skonen_blades: (Default)
White clam chowder and over-easy eggs. Soup and eggs for short.

Mass was the problem with colonizing. Getting mass near C was expensive. The smaller the load, the better. Sending ten thousand colonists was impossible.

But sending ten thousands eggs and ten thousand loads of semen was way cheaper.

The ship had a chilled cargo of those two ingredients to make human babies. Womb ships, they were called. They had a skeleton crew of scientists, techs, teachers, and caretakers trained to take on whatever challenges might arise at first contact with the target home but after they’d landed and seen that everything was alright for seeding, they’d get underway.

The birthing tanks would be unfolded and irrigated with dehydrated amniotic solution. These giant uterariums would then be flooded with the soup and eggs slurry sometimes referred to as brunch. The old exponential dance would start and babies would pop up like strawberry Christmas lights on the vine. Tendriled, manufactured, multiumbilicals would snake out and attach themselves to a thousand belly buttons. Each tank was filled with fraternal millituplets.

Wait time was the human usual. The children would be boosted with learning enhancers and xenoviral protection. A small percentage were always lost to errors in cell replication no matter how tailored the dna but the average yield was 90% or 900. Harvest would happen in two-year stages, nine hundred per year. This was called the familial ladder. Ten years of baby making before shutdown for 9,000 humans.

The crew would foster them with help from the AI adoptives, working as a team to cram as much knowledge and mental health into them from the get go before they took on their new world.

It was a system that had worked twelve times before. Twelve Edens had successfully flowered with no humans needing expulsion from angry gods.

This was going to be unlucky thirteen.

The tailored enzymes would fail and the entire crop would be born sociopathic and cruel unbeknownst to the crew. As the children grew, they schemed and the crew began began to meet with accidents. Before any of them figured out was what happening, they were gone.

The children were geniuses. As the other batches reached fruition and were born, they were taken in by the first two waves and taught to be just as awful.

The planet survived and flourished. They developed weapons and a reputation. They broadcast torture videos and vile non-consensual pornographic videos. Their system of government was opaque. It seemed like anarchy but they had such organizational skills.

Their planet is isolated. Quarantined. Embargoed. Struck off the records as a failure, they’re monitored for signs of extra-system aggression. They’re an embarrassment.

A closeted mistake until sixteen minutes ago when their entire planet, now decades into post-womb colonization and nearly five generations deep, completely disappeared off of everyone’s scans.

And reappeared near Earth Prime bristling with nuke barrels and planet crackers pointed at our race’s home.

The pirate planet had come home, prodigal son returning.

They didn’t open fire immediately but they did send a message system-wide on all channels before they started the war.

“No more wombships.”

After a heated exchange of nuclear fire that the pirate planet lost, they drove their planet straight into Earth. Terran defenses didn’t stand a chance.

We no longer use wombships for colonization but we are still trying to figure out how those little bastards made a whole planet capable of faster-than-light travel. None of the other Edens have come anywhere near that kind of technology. The philosophical implications of their success don’t bear thinking about.

Evil might be smarter than good.

skonen_blades: (Default)
It’s the engine of the world. A holocaust of denials clogging the locust filters. An overheating of the entire worldwide server. Shouldn’t have built a computer in a greenhouse. The calculations are too fast, they need too much power. The underground network needs to be made of ice to survive. We’re bred to be warm but it we get too hot, we’re toast.

We’re a train of harmonica lizards crawling up the spine of the most expensive hooker in the universe. We’re one accordion short of a political movement. We ran so far away. The dawn is like an explosion, whipcracking across the horizon like nuclear war. The light slaps down across our naked planet like a flipper on an ass and we wake up shocked, hairless monkeys that we are. There is no dignity in a self-caused genocide. It’s pooping your pants times a million.

Lilies crowd our lungs and red farms panic across our skin. We are fertilizer for the next shot at the title. Too successful, our tombstone will read. The exponential infinity mirror march of genes overflowing the petri dish we’re wrapped around. At least we still make good food. Our afterlife is a main course for the new mouths.

