Five Facets of the Sun
Friday, August 05, 2005
Five Facets of the Sun
-Copyright 2002 Roan Carratu
Sample: First Chapter (Rated PG-13)
Seven year old Perei swam through the clear ocean water without any kind of swimming gear beyond his silver birthday goggles. Having been born into the ocean, Perei didn't know that once people needed special gear to breath under water. He didn't know that millions of little micro-organisms died in his too warm lungs and released pure oxygen for his survival. A small boy must learn much and Perei only wanted to swim and chase jellyfish...
Perei's mother, with other ideas, stood outside the small cave beating the calling rocks together, the deep gong sounds reaching out through the salt-less ocean water far farther than she could see. Perei knew not to go farther than the hearing range of the calling stones! His mother, Susan Hiwacota, a red tinge to her taut face, knew from experience that the energetic boy swam farther away than safe for him.
She turned and swam into the cave and up through the shiny surface, to the air bubble in the cave home. As she coughed up some water, and squeezed the rest out through the lung drains just below her ribs, she automatically poured water into the Agitator bowl, letting the overflow splash back into the pool.
Over her head, the ceiling surface glowed more brightly as the bowl of tiny multi-limbed fish thrashed and warmed up the water. The dying microbes released oxygen to the Lightplant culture coating the ceiling. The light was bright enough to read by, and the cave was warm, if a bit smelly, from a pile of pillow lava stones brought from the nearest volcano vent.
Susan gathered up her best knife and strapped on a thigh belt to hold it. She stepped into a bowl of red liquid, keeping her feet there long enough for the coating of rubbery blood to cohere thick enough and strengthen the multiple layers of fish skin always glued to her toes. The crude flippers thus created allowed her to increase her speed dramatically when swimming, a lifesaving ability needed many times before.
She quickly smeared skincoat over those parts of her body always needing it, glancing down wistfully at her one adornment, a green circle painted just below her bellybutton. She might encounter a new man somewhere, or even an old lover, and she wanted him to know of her eager receptiveness to any sexual advances he might feel like offering her. The Hiwacota Clan must increase!
She poured more water into the Agitator bowl, and bent over the entrance pool. Immersing her head, she inhaled the water deeply. Then she slid under, watching carefully for darker shadows against the dark walls of the entrance tunnel. A dangerous predator may accidentally find the entrance but it would not catch her unaware. She navigated the curves of the tunnel, shivering slightly, although her body was quick to adapt to the cold water. A thousand years of underwater living had adapted humanity to the ocean conditions.
Susan carefully emerged into the open sea and pushed several smaller boulders into the entrance. She took up the calling stones again and started pounding them together, the deep sound carrying far through the dim waters.
She waited, hoping he would come back and not make her go out and find him. She listened intensely, watching the tiny bubbles of oxygen forming on her warm skin.
He knew she wanted to go to the settlement and he always seemed eager to go with her before. A small boy got lonely out on the fringes with no playmates. And only in the settlement could the two relax the constant watch for deadly predators. Also, the Great Meeting would encourage him to want to understand his responsibility in the community, and to value it.
Perei couldn't hear the calling stones. Out of range and terribly busy, he couldn't answer even if he wanted to. He hid in a child-sized Crusti shell from one of the worst man-killers, the Blowshark.
The large predator shot bits of bone with great pneumatic force from it's nosehorn, and did not know that the boy's brown body would poison it. Human flesh usually killed the largest predators but only the Tarwhales, huge and toothy, seemed to realize it. A Tarwhale always swam as fast as possible away from the small human population whenever spotted.
The huge Blowshark couldn't get into the child-sized Crusti shell, and the bits of bone it expelled lost too much force ricocheting through the twisting shell entrance. Many humans lived in house-sized Crusti shells for that very reason. Squeezing tighter into the small center hollow, Perei just gritted his teeth and grunted, as the gas propelled pellets stung his back and buttocks, glad that they couldn't do more damage.
The poison tipped knife at his thigh would make short work of the Blowshark if he only got the chance. But all he could do was wait and hope the hundred foot long monster gave up soon, before the cavity he squeezed into got too stuffy. Although he thought of it in those terms, factually the oxygen providing bacterial lifeform could quickly become too depleted to keep him alive. He shut his eyes tightly and endured, scared and courageous, waiting for the monster to run out of ammunition.
Susan swam as fast as she could through the murky water, enjoying the feel of the water on her skin. The brightest sun lit up the water and myriads of translucent colored jellyfish filled the water with multihued splendor. The harmless spheres easily out swam her, spurting away at high speed on jets of water. She swam up and over the massive bulk of a Jackson's whale, a dark and very slowly moving mountainside, the largest creature that the buoyancy of water and a high level of available oxygen could produce.
Occasionally, Susan swam down to the rocky, coral encrusted bottom of the shallow sea, looking for her errant youngling in his most frequent playgrounds. She saw him at none of them, nor in the gardens, nor in the rocky grotto near the volcanic vents.
