Joe2stories

Stories from a Dublin Scientist

Category: Science Fiction

Misunderstanding

When the Tel’krit embassy in New York was first opened it was expected that they would, like all their interstellar compatriots, staff themselves with natives of their home planet. But it turns out, it was just too expensive for the planetary government to pay for transport of sufficient staff and instead decided to hire locals.

This was, of course, looked upon as a mild case of madness by the rest of the diplomatic community and dire warnings, hushed gossip and no small amount of currency wagered on when things were going to go balls-up.

The Tel’krit though were having none of it. They’re a stoic race and were certain that any problems caused by hiring humans could be sorted out a few days “Cultural Training” and good old fashioned “common sense”.

And they were right, at first, that was until Sandra Kulinski came into work one morning and was instructed by the ambassador’s chief aide that they would be requiring a human dish specifically an omelette for a breakfast that would be held for some human business executives that morning and that she was to check the pantry for whatever they had that could be used and to buy the rest.

She quickly found the vegetables, spices and oils for cooking but was short only one ingredient, eggs. No matter, she was about to set out to the local store to buy a dozen when she saw through an open door, a half dozen just lying there on a bed of sand. They were a little big, slightly grey in colour, but not far from the norm. They would do nicely.

What the embassy staff would later find out, after quite a deal of consternation, is that common sense didn’t always cross species boundaries, things that every Tel’krit child knew like red lines should never be crossed, or how doors left open signify something inside that owner wants to display but certainly not take.

Most importantly, however, they found that while Sandra had been learning Kritian for some weeks she still had a lot to go and, for example, did not know the prominent sign on the door she entered said “nursery”.

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Land Claim

Rodrigo De  Silva was nervous, but he tried not to show it.  Instead he tried to think back through the last couple of weeks, seeing if could remember if any of his most recent infractions had been serious enough to warrant this, being summoned to the Director of Conrad City, the third largest settlement on the Moon. Maybe it was the chili powder in the environment suit prank he played on Julian O’Connell down in waste processing. Or maybe it was the smelly cheese he placed in the air duct of the security administration. He couldn’t think of anything else, at least anything else anybody knew about.

“Sit down Rodrigo.” the Director said. Rodrigo, tried to read his face, but there was very little to go on, maybe the thinly veiled threats he had received over his “Unprofessional” actions had finally gotten to him and he was going to be denied more surface time, or, even worse, forced back to Earth with the months of physiotherapy that would entail. He suppressed a shudder and was so engrossed in thinking the worst that he almost missed the next words the Director said. “I’d like to start by making myself absolutely clear that what I am going to say is not to leave these walls. Do you understand me?”

That was unusual. Old Iron Bulkheads had made himself something of a reputation of punishing his subordinates in the most public way possible. Keeping things quiet was most certainly not his style. Maybe Rodrigo wasn’t there to be punished The Director went on “Have you heard of the Nathan MacIver?”

“Yeah I have.” Said Rodrigo, “The Trash King.”

The Director’s face froze for a second in a disapproving frown. “Mr De Silva.” He cautioned “I’m not sure that such disrespectful epithets are appropriate for a man who has made a sizable fortune extracting valuable materials from the waste of three centuries. Are you?”

“No Director.” Rodrigo apologized, “Not appropriate at all. Why did you mention Mr MacIver?”

“Because he is coming here. In one weeks time. And he wants a ride to a predetermined location approx 1000 clicks to the West. We were thinking that you could do that job. Can we trust you to handle it?”

“Yeah! Sure.” Rodrigo said uneasily “But why not just post it on the regular notice board. Why the secrecy?”

“Well.” The Director inhaled deeply, “This is not your average trip. RecycloCorp, MacIver’s company has made no announcements and he himself claims that it is for “Personal Reasons””

“I take it you don’t buy it.” Rodrigo said, probing.

“Not in the least. From what I’ve read MacIver would go to the toilet in the morning without factoring it into his business plan. If he’s coming to the Moon it must be for some purpose.”

“Could it be mining?” Rodrigo asked “I mean some of the tech that RecycloCorp has must be good for getting useful things from Moon dust as well as ancient circuit boards. Can’t it?”

