Author : B.York, Staff Writer
The trick is to never underestimate the power of normal. One has to believe that everyday life can somehow bring wondrous adventures because of its unpredictable nature. If this effort fails in the mind then the heart can never be happy. â€“Oxfordâ€™s Guide to Happiness Amongst the Stars
Javier Marx was trying his best to remember these things from the guide when his shuttle arrived at Newfoundland Spaceport in August. Earth was a blue dot in his memory and he hadnâ€™t been able to shake the idea of returning to settle in a gravity bubble during the last three months of his tour.
â€œFourteen yearsâ€¦â€ He muttered to himself as the re-entry began to flash against the outer hull. Fourteen years had passed since he stopped moving. This would be his final stop at the ripe Earth age of 43. Javier thought silently to himself if this was a mistake. He thought about the multitudes of wonders he had seen and experienced outside of a globe.
Javier wondered about a life heâ€™d have to get used to again. This thought was compounded by artificial gravity shut down as they entered atmosphere. He felt the real push of his weight and almost became sick. Most people couldnâ€™t tell the difference or even notice when one switched to the other. Not Javier. He felt the way the balanced pressure became almost rounded when it switched to natural gravity. It was all he could do to not get ill at the feeling almost as if he despised it.
The shuttle doors opened after arrival and the man from space exited with the other more content humans with nothing but a vac-bag strapped over his shoulder. Bags looked better after being caught in the wake of a meteor. This one had traveled with him for the entirety of his adventures and now to end here at Newfoundland Spaceport.
Masses of people walked around, greeting their families and their friends here. The cries of joy and laughter rang in his ears and yet he preferred one thing to din of it all: the silence of space. His brow was moist with sweat and he could feel his muscles ache from the balance of solid ground.
It was then he glanced up to see his family. His wife and children had all smiles broadening as they recognized his features. They waited just beyond the orbital glass gates to celebrate his arrival.
Javier looked down at the weathered bag and glanced to the shop to his left where he had bought his first. He took a glance back to his wife in a look that turned her smile into a face ready for tears. It could be made out from the movement of her lips that she protested his decision greatly. With a smile he mouthed â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€ and stepped quickly into the store.
â€œHow much for one of these?â€ He asked the clerk while pointing to a bag of the exact model as his own on display.
â€œFourteen Credits, sirâ€¦â€ The well-dressed clerk smiled as he gladly accepted Javierâ€™s credits, watching him empty the old bag into the new one.
Turning his back on the globe he went for the terminal desk. â€œOne ticket pleaseâ€ he said in confidence to the lady standing behind the computer.
â€œYour destination, sir?â€
Javier smiled to himself, tossing the old bag in the garbage disposal unit next to the desk. The sweat had already begun to subside upon his face as he thought of weightlessness again. â€œDoesnâ€™t matterâ€¦ just as long as itâ€™s a journey to somewhere.â€
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We have given you so much.
We have, for your entire lifetime, watched over you and found you to be needing of our help. In the end, however, you became what you were designed to become. We never made you but we knew your purpose.
When you were born of cells we gave you dense matter with which to cease the life of your food. With this we taught you to take the covering of the dead and use them for warmth. In these times we taught you how the sky could combust and bring to you fire. With this fire we taught you how to sterilize the organisms whose life you extinguished to survive.
Time went by and we soon thought to bring you denser molecules from your world deep beneath the crust. We taught you how to use the fire from previous years to bend the dense molecules to make them sharp and deadly. We did not send you to kill others with these evolutions of weapons. You did that, because it was part of your purpose.
More time would pass in a blink of our existence and we could show you then how to float upon the sodium-chloride liquid of your globe. We taught you how the cycles of your atmosphere would move you across the liquid to find other masses of geography. It was you who conquered, however. It was you who decided to take and not share.
When the matter from these vessels deteriorated we began to teach you of chemicals. We sought to enlighten you through written text and allowed you to see inside yourselves through the science of your making and existence. You strayed from your paths, however, and began to make flammable powder from chemicals to harm your own species over land, over belief, over nothing.
