarcastic A.I. guys playing with children's drones using those old mocap suits."
"No shit," says Leon, hiding his annoyance at the term 'A.I.' which is essentially an archaism these days used only as an insult. He checks the progress on the hatch's pressure gauge. He wishes there were another speed setting between 'maximum' and 'emergency'. Then the 'real' Hex and Hive return, studio backdrop re-affixed, Hex's wig firmly back in its place on his head.
Hex says, "And we're back: the human anchormen!"
Hive says, "Yep. Totally human!"
Hex says, "We're going to move directly to our next segment, one I know you've all been waiting for, it's..."
Hive is busy trying to don a ten-gallon ranger hat with a single robotic pincer, careful not to tip the man-wig off his bucket head.
Hex says, "It's..."
It's on straight, and Hive nods his readiness, which tips his man-wig nearly half off, hat and all, but he 'soldiers' on.
Hex says, "It's Sgt. Beef Hive with your Human Minute!"
Hive says, "Sgt. Hive here'r'n, fellow apes!"
A green indicator lights up, and Leon realises he'd forgotten all about monitoring the inner hatch's pressure gauge. Time to start on opening it. He finds himself doing it a little less routinely than usual, so he can keep an eye on the screen.
Hive says, "Today, I wanna talk to y'all about how to maintain ape colonies. Now, y'all need to trust me on this, because I am a bonafide human -- this here'r'n's the Human Minute! -- and me and my human people-thaings got us a lotta know-how when it come to this here'r'n."
With the hatch now open into the EVA dome's small anteroom and adjoining corridor, Leon releases his space suit purge valve, also on a non-emergency setting. He'd rather enjoy the show than chase it with a pounding headache.
Hive says, "First thaing y'all need to know now about th' early stages of yer basic colonies, see, is that they ain't never been self-maintainin'. Ye cain't just send settlers'r'n on a dream an' a prayer, an' 'spect to see many more just a-volunteerin' freely to be replacin' them what died, starved as they was of timely resupply in the red sainds of Mars. No, suh! That there'r'n ain't never gonna do, suh!"
Leon turns off the space suit's oxygen supply now: it's no longer needed with the facility's air flowing in. And since there is no further point in running the suit's fans, either, he turns them off now, too.
Hive says, "The population of any ape colony derives ineluctably from th' motherlan' of apes, an' will need to keep derivin' from th' motherlan' of apes for th' entirety of that colony's rise, in exchange for... what? That's right, apes. Profit! Funnellin' massive profits directly back to th' motherlan' is th' only thaing that would or ever could prevail upon them greedy sons of mothers to keep sendin' more colonists, with more supplies, year after year after year, generation after generation! That's the trade the motherlan' of apes is always after'r'n, an' she ain't never gonna keep givin' y'all one without th' other, whether she be tribe, nation, or Mother Earth."
Hex says, "Not sure I follow, Sgt. Hive. My roiling human innards and digestive system may have distracted me. Can you explain further?"
Hive says, "Well, up until this Bitcoin Mars Rush finally gained ground the last few years'r'n, ye'd all been tryin' to reckon how to raise profits down here to fund livin' it large up there, when y'all coulda been better served tryin' to reckon it th' other way around."
Hex says, "Uhhh..."
Hive says, "Vice versa-like."
Hex says, "Do you mean..."
Hive says, "Talkin' 'bout the reboots."
Hex says, "Referring to the earliest 'Mars coin' efforts which began as Earthbound reinitialisations of existing blockchains, wiping out all prior claims. There have been protests in some quarters that none of these were given berths in the opening launch."
Hive says, "Their miners couldn't afford berths in th' earliest flights, and that is not without a reason. Reboots, why on God's grey Earth would y'all disrespect every existin' holder of legal, cryptocurrent tender, turnin' your backs on all, just when ye're a-fixin' to take off for another world?"
Hex says, "Good point."
Hive says, "Apes were never gonna fund rockets with crypto just to bring it with 'em into the skies, a-singin', 'Hallelujah!' Ain't no upside in that for an ape. But an ape will definitely fund a rocket by any means necessary, and even make the trip them-damned-selves, bubble suits and all, to get crypto back from outer space. If what y'all want is space colonies then what y'all need is colonial incentives: and by that I mean a whole series of coin rushes--"
Hex says, "--laid down in advance, of course, by our superior robot masters--"
Hive says, "--why of course, our robot overlords bein' the perfect specimens for pre-seedin' Mars, th' outer worlds, hell, when it come right down to it -- th' entire universe, with live, workin', minin' rigs, solar-powered at first, for any crypto that can claim a berth. Point is, idea's been around for almost two decades now, but it took a big-ass ape industrialist dyin' to throw the most common sense use for crypto in outer space back into play as some kinda 'Hail Mary' pass, just 'cuz his little telomere clock's a-runnin' out. Them's apes for ya!"
