“In my mind ‘Science Fiction’ is an important part of the process of visualizing possible futures thus helping shape that future building process. As such especially hard fact based science fiction is important to the process of futurism and for me Transhumanism with this in mind I’d like to encourage such work as it helps the Transhumanist community define where we are going and along those lines we hope to see more transhuman related science fiction and share it with you.” ~DavidJKelley, T.net Editor
Deneb IV, 2400 CE.
The shift in power from the Solar System to Deneb System and the conflicts of the era seem inevitable from our long view back, but for someone living in the twenty-fifth Century the violence and sudden reversals and advances among the worlds must have most certainly seemed a dashing billiards game. It was an obscure Medical Research facility on one of a hundred bustling boom-worlds that would define the age. A dashing young scientist, Lourdes Cassandra appears on the Galactic stage as if at a weightless moment of an apogee…
-Princess Clairissa Maggio, Caldris “Deneb IV, Empire of Light and Darkness.”
Lourdes Charlotte Cassandra watched the construction rigs from her air-taxi over the busting metropolis of Pink Town with a curious disdain as she made her way to the Medical Center, a mysterious government medical research agency had summoned her. The last of Deneb’s blinding daylight, and she was off.
Bring on the night…
As world turned away from the light of Deneb, which is far too brilliant for the human eye to bear, she made her way. Away from the searing light; replacing eyes was one of Deneb IV’s great skills among the worlds of the galaxy, skills learned out of grim necessity. The world turns away, night falls and the activity of Humanity on Deneb IV begins. Mankind here nocturnal, coming out of its caves of steel into the starlight, busying itself.
The last of the light still silvered on the far horizon, frightening in its aspect. Blindness gleamed there. The Medical Center was further out, past Pink town, alone in an area newly developing among the shallow inland Black Sea.
The planet had been building without pause as long as Lourdes could remember, back into the misty memories of childhood as she had peered out of her Grandmother’s aircar decades before. Aircars and construction cranes were two constants in her life. It seemed she was always in one, looking out at the other.
Pink Town, Lancelot Station, Clement Gardens, Simmons City: a building juggernaut of four centuries, with each thirty year plan the previous estimates of growth are outdone by an order of magnitude. The reality was now a megalopolis stretching along the Southern Shore of the Black Sea across half the planet.
The Medical Center, however, had been founded originally on a large Island as a private concern before being entrusted to the government.
She had been informed suddenly, unexpectedly, that the position she was asked to interview for was classified. She was not to discuss it with anyone. A mild apprehension ran through her at that, breaking her ordinarily serene composure.
She was a neurologist, an expert in Organic Chemistry.
What possible ugly secret use could the government of Deneb System want with her? Her air-taxi broke through a cloud, and she approached the Medical Center in a series of drops through various traffic streams. Her mind drifted through current events that might bode trouble for the government.
Mercury Nearside City had dominated the economic and political life of the Solar system for several bright and beautiful centuries of progress; the rise of Deneb IV had been closely watched and carefully guided at the hands of the Mercurians-always behind the scenes, with a patronizing, somewhat scoffing attitude-less so in the last century.
Among the other star systems there was an inconsistent quality to Humankinds developing cultures, some noble, some corrupt, some downright depraved. At the Deep Frontier, and further-Outspace, a profound lawlessness and epic criminal set of warlords came and went.
A warlord would rise up, claim a world, begin committing atrocities in the name of glory, or a twisted take on religion, and Mercury Nearside City would rally the Solar system to send troops and bring order. The pattern had happened so often it was considered a fifty/fifty chance any longer as a settlement somewhere developed.
Still, it was a stretch to imagine they would call upon a Neurologist in such matters.
Onto the Art deco parapets and landing portals, then she was greeted by a taciturn man, Dr. Dr. Scalotta , aged somewhat ungracefully for one with access to the best medical services, she mused.
“Dr. Cassandra, thank you for coming. Right this way.” he gestured with a tired, stooped walk and was wearing optical displays-a conceit, she surmised, but kept the question open-why such disregard for his person? His wearing of antiquated optics, apparent aging without youth re-boosting, these smacked of a creep factor.
“Thank you, Dr., Thoughtful of you to come up and greet me personally.”
Dr. Scalotta peered at the world beyond the landing pad with a curious reverie. Blinding daylight gone now, Deneb IV was a beehive of activity, and all the activity visible in the lights of towers and vehicles.
Higher and bathing the landscape in a form of moon glow, space stations and orbiting solar farms reflected strange geometries in the heavens.
“Well, buried in my work as I am, it’s a welcome break to be reminded there is a world still out there.”
She smiled. The old Wizard was poking his head up from his library and incantations. They made their way to a lift and dropped quickly and deeply into the bowels of the tower. It opened onto a brightly lit lab full of researchers, robots, and discordantly-two military police, apparently cyborged, scarred battle veterans.
Lourdes glanced at Dr. Scalotta nervously.
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, they come with the territory. Some of the research we are doing here has been deemed less than popular by certain ‘activist’ groups”
He shambled, staggering somewhat, “No worries, Miss Cassandra. You’ll receive no harm from them,” he winked, “they’d take fire before failing by their duty, rest assured, and their duty is to protect us.”
“Protect us from whom exactly?” she asked aloud, but he seemed not to hear her and they were moving along into the research labs directly.
The giant power facilities surprised her. Apparently they were at ground level now, and a great interior space was busy with the comings and going of aircars and ground trains and maglevs.
Eventually he turned his strange visage squarely at her, “The Luddites and Philistines, heh, heh. My research here has not always been warmly received. There have been threats.”
“What am I getting myself into?” she smiled nervously as they continued deeper into the cavernous bowels of the complex. “Who are these groups? Will they come after me at my home should I join the research team here?”