Perhaps they’ll be smaller. My money’s on the bugs. Living off the free meat, multiplying by the billions, evoluting up the ladder at a spring with those short life cycles. A little more radiation blasting through the sky sprinkler with no one around to tell them that they’re mutated. Let’s get the trial and error started. Let’s start those ribonucleic shots in the dark. Let’s watch the magic happen. The universe is indifferent to our failure or our success.

We need to leave. We need to spread. We need to paint the other rocks with our biological graffiti. We need to tag our way out, leapfrogging to the stars like hardy cancer. Insurance comes from diversity and a wide spread of buckshot. The more host bodies we cling to, the more resource deposits we parasite off of, the more secure our future. Survival will get us to the stars, not greed.

Let our gods lead us if they must. Let commerce, too, if that’s our jam. Let altruism have a seat at the table, too. But we must leave. The bucket is overflowing with sentient meat. We have to lower the levels.

We must leave. Or we will die.

skonen_blades: (Default)
The thing about the planet Kuroshka was that it had seventeen centers all orbiting each other. It was several times the size of Jupiter but had managed to solidify anyway. The centers had formed their own molten-core solar system deep under the crust. All these different cores spinning around each other inside the planet created gravity storms above. This made the crust into the hardest naturally-occurring substance discovered in the universe so far. If it had any elasticity at all, it would have been reduced to sand by the variable gravity continually attacking it.

The crust was a dark uniform jade green that didn’t reflect much light. It was flawless and smooth all the way to the horizon. It looked completely unnatural and creepy and warped all sense of perspective.

We’d been placed here to find out how to mine it. A naturally occurring material like this could change the course of any war. But how does one cut such a material? Hell, the only way we could anchor our colonies here was with giant industrial suction cups.

Some colonies get pretty planets that are easy to live on. Lucky them. Some colonies get planets like Kuroshka.

As I suited up for another walkabout, I made sure to check the backup juice in my grav retardants and the sealant in my x-legs. The readouts said no gravity storms but they were only correct about half the time.

“How’s it lookin’ out there?” I asked Brent, our resident gravity mapper. The kid was twenty-three years old non-coldsleep if he was a day. This was the only posting he could get straight out of school. ‘First job is the worst job’ as they say.

“Not bad, Angie. 7.6 R.O.I., maybe arcing to 8 here and there. As long as you stay within two clicks that should be accurate.” He answered without a smile. Ever since Marcus had been crushed before he could activate his failsafes in a freak gravity squall that Brent didn’t see coming, he hadn’t been getting much sleep. Too obsessive can be just as bad as inattentive, I thought, and reminded myself to get him good and drunk tonight.

I snicked my helmet into place and got into the elevator.

The theory we were working on was that the structural integrity around the entirety of the planet couldn’t be uniform. Which is a university way of saying that we were looking for cracks.

If we could find a place where the crust had a small split or crevasse, we could analyze the cross-section and maybe detect a weakness that would let our engineers create a cutting tool.

Long-range and orbital scans had revealed nothing. Now it was down to the ground teams to cover spots deemed by the experts ‘most likely to reveal answers’.

Might as well have chosen search points for us at random, we thought. Hell, maybe they did choose at random. Didn’t change the job.

I got out of the elevator on the surface ‘lock and started walking. The legs of my suit fought the variable Gs while my anti-grav accelerator worked against them to give me a smooth ride. Worked great on any planet with stable gravity but the calibration is what took the longest and out here, a few second calibrating after a wave of G’s came in could mean death. The chaos of the inner orbits made it dicey. Good pay.

My shift was eight hours. I took slow steps, looking at the boring, smooth, unchanging ground for cracks through my faceplate and remembered a rhyme about breaking mother’s backs.

skonen_blades: (Default)
“In time of great scarcity, great sacrifice is needed” the Elder droned on, his voice wafting out over the congregation. Every sixday it was the same thing. We have nothing, we have nothing, we have nothing. Don’t hoard, don’t steal, don’t breed, wait for rescue. Blah, blah, blah.

“They will return. Our absence has been noticed. We will be collected and brought back to the land of plenty.” He said. The suns were shining outside and Gerald Peterschild was aching to get out and have a game of tag with the other boys. Fidgeting, he looked over for Jack and Ronnie to see if they were as bored as he was.

