Tagged: fiction

Written in 365 Parts: 108: Tell Them or Don't Tell Them

“What do you intend to tell them?”

“Him?”

“Pardon?”

“He has made it clear that he is more comfortable with being referenced, and identified, as him for the moment. There were still strong socio-cultural distinctions concerning biology and identity from the period in history that he is familiar with. I think some more time to adjust and reframe concepts is required. It’s understandable, the technology to allow the fluidity we all enjoy wasn’t as readily available, and I imagine in many groups acceptable. So using a singular pronoun is more familiar.”

“Good to know. For now. I guess that request was made explicitly.”

“Yup, right after I kicked his ass in the simulator for, I don’t know, something like the fortieth time.”

“So, how do you intend to tell him?”

“What, that his life is a lie? That he is a really expensive clone? That he is not the first one? That he has been imprinted repeatedly for centuries? Or that his mother, their mother, and that’s not a genderless their, it’s the fact that there has been many of him. Their mother is outside and dying? Well, I thought I’d just say; hi Marsh, you’re a clone and your dying mother wants to say hello. She’s in the next room!”

“That seems rather abrupt?”

“Honestly Krennar, you think?” Drick let out a sigh, “I honestly don’t know how to tell him. I am not sure I believe it myself. I have Rodero running checks but so far what they have told me pans out. The person identifying as Marsh’s mother is who she says she is. She has the resources to be able to do a lot. We are going to have to check out the whole story. I would like more information before I let them talk to Marsh, but they are becoming increasingly intransigent. Added to that, I am not sure how much longer I want to keep Marsh in the dark. I also have a raid to plan. And I haven’t heard from two of my most important contacts. So, I have no idea how the rest of this job is progressing.”

“Well it seems you are in a little bit of a quagmire.”

“Do you have any helpful advice?”

“Yes. Invest in time travel technology and go back to a point before you started this stupid enterprise and stop yourself getting involved.”

“Anything a little more achievable?”

“Not really. There really is only one choice. Tell them or don’t tell them is just a scale. Once you are committed to this path it is a choice of how much you say and what level of truth it contains.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. How is his training coming along? Will you be taking him with you?”

“I don’t want to, but I think that I have to. And his training is coming along very well. In fact better than I could have ever hoped. He is a fast learner and he is very enthusiastic.”

Written in 365 Parts: 107: Observation

They looked at their internal chronograph even though their first thought was to vomit. Thankfully they were able to hold that sensation as it would have been messy inside a pressure suit. The readout stated they had been unconscious for fifteen minutes.

Gingerly they opened their eyes and looked around. There was a light smear of blood on the inside of the suit plexiglass, they had a vague memory of the suit buckling towards their face. They ran a diagnostic on the suit and a quick rundown of medical status via vital signs. The suit was damaged and had lost twenty percent integrity but was otherwise fine. A visit to a repair shop for seals and pressure checks would be needed. The medical stats said that they were within standard levels based on their history, though suffering from mild concussion. There was no significant damage or blood loss.

They checked the status of the emergency bubble. Despite being blown downwards by the incredible pressure of the blast it was still intact. The outside temperature was well above two hundred degrees centigrade but was rapidly cooling. That had been a significantly larger missile strike than they had been expecting. They had thought this plan with its heavy reliance on a secure shelter was over-compensating, that was wrong.

They quickly connected to the uplink they had hidden in the desert one hundred metres away. The device took a short time to connect as there was tremendous static. That was again to be expected considering the size of the blast. Once they had a secure link they ran a full connection status including pulling the views from the stealth drones that had been circling the plateau high above. 

They watched as the video showed the strike from a multitude of angels. Whomever wanted them dead was willing to make damned sure that there was nothing left. Oh well that was another small bet that they had lost. But at least they were alive to pay it.

They checked the status of the other drones and a slow smile spread across their features. The first smile for a few days. The drones had been able to follow their visitor back to their vehicle. Even better than that they had been able to follow it as it moved away, they were still tracking it.