Occasionally she clicked the metal cricket hanging from her knife sheath, and listened for her son's returning signal. Finally she heard faint returning clicks, a help sequence, muffled but directional enough to follow. She darted towards the sound, heart pounding with dread, up a small rise with a Crusti shell on top.
She swam around the Crusti shell slowly and saw the huge Blowshark before it saw her. She darted around to the other side of the shell and had her knife buried to the hilt in the creature before it knew it's danger. She gripped her knife handle with both hands and tried to grab a flaying tentacle-fin with her knees. The poison on the knife worked almost instantly but the body thrashed a lot before the final shrug of death.
Susan waited until the creature started sinking quietly to pull out the knife, carefully sheath it, and swim to the head. Before she reached it, the pale form of her son impacted into her arms, to hug himself to her breasts, seemingly fear driven into reverting temporarily to a younger version. But even in her relief at his safety she knew Perei acted a bit, to try to keep her from remembering his out-of-bounds status.
She hugged him close and let him act, loving him and enjoying his closeness. When he thought he got away with it, he extricated himself peremptory from her arms and pushed away, to swim back into the shell and gather the bone projectiles from the bottom. They would get him much status among his peers in the city.
She quickly clicked at him and he paused, twisting around to look at her. Susan signed at him, one simple hand signal, and he grimaced at her. He knew that she knew. She glanced at the huge body of the Blowshark, wishing she had time to skin and gut it. There were some usable parts to a Blowshark, but she just didn’t have time to do the job. It would be gone, torn to bits and eaten, long before they returned to their home from the City.
The two soon swam away towards the city domes, about two kilometers from their home, which took about an hour at the slow speed they traveled. Perei had to investigate everything new he came across, darting here and there like all the children of Man, and Susan let him, feeling grateful after his narrow escape.
Susan felt relieved when she saw the lit up domes, and swam faster after her son, who naturally darted ahead with his excitement, catching up with the impatient Perei as the little boy dipped under the bottom edge of the largest dome, Homedome One, to come up in an entrance pool.
Susan popped up through the reflective surface as Perei's dripping form disappeared into the crowd. Near the air fountain, a group of small boys enthusiastically greeted Perei, the boy immediately dumping his small carry bag, with its many heavy little Blowshark bones. The small bruises on his back and buttocks would prove his probably embroidered tale of danger.
Susan wheezed out the remaining water and dried herself thoroughly, dabbing away the water and skincoat from her body. She grabbed a handful of powder from the containers spaced around the pool and rubbed it carefully all over her skin. Wetness was not considered a polite condition in the HomeDome, and not a single drop of water or moistness remained upon her slim shapely form when she finished, just the skin healing powder.
She looked around her and searched the crowd for friends and possibly interested new men. All fertile men interested in finding a sexual partner wore a green circle on their lower belly also, but every man she could see wore either the red circle of Contract, the red phallic shape of fatherhood, or the yellow diamond of infertility.
Many of the women she saw wore green circles, including several young girls Susan knew were too young to conceive, and should not, by common agreement, have any symbol on their bellies. A few wore the yellow diamond of infertility also, although they were rare. Women did not have as bad a problem with infertility as the men seemed to.
Over the entrance pool a sign proclaimed the Life Requirements; "The Prime Necessities of Survival Consists of Conception, Birth, Growth, Health, Education, Cooperation, Mutual Respect, and Love. This is Life, ...wHoly"
A good friend, Taka, came up through the pool and climbed out next to the hesitant Susan, who waited politely until the small brown girl finished drying and powdering. Then the two hugged and kissed enthusiastically, rubbing their bare powdered breasts together gently.
Susan rubbed Taka's red circle enviously, realizing that, unless Taka conceived, her friend's mating Contract would be over by Portal Day. Then Susan could try for the pleasure and security of a contract with Yabol, the gentle and beautiful dark man presently in Taka's bed. If Susan had not Contracted by then, that is.
If Taka conceived, then Yabol would have to stay through the pregnancy and for a year after birth, to assist with the baby. So said the Common Agreement. But he could Contract with another fertile woman as soon as the pregnancy was known if he chose to. Several very fertile but usually exhausted men she knew had three Contracts going. But many men would not Contract until the Honor period was over.
Susan had shared Taka and Yabol's bed many times, with Perei sleeping with Taka's two other children, Michael and Sadie. The Agreement allowed any sexual sharing as long as the Vital Fluid entered a fertile womb under a appropriately colored circle. The Contract existed only to provide assurance as to who the father was, for proper genetic bookkeeping and to make the men help with the babies when they were most needed. The computer held the mating data, and suggested mates to the Fertiles, to help prevent inbreeding. The Human Race must Grow!
Taka's eyes shone above the gleaming smile as the two young women looked into each others eyes. Susan suddenly realized that her friend and lover's eyes held more than just pleasure at meeting, Taka's eyes glowed with the beauty of new life. She had conceived!
"Oh,Taka! When? Was I there?" Susan gasped out, gently stroking her friend's cheek.