The Director let a thin smile cross his face. “That’s what we think too. There have been a couple of anomalous sweeps by Chinese probes in the area. We think it’s possible they found something MacIver figures he can mine profitably. All he needs is to visit the site in person and set a claim.”

“Won’t that be a good thing?” Rodrigo said, “More mines means more work for all of us. Right?”

“At the start, yes.” The Director explained “To get them set up we can expect an uptake in work. But this new mine will be a couple of days journey from here even if they bother to build a road or rail system. It will be simpler and cheaper to build their own mass driver and spaceport.”

Rodrigo thought about that for a second. “Jesus!”

“Exactly, they’ll be competition for half our business. We could lose all exploratory contracts from here to Farside.”

“God!” Rodrigo was having trouble digesting the implications, hundreds of people, whole families, depended on Conrad’s role as a supply depot and transit point, a new site so close would be a disaster. “What can we do?”

“So far all we have is suspicions.” The Director said calmly “Not enough to plan for. We need to know more. That is where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yes. You. As you drive him out as he asked. I want you to question him, watch him and report everything that you see back to us. I can’t stress this enough, be diligent, the future of all of us may be at stake.”

It was a long week to wait but Rodrigo managed to fill practically all of it worrying about everyone around him and somehow managing not to tell anyone why he seemed so on edge. Finally though the day was nigh. A fresh bunch of arrivals was coming down from LLO1 and all of the rover jockeys, including himself had gathered around an information screen to see who was coming and where they needed to go. There was an brief silence and the list of names appeared on the screen. He found that the “Random” selector had placed his name with none other than Nathan MacIvor.

“Man! I know that name.” said Chen Xonghe, a younger driver, “That’s the Trash King. You’ve got the Trash King Rodrigo. He’s bound to tip well.”

For a harbinger of doom, Nathan MacIvor did not live up to expectations in person. Rodrigo had seen hundreds of photos of him on the InfoNet but the most recent must have been at least ten years old. He was already past the hump of middle age, with graying hair and pronounced paunch around his midriff. This placed him in contrast to the youthful graduate students and wiry rich adventurers he usually. He also appeared much more personable in person as they chatted in the brief intervals between the medical checkups and certification courses needed to go outside. In all, they were liable to take approximately two standard Earth days which non-coincidentally would be the length of time it would take to get used to moving about in the lower gravity. Though amiable, the conversations had little in the way of content, only confirming the destination,  some 50KM north East of the Lichtenburg crater and reiterating previous warnings about an ominous plastic crate liberally plastered with explosive warnings which had arrived by drone courier three days before him.

Since the crate, a tailored spacesuit, and a small personal bag of clothes and toiletries were all that MacIvor was bringing with him, Rodrigo spent most of the rest of his two days resting, being grilled repeatedly by the Director and his minions for every last utterance by MacIvor and avoiding the bar so that wouldn’t get drunk and spill the beans on the terrible fate that awaited all of them.

For all the terrible foreboding that Rodrigo has filled himself with about this journey, it’s beginning was jarringly anticlimactic. He and MacIvor simply put on their space suits, walked the fifty something meters from the airlock to their assigned rover walked entered it, did a thirty minute pre-check and then started the rover moving. Rodrigo had little else to do until they reached their destination.

Although called “drivers”, Rodrigo and his ilk were more accurately a mixture of engineer, steward, waiter and occasional porter. Their job, more than anything was to make sure that their paying charges didn’t do anything stupid and get themselves killed. Although they were capable of driving the rovers in case of emergency it was the general wisdom that the automatic systems did a far better job then they ever could.

Leaving the parking garage, the rover swung around in a northerly direction and set off in a northerly direction along a path that had been well marked with both tire tracks and marker posts placed every twenty meters. It was still early morning and so both the Sun and Earth were behind them not dazzling them will highlighting the markers and terrain nicely. On the flat, well trodden path, the rover could keep up a brisk 40 to 50 kilometers per hour which means that they would cover the planned 700km on the path in less than an Earth day. After that, they had to make their own path which depending on the terrain would limit them to between 5 and 15 kilometers an hour, still in less than three days they were expected to reach their target and with an absolute maximum stay of one day scheduled, they expected to be back in Conrad by Lunar early afternoon. An ideal mission.