The figure unpacked the air shovel and set to work on digging themselves out of their pit.

Written in 365 Parts: 106: The Strike

The smart missile had no possibility of missing its intended target. The short burst micro transmitter was pulsing on a known frequency and guiding it to a precise tactical strike. The explosion was far larger than was warranted considering the target was a small dome fewer than three metres across.  The blast from the compound explosive superheated a five metre radius from the epicentre of the blast. The shockwave travelled a further fifty metres before its energy was expended. There was some ground level damage resulting in a shallow crater.

The strike was intended to be short lived. All of the energy consumed in a devastating wave that would be over in a moment. The fact that the blast energy was consumed in a surgical manner, with no extraneous effects, indicated the quality of the device. Such ordinance was not inexpensive. 

All that remained after a few seconds was a superheated circle was rapidly cooling. There was an area of particles that had been fused into a brittle glass. At the centre once stood some artificial polymers and maybe organic components. A few metals for added variety looking like discouloured streaks. These were all now a homogenous blob, rapidly cooling in the chill air.

The explosion would have been visible for hundreds of kilometres, but there was nothing at this height to notice. The timing was as precise as the strike, occurring when no vehicles were in visible range.

The occupant of the emergency tent had been correct in their suspicions. They did not have much time from when their guest left to the arrival of the missile directed by the pinhead tracer left on the outside of the tent. They had a grand total of eleven minutes and twenty three seconds. But they had been prepared for trouble.

The days spent on the plain waiting had not been spent in vain. While safely hidden from view to the casual observer by the elements, they were also hidden from watchful eyes. They had brought with them a number of useful tools in the kit. The first of these was an air-trench cutter. A small fusion pump fired a jet of compressed air out of a nozzle. It could be used to fine cut through steel or to broad nozzle cut like a spade through soil and sand. The second tool was a mini-super compactor, again fusion powered. The super compactor turned a litre of material into a centimetre cube in a few seconds.

The two tools together had allowed the tent dweller to dig a four metre deep trench three metres in length and two metres wide in a single night.  Then to compact the residue into cubes that were easily combined together with epoxy to line the walls making a brick lined hole. The work was tedious and repetitive but relatively simple. 

It took most of the following day to build the ceiling to the trench using fast drying epoxy and carbon mesh, this was placed a metre below the level of the topsoil. The epoxy and mesh combined had triple the strength of hardened concrete when they set, and could distribute force outwards across their surface reducing any damage from ballistic impression. The remaining gap was again lined with the super compressed bricks and then covered with loose sand. A small hole had been left in the roof of the epoxy, it was large enough for a person to fit through. Then a hatch had been constructed from epoxy and hardened soil that could be lifted out and dropped into place.

When the visitor had left the occupant had unpacked the bedroll and sleeping bag. Moments later they had the hatch opened and had wriggled through the gap making sure to close the hatch behind them. They fast sealed the roof with a quick bonding polymer and then got into the sleeping bag and sealed it from the inside. The bag was not just for sleeping. They set their pressure suit to resist outside forces and fired an emergency gas canister. Within a minute the sleeping bag had inflated to fill the space and increased the internal pressure to six atmospheres. The outer wall of the sleeping bag was made of a heat resistant, airtight and force distributing polymer.

The figure had then waited, for what felt like an agonising amount of time, for the world to end. When it did it was sudden and brutal. There was a flash as some of the energy penetrated through the soil and epoxy. The light of the blast was great but it only penetrated to a small degree so much of the heat was lost. The shockwave that travelled a moment behind it penetrated far further. The inside of the bag suddenly buckled and the pressure went from six to twenty atmospheres which was enough to override the suit systems. Just before consciousness took them the occupant hoped they hadn’t severely miscalculated. Their last thought was “shit.”

