Saturday, July 27, 2019

Bungula: Blue Skies (Part V)

On the 27th day of July, in the year 2236, a man named Belahkay Teel stepped out of his protective dome on the planet of Bungula, and breathed in the air. It wasn’t the absolute first act of respiration on an alien planet, but it was the first time to be carried about by an organic human. Belahkay was only seventeen years old, which meant he was born on Bungula, but only ever knew an artificial environment. He was never given transhumanistic upgrades, or even acclimatization treatments. He was just a normal person, breathing off Earth, and that is what made him special. Sharice picked him out somewhat at random, but there were criteria that not every colonist fit. He was of the right age, in good health, adventurous, and a little wise beyond his age. Plus, he had a pretty cool name, so that certainly wasn’t working against him. It could have been anyone, but it wasn’t; it was him.
The composition of the atmosphere is nearly identical with that of Earth’s. At the moment, there is slightly less oxygen, though in time, there should be slightly more. The skies are blue, and the clouds promise rain. Belahkay is smiling upwards, thankful for having been chosen for this gift. He spends fifteen minutes out here, mostly standing in one place. He’s then pulled back inside, where he spends another fifteen minutes, closely monitored by doctors. He goes out for thirty minutes more, and then it’s back in for the same amount of time. No ill effects. No trouble breathing. No worrying changes in blood pressure. No drop in body temperature, or rise, for that matter. One hour, then two, then four, then eight, then the pattern falls away, and he gets to stay for an entire Earthan daily cycle, sleeping under the stars. Then, and only then, is he joined by the next test subject, who goes camping with him for two full days. Two additional pioneers join them two days later for four days, and then four more for a week. They’ll come to be known as the Auspicious Eight, and be cherished throughout history. They didn’t do anything special, except not get sick or die, but that won’t diminish their fame. To some, they are the first true aliens, for this is the month that unaided survival on a second planet is proven possible.
A whole new way of life will have to be debated, and decided upon. Up until now, all colonists have remained on an Earthan schedule, with sixty minutes to an hour, twenty-four hours in a day, etc. Sure, they’re living on other worlds, but since they’ve been relegated to covered habitats, there was really no point in adjusting that dynamic to a new planetary cycle. It didn’t matter how fast the planet was spinning, or how long it took to revolve around the sun, because most of the time, they weren’t seeing it happen. This has now changed, but that doesn’t mean they can just automatically switch to something new. They still need to communicate with other worlds, and consider the evolutionary status of organic entities here, whose biological clocks aren’t so easily altered. But that is a problem for tomorrow. for dancing.
After the test month is complete, the doors are opened, and all colonists are free to cross the threshold at will. Word is sent back to Earth, and all other neighboring exoplanet colony sites of their accomplishment. There is at least one party on each world. The one on Bungula itself is the most epic, except for a few that took place on Earth, but that’s no big surprise, since there are tens of millions times more people there. The three leaders of this enterprise are sitting in their private habitat, enjoying a night of quiet reflection, away from the hubbub, when there is a knock on the door. It’s Belahkay.
“Mister Teel, what a pleasant surprise,” Brooke says after she answers. “Come on in. Would you like something to eat or drink? We keep some provisions here for visitors.”
“No, I’m stuffed,” Belahkay says. “I just wanted to hand you this.” It’s a physical piece of paper, which is obviously rare these days. On it is a photographic representation of famed actor, Keanu Reeves. Superimposed on the top is text, what if air is actually poisonous. The punchline appears on the bottom, and it just takes 80 years to kill us? “One-twelfth of one year down.”
They laugh.
“Technically, you only spent half a month out there,” Mirage points out. The other half was spent inside, making sure his lungs didn’t explode.
He shrugs. “One-twenty-fourth. Anyway, that’s not really why I’m here.” He takes a deep breath, as humans are wont to do, and now can more easily here. “What I really wanted to tell you is that I’m in.”
“You’re in what?” Sharice asks.
“I’m in to go with you guys to the next planet.”
“What planet?” Brooke presses.
“I dunno. What planet were you thinking? Teagarden? Glisnia? Or should we stay close, and just hop over to Proxima Doma?”