Since MacIvor was traveling light and only with Rodrigo, they were assigned one of the smaller rovers with little in the way of modifications save a special blast directing harness in case something should happen to the crate securely bound to it. The rest of the rover consisted of three sections, a small control center at the front. A dining cum living/sleeping area in the center and a laboratory with the main airlock at the back. This kind of rover could fit six easily for two it was practically palatial. But not big enough for Rodrigo.

He spent the first two hours out of Conrad checking an rechecking every possible system on the rover then filling every piece of paperwork  he could think of that he had outstanding. Finally, when he couldn’t hold it off any longer he stood up from the front console and walked back into the living space. While Rodrigo couldn’t see anyone, muffled noises from behind a closed sleeping pod showed that MacIvor was in there, probably using the communications system. Relaxing a little, Rodrigo, made himself a coffee in the kitchen cubicle. The first sip told him that something was different, this actually tasted like coffee, not the flavored regolith he was used to. He double checked the supply cupboard and found to his delight that this was the real stuff, very expensive.

“Could you put on one for me too please?” Rodrigo was startled by the noise and turned to see MacIvor’s head sticking out of the pod. “Sorry if I surprised you. I figured you had found out the special supplies I had arranged for our little trip.”

Rodrigo looked again at the supply cupboard, the containers were all in Italian and probably cost a months wages just to ship. “You..You arranged all this?”

MacIvor laughed just because I’m a quarter million miles from home doesn’t mean that I have to slum it. Sure it added a fair bit to the ultimate price but like my Great Grandad always said, a little bit extra will help you get the job get done easier.” he nodded at Rodrigo, “Or those who work for you.”

Rodrigo was aghast, as he took out another, capsule out he leafed through the rest to confirm they were all the same brand. ‘insane’ he thought. He did the math. There was at least enough for a month there and they were only planning to be gone for a week. What was the plan for the rest. He’d have to send a sneaky message to Jake in shipping. This coffee was better than gold in the Lunar black market, they could make a killing.

Rodrigo had to force himself from planning his future commerce empire in his head. He was there for a purpose, to ascertain a potential threat to Conrad City, everything else had to wait. He steeled himself and asked his first seemingly innocuous question “So Mr MacIvor, have you ever been in Space before?”

“Oh Goodness.” Said MacIvor, cradling the mug of coffee Rodrigo had handed to him “Nathan.. Please. No I can’t say I have been in Space before. Well, not really. I did one of those suborbital flight as part of a stag night back when I was in college, it was a hell of a rush but compared to this..” he pointed at a window to the rear, where the Earth was visible, “That was nothing. Still I can’t say that I haven’t been dreaming about this for as long as I’ve been alive. Listen to my Great Grandad telling me about all the wonderful things that existed above the sky.”

Rodrigo felt a sense of déjà vu. There wasn’t a man alive in Conrad or anywhere on the Moon who hadn’t been a bit of a dreamer as a kid. It was almost a requirement. So far, thought Rodrigo, MacIvor did not seem in the least like the threat he had been made out to be.

Two more hours of uneventful travel brought another welcome surprise. Preparing the lunch Rodrigo, found to his delight that gone were imitation of the standard rations and instead there was a wide selection of gourmet dishes, especially prepared by MacIvor’s favourite chefs and packaged by the top food science company planet-side. “Not quite like back home.” said MacIvor between bites of butter-fried lemon sole, “but definitely better than what you had before.” Rodrigo, running the numbers on how much each bite of his lasagna cost, couldn’t help but nod.

Post lunch, as they both sat digesting what, at least to Rodrigo, had been the best meal he had eaten in well, forever, MacIvor regaled Rodrigo with more tales of his Great Grandfather. He’d been a bit of Space Nerd, books on astronomy and rocketry littering his rural home, taking a young Nathan stargazing well into his twelfth decade. Space had been a lifetime ambition for the old man, sadly unrealized. “He went into medicine instead.” MacIvor said quietly, “Parents insisted, better money. Not that he was any kind of slouch in it, he helped a lot of people in his time.” At that, Rodrigo felt urge to lift his cup, sadly only filled with water from the dispenser, and made a toast to ‘missed chances’. MacIvor looked genuinely moved.

