Time passed quickly. The human-formation computer operated for a year and four months. Subtracting out the time spent to adjust the programming, the actual processing time was approximately a year and two months. During this time, processing had to be stopped twice due to extremely bad weather in Chaotic Eras. But the computer stored the data at the time of each shutdown, and was able to resume calculations successfully after the pauses. By the time Qin Shi Huang and the European scholars ascended the pyramid again, the first phase of the computation was complete. The results precisely described the orbits of the three suns for the next two years.
It was a chilly dawn. The torches that had kept the motherboard lit through the night were extinguished. After the final calculation, Qin I entered standby mode. The turbulent waves over the motherboard settled into light ripples.
Von Neumann and Newton presented the scroll with the results of the computation to Qin Shi Huang. Newton said, “Great First Emperor, the calculations were completed three days ago. We waited until now to present the results to you because they show that the long night is about to be over. We’ll soon welcome the first sunrise of a long Stable Era, which will last more than a year. Judging by the orbital parameters, the climate will be extremely mild and comfortable. Please revive your empire and order everyone to be rehydrated.”
“Ever since the start of this computation, my empire has never been dehydrated,” Qin Shi Huang said in a huff, grabbing the scroll. “I’ve devoted all the resources of the Qin Empire to maintain the operation of the computer, and we’ve run out of stored supplies. For this computer, countless people have died of hunger, cold, and heat.” Qin pointed into the distance with the scroll. By the dim dawn light, they could see tens of white lines radiating from the edges of the motherboard in every direction, disappearing over the horizon. These were the supply routes from every corner of the empire.
“Your Imperial Majesty, you will find that the sacrifices are worth it,” Von Neumann said. “After mastering the orbits of the suns, Qin will develop by leaps and bounds, and will grow many times more powerful than before.”
“According to the calculations, the sun is about to rise. Great First Emperor, prepare to receive your glory!”
As if in response to Newton’s words, a sliver of red sun peeked over the horizon, bathing the pyramid and the human-formation computer in a golden light. A wave of joyous cries rose from the motherboard.
A man hurried toward them. He was running so fast that, as he knelt down, he couldn’t catch his breath. He was the emperor’s astronomy minister.
“Sire, the calculations were in error. Disaster is about to befall us!”
“What are you babbling about?” Without even waiting for the emperor to speak, Newton kicked the man. “Don’t you see that the sun is rising at the exact moment predicted by our precise calculations?”
“But…” The minister half straightened, one hand pointing at the sun. “How many suns do you see?”
Everyone gazed at the rising sun, confused. “Minister, you received a proper Western education and obtained a doctorate from the University of Cambridge,” Von Neumann said. “You must at least know how to count. Of course there’s only one sun in the sky. And the temperature is very comfortable.”
“No. There are three!” The minister cried, tears flowing from his face. “The other two are behind that one!”
Everyone stared at the sun again, still confused.
“The Imperial Observatory has confirmed that right now we are experiencing the extremely rare phenomenon of a tri-solar syzygy. The three suns are in a straight line, moving around our planet at the same angular speed! Thus, our planet and the three suns are in a straight line with our world at the end!”
“You’re certain that the observation is not in error?” Newton grabbed the collar of the astronomy minister.
“Absolutely certain. The observation was conducted by the Western astronomers of the Imperial Observatory, including Kepler and Herschel. They’re using the largest telescope in the world, imported from Europe.”
Newton let go of the minister and stood up. Wang saw that his face was pale, but his expression was one of pure joy. He clasped his two hands in front of his chest and said to Qin Shi Huang, “Oh Greatest, Most Honorable Emperor, this is the most propitious sign of them all! Now that the three suns are orbiting around our planet, your empire is the center of the universe. This is God’s reward for our efforts. Let me check the calculations one more time. I will prove this!”
While the rest remained stunned, Newton slipped away. Later, others would report that Sir Isaac had stolen a horse and left for parts unknown.
An anxiety-filled moment of silence later, Wang suddenly said, “Your Imperial Majesty, please unsheathe your sword.”
“What do you want?” Qin Shi Huang asked, baffled. But he gestured at the soldier by his side, and the soldier pulled the sword out of its scabbard.
Wang said, “Please try to swing it.”
Qin Shi Huang held the sword and waved it around. His expression turned to one of surprise. “Oh, why is it so light?”
“The game’s V-suit cannot simulate the feeling of diminished gravity. Otherwise we’d feel that we’re much lighter as well.”
“Look! Down there! Look at the horses, and the men!” Someone cried out. Everyone looked down and saw a column of cavalry moving at the foot of the pyramid. All the horses seemed to be floating. Each horse drifted over a long distance before the four hooves struck ground again. They also saw several running men. With each step, the men leapt a dozen meters, falling slowly back to the ground. On top of the pyramid, a soldier tried to jump up, and easily reached the height of three meters.
“What is going on?” Qin Shi Huang looked at the soldier slowly falling back down.
“Sire, the three suns are over our planet in a straight line, so their gravitational forces are added together.…” The astronomy minister tried to explain, but discovered that his two feet had already left the ground and he was now horizontal. The others were also floating in the air, leaning at different angles. Like a bunch of men who had fallen into water without knowing how to swim, they clumsily waved their limbs, trying to stabilize themselves but colliding into each other instead.
The ground they had just left now cracked open like a spiderweb. The cracks grew fast, and, accompanied by thunderous crashes and sky-obscuring dust, the pyramid below them broke into its constituent blocks. Through the slowly drifting gigantic blocks, Wang saw the Great Hall below come apart. The large cauldron that had once cooked Fu Xi and the iron stake to which he had once been bound were both adrift.
The sun rose to the middle of the sky. Everything that floated—men, colossal blocks of stone, astronomical instruments, bronze cauldrons—began to rise slowly, then accelerated. Wang glanced at the human-formation computer and saw a nightmarish sight: The thirty million men who had formed the motherboard were floating away from the earth and rising, like a swarm of ants sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. The ground they left behind clearly displayed the marks of the motherboard circuits. The set of intricate, complex markings that could only be taken in from a great height would become an archaeological site that would confuse the next Three Body civilization, in the distant future.