"We think so, my Susan," the girl smiled back, "and if girl it is, Susan will be her name, after her Sharemother! You can paint in the circle when we know for sure and then you can Contract with Yabol!" Their lips met with intense gentleness, with true cherishing.
Susan pressed her bare thighs and belly against Taka's, bending her knees so that her green circle pressed against the smaller woman's red circle. She shut her eyes and vowed that her belly would also soon hold life as did the belly pressed so tight against hers.
With the perfect timing of children, Perei appeared next to his mother, pulling at her arm insistently, while continuously yammering some sentence all run together over and over again. With a last squeeze of Taka's buns, Susan turned to her still dripping boy and grabbed him quickly, before he could get away again.
As Susan chastised Perei at his breaches of polite custom, Taka turned to her own two, just climbing out of the pool. Behind them, a grinning Yabol broke the surface, noisily expelling water from the lung drains in his hairy chest.
He had already replaced the red circle with the phallic shaped symbol of a new father in his Honor Contract, though the pregnancy test results would take another week to prove out biologically. His eyes glowed also, especially when looking at Taka's smooth loveliness.
The lights blinked several times and the rising tide of voices in the huge dome quieted briefly. More and more people had emerged from the twelve entrance pools into the giant room, and soon a Meeting would start. A meeting of the whole Human Race! Susan always felt an intense excitement before a really big meeting!
The crowd flowed into the amphitheater at the center of the floor, family and friends still noisily hugging each other. They gathered in slowly growing groups of sitting people until the groups lost definition and flowed into a multitude, a mass of sitting adults orbited by a continuous flow of children, an interweave of silent patience and energetic young activity. When the lights blinked again, the children were reeled in by the yells of the mothers and fathers, or by older children.
A cough-punctuated Grand Silence set in; an unmoving, attention filled togetherness with the wondrous effect almost always created by such a Silence; a Cleansing and a Unity in the individual and collective Soul.
Overhead, the giant and very ancient video screen slowly started to brighten, with a picture split into more than a dozen triangular views of other populations in other domes scattered across the ocean floor. After several minutes, the Five Notes of Harmony rang out through the seven HomeDomes of Humanity and died away.
Slowly the various City Managers, Councils, leaders, advisers, elders, and coordinators of the various communities climbed to their feet and walked to the center of their amphitheaters. Susan's community had unanimously elected nine people, six women and three men to act as the community's leaders. They had selected a City Manager to handle the details of running the City and the nine only decided general policy.
"I am Garage Nickolson, Newsman for the Human Race." A familiar face appeared on the huge screen, one of the oldest Susan had ever seen. The man's face showed three times Susan's own age.
"The date is June 7, 3141 Deadearth. Here are the statistics as of five days ago." The elderly face looked down, obviously reading off of a computer monitor. "There are sixty one thousand seven hundred twenty one human beings as of five days ago. Of that number, forty two percent are children below mating age. There are twenty six thousand eight hundred fifty Fertiles and eight thousand nine hundred forty nine are Infertile. Sixty four percent of the Fertiles and twenty eight percent of the Infertiles are women. Eleven percent or one thousand eight hundred ninety pregnancies are now confirmed. Thirty one percent of births have been stillbirths or have had fatal birth defects in the last two Deadearth years. We lost three thousand four hundred fifty seven adult deaths, either from cancer, environmental dangers, accidents, or birth defects in the last two years."
"This indicates that our fertility is twenty six per cent of the rate agreed upon as optimal. It continues to decline." The old male face frowned, looking very tired at this statement, and then Garage Nickolson sighed, the sound cutting through the listening populations with an edge of sadness that quieted even the small children.
"Although we have over a thousand people working on increasing fertility, we are not birthing enough children to survive genetically through the next Radiation Crisis if the rate of sterilization is the same as last time, seven generations ago. Despite the lessening of genetic defects and inbreeding during the last two generations, our actual population growth rate is still declining. "
"One Radiation Event could end Humanity on this world as it almost did three times before." The white haired, wrinkled brown face looked out of the screen with piercing blue eyes, seemingly into the eyes of each and every watcher. The eyes seemed to accuse each of them of Simply Not Trying Hard Enough.
"Some of you have been taught attitudes left from Dead Earth, passed down from the Survivors. The Opticube carries many of these same attitudes impressed upon the data we all study on school nights. But we cannot adopt the attitudes of Dead Earth and survive on this planet!"
"We cannot have the old romantic twosomes of Dead Earth, or steady mating with only one partner, beyond the Contract. Jealousy is the most deadly of sins on this world! Your genetic code is not your possession like a favorite knife or shell bracelet: it belongs to the entire Human Race!" Garage Nickolson almost glared out at the assembled multitudes, and more than one individual winced, knowing the truth of the words.
"You infertile people, you are privileged to share yourself with a fertile couple in a ThreeSharing or mate without the limits necessary for the fertile, but please do not push any twoing upon your fertile peers, for the children's sake!" The huge image smiled, a twinkle in his eye, and the mood seemed to lighten, reflected in the growing irrepressible sounds of smaller children.
