Saturday, October 7, 2023

Extremus: Year 60

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Today is the grand opening. Hundreds of workers contributed to the construction of the Attic Forest, whether it was planting a single seed, or installing the walls on what was once the exterior of the ship. They actually made Extremus bigger, adding an entire new layer on the top. Well, it wasn’t entirely new. There was already and eleventh deck, but it hardly extended more than a few meters. Now the rest of the kilometer has been filled in for this project. Right now, it’s all dirt and paths, with a few little ponds here and there, many of which are connected to each other via a series of streams, waterfalls, and pumps. There are spots to picnic, and a smallish venue for entertainment. The paths will be predominantly lined with beautiful plants that were genetically engineered from the DNA data stored in the database. Most of the plants were taken from Earth, but a few came from Thālith al Naʽāmāt Bida’s records.
Right now, the only stuff that’s full grown is the bamboo, which is exclusively used to signify entrances, exits, facilities, and emergency terminals. At the moment, the rest of the trees and plants are ready to go. Temporal engineer Greenley Atkinson and her team have created a time bubble that will speed up the growth of all of this life. They just have to find out who is going to push the button. It’s up to Tinaya to pick the name out of the proverbial hat, but the ceremony is being delayed, because there is an issue in the basement. “What is it? People are waiting.”
“It’s Operation Wellington, sir.” After Tinaya was promoted to Senior Forest Guide, it only seemed right to hire a Junior Forest Guide. Cainan Suárez switched his primary studies to botany soon after Project Attic Forest was announced. He is still studying in college, but he helps out in his free time. He missed a skills evaluation this morning to work on this, but his advisor is allowing him to make it up next week. Cainan is distantly related to Halan Yenant’s first Lieutenant, Rita Suárez.
“Obviously that’s why we’re down here. What’s the issue?”
“It’s this.” Cainan steps over to the wall screen, and brings up the genetic information for the Journey Tree. “Okay, here is the DNA for a giant sequoia. This is supposed to be the genetically modified DNA for the giant sequoia we’re planting, because it needs to be tailored for an indoor environment.”
This is how Tinaya knows that the mind sharing machine that messed up her friends’ brains gave her knowledge that came from at least one person besides the other three in the machine. None of them possessed this much of an understanding of genetics. “It’s too big.”
“Yeah. They modified it too much. The root system is going to dig too deep, and the canopy is going to spread too wide.”
In the center of the ship, there is an atrium. It’s this giant metal tube that goes all the way from the engineering section, up to the tenth level. Tinaya isn’t sure why the ship designers included it. It’s big, but it’s not beautiful. There’s nowhere to sit, and no elevators or stairs. There’s no plant life either. It just sits there. If you happen to be on the bottom deck, you can walk through it, but if you’re on any other level, it just forces you to go around. Because it’s thirty meters in diameter, and it serves no real purpose...until now. Now it’s going to become the growing tube for the ship’s largest tree. It will grow to be so big that they can’t even plant it in the Attic Forest, or it will crash into the ceiling. Actually, all of the trees would crash into the ceiling, if given a chance. Once that big red button is pressed, the tallest of the trees are going to grow up to thirty meters, which won’t work, because the ceiling only goes up six meters, which is two meters higher than most decks. That’s why Atkinson also designed a pocket dimension for them all to grow up into. But even that won’t be enough for the ultimate height of the Journey Tree. Hopefully, by the time it gets to be too big, though, they will be able to transplant it to the Extremus planet. That’s one reason why it’s not going to be part of the temporal bubble. It represents the journey that they’re all making together, so it will grow at the same rate as everyone else. That’s the idea, anyway.
“How did they make this mistake?” Tinaya questions. “They can see, it’s got a radius of fifteen minutes.” She points to the atrium, and then down to the floor “And they know that below this level is frickin’ outer space. It can’t be that big.”
“I know, I wish I had caught it, but I’m still learning this stuff.”
“No,” Tinaya says with a shake of her head. “That’s not your job. I should have caught it. I know how to decipher this stuff.”
“The way I see it,” Cainan goes on, “we have two options. Either we delay the planting of the Journey Tree so this problem can be fixed, or we plant it anyway, and hope that the walls of the atrium regulate the tree’s growth.”
She shakes her head again. “We can’t let it do that. First, I would say that the roots are the bigger problem. They’ll spring a leak, if allowed to go as deep as this code commands it to. But also, the sequoia is a symbol. It’s a symbol of unimaginable growth. It’s a metaphor for Extremus itself. We can’t let the walls dictate how big it gets, because the who reason we’re on this mission is to go against the rules, and find a new home in the outskirts of the galaxy.”
