Rise of Glie Chapter 38

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Previous: Rise of Glie Chapter 37: One Box

FHD Remix: The Rise of Glie

Chapter 38: Eternity

[Author's note: There is an homage to Tarja Turunen's My Little Phoenix, seventh track of her first solo album, My Winter Storm.]

The Toga stares at the Communicator for a few moments after the strangely uniformed individual has disembarked from the motorized cart. Tender hands sign slowly, "Greetings, sir. Pending your approval of Wire Factory's production plans for the Mark Three computer, we trust that this will be the last shipment of single transistors. Wire Factory has also developed two new types for power control: the <<flat>> junction and the <<argon shunt>> type. They call it <<argon shunt>> even though it has no argon in it." [She is referring to what are known in real history as the Hoerni planar transistor introduced by Fairchild and the "thyratron" transistor introduced by IBM, the original thyratron being the gas-filled electronic tube it replaced. Things at Wire Factory are being invented in a different order than they were in real history.]

The Toga claps the back one hand into the palm of the other. In Toganese, this is laughter. [In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Bajorans applaud in this way.]

The Communicator's feathered wings droop slightly, conveying a lack of understanding. "<<Argon shunt transistor>> couldn't have been that funny," the hands explain.

"Ashfeather Number," the Toga signs at last, "The halo and wings are a dead giveaway, but we still appreciate the gesture. It's two-long, two-short, if you didn't recognize me."

"Not a clue," she confesses.

"We really want this new computer of yours to work properly for our customers," he explains, "so we have been doing comparative runs with our seven-crate, as we call the Mark Two. If you're curious, the two-truck, our name for the Mark One, which fit in nineteen crates, was the vacuum tube operated beast we designed for our partners outside. Believe it or not, a hundred and twenty of them exist, at least. There may be more vacuum tube computing systems of which we are not aware."

The Toga finds a thick sheaf of finely printed reports for her, "Other than the register bug you told us of last week, the biggest problem with the Mark Three is that a certain driving wire in the core unit doesn't get enough power. After reading your developer's report, we decided to part it to a controlled power supply, along with select other driving wires in the plane, and we have localized the flaw to..."

Bangou is astonished to hear that this bug, along with several others, the Toga have put in the effort to narrow them to individual dice. Of another twenty bugs, they supply voluminous information that will help Wire Factory fix the problems in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

"The division bug you mentioned," the Toga goes on, "only affects a few instructions, and so we went to the developer's manual you gave us last week. If we've read this right, there is a bug in the microcode, rather than the logic itself. We are very impressed with how you redesigned the logic. Your logic package runs its simple set over five times as fast as seven-crate, and even with the encoding, decoding, and microcoding stuff, little fruitbox is still a bit faster."

Bangou lets loose an amused squeal with her Toganese laughing gesture. "Fruitbox," she signs, "I like it. Very fitting description."

"We brought in a second transistor wiring machine and have seven-crate running this one," he points, "and fruitbox running this one."

"Seems to be working fine," she notes.

"Workarounds," the Toga notes, "See how the fruitbox machine's armature makes this little nonsense jig sideways that seven-crate doesn't. That avoids triggering the division bug."

"How many more seven-crates do you plan to build?" Bangou asks.

"As few as possible," Two-long Two-short answers, "Number Five is undergoing assembly in an outside camp, the modules are finished and she is going through acceptance tests. We are about thirty-five percent through transistor wiring of Number Six, this shipment, if it's more than four thousand four hundred..."

Bangou checks the manifest to see that it is not; they need about two thousand more transistors.

"...we'll have all the transistors, assuming fruitbox doesn't wreck too many more," the Toga explains. He looks at the cart's second trailer and asks, "What's that?"

"A mask cutting machine," Bangou explains, "We can only unveil it in a cleanroom, but we have written a program for fruitbox that I'm pretty sure will run on seven-crate if you try it. So far, it will only cut the masks for the latch registers, but when we go into mass production, we will need lots of them. A mask will only last through about five to ten batches."

"Oh," the Toga signs, "Why? The optical printing processes of integration shouldn't be that hard on masks."

Bangou turns to him, and signs slowly, "Optical what?"

