Monday, September 2, 2019

Microstory 1181: Farhana Sultana

Humans are an exploratory species. They like to go out and see what else there is. Even if they weren’t, their expansion beyond the planet was inevitable. There were many reasons for them to leave, including the search for new resources, and a better understanding of how the universe worked. Farhana Sultana was a social psychologist, who specialized in the study of human behavior in isolation. She wanted to understand how people reacted when their options were limited. She was born late enough in history that she could study this as it pertained to outer space. It was her dream to set up a semi-permanent establishment in interstellar space, and study her subjects’ lives without the safety net of civilization. Unfortunately, not everyone shared her vision. The system leadership considered her proposal to be unethical, and an unnecessary use of resources. The intention was for people to always live around a star; be that Sol, or some other system. To them, there was no point in knowing what it would be like to be so far away from that. Farhana disagreed, and though she never thought of herself as a criminal, she knew she had to go off without permission, and prove them wrong later. She commissioned the use of a special type of ship called a darkburster. It was incredibly dangerous, and highly illegal, but if it worked—which there was only a fifty percent chance it would—she would be able to leave a planetary body, completely undetected. She got herself assigned to the space station they were still constructing to orbit Neptune. At the time, it was the farthest permanent installment from Earth, and the best location from which to darkburst. She gathered her team, and her group of volunteers, who all knew what they were signing up for, and then they disappeared.

The darkburster did not explode, but instead traveled tens of thousands of astronomical units, all the way to a randomly selected uncharted celestial body that they named after their own ship, Vespiary. There they remained for years, working through the experiment. At one point, something went seriously wrong with the base they constructed on the surface, and it was on the brink of being destroyed. About half of them managed to escape to their ship, but they would have died eventually anyway, as the planetesimal of Vespiary did not provide them with the fuel they might have used to eventually leave. It was a problem they had not yet solved, since they had been so focused on the experiment. This was their first taste of time travel. A man appeared out of nowhere, and saved their lives with technology they could not explain. It sustained them for three years on its own, until they had finally affected repairs. More people arrived, hoping to borrow the traveler’s special technology, and Farhana realized that the experiment had to be over. They were no longer completely isolated, so any further data they gathered would not be viable. There was still hope, however, as they were now able to make contact with their associate who was still living in civilization, who alerted them to the means of reaching a rogue planet. That would allow her to begin a new, far more valuable, social experiment. So they left, hoping to start again soon. Sadly, yet again, there was a major issue on their return. Everyone was going to die, but hope was still not lost. A woman on board named Holly Blue had been researching time travel, and just before The Vespiary exploded, was able to rescue Farhana from certain death. She transported them two centuries into the past, which was where Farhana learned that she was with child. Holly Blue started working right away on a means of traveling back to the future, but Farhana didn’t think it was safe to do so while she was pregnant. Her baby would just have to be be born here, and maybe if she decided to leave later, she would. She didn’t know who her child would grow up to be, but that would turn out to be a good thing. If she had realized who she was carrying, she would’ve contaminated that future. In the end, her ultimate demise was inevitable for that same reason. Sadly, she died shortly after giving birth, and the child grew up having never known her. In fact, he wasn’t even made aware that he was from the future at all. He grew up to be a great man, who changed the world, and helped create the society his mother, who hadn’t even been born herself yet, would come to take for granted, like so many others.

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