“Yeah, I was kind of thinking the same thing too.”
She sighs. “I can fix it. I can rewrite the code, faster than even the real geneticists can. I just...I don’t have time today. I don’t want to delay the planting. The reason we’re doing these two things at the same time is to lean into the symbolism I was just talking about. I mean, ideally, we would have planted it on day one, but barring that, any day but the day that the rest of the Attic Forest goes online will be arbitrary and meaningless. It has to be today, and I have to be in two places at once.” A child is going to be selected to engage the temporal bubble that will grow the forest before their very eyes. Every kid who wants the honor has put their name into the lottery, which Tinaya is scheduled to select right around...exactly right now.
“What” Cainan doubts himself.
“No idea is a bad idea. Go ahead and say it.”
“If we’re most worried about the roots, then let’s not plant it on the bottom level. Let’s toss in some more dirt, and plant it higher.”
“I dunno,” Tinaya says nervously. “Look at this here. They also programmed it to be bigger than a normal giant sequoia. In the next 156 years, this thing is going to grow, and at the moment, it will be a tight fit. The canopy could reach the top of the pocket dimension. In order to get this project passed, Tinaya and Lilian had to explain how they were going to fit the really tall trees in the forest. Most decks are four meters high. Some of them are double heighted which means the ceiling of one deck has been excluded, and is just using the ceiling for the deck above it. And some parts of some decks are only two and a half meters high, leaving the rest for crawl space. But all added up, including the thick hull, Extremus is only about fifty meters high. The government didn’t want to build a forty meter high deck on top of that just for the forest, so to make it work, the pocket dimension will make it bigger on the inside. There are risks to this. If there is ever a power failure on the ship, they’re going to prioritize things like life support and artificial gravity over superfluous pocket dimensions. Perhaps one day, the ceiling will be raised, but that’s a decision for a future administration. For now, if everything remains as is, and that giant sequoia gets too big, it’s unclear what will happen.
“What do we do? Do we lie? We could plant this tomorrow, and just tell everyone we did it today. That’s why it’s a secret. I mean, of course, this isn’t why, but we may as well take advantage of that.”
“No, that won’t work either,” Tinaya contends. “I’m going to repair the DNA, and the file will reflect the save date before we 3D print the seed. There will be a record of the delay in planting, or at least it could be called into question, and that would just be embarrassing.”
“I’m all out of ideas then.”
“You could do it.”
Me?” he questions. “I can’t write code like that. Like I said, I’m just learning.”
“But you can pull a name out of a hat,” Tinaya reasons.
“You want me to do the ceremony. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I’m just a Junior Guide. I can’t do that either.”
“Cainan, that’s a made up job. These are all made up. We’re making up the rules as we go along. There’s no reason you can’t do it. Just go up there and pick a name. When the kid shows up, shake their hand, crack a few jokes—”
“Crack a few jokes? What jokes? I only know dirty jokes, and I don’t think you want me to say them on broadcast.”
“You’ll know what to do; I trust you. Lilian will be right there next to you. Meanwhile, I’ll be down here, recoding this seed.”
“You don’t have that much time. If the lottery draw starts right now, the kid will push the button pretty quickly.”
“No, I won’t be planting the seed at the same time, but it will be before midnight.”
He hesitates. This isn’t his thing. People aren’t his thing; he’s always said that. He’s much better with plants. He talks to them, and treats their reactions to his care as responses. But she really does have faith in him, and he trusts her just as much. “Okay. I’ll need to change first, though, and my cabin is on the other side of the ship.”
“You don’t have that kind of time.” She takes off her ring, and hands it to him. “We’re obviously not allowed to teleport, but I have my ways. Just rub the gem, and concentrate on your destination. Make sure to make jumps to unoccupied spaces, so no one sees you. And obviously don’t tell anyone about it. I’m not supposed to have that.”
“You are in two places at once sometimes. I’ve always thought that.”
“Go, Cainan. Good luck.”
“Good luck to you too.” He puts the magic ring on, and disappears. Hopefully he didn’t accidentally land on the bridge, or something.”
Tinaya takes a deep breath, and switches the broadcast on so she can keep one eye on the show. Her other eye will be focused on her work. She’s had this genetic engineering knowledge for years now, but she’s not used it, because the right situation has not yet come up. Well, it’s here now, so hopefully whoever’s mind she unwillingly copied them from is as smart as her initial impression makes them seem. Two centuries from now, children may be able to sit under this tree to read or have a chat, but that can’t happen unless she figures out how to translate it from code to seed.

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