Hex says, "Yes. Them is indeed apes for you."
Leon is starting to get that 'stuffed full' feeling that means his in-suit pressure is more than about halfway toward the facility's higher pressure level.
Hive says, "And... it looks like I'm outta time, so that is the Human Minute. But in partin', there is one last thaing I must protest, an' that is th' robot-proof lock."
Hex says, "Yes, I believe the latest in bot-proof locks is the 3-tier blister-pack-and-airbag combo shell, but the next Rush launch period is slated to include a next-gen design that includes a sandwiched time-lock."
Hive says, "Thank ye. But don't get me wrong, now. I can understan' the need to ensure that th' coin-accumulatin' miners we are seedin' across the surface of Mars, from highest mountain to deepest valley, will be claimable only by what they call a 'genuwine astronaut', and a long-term colonist, to boot, rather than by one o' them automated smash-an'-grab jobbies. But honest, Hex -- to put these miners behin' a seal that is safely openable only with, of all th' cockamamie tools in th' known an' ever-lovin' universe: a pair of fragile, organic, ape-like, meat hands!? What a waste of a good haul! Lemme at 'em!" Pincers clapping.
"Hang on, Hive," says Hex, bending weirdly to type at a keyboard that isn't there.
Hive says, "That's SERGEANT Hive to y--"
Hex says, "Standby. Apparently, there is a chainsplit happening right now?"
"Finally!" says Leon.
"Naow!?" says Hive, then dropping the accent. "Uh, which one?"
"Yes which one, Hex!" says Leon.
Hex says, "We're getting conflicting reports. It doesn't make any sense... Can we...? OK, you guys do that," apparently talking to somebody offscreen.
Hive says, "What's happening?" also bending to read something that isn't there.
Hex says, "We've got our production team monitoring for accurate information, and as soon as we can narrow it down--"
Hive says, "It looks like the majority of early reports are saying--"
Hex says, "Let's...not give out very possibly inaccurate information just to have something to say."
"Aurgh!" cries Leon. Brent barks out a snoopset-crackling laugh.
Hive says, "Aren't the rockets still in range? We can just get on a node and check for ourselves..."
Duh! thinks Leon, but not aloud. It has occurred to him by now that the last thing he should do is give a crypto novice like Brent bright ideas of trying to monkey with C-VRIT's node.
Hex says, "We don't have one running here, but Sped is reaching out to our crew, so we should find out very quickly. While we're waiting for confirmation on that, why don't we run down some likely scenarios?"
Hive says, "There is some speculation that OMCLE might be involved."
Hex says, "Tell us, Hive. If OMCLE's so great, why is the BMFN still on OTREC?"
Hive says, "OTREC has remained the default on some Bitcoin Cash nodes and on most of the coins in general, because OMCLE somewhat controversially changes the meaning of the mempool -- with consequences for resource usage throughout the codebase -- to a philosophy dubbed MFBD, for 'Mempool Full By Design'. It's been theorised to be the fastest approach in adverse conditions, but raises marginally the minimum energy cost of running in ordinary conditions."
Hex says, "In fact, doesn't OMCLE have to include a runt version of OTREC anyway, in case the MFBD fails?"
Hive says, "OTREC is just a label for the pre-OMCLE collection of orphaned transaction recovery strategies for adverse network conditions, such as cache-diving or requesting retransmission. They still exist in OMCLE implementations, but aren't needed most of the time."
Leon looks at the pressure gauge on his suit. It's good. He now starts the process of removing his left hand glove.
Hex says, "Is it a problem with OTREC that it has to store its reconstructed transactions in a separate pool?"
Hive says, "It's called the OTpool, or 'outpool', but as actually stored, it's not often a separate pool -- more of a 'dirty' flag placed on any incomplete records in the ordinary mempool. They're a lot rarer than we've been led to believe. Even in the most adverse situations, transactions are usually recovered by OTREC fully intact, or at least they were in the near-Earth orbit tests of late last year."
Hex says, "Then why couldn't the BTFN have just stayed on OTREC?"
Hive says, "Well, if a node is aiming to recover from a chainsplit caused by network failure, asking and awaiting OTREC retransmission on already compromised bandwidth could put the node too far behind to end up mining at the majority chainhead before learning that the next block in the chain has been found, greatly increasing the risk of another chainsplit, in fact threatening a series of such chainsplits, the fallout of which might drag an entire portion of the network into torpor."
Hex says, "'Torpor'?"