"To impress upon you the importance of our genetically required social order, we are going to show some of the ancient videos. These have been shown only once a generation and not at all during the lives of almost all the now-living. But recently the tapes were digitalized and stored in the Optihedron so we can see them any time we wish. They are very educational so someone suggested we show them tonight. They will be available in every Library, to every citizen, from now on."
His face faded out and gray static filled the screen. A number of parents and older children suddenly jumped up, taking toddlers to sanitary rooms during the brief pause.
A huge, wrinkled old face appeared in the screen, and when a voice speaking an oddly accented version of the human language started, everyone listened intensely, trying to make out the words. "I am Joshep Shepardson..." The voice and face carried a pain and guilt, a depression of bottomless proportions. "There are only one hundred and seven of us left alive out of the billions of humans once living..." The middle-aged face almost sobbed, the chin and brows twisting with the effort not to cry.
"We were the only ones to make it through the Portal before the... end, and we only managed to get half of the company's staff through and everyone lost their families. I... I lost my Susan...my Susan..."
Susan felt surprised at hearing her name and realized that her name might originate with the man on the screen. She stared at him intensely, looking for a resemblance. But he looked a little like almost everyone she knew. On the screen, the man did break down, his middle-aged face seeming to accelerate into wrinkled ancientness under the burden of grief.
Another face pushed into the range of the video pickup, a young girl, her face streaked with dust and tears. The background of the two showed an absolute desert, the total erosion produced only in an absolutely dry environment. Two shadows originated from each person, produced by the small yellowish sun and the huge ringed sun.
The watching people gasped, seeing an environment even hard to imagine for a people who live totally underwater their whole lives. The image was too sharp, too clear, and while the ground looked like the ground anywhere, it seemed different somehow, and certainly far too bright. The shadows astonished the crowds the most… they had never seen sharp edged shadows before outside a city dome.
The camera panned to the left, showing the lower slope of a hill and a huge desert valley filled with thousands of canyons with massive erosion. Just below the camera a group of people wearing strange skins of different colors sat on the ground or stood around, looking lost.
Many sat under makeshift shelters looking hot, totally out of place. Some lay curled up in tight balls and screamed, while others held them tightly. The faces showed passionate desperation, strain without relief.
Susan squeezed Yabol's thigh, and whispered into his ear, "What is that covering their bodies, lover?" Yabol had studied ancient history intensely before becoming a pioneer.
"Dead Earth animal skins, plant fibers, and plastics," he whispered back, "probably to protect them from radiation outside the water." Susan shook her head… ‘outside the water’? It was a strange idea, to be outside the water but not be in a dome or cave or shell.
Three quarters of the group consisted of girls and woman of all ages over First Womanflow and the rest were men, most with partly white hair and too rounded fat stomachs. No children showed at all.
"I...I am...My God! What can I say...?" The girl's voice filled the darkened dome and it's listening multitude. A baby in the watching crowd cried for moment but quieted down with a nipple in its mouth and warm milk flowing into it's belly.
"I...I...I'm Julie Carigon. I...am...was a secretary for the ... the Anderson-Yearling Research Center... in ... in the United States of ... of ... America..." A pain and grief on the edge of madness resonated behind every word, beyond the ability of sound to carry alone.
The camera zoomed down to a close up on dirty, lined, sad, grief-filled faces, cold vacant stares, sweat dripping from shocked, sunburnt faces...
"We only got the portal to... to start working only... only one week... just a week before...before... week before... the week before the...My God...my God...they did it! they really did it!..." The voice choked on pure horror.
From one grief exhausted face to another, the ancient picture panned past every face in the crowd, looking up at the camera, ...or staring off into space, almost unseeing... profound shock... profound unbelief... a woman screaming through tears... a man beating violently upon his head, pulling his hair out...
"We had nothing to lose," A man's heavy voice continued, "and we are...were plugged into the Defense Network...So we heard when New York, Washington D.C., and San Diego got theirs... the first three from Mblock terrorists,..." The camera suddenly wobbled wildly.
"And we started it, God damn it!" A hysterical voice of a young man interrupted, "WE STARTED IT WITH OUR GODDAMN SPACELASERS..." The voice suddenly choked and started coughing desperately, the camera wobbling in its movement.
"I...I'm sorry Tom, God, I'm sorry!" The older man's voice spoke, "You...you're right...of course you're right... We...tried to completely... wipe out the Mblock leaders and... and communications system... with a selected target laser first strike and... and... obviously failed... we saw it all on Defnet..."
"What different does it make!" The girl, Julie's voice shouted, "They are all dead! The planet is completely dead! Uninhabitable! Just like the rest of the planets in the Solar System! WHO CARES who started the suicide! We are alive! We have all this stuff we brought with us! We have some food and water! We have tools and materials! Lets try to survive!"