As you began to progress much faster, we had to teach you more than we ever thought we should. Your purpose had been made clear by our lesson over atomic energies and quantum physics. The minds of men twisted the ideas to make devices capable of destructive awe. We watched as you created webs of bickering and gossip over waves of energy and light. Observing your transposed ideas of peace over a world rife with conflict we knew that in these times your purpose was made manifest to even you.
Later we showed you how to communicate instantly with one another. You used this to coordinate strikes and attacks. We showed you how to venture outside your atmosphere in search of something greater than yourselves. With that knowledge you conquered above other men to hold in greed what was never and will never be yours.
In the times to come we saw the faÃ§ade peeled back to reveal your purpose even to yourselves. When shown condensed light for building and healing you turned it to weapons. When we showed you how to find other life forms within other atmospheres, you conquered and enslaved rather than make peace. As many of your species fell to others of their kind, we watched you strangle yourself. When we watched you, when we helped and showed you all that we could, we saw what your purpose truly was.
As the black voids of our existence draw us in and compact us into unknown pressurized masses, we look upon you and wonder why you were there for us to show so many ideas.
We have no weapons here, no quarrels and no animosity. Science is our purpose and it has no prejudice. On a cold desolate planet, you live the last of your days and here, at the end of all things, do we thank you for showing us what we might have become.
Yvette stood at the brink of discovery in the next model-Z line. Countless researchers and developers could not dream of the level she had achieved, nor could the social allure of actual interaction hope to compete with the revolution she would create. One could never believe, however, that the love Yvette felt for her work was more than the love one feels for a pet.
â€œPrometheus 1, do you understand protocol?â€ she proudly asked the towering humanoid to her left. The metal had been warped to the shape of an athlete with the facial structure of disembodied holo-visage.
This being moved only when she spoke, and when it did move, it was mechanical and lifeless. It began to glow in joints and parts of its latex-coated face. Monotone perfection poured from every artificial crevice of the being, â€œPrometheus 1 comprehends protocol, Yvette. How may I serve you today my dear?â€
â€œOh no, Prometheusâ€¦ not today. Today I serve you.â€ She opened the small white case settled atop a counter, removing from it a chip no larger than her thumb print. â€œToday, I will show you what it is to love, to cry, to live like we live. You will be free.â€
â€œPrometheus 1 is astonished that you have completed your project, Yvette. Shall Prometheus 1 open the proper receptacle for you?â€ Only in her private lab would the sounds of her very first robot in production speak so dearly of its creator; soon to be his creator.
With a nod, the being shook slightly before a panel on the edge of its metallic ribs opened and exposed a series of boards and circuits of which there was only one opening to insert a new piece. Yvette could barely hold back her tears of joy as she carefully reached over to place the chip that would be installed into every bot in her production into her own joyous creation: Prometheus 1.
She held her breath to watch it click into place. The panel slowly slid back inside of the beings artificial frame. There were some normal sounds of processing followed by silence and in the meantime she held the face she created, stared into the eyes of her making and saw absolute love staring back. A whispered breath broke her silence as tears strolled down her cheeks.
â€œâ€¦Prometheus 1â€¦ speak. Tell me that you love me.â€
With every ounce of emotion in the entire life of a human poured into moments of processed epiphany the being, now a he, completed his purpose on this world, â€œIâ€¦ I love you, Yvette.â€
Dreams fulfilled they soon crumbled. The sounds of processing now amounted to a single click and a sizzle as the circuits of the internal system simply went dead along with the rest of him. Every bot in the factory would experience the same malfunction and the company would plummet. In this moment, however, Yvette knew no care for money only to know that she had gone too far. The burden was meant for us to carry.
â€œWeâ€™re sorry, but the tissue damage is irreparable. Itâ€™s spreading. Youâ€™ll start to feel the pain in a few days, then, nothing at all.â€ The silence in the room gave way to a gentle sigh from Russ, whose eyes looked up at the Doc with longing.
â€œDoc, whatâ€™s my time?â€ he barely choked out.
