Saturday, April 20, 2019

Proxima Doma: Safety Officer (Part V)

And so Vitalie becomes The Caretaker of Proxima Doma for the next year. Every day, she and Étude keep track of everything bad that happens on the whole planet. She develops memorization techniques, reminiscent of when Horace Reaver and Ulinthra would do the same nearly two centuries ago. She then sends her own consciousness to the past, and takes over her younger body, relaying the information to Étude. The latter then apports her anywhere she needs to go, so she can save people’s lives. In order to protect their secret, Tertius alters memories of the event for any witnesses. Even if the nature of Vitalie’s assistance wasn’t inexplicable to those witnesses, they didn’t want her developing a reputation. As far as anyone knows, Proxima Doma simply never experiences any fatal, or near-fatal, accidents. After the first year, though, people have started getting suspicious. They can remember spontaneously avoiding dangerous situations, with no real reason. The fact that nothing truly awful ever happens on a colony planet was always bound to get noticed, and this is something the two of them should have predicted. Their wards, as they would come to call them, have no way of knowing anyone was protecting them from the danger, but they still questioned their lives.
A new decision had to be made, which Vitalie and Étude never even considered could possibly become an issue. Even at its peak, the Savior program on Earth was never capable of saving everyone. It was probably technically feasible, but the powers that be were likely never interested in creating a perfect, hundred percent safe, world. Some people still got hurt. They couldn’t be saved, not because it wasn’t possible, but because life doesn’t come without risk. The powers probably assumed humanity could not accept a world where nothing bad ever happened. That didn’t mean they were right, though. It was time for Vitalie and Étude to decide whether they would find a way to go back to the old ways, or just stay the course.
“One of my biggest regrets,” Étude began, “or should I say, many regrets I had, were that I couldn’t save everyone. Even with the Salmon Runners, and the Kingmaker, and the Doorwalkers, and the IAC, and all the other time travelers who used their abilities to protect people, we could not save everyone. There were just too many people on Earth, and the only reason I’m not still doing it, is because a shadow government of people who don’t know what life is like for mere mortals arbitrarily decided it would stop. Yes, Earth is safer now that it ever has been, but safer doesn’t equal safe. People still die needlessly. But we have an opportunity here, to build a better world. The population is small right now. I don’t think we should just keep doing what we’re doing. I think we should scale our operations, as need arises. When the population on this rock starts numbering in the millions, we’ll probably need some help.”
“Is that fair to them, though?” Vitalie argued. “Are we taking something from them by becoming gods? Do they not deserve to do at least some things on their own? Should they not learn to save themselves? This isn’t Earth. They don’t need thousands of years to develop safety protocols. The protocols are already in place; they just need to be better. I’m starting to think they don’t need me at all. I’m starting to think we should quit.” That came out of nowhere. It wasn’t like Vitalie was feeling tired of this work, or didn’t realize what she was getting into. It just kind of dawned on her that it was possible they were doing more harm than good.
“You want to quit?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You kind of did.”
“The whole secret thing makes this strange. These people don’t know anyone’s looking out for them, so they go through life, thinking the risks they’ve been taking weren’t all that risky. They don’t ever learn from bad experiences, because they’re not having any. A species develops, and evolves, according to valuable life lessons. Early humans didn’t take samples of all the plants around them, and study them to find out which ones were edible, and which were poisonous. People died finding out that information, and it was really sad, but now they know what not to do.”
“You’re talking about the Prime Directive.”
“Well, that’s more about not exposing mine and your powers to the people. I don’t care what they know, and don’t know. We’ve been looking at the idea of helping people as meaning literally going out and doing things for them. But there are other ways to help.”
“You’re right, but you need to be careful about where that line of thinking leads. I met a lot of choosing ones who use their abilities for selfish gain, and they’ve done so following some revelation that this is exactly how the world works. They can all logic their way out of any argument against their behavior, because they’ve decided anyone in their position would do the same. I didn’t have a choice when I was Savior, but you do. If you can quit anytime, but don’t, that shows others that we can actually change the way the world works, even if they’re right about it how it is now.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on me, Étude.”
“I know, and I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had no choice. If I guilt you into not quitting, then I’m no better than the powers that be. I just think we have a good thing going here, and I don’t want to stop, especially not since our hardest job is about to begin.”
“You’re talking about the Oblivios,” Vitalie guessed.
“Their lives are going to be more difficult than we’ve ever seen. Who knows how many Saviors there were at one time back when humans on Earth were living like the OPPs are going to live.”
“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that, because their arrival actually supports my position. I’ve been reading up on Earthan history, since that’s where everyone here is from. These pioneers are recreating a time in history where couples—as terrible as it sounds—planned to have extra children. Their families were so much larger, only because they felt the need to hedge their bets, and wanted to be prepared for when some of them died.”
Étude nodded solemnly. “Yes, I know about that.”
“They’re going to have an even harder time accepting a world where nothing bad ever happens. It doesn’t matter how much Tertius alters their memories, they’re not going to understand why no one’s ever fallen off a cliffside, or been trapped in a sinkhole. Plus, they’re going to develop religious superstitions, and I don’t want to be a part of that. Can you imagine them worshipping the invisible fairy sa—”
Savior?” Étude filled in. “You were going to say savior. That’s okay, I realize my place in history unavoidably came with this mystique I can never live down.”
“I’m sorry.”
This was all news to Étude. She thought they had made the right decision, and that Vitalie was on board with it. Had she been miserable this whole time, and was just too polite to say anything? “Why? Why did he tell me to come here? And why did he tell me to pass the torch to another?” She lived her life by the guidance of a man who could see the future. He had never been wrong before, but now she was wondering who was benefiting the most from his advice. The concept of right was a subjective one. “I mean, this was your idea.”
“I know, and I’m not saying I give up. I’m just having doubts.”
Étude needed to find a way to convince Vitalie to get back on track, and let go of these doubts. “Have you ever heard of a safety officer?”
“Like a cop?”
“No. A safety officer is a member of the construction crew who makes sure everyone is working safe. And when something inevitably goes wrong, they’re there to tend to their injuries, and get them more advanced help.”
“Are you saying I’m a fancy safety officer, and I should just treat this as any normal job? I have a special set of skills that no one else does, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it? I have a responsibility to help others as no one else can?”
Okay, Étude wasn’t expecting her friend to jump to the right to her conclusion. She was laying out this whole speech in her head, but would apparently not need most of it. “Companies hire safety officers all the time. Nobody on the crew freaks out, and claims they can take care of themselves.”
“Limited medical training is a far cry from time travel and teleportation,” Vitalie said. “I don’t treat people after they get hurt. I stop them from getting hurt. All I’m saying is maybe they should get hurt. If humans didn’t feel pain, they would constantly hurt themselves, and they would never learn to prevent it, because they wouldn’t be able to see the consequences. Even if only subconsciously, we’re letting these Domanians think they can do  no wrong.”
“I feel like we’re just arguing in circles.”
“Me too.”
“Look. The first of the Oblivios aren’t going to arrive for another few months. For diversification’s sake, colony ships are designed to accommodate a hundred and forty-seven passengers, but there are a lot more Oblivios than that. The first to land are going to live with their memories intact until everyone is here. Just wait until then to decide whether you want to quit or not. Give it one more chance.”
Vitalie wanted to think it through more, but she understood that Étude’s suggestion was not an unreasonable one. She still felt the need to contribute positively to society, and being the Caretaker was currently the best way for her to do that. She agreed to keep going until the Oblivios lost their memories.

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