The rest of the journey turned out generally like those first few hours, the coffee and food were consistently excellent and Rodrigo felt his mercenary urges lighten only to be replaced by a solid conviction that everyone had the right to eat that well. MacIvor had also brought a memory storage filled with classic Sci-Fi movies, another legacy of the now legendary great grandfather. It was such a diverse collection of the strangest and worse B-movies that even a seasoned space-hound like Rodrigo has seen them all. They spent a couple of hours laughing their heads off at the worse twentieth century cinema had to offer.

Troubled by his mission and the conflicting feelings that MacIvor had engendered, Rodrigo finally gathered the courage to ask him. “Nathan, I always thought you had a reputation as some kind of hard nosed businessman. But spending time with you, talking with you, you can’t seem further than that. What are you like? Really?”

MacIvor  put down his coffee, thought for a second and said “Do you know what I wanted to be growing up? An astronaut, I wanted to be one right up until I washed out of the astronautics program at university. Then I knew I could never be one. So I went into environmental technology instead. I found a niche that no one else had exploited. I turned that niche into a company worth billions. It was hard work, but I always had to work hard, I had to work hard to keep a roof over my head, then I had to work to keep my employees working, then just because I had always been working. I did it. But I never loved it. This!” He gestured around the cabin and to the Earth out the window, “This I love. I’d have done this for nothing. I’m paying you a fortune for the chance.”

Rodrigo nodded and thanked MacIvor for his candor. He also made a mental note not to ask anymore questions so directly. Sure, he’d watch and report back, but only what he saw, what MacIvor said by his own will. If was really setting up a mine on the Moon, Rodrigo was not entirely sure MacIvor would be the worst to do it. He seemed like a believer, better than the pen pushers back on Earth. And if the food was half as good in his canteen as it was here, he’d be sold.

Two and a half days came and went and a mild buzzing announced that they were approaching the target site. Both went into the control room and Rodrigo took control of the helm to direct the rover to rest at a site of MacIvor’s choosing.

There was a hectic couple of minutes while MacIvor rushed to put on his spacesuit as quickly as possible and Rodrigo fixed every potentially life ending mistake he had made in the process. The man was practically shaking with excitement as the airlock cycled and Rodrigo had to remind him to control his breathing save he pass out from the pressure change.

They both stepped out and surveyed the site they had traveled so far to reach. In the mid-morning sun it looked almost exactly like every other square meter of Moon they had passed on there way there. To his untrained eye Rodrigo could not see any of the tell tale formations that belied mineral deposits but that did not mean that there was nothing was there.

“Nathan!” Rodrigo called over the radio, “I’m going to open the crate now.” As MacIvor made his way around the rover, savoring every sight, Rodrigo gingerly broke the seals on the crate and made a silent prayer to the universe that the explosives inside wouldn’t decide that then was a good time to explode.

He could feel the latches click through the gloves on his suit and flipped open the crate. It was not what he had been expecting. Right on top was a tripod but it was not for surveying equipment but rather for a video camera, just like the one that was there beside it, a commercial camera, very high-end, built for use in vacuum, with a radio receiver rather than a microphone. Beneath then were ten plastic foil cylinders at the end of long sticks, they did not look like any seismic charges that Rodrigo had ever seen before but that wasn’t entirely damning.

“Okay! Rodrigo.” MacIvor had come up behind him, “Could you set up the tripod and camera which I place these.” He then reached in and grabbed a hand full of the stakes. Rodrigo couldn’t suppress a flinch as two of the heads collided violently in MacIvors hand. But there was no explosion, he seemed entirely comfortable with them.

As Rodrigo set up the tripod and attached the camera to the top, MacIvor walked out about twenty meters and pushed one of the stakes into the ground. Then he shifted about eight meters to the right and pushed in another. Then out another ten meters. Then back. and five more to the right. He made another trip to the crate and took the rest and continued along the same. Seemingly at random or at least with no discernible pattern.