The Toga signs, "Don't you transfer the mask pattern to the integration wafer using an optical process and photographic chemicals?"

"No," Bangou responds, "The mask is applied directly to the wafer, and only allows the process to affect the transistor areas selected for a particular process step. Removing it in good enough shape to use for the next one is quite difficult, and each mask must be inspected before its next use. We're getting better at it. I've never heard of <<photographic>> before."

"Oh, dear," he signs, "Let us sell you the books we based that assumption on, and for next week, we can prepare an estimate for what you will need in terms of photographic chemicals and equipment to allow you to experiment with these processes. Before the Final War, these processes developed for almost two hundred years. You will need the older ones first as a foundation."

"How fancy did it get, if you don't mind my asking?" Bangou says, "Please reveal nothing about the Final War itself. We trust our wall."

"Multiple component layers with features measured down to about five hundred picometres. A picometre is a millionth of a micrometre, your features are currently fifty of those, so about..." the Toga pauses to figure, "about a hundred thousand times as large in one dimension, so about ten billion times as large in two. We have confidence in you, since the first fifty years of semiconductor development saw features down to ninety nanometres in a single component layer, with integrated capacitors and resistors. Oxide insulation was allowing seven layers of printed wiring above the component layer. There is one called Implant among you that seems to understand all this intuitively. We pray for him always, that he may, even in the tiny community inside this wall, use that understanding to outpace history." The Toga taps through the tarp onto the mask machine, "No disappointments in that regard so far."

Implant? Bangou scrounges her head to try to sound out what that would be in Japanese. She realizes that it's on Fushoku's tag at Wire Factory. "Corrode" that she always saw was on his Old Home name tag.

The Toga makes a quick gesture to the crow standing in the tree, who perks up, caws twice long, twice short, then after a pause, caws three short calls, followed by a long one.

Bangou finds herself glad of the mask, that the Toga can't see the look on her face.

Another Toga emerges from the "translator" tent with an outrigger pallet lift and in a couple of minutes, the cart's two trailers and small bed are unloaded. A few minutes later, it is stacked with lumber, drywall, books, and filled fuel cans, along with a bag of delta-resistant wild rice as a free sample. One of the Toga hands her a small glass jar wrapped in a cloth and bows deeply, then apparently waits for her to return the gesture.

Bangou has no idea, so she carefully unwraps the jar. Based on the trembling of the Toga's hands, this is obviously not something that the elder Communicator normally does.

Hikarinium flakes.

She carefully rewraps it, hands it back and signs, "So sorry, let me try that again."

The ceremony is repeated, with Washi giving the proper reception to the special flakes of halo metal recovered from the shipment while it waited between the inner and outer gates.

"Always remember your hairnet, Teisei," Fushoku says, "with hair like that, I might not catch it if you miss."

"I was just testing you," he says with a grin as he tightens his head garmet, "I almost missed it day before yesterday, and you didn't notice. I felt the breeze in the airlock and realized it couldn't possibly be there."

"Good thing you're not an astronaut," Fushoku says with a pat on his shoulder.

"Good thing I'm working for you and not Stanley," he says, "He'd have sacked me by now, I"m sure."

"I doubt it," Fushoku says, "I can tell you have an uncompromising attitude about your work. Actually, Stanley keeps those who compromise their work too, but they just move bricks and lumber between those who don't, so that the only things they can hurt are their toes."

The walls in the dressing room and the well-ventilated airlock designed to keep the dust from getting from the dressing room to the cleanroom, as well as the production floor itself, are all painted semi-gloss white so that it is very easy to tell when they're dirty. There are some black checkerboard sections so that light-colored crud is also easy to spot.

"Oh," Hane says, catching up, "Can I get through on this bunch?" She is rapidly buttoning up so that she can join them on this trip through the airlock into the cleanroom.

"Where's Bangou?" Fushoku asks.

"It's Tuesday, remember?" Hane giggles, "You know, the Toga, Washi's day off?"

"So, today," Fushoku says loud enough to be heard over the ventilation, "We're hoping to break a new total record by topping thirty percent yield on the two register batches we started yesterday. Where are we at with yours?"