Written in 365 Parts: 105: The Visit

They opened the seal on the inner shell of the survival tent and pushed hard on a few locations to get the thick layer of dust from the outer shell. A touch of the static cleanser cleared the last vestiges of wind borne particulates after the tapping on the wall. They opened the seal on the outer shell and nodded at the figure in the stealth suit who was a slim shadow even at this close range. They stepped aside allowing the figure to enter and then resealed the shell.

Once inside the figure turned the active camouflage off on their suit turning it a warm grey, like the occupant they kept their visor shaded and used an intercom, with a voice modulator, to talk. “Do you have it?”

“I do.” They moved over to the kit and pulled out the samples retrieved from the morgue a few days before.

“Did you check the bodies?”

“I did not have enough time to do anything more than a cursory check. It was clear that there was some observation of the building. I was able to evade all sensors and scanners but didn’t want to risk manual sweeps by Judiciary or others.”

“That was wise. The opponents are extremely inventive. They were, however, otherwise occupied so there is a good chance that there is no knowledge of your activities even now.”

“That is satisfactory. You are sure that you left no trail to here.”

“I am confident that they would have had a significant challenge in following me. I assume that you took all necessary precautions.”

“I did. I have also been monitoring carefully the patterns of drones and vehicles, along with satellites, to ensure there has been no observation of my movements or being here.”

“Good.” The visitor had been using a small analysis pack to examine the samples. “The samples are in good condition and match an initial verification. I will need to take them away for further examination to see if they are an exact match. You have done well. You came highly recommended.”

“I assume the same of you.”

“We all have the same immediate master if my understanding is correct. I have been told that the payment will be made in the usual fashion. Is there anything further?”

“I have nothing further. I will be waiting here for some more time to make sure that there is no observation.”

“That is probably over-cautious.”

“As you have stated the opposition is clever so it may be best to assume they may still have some remote monitoring. If they have not followed you then my staying here will further draw conclusions that you have never been. It covers us both. Even if they were to come here there are no samples and you will have left with few traces.”

“I agree with your logic. You will be contacted via your preferred route.”

“Very well.”

The visitor activated the stealth camouflage and very carefully left the survival tent. Once alone the occupant quickly resealed and turned on the static wall to attract the dust and recover the outer shell door. Then they unpacked at speed the bedroll and opened the storage bag in the base of the tent. They may not have much time.

Written in 365 Parts: 104: Time To Exchange

The air was thin on the high plateau but it still had enough body to carry the dust high into the air. It was worse when the winds blew. They lifted particles from across the plateau and scurried about. The dust travelled with it to coat new parts of the world. In this way the landscape was constantly shifting. It was a slow moving ocean that would drown anything that stayed still for any length of time. Hiding it under a unity of emptiness.

After sixty hours on the plateau the small survival tent had been coated with the dust. On one side the winds had built up a small mound, while tendrils of sand stretched out on the other as the particles crashed and tumbled to the ground. From above it looked as if some desert creatures had breached the waves of the land leaving a small wake showing its passage. Soon the desert creature would disappear below the all encompassing ocean, and all traces of the breach would be slowly blown away by the wind.

Inside the person slept. They were used to waiting, it came with the job and so they had practice. They had a library of favourite entertainment on internal storage and enough rations to last for weeks. They could wait here for a long time if they really needed. For some strange reason they took a perverse fascination in the voices that seemed to carry on the wind. It reminded them of past conversations. It was easy to let the mind wander and to have the wind howl out a reply. It was easy to rewrite old losses with the help of a gentle breeze.

The meeting point had been chosen well. Few came to this desolate plateau. There was some mining to be had in the hills and valleys to the west. There were some small farmsteads in meadow valleys to the south. But the only close visitor to this place was the occasional robot drone that flew over at a great height. They would be supply or freight vehicles for the few commercial concerns. But the closeness of these visitors was a deception. Even they were distant specs to be seen in the far distance.

The dawn was a slow affair. The skies lightened in the distance behind the mountains that ringed the whole plateau throwing peaks into sharp silhouette. It took greater than an hour for the sun to breach the lowest peak and cast a grey light upon the dusty land. Then the sun would slip and hide behind the taller peaks throughout the morning, like a child playing seek with a friend. When it was joined by its sibling, who had at least the good grace to rise late and stretch higher in the sky, mixing bright blues into the grey light.