"Why?" Snorted another older man's voice, "We can't fight human nature! We might as well kill ourselves and finish the job." Tears distorted his quiet, hopeless, ...beaten, voice
"Mr. Baxter, we are taping this for the future! That means we plan on having a future! I will not give up. I was going to get married next week! I was going to have a baby...I am going to have a baby! Abe's baby!...My God...my God!...I will survive! And I need your help to survive! So you don't even think of taking the easy way out!...Don't even think about it!...Tom, give me that camera!..."
The camera wobbled and panned around again, showing equipment and containers scattered across the ground, quite a lot of it. It looked incongruous sitting on the absolutely barren, windswept, brown-gray hillside.
Joshep's somewhat hoarse voice started babbling quietly, "I was just...just shoving through the last of the test animals... the last of the test animals... when everyone started running in and through the Portal... I remember Doctor Manning yelling at me... remember him yelling at me to...to shove through the stuff under the stairs...the civil defense stuff...and then I ran through... to here... to right over there next to the… the water barrels... how...who brought the jeep through?...I don't remember the jeep..." The picture wobbled and went out of focus...
The slowness of the voices and the sadness of the faces on the screen either distressed or bored some of the smaller children and their cries and voices penetrated the normal rustling and coughing in the big dark underwater dome. Older kids and parents carried the more hyperactive and noisy children to the nursery in another smaller dome.
The young woman stepped out in front of the camera again, fresh streaks on her cheeks. She gestured at the equipment and at the camera, which then zoomed in to a very tight close up, filling the picture with her face.
"This stuff is what we have to live with. They had been through the portal with a robot and had planned an expedition to cross when the Prez came... Damn him!... and when the word... came across the... intercom to come down to the research labs, and we were each handed something and shoved through by the guards... And then... poor Mary's burnt body fell through and then the portal was gone..."
"And there is nothing in this empty land to survive on so we shall have to move. This tape will pass on to our descendants... their history... We will... pass onto them the... screwed up concepts... that killed our world and tell them to avoid them. Maybe they won't make the same mistakes!"
"If this planet is inhabitable, we will inhabit it! Surely God intended us to continue our lives, and maybe we have a second chance..." Her head jerked around at a scream from within the group down the hill. Then a scream had her tearing down the hill, running in her torn soiled dress, barefoot... The camera suddenly tilted down at the ground, showing the dead gray dust and one worn cloth covered foot. Then the picture dissolved from the top down into bright gray static...
The crowd took a collective breath, stretching and talking quietly. Susan sat with her arms and legs wrapped around her friend Taka, letting the petite woman lean back against her warm breasts while holding Taka's hands.
The picture reappeared, this time showing a long line of people walking slowly through the desert. They walked slowly behind a jeep carrying several large barrels and boxes. They looked dark brown from sun and brown gray dust, and there were fewer of them. Julie stepped into the view again, skinny and her dress much more ragged and dirty. She had several bruises around one eye noticeable even under the layer of dirt.
"We've been here a two weeks now, according to Mr. Dutton's watch." Her voice seemed totally dead and monotone, as dried out a sound as her split and wrinkled lips. Sunburn and extreme dryness had wrinkled and aged her ten years and produced sores on her lips obviously painful to talk through.
"We have only enough un-recycled water for one more cup per person. We have walked through desert for all this time now. We dug into a wash full of sand and found some moisture. We are still digging."
"We found many really tiny creatures we are calling scorpions. They have three little barbed hooks that probably holds poison deadly to the local whatever but doesn't even hurt us at all. Sure gave us some very bad moments..." She stopped, looking at the horizon, licking encrusted, sunburned lips. She took a deep breath and looked back at the camera.
"We had a meeting. Most of us are women. We women have refused to allow any of the men to make the decisions for the group. Secondly, we abolished marriage, engagement, and going steady… all that crap! Every woman has the right and duty to get pregnant as quickly as possible and every man will be available to every woman, without argument!" A little sparkle enlivened her voice, a taint of curiosity.
"It was really strange, actually, cause we all agreed, unanimously, without any argument, too, and felt quite strong about it. Doctor Thomson thinks it's an ancient instinct newly aroused, a response to the... the... uh...situation." She sighed deeply and looked very tired and run down.
"These concepts we reject." she tiredly recited, reading from a dirty scrap of paper. "We reject non-scientific symbolism. Never again shall people follow a symbol, exchange a symbol like money for what they need to live or for what is theirs by birthright, or bow down even symbolically to any intimidation." Her eyes glared at the camera, anger emerging into the coarse voice. Behind her, the line of people stumbled on, the image shimmering in the heat. She looked away, as if gathering strength to say more.
"What is money, Yabol?" Susan whispered. The strange language had many words she did not recognize, but Yabol had researched the customs and language of Deadearth out of curiosity for several years.
"An ancient control system," Yabol wispered back. "where people could abuse each other for selfish reasons. People had to have money to have symbolic permission to get the food and other necessities from the selfish ones, who held all the life support by force." He kissed her gently.
"Uh, explain it to me later." Susan said, as the battered and sunburnt women on the screen turned back to the camera.
"We reject violence, and deterrence, and security. My God, there sure in hell ain't any security... We reject everything military, God damn them! They killed our world... Damn Cultists!..." Her voice choked up and she looked nauseous, face muscles worked with great anger. Her fists balled up and she had to consciously relax enough to talk.
