by Stewart Wilson
America in the 1960's was a very special place to be alive. The power of the atom had unlocked potential, and the craze for science fiction movies drove experimentation under an American president who had seen one too many. The sciences advanced in leaps and bounds, but researchers at Science City Zero were too busy making new developments to catch the world's imagination.
So the hippies took over the world. The talented were spirited away to research labs while the United States went mad around them. The USSR took Cuba, then Florida, but there was just one more breakthrough coming and then it all wouldn't matter.
In the end, the market was flooded with Russian goods. The workers had a chance to create and to innovate, to show the capitalists what a workforce could really do. Sputnik toasters, Volkov televisions. They brought the technological ideal back to the West. A steady but technically illegal trade in high quality Russian electronics started to thrive. That market drove more development. Pandering to their captive audience, the factory-cities churned out mass-produced cars that ran on hydrogen fuel cells. They used the few secrets that the American labs had leaked to bring science to the people.
Then the ants attacked.
Nobody knew where they came from. Fifty feet tall ants capable of spitting poison. A hideous mistake of atomic engineering gone wrong, said the press. The US government was quick to respond, dispatching military forces with laser guns and jet packs. They were co-ordinated by the Atomic Brain Trust, an experiment in using nuclear energy to enhance the electromagnetic connections in the brain. The only side effect was that the brain lived in a jar. But it was okay. It was even photogenic. The jar had little wheels and jets of it's own, and honestly didn't mind.
East and West began to collaborate. The Soviets turned out the things that the Americans had been experimenting on. Instant communication. Newer, deadlier, weapons. And more atomic brains, humans bootstrapped to weakly-superhuman ingelligences by forces that nobody fully understood. It became the new chic, to have your brain decanted into a jar. And boy, were they smart.
Some cultures strive for development. They push and push to make more, bigger, faster, bolder. And if they dodn't level off, these cultures pass a point of no return. Their developments beget more developments. And soon enough, they encounter a singularity. A moment of maximum change.
For the Atomic Earth, that moment came on June 31st, 1972.
One of the new technologies that crystallised on the downward slope after the singular peak was dimensional travel. Nobody knows how. They carve across parallel Earths, some touched by singularity already, some yet to go.
Until they come here. At Sellafield, Three Mile Island, Leibstadt, Beaver Valley, and Dampierre, they have come. Some of them are still disembodied brains in technological marvels. Others have uploaded to clouds of energised particles, or have cooling rods jutting out of heavily modified skulls. Whatever they look like, they're here for the same thing.
Each universe has information encoded in it's gamma waves that describes the whole of the universe, much like a fragment of a hologram. The brain trust want to learn about every universe that they can. They want nuclear textbooks for their atomic minds. And they are here.