“Wing nuts from various worlds who spend too much time on Hypercasts, berating technology while living off it.
They scream for Humanity’s demise and say we are a scource on the pristine Universe. They want us all dead, as it were.”
Finally Lourdes stopped in her tracks. “Dr, the rumor is your creating a better AI, one that goes beyond a Touring test and is truly sentient. Your goal, an actual Transhuman entity. You want to cheat death.”
He smiled beneath his anachronistic optical displays, “Yes, cheating Death. Something of an obsession of mine.”
“This kind of research has been going on for centuries with really no way to prove if the AI is actually self aware or no.”
“Oh my young Neurologist, I can assure you I’m quite unaware,” They approached a figure on a table and she came to the sudden shock and recognition of seeing Dr. Scalotta was quite dead, very dead, and laying on the table. She had been conversing with a hologram AI, “because I’m dead.”
The hologram AI of Dr. Scalotta smiled, and seeing her frown, raised a hand.
“Wait, wait, indulge me…the program is quite capable of carrying on as well as I would if I were actually alive.”
Uncertain of how to continue, she raised her chin and waited.
“I anticipated I may have expired, anticipated our latest developments wouldn’t allow for my actual sentience to survive before you arrived, and we are quite on the proper path. You see, it is not our scientific research on the Transhuman system housing I wish you to work on, it is…this.”
They came to another place in the laboratories and among the giant machines and cavernous spaces and bustling robots, guards, and researchers she saw another table. On the table was a broken, metallic bone. She drew closer. No, not a bone at all, bone like, seemingly organic-but rather, sculpted to appear organic-they object was mineral. Metal, glass, intricate. Technology such as she had never seen.
“Preceding our era, my Dear, Preceding our Civilization, preceding every word ever spoken by the mouths of Human kind, every thought before a single name from a single place we have known was spoken, other words of elder gods, so to speak. Things preceded us.”
“This is alien technology. These predecessors…how long before us?” her eyes were very wide. She wanted to touch it.
The program was unable not to replicate Dr. Scalotta’s own typical reaction and so he seemed to bounce around excitedly now, “Millions of years. Many millions of years.”
She was silent for a moment, then asked, “Why are you showing it to me?”
“Well, we believe it had the ability to interface with the organisms that created it, and function without them-such that it may have in fact actually been sentient. If that is the case, then all this facility,” his hologram arms waived at the buildings around them, “may have finally found a solution to the sentience issue. Genuine Transhumanism may finally be possible.”
“So…if it was once sentient, how do you know it wasn’t the machine that killed off the creators that made it?”
He sighed, “Well, we don’t. That’s what the radicals are upset about and why we’ve had to heighten security. Some feel we are creating a monster, heheh. Summoning the Demon.”
She saw his laughter was at the irony of his current state, speaking to her while dead, about monsters.
“Well, I’m sure there is nothing I can help you discover from this fragment of Predecessor Being’s technology that you couldn’t discover with all this facility at your disposal. I must decline the offer to work on this with you, Doctor.”
She rather abruptly turned to leave when he called out and pointed to a wall screen, “That is true, Dr. Cassandra, but it is not the fragment we wish you to examine.”
The wall screen came alive with the image of a series of structures and a densely packed configuration of stars. “We’ve discovered an intact base of these Predecessor beings. We want you to go there. To the center of the Galaxy. To an intact alien base.”
Lourdes Charlotte Cassandra stood silent and looked for a long moment at the alien structures, perfect and wondrous on the screen. “But of course. When shall we begin?”
One of the young guards approached her, a brutally handsome thing in a fresh camouflage Battle Dress Uniform. She noted the name on his breastplate, Scalotta 2X. “We already have, my Dear.”
The older, shambling version of Scalotta nodded quietly and moved away. The young guard smiled and gave her a level gaze. “I’ll be escorting you from here on out in a Cyborg form. A younger version of me.”
Lourdes found herself strangely amused at the AI then-it seemed almost to have a sense of humor-and an uncanny sense of what a living person would want to see next. First the grand-fatherly scientist to calm her about the Scientific Assignment, next a stalwart tin soldier to guide her along her journey among the stars.
As Humankind spread out from the Solar system and into the Orion Galactic Spiral Arm of the Milky Way, the great Silk Road of old occurred in a new form, in a myriad of paths traced not by feet and wheels, but by the Star Ships.
Lumbering and slow, they bent space at first crudely and painfully time consuming by contemporary standards. Colony ships, then trade ships of various rare ores and even rarer pieces of other worlds, the Star Ways crowded as the Silk Road.
The Main Orion flight paths pushed centrally along the Orion Arm, and also inward toward the Sagittarius Galactic Spiral Arm, and the Central Galactic Region.
Where the two great conglomerations of flight paths merged sat Ophelia System and Ophelia’s World. Rivaling Deneb IV in sheer economic juggernaut, Ophelia’s world quickly evolved a certain pomp and Baroque Flourish.
The Aristocracy there, keenly aware that they represented the largest aggregation of Human endeavor at the far end of Space, made an extra effort that their cities and developing industries were ever more covered with a patina of artful ornamentation. A hundred and fifty story tower housing state of the art computing and manufacturing would be clothed in the architectural embellishments of applied ornamental sculptures, and alighting from deep space a traveler might be greeted by angels in the architecture…
-Princess Clairissa Maggio, Caldris-
“Ophelia’s World, Gilded Oasis of the Galactic Starways
Their ship the Colossus , a brilliant white Sunrider 2400 gunboat, was greeted at the system outskirts with a formal fireworks salute and several dignitaries. Lourdes was a little surprised, but it turned out her appointment was more than mere research and the good doctor back at Deneb IV had made her Director of the Institute which now granted her a certain status….
Artwork by Shane Perry
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