"We... We... huh... We think there is a lot of life on this planet somewhere. Cause there is more oxygen in this air than on Earth. Its actually easy to hyperventilate just breathing normal."
"Teresa Pele, who was a nurse during the Columbian War, says we would probably be dead by now if we didn't have so much oxygen... Been living on crackers and water... But God, the heat is terrible! It is always day with that ringed giant sun up there."
"It don't seem to move... But the little sun, the really hot one, is going real fast, much faster than our own... huh... I mean,... huh... this world is going... turning... faster than our own cause the sun goes over in slightly more than six hours, the watch says... Hell, even Mary Thomson can't figure it out, even on that fancy computer! She says its impossible!"
She just stood exhausted, looking into the camera for a minute, off in her own mind. She was quite skinny under the rags, and bruises marbled the bare legs showing through rips. Susan felt tears in her eyes for the poor dried out Mothergirl. She looked younger than herself...
"We have found some plants." a middleaged male voice said as a skinny black man walked into the view. The old black face smiled, the first smile on the entire tape. His eyes held wonder and excitement... and intense hunger.
Julie's mouth was open in astonishment. "Are they eatable?" She blurted out.
"We don't know yet. Who is going to take the risk? The test animals they had pushed through before the..." His face carried, for a brief instant, a look of confusion and dismay, quickly masked by the smile. "Well, we ate them early on. So a person would have to be the tester. Come now, please!" The picture unwove once again, from top to bottom, into textured grayness, but only for a moment.
It rewove itself into an image of the crowd standing in a loose circle around a white haired middle-aged man Julie recognized as Joshep Shepardson, standing in a large patch of shapeless red blobs. Next to him was Julie and a very thin, very old woman.
"I am Dr. Mary Thomson, a physicist who helped build the Portal that brought us to this planet. That is, if we did build it." Her voice shook with age and rasped through dryness, but held real strength of character. "I am the most learned member of this remnant of Earth but I am also the oldest and most infertile."
Susan felt a thrill, looking at the woman called the Great Mother. She stared hard at the face, surprised that she didn't look anything like Susan had expected. She looked older than the pictures in the Library.
"More than everything I know is stored in the computer and it would be folly to take a chance of losing a woman of childbearing age and cut down the human gene pool by one eighty fifth. We will have too much inbreeding already. Also, everyone may be less fertile because of the much higher radiation level here than on Earth... Uh... pre-Suicide Earth anyhow... I am the only known infertile woman, actually, since Mrs. Butler killed herself... uh, died."
"I have several things I want to say to you and your descendants." She continued, talking directly to the camera. "First, throw out almost everything you have been taught about almost everything. Base what you think upon the widest possible vision and upon experiential evidence only. Remember, the conceptual systems used before didn't work or we would be at the Center right now, wouldn't we... But that whole world is dead!"
"I myself saw,... on the jeep's video monitor,... using the telemetry link through the portal,... I saw the lab... disintegrate into rubble... people's chests exploding from the blast pressure... like Mary Preston's... and a... mushroom cloud... form through the labs shattered windows... It's... It's in the computer..." She paused, taking a shaking breath. "The Defnet link showed at least sixty thousand Hydrogen fusion explosions before the Portal disappeared, evenly distributed between the West and the Mblock, so there is no doubt about it... that world is dead."
"In the last two weeks of walking I have been talking my thoughts into my computer... till the battery died... and I have come to some conclusions... about peace equaling survival... and what survival really requires..." She looked scared for a moment, looking down at the quivering plant. "I'm not even sure it is a plant." she murmured, doubtfully, "it might be too different..." She stared at the camera, hard, and pulled herself to her full height.
"We will survive if we place value in a non-cynical, cooperative set of basic assumptions and agreements. I think these can be distilled into the following;" The exhausted old woman's white hair looked a strange color under the double light of the two suns as she looked down at her feet. "Each person must realize that they are equal and individual in Universe and each respects that in each other. Nobody is more important or should be valued more than anyone else."
"We must understand that pragmatically, only the ability to respond defines responsibility. When every individual responds to the limits of their abilities and accepts the responsibility wherever they are at each moment, then what needs to be done will be done right, and at the right time. When all individuals learn the same data, the same knowledge, and our present system of specialties are integrated into a complete generalized block of information taught to all people. Specialties allow irresponsibility by preserving ignorance of interrelated factors, while encouraging egotism about the specialty... but that is my own personal observation so..." She paused to think and the watching Dome population rustled as bodyweight was shifted off numb buttocks.
"We will survive when each person puts out effort to prosper everyone else along with themselves."
"When each person that feels emotionally separate is invited physically, mentally, and emotionally to participate with the group... while...the group respects and supports that individual's right to remain separate. Survival comes from the efforts of cooperative groups, but quality of life, freedom, comes from groups respecting all individuals."