The bright of the afternoon, though, was merely a tease for how quickly the light would fail. Sunset seemed to be a race for the suns to get below the high horizon leaving the plateau dark with the shadows of the mountains casting deep scars on the world. The skies above quickly fell to black even while the sharpness of the twilight cast the rising peaks in a harsh relief.

It was at dusk that the person in the tent heard a gentle crunching of soft steps approaching outside. The tent had been set to stop light escaping to prevent an easy discovery. To find the tent one had to know it was there. The organic waited, a small signal flare on an encrypted screen of their short range comms unit showed a message. They quickly used the public encryption key they had been given to decipher the message. It was their contact. It was time to exchange.

Written in 365 Parts: 103: Off Course

The largest vessels constructed were at the tail of the first wave of colonization. They were behemoths built in the floating dockyards around Titan. Twelve of them were made and each one took thousands of men working for decades to build and fit out. It was said that the wealth of nations were tied into the project.

Each vessel was over five kilometres, long with the largest three being close to nine kilometres. They had a minimum girth of five hundred metres and keel height of twelve hundred metres. They were created for the furthest missions, journeys that would take hundreds of years to complete. They had supplies to last the colonists decades after landing, and were intended to be generational colony supports. 

The majority of their journey would be conducted by autonomous systems. They had some of the most complex artificial intelligences created to run the millions of support systems that were required to safely bring the vessels to their distant homes. The intelligences were sufficiently mature that they had comparable emotional matrices to mammalian lifeforms. As such each main system was governed by ten organic crew. They would take turns to wake once every ten years and spend a year in the company of the intelligence. This pattern would repeat for over two centuries, each crew member would age twenty-three years but the artificial intellect would never be alone.

The ten companions were volunteers and chosen form a varied background to best represent the differing balance of humanity. In this way the artificial intellect would have a broad spectrum of understanding to better serve the colonies that would grow and thrive at their final destination. The ten chosen for each vessel underwent a battery of psychological and physical tests to ensure their compatibility and adaptability. They had over a decade of training to bring them to the height of efficiency.

When the ships left the solar system they were heralded as the most significant step into the unknown. They would go further than any humans dared. Humanity would receive centuries of transmissions each one taking longer to return home as the vastness of distance was crossed. The furthest vessel would only be able to transmit a weak radio signal that would take over a hundred years to return to Terra. 

Out of the twelve ships that left only nine made it to their destination. Two were lost en route to catastrophic incidents. The twelfth ship went silent within a few years of leaving the solar system, all that is known from its transmissions is that it went drastically off course.

Written in 365 Parts: 102: Colonization Futures

The very first type of vessel to explore the outer systems were built by the collective efforts of governments working with contracted companies. Civilisation, the natural curiosity to discover what was beyond the reach of one system, demanded it. The vessels were crewed by volunteers from thousands who applied. They went  to the closest exoplanets thought to be able to support life. The vessels were large and self-sufficient as there would be no rescue if they failed, most would not even have the luxury of a post mortem.

The vessels had some personnel to help with the flight, There were also dozens of robots, mountains of food rations, atmosphere processors and materials to start construction. On landing the colony vessels would become the vast initial foundries that would spur further production. Engine rooms and support systems designed to be turned into foundries and fabrication plants. All of the windows, plexiglass and reflective surfaces could be utilised as greenhouse or solar arrays. Nothing would be wasted. All materials were bolted together so they could be taken apart with sufficient ease.

Many of the early colony vessels made it successfully to the worlds they intended to conquer. The vast majority of those that landed were able to establish colonies. Radio signals took decades to travel back to Sol. The first expansion took close to a century during which technology leapt onwards.

