“Are you saying we’re living in a simulation?”
“Am I saying…what? No. Jesus, Barta; would you sit down and focus? This is why…” Vetterman trailed off and waved her hand. She was smug, sitting behind her walnut desk, wearing her uniform as naturally as her own skin. Barta used to have a uniform too. All snakes had to shed their skin from time to time. Her time would come.
“This is why what?” asked Barta. There was as much bark in his voice as there was whiskey on his breath. They both smelled it. The difference between them was that he didn’t give a shit. And that was the only difference.
“Just sit. I’m trying to give you a command post again. Don’t be difficult.” She waited, and then motioned with her eyes to one of the upholstered armchairs across from her.
He sat. But only because he felt like it.
Vetterman leaned forward, placed one hand on top of the other on the pristine desk top. She was controlling the surface area of her desk as if its borders were contested. Barta ground his teeth.
“I’m talking about the multiverse,” she said. “We’ve created another universe, connected to this one, and just as real.”
“A tunnel?” Barta interrupted.
“Sure, if that’s a helpful way to think about it. Now this other universe, we’re going to use it as a giant computer. In fact, we’ve already started. It’s full of stars, and we’re turning each on into a sort of processor called a Matrioshka brain. The name’s not important, but you wouldn’t believe what they can do.”
Barta ran his thick fingers through his gray-streaked hair. “So what do I do? Hmm? This sounds like a lot of enginerd bullshit to me. What needs killing?”
There was a silence. She was trying to find a way to circle around the facts, but he was merely bored. And thirsty.
“Fine,” she said. “This new universe; it’s developed life—completely emergent—and it’s causing disruptions for the construction crews. We need someone to handle it.”
Another silence. Barta let it hang, savoring it. He was in control now.
“You need someone unaffiliated; someone with a record who you can roll on if it goes public.” Vetterman said nothing. That was as good as a confirmation. “But I’ll tell you something else,” he went on, “I know you didn’t make this other universe. Stars take hundreds of millions of years to form, and for what you’re doing you’d need the second generation at least. This is an invasion. You’re invading another universe and you need me to take out the inhabitants.”
She shook her head and began to protest, but Barta stood up. “I don’t care. I’ll do it. I just want you to know that I know. You may have these special star computers, but your brain’s no better than mine.”