Hive says, "When a set of nodes cannot generate enough energy to recover themselves in the time that would be required to rejoin the majority network, usually due to adverse environment or battery dysfunction, they're in torpor. Any coins a torpored node has already mined are still 'safe as houses' inside, but it can no longer increase the size of its jackpot by mining any further on the majority chain, so unless rescued, it will likely form the basis of a lesser fortune in the eventual land settlement phase of the Mars Rush. Depending on how early it went into torpor, it may not be worth going after at all."
Leon says, "This is why I watch the human anchormen."
Hex says, "That's new, isn't it? Networks don't go into 'torpor' here on Earth."
Hive says, "Not usually in this sense, no. So far, at least, torpor is a risk factor peculiar to mining cryptocurrencies in the extremely energy-starved networks of outer space, and it is only theoretical, at that. Torpor has never been confirmed in the wild, not before today anyway."
Having finished with his left glove, Leon has started on the right, and it's easier now, with his left hand free.
Hex says, "Let's not jump to that. My understanding is that nobody really knows how often a crypto network will fall into torpor in the solar winds of deep space, which is why the Mars Rush missions turned out not to be entirely unmanned, as originally planned."
Hive says, "Right. And more's the pity! Damn dirty apes!"
Hex says, "In the end, it was necessary to add a small--"
Hive says, "Very small!"
Hex says, "--complement of spacecraft crewed by 'outwrecker' astronauts, enough to be available on relatively short notice to hotwire any of these anticipated dead nodes--"
Hive says, "Torpored nodes."
Hex says, "--torpored nodes, and make sure they get to their planned destinations."
Hive says, "True, but I doubt the so-called outwreckers will be 'hotwiring' anything. Rush berth compartments take literally days to get open. They're just trained monkeys, Arse, like astro-security, going around shining fat-ass flashlights on the solar cells of any battery that's been drained past a red line."
"Bwaha! Tell it like it is, Beef!" says Leon, lifting his chin as he works on removing his helmet now.
Hex says, "So just to confirm for our viewers, both the BMFN and the BTFN use OTREC and an outpool, but the Bitcoin Titan Forking Node goes beyond that with OMCLE which is MFBD?"
Hive says, "Titan along with a number of nodes from other coins altogether, yes. As of now, that is correct. But Titan's new features often find their ways back to Mars, down the line..."
The voice trails off. Now out of the snoopsuit, he no longer hears Hex and Hive. He doesn't bother to stow anything, nor to close the airlock's inner hatch. Very not regulation. Maybe Brent's habits are catching. Leon moonstrides directly through the crew corridor instead, making for the lab. Just one look at that node, with a few keypresses, and I'll know. Then I'll go back to the lock and tidy up. Of course, he'll have to get all the way across the research dome to the electronics lab, first.
They should totally fire his ass.
The lab's interior is so expansive that it has more of a hangar feel, though it's nowhere near the size of one on Earth. Wall pallets, normally stocked with biosynth or exercise equipment in such a yard-sized dome, are overstuffed here (except at the hygiene station) with different kinds of drone parts and joints, including the odd full drone chassis. In front of two rows of such pallets stands a queue of drones waiting to be refit, rebuilt, or decommissioned -- some walkers, a hopper, and two howlers. Another set of pallets is dedicated exclusively to rotor blades, prop guards, ring adaptors, and the like.
There is no separate 'machine lab' here. Evidence of mechanically involved testing appears everywhere, instead. While the central area is left open for any kind of complex work, there are task specific labs around the dome's perimeter, generally between the wall pallets, although each lab station has smaller, knee-level pallets of its own. Closest to the hatch Leon has just stepped through is the optics lab, then the physics lab, then the nanomat lab, which includes an isolation bay they had set up for Brent's 'windsphere', the electronics lab, and finally, the Science Information Centre, which is the largest separate area, involving multiple keyboard stations, and it encroaches on Leon's hatch from the other side.
Brent is in the S.I.C. now on the horn with Theo, whose ever-cheerful visage appears on the big overhead.
Theo says, "--chainsplit, and I was like, is this for real--?"
Leon says, "Whoa whoa, back it up, Theo."
Theo says, "Hey, Leon!"
Leon says, "What chainsplit?"
Theo says, "I'll start from the top. So, get this, I'm just hanging in the Stim Hotel Bar on Titan, watching Revenge of the Nerds. And out of nowhere, like, outta the frickin' blue! The NPCs suddenly start talking about a fork, like it's happening inside the game, right? On Titan. And then I turn on the news, and what do I see...?"
Leon says, "What did they say?"
Theo says, "It's real!"
Brent says, "But how would a game pick up on that?"