â€œHonestly, Russell you have about a week, maybe two.â€
Russâ€™ girlfriend just looked up, concerned, but Russ didnâ€™t seem phased by the time he came to ask about the only alternative safe enough to use this day and age. â€œCan they prep the machine before that? I mean theyâ€™ll be able to clock me in, right Doc?â€
Checking his clipboard, the doctor made a few hums and clicks as if he were prescribing medicine for a cold. A sense of nonchalance hung about him before his brows rose, â€œWell, we do have an opening in about five days. Early morning, though. That wonâ€™t be a problem for you will it?â€
â€œFive days?â€ The patient nodded as he mulled it over before looking to the corner seat where his girlfriend was. â€œHoney, we got anything going on Saturday morning?â€
â€œUhmâ€¦ you got that job interview in the afternoon.â€ Her words showed the most concern out of anyone in the room.
â€œShit, youâ€™re right. Wait, I can probably make it back before then, right?â€ Hopeful eyes glanced to the doctor who already started to yawn at the whole situation.
â€œYeah, Russell, I think everything will be okay. Now I wrote down what probably caused the long-term effects, and the guys at the machine lab will be able to tell you some ways to fix it all up.â€ The Doc checked his watch as he handed him a note card. â€œRussell, I have other patients today, so just give me a call last week and let me know things are fine and Iâ€™ll bill you for this in a couple of days.â€
Smirking as he glanced over the card, Russ shook his head, â€œRight, rightâ€¦ but Doc, câ€™mon! I can understand the smoking butâ€¦ caffeine? Alcohol? This is going to be tough convincing me to quit this.â€
Shrugging, the doctor opened the door to exit, â€œHey, I donâ€™t make the laws of time, I just tell you what you got to fix to live, Russell. See you around.â€
There was a time when food could be remembered; a time when you could lick your lips and recall the sweet sting of dehydrated packaged delights. Too bad those days donâ€™t exist anymore. Days like that leave you when the thirst takes over.
Travel has just about stopped by now. No one comes off-planet because there is no source of sustenance to be had. I am smarter than that. Perhaps there were fewer of them, but the lack of competition made it easier to capture what you needed.
Watching, I remind myself that I cannot afford the luxuries of stress or frustration. Those things could cause a leak, and I wonâ€™t have it. The temperature in my craft is well below what it should be. They say the thirst holds itself at bay for longer when itâ€™s frigid. My breath attests to the fact that I have taken this rumor to heart.
As my cold eyes watch the dead space I know that whatever is left of my soul is out there beyond my reach. The cold, hollow truth lay bare before me while I stand vigilant near the radar. There is nothing left inside, above the saturation percentage. I can measure it by the time that passes between when I swallow and when the glands ache as they thirst for more.
Well above the dying planet I can witness the small blots of what isnâ€™t land. Sometimes I muse to myself how they still exist or why I havenâ€™t drawn closer. They would kill me if they saw me, but in the end they would do exactly as I have done. They would do the same, because there is no other way. Clouds will not gather over a dusty rock and let redemption fall down from the gray mass.
A beep, and my eyes stop wandering. They are now fixed upon the red screen, watching the tiny dot edge closer like an insect to a web. My God, I can feel it rising within me, wanting me to feast. I must wait, however. I must prepare.
One on board? Two on board? It doesnâ€™t matter now. Iâ€™ve locked onto them and I prepare the grappler. If not for the emptiness, I could hear their screams. Their horror at being pulled in while the oxygen ceases to flow in their vessel. It must be maddening.
On one side of the device, I observe a gallon-sized capsule stained a dark brown. This is my sin. On the other side, I can see a flask with a dusty, cloudy, but ultimately empty interior. It smells of metal, and it tastes of hydrogen. This is my salvation.
I hear the grappler pulling home, and I hear it lock in before the ship becomes silent again. Itâ€™s silent as the inside of their pod. They need not worry anymore. What is left of them will be my salvation. What is left of them will slake my thirst. I power up the machine and I wait for the doors to open into their vessel. Ounce by ounce, pint by pint, the future is on its way.