“Belahkay, what are you talking about?” Mirage is too intelligent, and thus rarely confused.
“You’re gonna keep doin’ this, right? You’re gonna terraform other worlds.” He looks at them like this is an obvious next step.
“Hm,” Sharice says. “We hadn’t planned on it.”
“You guys are sitting on a goldmine here, if..ya know, gold still had that much value since a shit-ton of it was found on TC 2211 OZ42. No one else can do what you do.”
He has a good point. They considered the ramifications of expediting the terraformation process, but never thought about what would happen next. If they stop here, things could become so much worse, because people might question why they aren’t sharing.
“We can’t do that,” Mirage says.
“Why can’t we?” Sharice asks her.
Mirage is shaking her head. “It’s the prime directive,” she reasons. “We can’t interfere in their development.”
“We already have,” Brooke argues. “That party out there is all about our interference. They’re celebrating our interference.”
“That was an emergency,” Mirage fights back. “If we keep doing this, what kind of galaxy are we going to be living in? When any world is habitable within fifty years, and you can go anywhere, what are people going to do? I can’t calculate those consequences, and I’m a genius.”
“Beaver Haven approved it,” Sharice reminds her.
“They approved this one time. They might not be so keen on a paradigm shift the likes of which you three are suggesting. What we did had an impact on the future, sure, but doing more would create a future no one has ever predicted, or tried to make.”
Belahkay clears his throat suggestively. “Um, excuse me? Are you aliens?”
“What makes you say that?” Brooke asks him.
“You’re talking about the prime directive, from the Star Trek franchise. That implies you’re from somewhere other than Earth, and you’re trying to decide how to deal with us.”
Mirage smiles at him. “We’re highly advanced inorganic superintelligences. We’re not aliens, but we’re of course, not human. That’s all we mean.”
“But...” he begins cautiously, “AI was invented in order to solve our problems. You fixed global food distribution, climate destabilization, and energy sourcing. You built interplanetary and interstellar ships. You mined resources on asteroids, and gave the Earth back to the wild. Now you’ve created realtime terraforming. The next step is to share it. That’s what you do.”
We did none of that,” Brooke responds, indicating the three other entities in the room at the moment.
“I did some of it,” Mirage admits, theoretically referring to her time in the higher plane of existence.
“The prime directive doesn’t apply to you, because you wouldn’t exist if humans hadn’t come up with the technology that sprung you. So yeah, maybe you’re the ones who figured it out, but by extension, we were vital to it. The tech is ours.”
That’s not quite what happened, but this kid doesn’t know about observation dimensions and time travel, so he can be forgiven for his logic path. He simply does not have all the information. And that’s really what the conundrum is here. His logic is going to be replicated by others following this achievement. Most people are going to be thinking the same thing. They’re not going to understand why the three of them could do this once, but never again. “We have to leave,” Brooke decides.
“Right now?” Sharice asks.
“Not this very minute,” Brooke replies. “I mean, we still have to oversee the wilding effort anyway, but we can’t stick around much longer after that. Once this is completely complete, and self-sustaining, people are going to expect us to go somewhere else, just like he is. We have to disappear, and never be seen again. They’ll be pissed, but at least they won’t be able to pester us about it.”
“Where would we go?” Sharice continues. “I don’t just want to live on some dead world a hundred light years from the stellar neighborhood. I still wanna be in the mix. I wanna contribute.”
“There are a few options.” Mirage’s face looks like she’s drawing from her godly experiences. “There are places in this galaxy where we would be able to hide in plain sight. People there could use our help anyway.”
“So, we just have to choose,” Sharice assumes.
“Not right away,” Mirage claims. “There’s a reason they called the collection of orbitals around Barnard’s Star Gatewood. It’s the entry point for numerous unrelated missions. Much of how the galaxy forms will be decided by what they do on Gatewood. We would go there first, and then decide where we go next.”
“Are we really doing this?” Sharice questions. “Are we abandoning the human race? I’m not convinced that’s the right call. We can do so much here. Screw Beaver Haven, and screw the timeline; let’s make our own destiny.”
“This is our destiny,” Brooke says calmly.
“Oooooohhhh-wa,” Belahkay exclaims, like he’s just had a revelation. “You’re not aliens. You’re time travelers. Now I definitely want in.”

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