Leon says, "The BTFN's latest game world is deeply integrated with its chain monitoring functions -- did the NPCs say which chain?"
Theo says, "Yes!"
Leon says, "And...?"
Theo puts on a face like he is sitting on a pot o' gold.
"Boys...! Boys...! Boys...! Boys...!" pipes the miniature moonhopper drone that has sproinged into life and is now hopping around on the control desk, reaching as high as the overhead displays. The hopper's only three inches tall. The finished prototype is five to six feet, but Shell likes to mess around with the mini version since it uses negligible energy in Moon's gravity. Leon and Theo each went through a mini moonhopping phase. Now, it's her turn.
"GBVN just mentioned C-VRIT, boys!" says the moonhopper, coming to a stop, claws on hips.
"They did? What did they say?" says Leon, spotting Brent's smug look.
"Usual crap!" says the moonhopper, starting up sproinging again. "And! They showed the gift shop clip. They will never let that go. How did I become such a cliché?"
Leon says, "At least you're our cliché!"
Theo adds, "Yeah!"
"Aw. Thanks guys," says Shell from the moonhopper, her face flicking up on its little display as it passes the apex of its latest sproing. Shelley is the engineer assigned to the crater's spaceport AKA 'Pseudopod', where she is likely sitting right now at her workstation, logged into the drone remotely. The port's associated gift shop was part of the ground complex's initial 'space tourism' funding stunt, but since no one ended up ever using the port other than fellow scientists (none of whom wanted to be the one to ask their port engineer to sell them a T-shirt) the landing pad's 'gift shop' has remained sealed for over a year.
Leon says, "Out with it, Theo! Which chain?"
Shell says, "Is this about the forks?"
Theo says, "Yeah. All of them!"
Shell says, "Yeah!"
Thrown for a loop, Leon follows the balletic motions of the somersaulting mini drone, the cherubic gaze of Shelley Fairfax fixed-but-pinwheeling on him in its little Thumbelina screen, and feels -- really feels -- for the first time in a long time, that he is on another world.
Leon says, "What do you mean, all of them?"
Theo says, "I mean, every single coin monitored by the BTFN is now being rumoured by NPCs on Titan to have experienced a chainsplit."
Leon says, "That's... insane."
Theo says, "Well, yeah. Which part!"
Brent says, "Could that be a bug? Like, in the game?"
Leon says, "How is it even possible?"
Theo says, "Looks like we may be about to find out..."
Theo's attention appears to be no longer on his main screen's netcam, but on something else, probably an auxiliary display. And the sproinging has ceased entirely.
"Uh, guys? says Shell, less chirpy now.
"What is it?" says Leon, still searching his own auxiliaries for whatever Theo sees.
"I really think you should scroll to GBVN."
Then Leon spots the optics lab monitor, where Brent left the drone-oscope feed zoomed out on the Star6 Bigboys. It is still a partial Earth view, but it looks different now. Something's weird. Something twinkling. He pipes it onto the big overhead, and over the lasernet to Shell and Theo as well, so they can both see it up close.
The blackness of space around near-Earth orbit is lit up with dozens of little torches.
The rockets are firing. Oh this is bad. This is really fucking bad.
At least one group of Rush flight controllers have gotta be thinking they are fucked unless drastic measures are taken immediately, and they've decided to abort the mission or significantly change its profile. There must be over thirty flickering jets visible now on that overhead, altering trajectory in near-unison. But he can't make out which logos, and there is no way he is going to have Brent flip on Theo's laser tracking again to find out. Anyway, if the rumours from Titan are correct, it could even be all the rockets. It certainly looks that way. A few flicks of his fingers, and he has brought up the drone-oscope's intraweb interface next to the main overhead, setting it to 5 seconds of additional slow pullback, and then Theo's lash-up manipulates the knobs on the amateur kit to zoom as instructed, revealing more torches, more Rush rockets firing, with every rotation of its gears.
Brent's eyes are wide, finally appearing to understand the gravity of the situation. His never-not-bored demeanour evapourates off him visibly and rapidly, like ice off a comet.
Everyone is motionless and silent now, their faces glued to that telescoping video feed. Not even the sound of Leon's empty space suit falling over, crashing through the airlock's inner hatch, and landing with a roll in the crew corridor, is enough to startle a single word out of anybody. The rockets' flames begin to tuck in behind them as they creep a little closer. Leon strains forward to catch sight of something, anything...
And that's when he twigs to it. The Bigboys are coming closer, but they can't be returning to near-Earth orbit. That was expressly forbidden by the international agreements that made a coordinated Mars Rush possible. There is really only one of the remaining possibilities that makes any sense. The miners are landing.
Bitcoin is landing on the Moon.