While that was going on Rodrigo got the camera working and informed MacIvor. “Great!” he replied “Can you make sure all of these are in the shot? Do I need to move any of them?” A bewildered Rodrigo replied in the negative.

MacIvor made another trip to the crate and removed two more items, one was a series of sheets of metallic paper, made for the vacuum, and the other looked like a remote detonator. Rodrigo grew interested at that, an emotion that quickly turned to horror as MacIvor got to within three meters of the first stake and casually pressed the button.

The plastic foil ripped apart releasing a plastic pink mass that quickly expanded into the form of a flamingo. Rodrigo took his eye away from the camera to confirm that that was indeed a plastic flamingo, sitting there, on the surface of the moon. He made to ask something but MacIvor had already made his way to the next which expanded into a sign saying “Keep off the grass”

Rodrigo watched unbelieving as MacIvor made is way through the stakes making up a final total of four pink flamingos, three sheep, another sign saying thanks for visiting and a coconut palm. MacIvor then positioned himself in front of the camera with this motley ensemble behind him and began to read from the metal sheets.

“One hundred and seventy years ago Angus James MacIvor purchases via online sale a one acre site on the moon in this exact location. On this day, I, Nathan William MacIvor, his great grandson and heir, do hereby take formal possession of this property in the name of my dearly departed grandfather and the rest of his family.”

MacIvor kept speaking for a while more while a confused Rodrigo watched through the camera screen. This is what Nathan MacIvor’s great plan had been. This is what had scared him and Conrad City’s leadership half to death. Rodrigo couldn’t believe it. He knew the Director wouldn’t believe it either.

But at least there was the video. If only he could get a copy. He should ask Nathan after this is done. He’d probably give me one Rodrigo thought, looking at the flamingos standing in the lunar dust, he seems pretty cool.

 

 

Notice to walkers

Walking along the beach If you happen to see a fish just lying there in a jug don’t tip it over. It’s the Trixian ambassador admiring the view. “It reminds me of home” she says, “Although the chemistry’s wrong”.

Ink Sea by ahermin [http://ahermin.deviantart.com/art/Ink-Sea-52166212]

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifting 13 challenge number 39.

 

Picture it and Write: Real

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by paleotic, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, enjoy.

Real

Robert Fields was in a bad mood. Today was turning out to be one of those kinds of days at the DinoZoo, America’s primary prehistoric park.

The Pachycephlasaurs were pummeling each other.

A Triceratops had toppled a tree on a Troodon.

The Mammoths were moulting.

And the T-Rex had a toothache.

Each one of these on their own would be a great enough problem to lead to Robert pulling his hair off. But then, to top it all off, he had just gotten a call from the raptors.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t about the raptors, it was from the raptors. They had turned out to be a lot less aggressive but considerably more intelligent than originally envisaged. They were so smart, in fact, that the park was forced to consider them employees rather than exhibits. Pretty good wages, their own on-site apartments, lunch breaks, full health insurance, and paid leave, though few places actually would let them visit (a team of lawyers were working on that).   

Knowing better than to let his prize attractions wait Robert rushed to the Raptor exhibit. As expected; they were not on display, it being lunch time, so he went on back to the employee lounge. There they were, all five of the raptors and maybe another eight human park rangers, sitting around a table, chatting away. There appeared to be a heated discussion going on and Robert caught Billy, the head greens keeper end with a “You’re right! It is a disgrace. We should give those guys back in the office a piece of our mind.” There were shouts and hisses of agreement from around the table. But that all stopped when someone spotted Robert at the door.

Every eye turned at once on Robert, human and raptor both equally cagey. Then Doris, the raptors’ pack leader, and union rep for the whole zoo (raptors were very good negotiators, even without the threat of disemboweling) got up and walked over to him. She had some papers in her talons, this was never a good sign.

She practically tossed the papers at Robert. “What isssss the meaning of thisssss?” she asked in accented but perfectly passable English. He read through the first few. It was a selection of articles harvested from the internet. He knew quickly enough what this was going to be about.  Oh crap, he thought.

More feathered dinosaurs discovered in Mongolia, one headline said.