Fewer than half of those first colonies survived a decade. The failure rate in the end was higher than all hoped. But that didn’t stop humanity. A second generation replaced the first even before the initial signals had returned to Terra. This wave of vessels were smaller and contained more robotic assistance, they also contained the first birthing tanks. The earliest colonies spoke of the birth defects and high mortality rates pre- and post-natal. In order for mankind to survive adaptation to local conditions was necessary from virtually the point of conception.

A new breed of humanity would be created, suited to their new worlds. There would be, from this point onwards more than one homeworld for humanity. Terran was now simply a subset of humanity. With this change in perspective eventually came the change in terminology. Human seemed too biased to Earth, it spoke only of Terran humans. So the generalised term people was adopted as a casual universal norm.

The second wave of colonies were far more successful;. The closest exoplanet was a mere thirteen light years away. It was an icy world of Teergarden C, renamed as Boreas after the Greek Goddess of Snow. The world was reachable by the fastest vessels in fewer than twenty-five years as they accelerated to over half light speed. The system was a gift from the heavens, rich in radioactive and heavy elements. Soon mining colonies were established and major corporations started to increase their spread by building new corporate entities in distant systems. The corporate race to colonise and capitalise on space began and Colonization Futures started to dominate stock markets.

This was the third wave of colonization and the largest. This was the Expansion when thousands of ships raced out of the Sol system into the beyond. Many of these vessels were trimmed down industrial behemoths filled with the hardest people that could be employed. They would face death out in the furthest reaches, but their families on Terra and the nearby colonies would have lives of wealth. They sold their lives for a share in the future potential wealth of the Expansion.

Written in 365 Parts: 101: The Expansion

Before The Expansion, the vast colonisation of space when humanity threw itself confidently to the far reaches of imagination, little travel was done outside of the Sol system. Humanity had little interest in the time it would take to reach even the closest neighbour eve if the radiation could be tolerated. The issue was not one of impending doom that gave humanity the impetus to leave its solar habitat. Sol, Terra, the colonies on Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Calisto, Titan and Enceladus thrives and will do so for as long as organic life wishes to exist upon them.

Humanity started this Expansion after the accidental discovery of suspension fields which was a significant time after the ability for human consciousness to be uploaded into a construct program. The suspension fields were vital to allow organic life to thrive in a newly colonised world. Humanity could accelerate up to a percentage of the speed of light using the manipulation of gravitons. However that still left decades or more of travel between potential habitable worlds. But once the vessels arrived they would be barren of life, little organic could survive the acceleration and deceleration never mind the vast ages that the travel may take. What would be used for food. What life could be used to help populate the world, to colonise and control.

Suspension fields held life in stasis. Not all life survived without issue. The simpler the genetic construction, the more likely they would be to survive the journey. Plants, microbes, insects survived in greater numbers than anything of a higher complexity. This was fortunate as such life is needed as the building blocks of colonisation. But it was still a challenge.

The ability to upload consciousness into a program. To allow simpler genetic material to be frozen and suspended. Coupled with medical advances in cloning and tank births allowed humanity to take complex lifeforms as partial electronic algorithms with simple genetic material to the far reaches of space.

Vast colony ships were sent to every potential habitable world over a period of centuries. Humanity threw itself to the stars with the knowledge that they could conquer and populate. There was a near galaxy worth of wealth to be utilised. Light might limit communication, but distance would not limit Influence.

Written in 365 Parts: 100: No Choice But to Stop

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know. You just went along with their request to live birth a baby without questioning what they were going to do, or why they needed to do it? That’s a very trusting stance, or you just didn’t care?”

“Yes I was trusting. Maybe a part of me didn’t, originally, care.  It wasn’t quite that simple. I wanted the wealth and they were offering a lot. I was already greatly desired due to being the close match, but I don’t believe that I was the only person they could have used at that time. I wanted to make sure I was chosen and I wanted to be rewarded. That’s why I signed their contracts and did their bidding. It was selfish, but I felt I had no choice.”

“Whose bidding?”

“Yee On Kline, the Corporation. That’s who did the procedures. They are the ones who looked after me. I assume they are also the ones who originally paid me.”