"Fifty-five percent," she answers, "I lost a whole wafer because the p-mask busted in half during removal. It's tricky to remove the right amount of material to get the mask off without polishing the doped areas right off the wafer."

"No, it's my fault," Fushoku says, "The rouge is too hard. It's wearing the masks out faster than I expected. I-"

"What's wrong?" Teisei asks. Fushoku sort of looked away, lost in thought for a moment.

"We need to get that light stuff soon," he says, "In my dreams, I used light to transfer the mask pattern to the wafers. It was way more complicated than my glasses." Normally, he leaves those in his lunch room locker since he doesn't need to see long distances and can't do inspections while wearing them. They are just a collector of the organic crud his face normally produces, but which wreaks havoc with the product. "But," he goes on, "there was something to put on the wafer that reads the light. I just haven't figured out what it is yet."

As the day comes to a close, the haibane have met their production goals, although they're clocking out forty-five minutes late.

Hane emerges into the lunch hall first, popping her hair loose from the confining bun, leaving the strawberry strands with irregular waves. As she combs it out, she notices a book on the table with a note that says, "Can't stay, making other deliveries. - Bangou"

The book is a tattered hardcover text entitled "History of Integrated Circuit Fabrication". She opens it and flips through. "My God," she gasps, "We know nothing!"

"What's wrong?" Fushoku asks as he emerges from the dressing room.

"Nothing," Hane says, nearly in tears, "That stuff about the light you were babbling about this morning..."

"What about it?" Fushoku asks.

Showing him the page, Hane sobs, "It's called <<photoresist>>."

Fushoku looks breathlessly at a couple of pages, then closes it to see the title, "Where did this come from?"

"Ask Bangou," Hane suggests, "She left this note."

That night, she has the strangest of dreams. She is in a different city, one far older than Glie, with far smaller and simpler walls. She wears a shawl to hide her hair and follows a noisy procession with a trail of blood. Three men are being led to their executions. One stubbornly presses on, carrying a large piece of wood on his back while the other two are whipped to get them to move. He is in the worst shape of the three by far, so beat up you can hardly tell he was human. The guards with strange brush hats and steel spears called triari take another man from the crowd of onlookers and force him to carry the wood for the death row prisoner.

Bangou finds a woman bawling louder than the rest and comes to her to ask.

"My son," she responds sadly, "My eldest son."

"What was he convicted of?" Bangou asks.

"Nothing," the woman responds, "Nothing at all. He has never done anything wrong in his whole life. He's the only person who was ever like that, and he's being executed for being that person. The Saviour of the world."

"Saviour?" Bangou gasps. He never looked like this in her other dreams.

< I gave up my wings for all,> she hears his voice in his head, <and laid down my life for all.>

She becomes aware it is a dream, and suddenly feels her wings again.

Bangou asks, "Ma'am, what is your name, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Miriam," she answers.

<Would you give up your wings for me? Help me win those souls outside, like Shiden before you. Love them as I love you?> he asks.

"Love who?" she asks.

Miriam does not hear her. The Saviour answers, <The monsters outside the wall. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Do good to those who hate you. Isn't it normal for one to love those who love him, and hate those who hate him? It is special to do this, Bangou. You may serve me in this special way.>

Two characters form in her vision, "万劫".

She bolts awake. Oh, it's my turn to cook breakfast. Quickly, she gets dressed and heads to the east wing kitchen.

As breakfast begins, she sits down with Fushoku, Haoto, and Aware and casually asks Aware, "Since you're the eldest haibane, I was wondering if you ever knew someone named Shiden?"

Aware responds uncomfortably, "Shiden ... uh ... Flew ten years ago, shortly before we fused the dyke."

Bangou can tell he's lying, and decides not to press. The curiosity about this "Shiden" that the Saviour mentioned festers in her, and she can hardly wait to get Aware alone to press him for the truth. She soon finds a dictionary to look up the characters she saw in her vision.

"Are you okay, Bangou?" Aware asks, noticing her discomfort.

"Oh, fine," she says, biting her lower lip as she returns the book to the desk.

Eternity is set in her eyes, and it is probably obvious to Aware. The two characters that ended her dream mean "Eternity" and are pronounced "Bangou".

Next: Rise of Glie Chapter 39: Old Wings

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