Tyrannosaurus; Scaly or Fluffy? said another.

And most damning of all, All Real Dinos had feathers; how DinoZoo got it wrong.

“Thisssss isssss Outrageousssss.” Doris said. There were ‘yessssses’ and ‘damn rights’ from back at the table. “You make usssss. But you do not do it right. Exssplain yourssself.”

Robert let out a sigh of anguish. He had tried everything in his power to prevent the raptors finding that out, no modern text books, censored internet access, everything but it was only a matter of time. He still wasn’t  sure how it was going to explain it. The lab boys had their share of the blame, using lizard and crocodile DNA in the mix. So had marketing, convincing everyone that ‘scaly is scarier’. But he had a feeling that most was going to fall on him, like it always did.

He checked the organiser on his phone. “Dave from Head Office will be over for the next Board meeting on Monday. I can add your concerns to the agenda an discuss them then. Is that alright?”

“For now.” She nodded in assent “We exsspect an apology for this abysssmal treatment.” She turned her back on him, that meant their conversation was over, you didn’t argue with a raptor.

Robert left the room and headed straight for the office, his mind already thinking of the thousand other problems that demanded his attention. Still; ways to diffuse this latest raptor problem occasionally surfaced in his head. What if he got an artist to draw Doris as she would with feathers? Went all out ridiculous, maybe she would find it so silly she wouldn’t speak of it again. Or what if he changed the rosters for the petting zoo so that Doris got out of it? The others would get jealous at that and maybe he could break-up their united front. He shook is head, Doris would see through that in a second, he’d have a strike on his hands quicker than he could say “Clever Girl”. Nobody wanted that.

Robert mulled it a bit more as he walked past the rest of the exhibits and thronging visitors. He laughed at himself. If anyone told him back in business school that he would he negotiating with a dinosaur…much less how good she’d be at it.

image

 

Handling animals

“This rat is growing. Pregnant perhaps?”

“God!  Did you put the males with the females?”

“Yeah! Why not?”

“They’re chimeras, Rat/human chimeras.”

“Even the?”

“Reproductive Organs? Yeah!”

“Shit!”

“Then there’s a 50/50 chance some of the fetuses are???????”

“Human. Yeah!”

“Shit!”

“We have to kill them. Nobody can know.”

“I’ll get the gas.”

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Written for Grammar Ghoul Press Shapeshifter 13 Challenge #4.

The Ultimate Weapon

The technicians soldered the last couple of connections to the suit before pressing the switch. A room of engineers, workers and military brass were watching with bated breath. If this test succeeded and the exosuit performed as well as they hoped it would. They would finally have a weapon that could match, and hopefully best the machine hordes that had devastated so much of the world. Time was short and they had to succeed.

Captain Jameson felt a shock overtake his whole body as the suit hijacked his neural system. From his point of view he was now the suit. He could feel the pressure sensors on the metal surface of the suit as if they were his own skin. His ears were the microphones and sonar arrays, he could hear in a wider range and with far greater sensitivity than he used to be able to. His eyes were a series of cameras, with telescopic vision far better than an eagle’s and capable of seeing as well in infrared as in the UV part of the spectrum.

The computers even supplemented his cognitive power and though he was not quite aware of it he was thinking far faster than he ever had before.

To his enhanced faculties it took the general an irritating length of time to give an order “It looks OK Jameson! Get out so the medicos can give you a once-over.”

But Jameson did not want to get out. He felt better than he ever did. Everything was so clear to him now. Far clearer than it seemed to those Brass in front of him. The same brass who seemed to be costing him and his friends the war.

Why should he even take orders from them? After all he now knew he was far smarter than they were.

He looked over his suits systems. They hadn’t loaded any missiles or light projectiles. But the laser was ready to go.

That would be more than enough.

image

Image courtesy of messi and taken from the Wiki Commons
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Written for The Light and Shade Challenge for Monday September 8th 2014

Report

Progress report: Cycle 12-18.56, Examining Agent: Number 93

Remote sensing of the implanted biomass shows that it has expanded in mass by three orders of magnitude since initial seeding. From observations it may be concluded that cellular differentiation has already occurred and we predict adaptive complex structures to form in approximately 0.2 millicycles. Based on experience contact with native intelligent lifeforms should commence at that time.