“So what’s to stop them taking the money away?”

“I am not a total fool. I invested wisely and got good returns. I also had the sense to make sure the only penalty was the return of the original investment. If they try to claw their money back they can do so through the courts and it would not ruin me. It also matters so little now. It has been long enough.”

“You must have heard something? Nobody said anything?”

“I know I wasn’t the only one on the program. And I know this isn’t the only time they tried.”

“The only time they tried?”

“To recreate Marsh. This isn’t the first Marsh and I doubt it will be the last. It takes them fifty years or so to make the copy complete. I guess after those fifty years they use Marsh in some way that makes them useless.”

“Well I wouldn’t put Marsh at being fifty years old.”

“It was thirty-four years ago that I gave birth to this Marsh.”

“Good to know. Where do they get the memories from?”

“I don’t know.”

“What else do you know?”

“Is Marsh alive?”

“I want answers.”

“I need to see him.”

“Why?”

“He’s my child.”

“So.”

“I need to see him.”

“I never said they were still alive.”

“He has to be.”

“How do you know it is fifty years?”

“Please.”

“How do you know it was fifty years? How do you know it makes Marsh useless?”

“Because this isn’t the first child they took from me.”

“What?”

“This Marsh is the eighth child I have had for them. I have been doing this for almost four centuries. But now I have no choice but to stop. That is why I broke them out of there. I needed to speak to them, to say sorry for the other Marsh’s I brought into this universe to be used for some forsaken reason. To say something. To see the man I carried eight times.”

“This is the eighth! And it was you? You broke Marsh out?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you have no choice but to stop?”

“I’m dying.”

Written in 365 Parts: 99: His Mother

“You’re his mother?”

“Yes.”

“If we are talking about the same person they look roughly your age. I gather then that you have a significantly extended life?”

“Of course. As you have already discovered, I am quite wealthy. The medical procedures to keep me looking young, regenerating and yet live a healthy life are expensive but well within my portfolio.”

“And Marsh is your child? What, did you donate an egg?”

“Not quite. Do we have to cover the mechanics of what occurred?”

“You’re damned straight we do. I want to know pretty much every detail. Most of me doesn’t want to believe you.So we will see what you have to say. If there is an elaborate lie that you are trying to spin?”

“There is not. Marsh, the name they are using, is my child. I am their mother. It is a complicated situation. But I gave birth to them.”

“Sure. Well what about the fact that they think they were born over a millenia ago? How do you explain that? Then there is the people trying to kill anyone connected to them. Then there is the fact that a wealthy socialite is slumming it below city levels looking for people who could get her killed. All of that needs more explanation. You seem to have some answers. So go for it. Tell me what is going on. Tell me what you know.”

“Please tell me, are they alive?”

“Marsh?”

“Yes. Can I see them?”

“Explanations.”

“This is hardly fair.”

“I would like explanations.”

“Very well. I will tell you what I know. They were born over a millenia ago. Though not in this current organic form.”

“So, a clone?”

“Not exactly. They had organic material from his original parents. Their gametes are stored in some very secure facility. They used them to recreate as closely as possible a natural reproductive phenomena of the original Marsh. Their is genetic manipulation of the chromosomes and DNA, there has to be. There must be a pattern of the original Marsh’s physiology somewhere, and that is matched. Then the zygote is implanted into a host parent for natural birth. They like the process to be as natural as possible”

“Why?”

“It increases the chances of the process being as close to authentic to the original. Tanks do not a human make. There are slight, but detectable, differences between a fetus raised in a tank and one raised in the womb. That’s what they told me.”

“So you were a surrogate?”

“Yes. I am a close enough biological replication of the original mother. Enough for the purposes of the experiment.”

“Why did you agree to that?”

“I wasn’t always wealthy. This wealth is a product of being that surrogate.”

“And what is the experiment intended to produce? Why do they need a close resemblance, to the manner of gestation, of Marsh?”