"We must ignore the trivial and superficial aspects of life, and look past appearances and shallow characteristics of people and situations ... and put our full attention on the important and deep, the often hidden components, so we can face life with respect."
"When the people," she continued, "will not allow their division by symbol, philosophy, religion, economics, or culture, or, for that matter, turfs, otherwise called countries, then there will be peace and survival. With division there is conflict. With agreement there is peace. A healthy diversity of opinion need not cause a social division, as long as individuals are respected and all have the right to speak."
The underwater dome seemed almost empty, the silence felt so deep. Yabol moved over behind Susan and she lay back against him warmly.
"Social power," The old woman on the screen continued, "Material wealth, and spiritual happiness all comes from the same three sources; agreement and cooperation, natural resources, and technology."
"Humanity has allowed itself to be controlled in two ways; by forcefully imposed or blindly taught and followed half-truths, half-lies, and the denial of individual human needs and worth." Her deep set eyes blazed at the camera, defiance in every inch of her small ancient desiccated body. "Both of these create cynicism, which creates fear," she continued, in fierce anger and pain, "which eats freedom and shits organized fanatics that destroy worlds!"
"Everyone has the right to live, to share reasonably equally in the prosperity, to understand what is going on and live in freedom. Everything we get from now on will be like these... plants... I mean, here when we got here... received free from a world that did not even spawn us... even our lives will be a gift of this world... as was our lives gifts of Earth had we but seen it..."
"The means creates the end. In every case, in every situation, under every condition, evil means creates evil ends. Judge by cause, effect, resultant, on the biggest scale possible, and by no other measure. Experiential evidence is trustworthy evidence most of the time."
"Remember, also, power attracts the corruptible, and each individual must hold tightly to their un-intimidated right to shout BULLSHIT when they see bullshit! …even if they are wrong… It is better to be wrong in the effort to do right than stand by and knowingly, cynically, fearfully, allow wrong. Courage is necessary for survival, and the greatest implementation of courage is when the individual stands up and speaks the truth even when everyone else disagrees harshly."
"Responsibility must mean `having the ability to respond', and all who can respond have the responsibility. Beware of anyone who seeks to limit your ability to respond or tells you that you are not authorized or qualified to respond." She paused, staring at the quivering plant.
"People must never accept words as true thoughtlessly or by intimidation... or from fear. We must question our most basic assumptions, and look more than once at everything we do, say, or encounter. Remember, fear is the mindkiller. Fear must always be faced, and overcome, or slavery will result, in the individual or the society. Fear must be rejected as a motivation for our behavior, on all scales of human interaction, or we will not have peace, nor will we survive."
"And one more thing," She paused, looking directly at the camera. "accept no shoddy imitations of peace, called `deterrence' or `defense'... or allow any subculture to exist dedicated to `fighting for peace' because that will always result in a continuous threatening tension to justify the existence of that subculture, and a resulting drain... no... pure waste of resources and an increasing certitude of conflict and the resulting destruction of even more resources, including human. We took such subcultures and tensions as natural, and it was... our greatest mistake! It finally destroyed our planet."
The camera panned the crowd, mostly sitting slumped in the circle, looking too thirsty and hungry to listen. All looked hungrily at the shapeless plant on the ground.
The skinny ragged woman stepped up to the plant and took the knife Susan offered. "The equipment that could have analyzed this plant is laying on the ground a very long way behind us, at the Portal site. So there is no other choice." She knelt down awkwardly.
The knife cut through the plant material easily, even juicily, and Mary picked up a bit of the tissue she had cut off and smelled it. She shrugged, and put some of it in her mouth. She chewed slowly and for a very long time. Finally, she swallowed, shrugged again, and cut off another much larger piece. Several people called out questions and she paused with the next piece right at her mouth.
"It has no flavor whatsoever." She said, slowly and thoughtfully, "And it has no smell whatsoever. But it has the texture of an... a... uh... celery stick. It has a lot of juice, too, and no aftertaste. If it doesn't kill me then I'd say these are certainly edible... Even good!" She ate another piece uneasily aware of the hungry eyes staring at it.
"Give me four hours to make sure of it, and if I'm alive then we will pass the rest out fairly." She climbed slowly to her feet, wiping off her knees, and stood up straight. Everyone on the screen watched her intensely, their burnt faces showing their hungry thoughts, praying without thought for her continuing health and then a handful of plant to eat! In the underwater cities, many wondered what the plant was, and a murmur went over the assembled multitudes, as children asked their parents. But none knew, and it died down quickly.
"Tom," a woman's voice said exhaustively, "we need the camera Solpak to power Doctor Thomson's IBM Portacomp. We're going to check out methods to dig down to the water."
"Sure, Joan!" The camera wobbled, the picture dissolving, and quickly resolved into another place, another time.
The people watching in the dome gasped at the incredible sight of a dark sky, a dark sky filled with stars and colorful moons, a sight most of them had never seen in their entire lives! Many asked their neighbors what they viewed, not even knowing such a sight existed. They never saw the sky, much less a dark sky, so even the word ‘star’ no longer meant much.