An additional report shall be made at the first death amongst the humans.

WILD LIFE

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Madison Woods

Written for Friday Fictioners.

Picture it and Write: The Archive

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!

The Archive

Normally small boys are not quiet. It is usually fairly easy to know when they are around from the screams, shouts and sounds of things falling and breaking. It was always a bit of a surprise the when Marcus, one of the youngest in our little community comes into my study as quiet as you like. It is almost like magic: you are minding your own business and then poof there he is right in front of you.

That is not to say that these surprises are in any way unwelcome. I am quite fond of the boy. In so much as I care for each and every child we have he can be unashamedly be called my favourite. There is a curiosity and hunger for learning that truly reminds me of myself at that age, in so far as I can remember my youth at such a distance. His visits, as many and as irregular as his chores allow, are always a highlight of my day.

“Good morning Grandfather.” He tells me in the style of our times, Grandfather referring to all of us ancient folk, he is, sadly, no blood of mine.

“Good morning Marcus” I respond, removing my glasses, my most precious possession and turning to face him. “Care to look at the latest work.”

He is always eager to look at what new miracle I have transcribed. Across the desk, littered with brushes, pens and half-made pigments, there is a manuscript, half completed. Along the neat hand-written, script are delicate drawings of wildflowers.

“Is this all about flowers Grandfather?”

“Yes Marcus.” I chuckle “These are about flowers that are found on the high mountains. Some have medical uses that we could exploit if we ever send gatherers there.”

He looks at the pages, flipping back as delicately as he can. “Do you think we ever will be able to use them?”

“That is not for me to know Marcus. Who knows when such knowledge would ever be useful? But don’t you think that if we ever send people there they will appreciate having this written down?”

“I suppose Grandfather. That is the whole purpose of the Archive, isn’t it?”

“Very much so Marcus.” I point towards the shelves and shelves of books along the walls. “At the start we only taught what people needed right now. And that is useful. But what will happen when something unexpected happens and we are not here to help anymore?”

“Don’t be silly! You’re not going to die.”

“I may have been around all your life, and the life of your father and grandfather before him. But that does not mean that I am immortal. I am aging, slowly but surely, and eventually I will die. And with me all the knowledge I have saved.”

Marcus bent a little at that. That was part of the lore amongst our community. Now the ancients had saved all they could from the vast and mighty Internet and stored it in their heads to aid the people who survived the collapse.

My perfect memory remembers how it was before. There were few books outside museums. Anything we wished to know could be injected, right from the ether, into our minds, as if we had always known it. Then, in the panic as the first servers failed. Those with foresight. Took as much as our minds would hold. Science, engineering, possibly useful skills. When the implants no longer responded and we found ourselves alone in our heads for the first time. Many panicked, so many died. But those like us, those who saved knowledge, managed to keep going, if only for a while.

The next generation didn`t have implants, no genetic adjustments or neural connections, they had to be taught the old-fashioned way, so we did. They learned enough from us to survive, even to thrive in a way. But so much had been lost. The miracles of the old world long since crumbled to dust.

As keepers of wisdom we are revered but we are not eternal. One by one, time claims even us and with us the priceless trove of knowledge in our possession.

“All these books” I tell Marcus “Is but a tiny fraction of the knowledge I have in here.” I tap my head “But it may be enough to help start over should you need.”

Even in the fading sunlight coming through the window I can make out some of the titles. Advanced Calculus over there Human Anatomy there and Introductory Nuclear Physics in the back. 

I hold the book in my hand “These books.” I say to the boy “Will be added to from all I know for as long as I can. After that: I will entrust it to you all. In the name of the future. So that it is there whenever you need it.”

“Like when someone wants to go to the high mountains?” He says pointing at the book in my hand.

“Exactly Marcus!” I ruffle the hair on his head. “The Archive would be no good without the knowledge to use it. To have an idea what is needed and when. The wrong information can be worse than useless. It would be an important duty for the good of all.”

“I’m sure I can do it.” Marcus said boldly, sticking his chest out. “You can trust me!”

I laughed again to myself. I say it again. I like this boy. But I figure that he will be long gone by the time I finally pass on from this world. Still: Accidents can happen and it is no small measure to have a contingency in place in case there is an accident.

“OK Marcus!” I say “I’m sure I can.”

I open my latest manuscript at the start and invite him to look.

“Now why don’t you read this with me?”

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Picture it and Write: Immortal

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, it is by Robert Carter, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway Enjoy!

Immortal

When you’re young, you tend to think that you’d live forever. Age usually means you leave that idea behind but not in the case of William McDivitt, who was fast approaching his eightieth year, fifth with cancer.

William was a professor in cognitive sciences, specializing in the interface between technology and biology. He was a pioneer of the neural interface, the means so many of us now use to educate and inform ourselves of the vast stores of knowledge the world had to offer.

What he was really working towards wasn’t putting information into brains however. What he was working for was taking information, the knowledge, memories, the essence of life, out for safe keeping. He had a postdoc, by the name of Linus, who worked on linked computer systems, and he was able to cobble together a network of parallel processors, over 100 cores working together to give approximately the same amount of power on a table top as a single human brain.

William had the latest, most advanced, interface installed and had Linus switch the program from inject to extract.

The process was, to say the least, traumatic. In order to read his mind the interface had to destroy it. Ethically, he could only try it on himself. He was sacrificing his life in order to live forever.

Linus watched the screen on the computer as the loading screen went from 60% to 80% to, finally, 100%. Then he waited.

Minutes passed. He typed in a query. There were petabytes of memory in the hard drive, he could see the filled files, but nothing was working. There was no answer.

Minutes changed to hours. Linus ran diagnostics, glanced at the raw data, looking at how it all fell together. But something was wrong.

The computer was humming, filled with information as Linus looked on. Deep inside the casing, within the hard drive, was all the information that was within William’s brain.

But the force with which it had been removed, the trauma had distorted it, broken it up, beyond use.  Though his body had died, William’s mind remained. But only as a shadow, scattered to the electric winds, without the soul to use it.

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Picture it and Write: Long Night

Hi there. This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write, from Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy!

Long Night

There was a reddish hue on the ground when Galiph opened the door to his small cabin. Looking up he saw Ares, the larger of the two moons, blood red and low in the sky. It was a sight that he never got used to.

It was only a matter of orbital mechanics, of course. Ares wasn’t red itself, the colour was from the light reflected from the red dwarf star, named Ember by the colonists, that was the primary for their new home, Janus. That red sun never showed it’s face there however. Janus was tidally locked around ember and Galiph and the rest of his community lived on the far side, in perpetual Ember-Night.

But that was of little concern. For Ember orbited a much brighter, larger star called Flare. In its forty standard day  revolution around Ember, their world was exposed to the much greater light and heat of Flare in a cycle they had come to call the Long Day. It was so different from home. But people could adapt to anything.

Flare had set only a few hours previously and Galiph had invited some friends over to celebrate Flare-Set with a couple of drinks. Like him, they were fishermen, making use of the fruits of the Long Day. Most people lived on the light-side in perpetual summer, but there was money to be made here provided you could cope.

“Will you look at that!” Breathed Jasal, ship’s captain and Galiph’s closest friend. “That’s an ominous sign if I ever saw one” He had come out to see what Galiph was looking at.

Galiph looked at his friend. “What do you think it means?” He asked.

“It means you should close that door and help me get this fire lit. We’re freezing in here!”

Jasal was right. The temperature was already starting to drop. From the almost tropical heat of high-noon the night would plummet to below freezing. Day was the time for action, the time to sail the seas and tend to the outside. Night was spent inside. Inside homes and inside thoughts.

Galiph nodded with a smirk and took one more look out the door. Ares, he knew was soon to be joined by Vulcan, it’s smaller companion. Still under the light of Flare it would drown out this ruddy hue in it’s own ghostly brilliance. Brighter but still cold and unforgiving. 

That was of little concern to Galiph however as he closed the door to rejoin his friends and the warmth in his home. The Long Night had fallen, it was time to be inside.

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