Susan forgot everything other than that astounding sight. It was more than a simple darkness, it contained a glitter of sparkling colored glints of light, a black substance sprinkled with tiny colored diamonds, but with sixteen various sized, various colored spheres, moons or close planets of unknown orbits, never seen with the huge pink sun hanging on the horizon.
"We wanted to record this." A girl's voice said with quiet awe. "This is the sky of this world when no sun shines in the sky. An eclipse of the big sun... Well, We don't think this happens very often here. Dr. Thomson thinks a large planet went between the Monster and us. We actually or... oh!... We orbit the ringed sun, with the axis of spin pointing right at it and the other... oh!... ohh!... the other... the other sun... orbits us... somehow..."
"We also wanted to... uhn... We also wanted to... oh... oh... ohh..." murmured the girl's voice somewhat breathlessly.
This time a man's voice tried; "We also wanted to say that... huhhh..." ...and failed. "We also... whew... oh... wow...!" He gave up too. Susan recognized the voice of Joshep Shepardson, the first man on the screen. She smiled at the mental image of Joshep with such a young girl.
"Oh..." Moaned the young girl's voice. "uhh... uhh... Sweetheart... uh... stop... ohhhhh... let me say this stu... uhhh..." The camera obviously pointed straight up at the sky. None who watched got tired of looking at the starry vista, and the only sound from the audience consisted of the sounds of children, the giggle of teenagers, and the rustle of bare behinds coping with hard floor and poor padding.
"Uh... I want to say..." continued the girl's voice, "ohh, that feels great! Boy, I really missed the dark! Uh... I... There are only seventy five of us left. Despite... oh... Despite the good water supply, the... ouhhh... oh..." The man's low laugh started a wave of laughter across the listening audience, guessing at it's meaning. "We have walked out of the desert," she continued, "and are now on the banks of an ocean... Stop for... a... sec, dear! Uh... no... keep doing that! Uh... We have found several plentiful sources of food on the land but more in the water."
"Oh... Wait, dear, the battery is just about out, and I have more to say. By the way, my name is Sherry Gomez. I was a accounting clerk. I am also an ex-Olympic swimmer. We discovered accidentally that there is something in this ocean water that allows us to breath it if we inhale, hold it in, then exhale very fast and inhale again. We are also getting something from the sea creatures... ugh, they look horrible but taste good... getting something from the... I guess you can call them fish... from the fish that makes us feel really good."
"We have a portable computer with an Optihedron Maximemory" Joshep said, “filled with an incredible amount of information... thanks to Doctor Thomson... who had been filling it up with entire databases for over five years before the... We have an entire medical library, engineering, most sciences, including biochemistry, and genetics, and... Hell, most of the Library of Congress even..."
"Look how pretty those rings are!" Sherry exclaimed.
Susan was already enjoying the view of the rings without the glare of the giant sun to blind the camera. They writhed like something made of living feather corals, with a rainbow of iridescence, ever shifting outward... beautiful... somehow holy... Made by God's own Forces, with God's supremely natural Methods, in God's own Timescale... like the ocean! She thought.
"The ocean don't taste bad at all." Joshep commented. "No salt! It has a slight taste of beer, actually... " The man's voice sounded awed and amazed. Susan wondered what `beer' was, and made a mental note to ask Yabol or look it up in the library computer.
The light started getting too bright for the camera and the audience, also. The picture suddenly faded away into blankness, as a protective circuit blocked the sun.
"There is a lot of stuff sitting back on the sand somewhere." Sherry continued on audio only. "We abandoned a lot cause we were too weak to carry it. But we may send the jeep back to get it."
"Well, this stuff is mostly all down in the Computer." Joshep's voice said. "Doctor Thomson has kept a running account since we arrived here and says there is enough memory to store every instant of everybody's life for a thousand years on that Maximem. It sure gives us a head start towards survival and civilization... " The voice distorted into unintelligible murmurs, an effect of diminishing battery voltage.
The picture died away into gray froth and the lights came up slowly. The crowd got up and stretched as the video screen filled once again with the triangular views of other crowds in other cities.
Susan stood up and stretched, letting Yabol rub her buns where they felt numb. She thought of Dead Earth, and the divided insane civilization that destroyed itself there. She had seen the Computer's digitalized pictures, computer memories of Dead Earth; the land machines, the sky traveling devices, and the incredible amount of food they had... but the most incredible, to her, were the pictures of the Planet Earth from orbit... so beautiful...
The lights dimmed once again and the crowd settled down again on the pads on the floor, settling down, all together, as equals, to figure out how to continue to survive on an alien world.
Check out my other Sample Chapters:
Kathlane of Whirlwind Station 128 pgs 63613 words(Rated PG-13) Adventure SF
Magic Universe -The Story of Tempar 104 pgs 49566 words (Rated PG-13) Magic & Fantisy
Five Facets of the Sun 221 pgs 109950 words (Rated PG-13) Sociological SF
Frozen in Time 343 pages 156814 words (Rated PG-13) Sociological/Romance SF
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