He felt the elbow in his ribs before he had time to prepare for it. “Look forward” his father whispered harshly out of the side of his mouth. Gerald looked forward dutifully. His father was at his most serious during the re-affirmation sessions. His eye-patch gazed forward beside his remaining steely blue eye at the Engineer at the podium at the front of the Church of Return.

“Our numbers must not grow.” The Engineer intoned. “Our colony must survive. The machines that were left must feed us all and we cannot make more. The land is unforgiving.”

Bah. Gerald had seen gardening videos in the restricted quarters when he had sneaked into a heating vent to watch other parents at a secret late-night meeting. They were part of the Gardening movement. These heretics proposed a splice of local plants with the earth seeds kept in the ship's vaults so that we would gradually adapt to the new food. It would weaken the present population but strengthen the grandchildren. That was the theory. And it would keep up from being dependent on the machines.

Madness. Everyone knew the ship was returning. We could not afford to depend on this planet for food. They would not return if we did. We had to stay pure. We had to stay human.

“Soon, the Gardeners will have to be dealt with.” Spat the Engineer. “There will be a reckoning. Stay vigilant.” The adults murmured, some with smiles and some with fear.

Gerald was happy with the food cubes that came out of the machines. On that video he’d seen from between the slats of the air vent, however, he’d seen something called an apple. It looked delicious. He was curious.

skonen_blades: (haBUUH)
She came from the First Cities. I suppose that’s why we all thought she was a stuck-up bitch.

Not that she acted like one. She was just quiet. To our fertile and vengeful minds, she appeared haughty and aloof. Too good for us. Looking back on it, she was probably just terrified of our overt racist ignorance.

With each day that she failed to figure out a way to make friends, our opinion of her cemented.

Not that any of us walked forth with an offer of coffee. God, I hate looking back on those days.

It was that damned colony ladder social formation. A 'combination of royalty and democracy', they called it. 'Screw those who had the bad taste to be born here out of wedlock', we called it. The families that landed first made the rules and made provisions for their children.

It wasn’t long before the first bastards were born. It’s harsh setting up a colony. Those bastards were put to work and stripped of their last names. So were their parents.

Over time, new names were chosen. Old names merged into other names. The seven First Cities (New Omaha, New Minsk, New Albion, New California, New Vancouver, New Singapore, and New New Delhi) still maintained strict adherence to original colonization dogma. They preached abstinence before marriage and were obscenely rich off of the original patents set up by their fore-fathers.

They were also the keepers of The Needle.

That was the communications array that kept us in contact with updates from what they called our Home System. The updates were centuries out of date when I was a child. I still remember the day that The Needle went silent. On all of the screens, the First Cities Networks showed the faithful in the streets, wailing, not knowing how or why their god had gone silent.

My father simply said “Well, that’s that.” and got up to get another drink.

Cities grew and spread, First-Cities influence fading the further away from the First Cities that the new cities got. Most of the planet had cities now or at least outposts. First-Cities influence was fading. I'd grown up in Earth Glen. The closest First City was New New Delhi and that was thousands of miles away.

The First Cities were outnumbered. Their only strength was their stranglehold on the economy and their status as keeper of The Needle. Now that The Needle was no longer talking, a lot of the rest of the population of the world became increasingly concerned about the unfair distribution of wealth.

A rebellion was brewing. Sides were being chosen.

Love and timing rarely going together.

I fell in love with the First Cities girl that joined our office.

We got trapped in an elevator. We shared a few nervous hellos at first and then I launched into a tirade about why I hated her people.

Astoundingly, she agreed with most of it.

I listened to her talk about what her parents had told her about keeping the rest of the planet in line and how she didn’t like it. She did hit me with a few points about our complaints that made me see my people as petty. It shut me up and made me think.

She’d run away from her family, she confessed.

Publicly, we pretended to keep hating each other but privately, over the next few months, we ended up sleeping over at each other’s apartments. It was only a matter of time before people found out.

We’re both outcasts now and we couldn’t be happier.

skonen_blades: (dark)
I woke up from the deep cryosleep with a bleary head and a taste in my mouth like I’d licked a battery. The gel washed off cleanly and I was standing in the hall with the other colonists in my underwear with the HR monitors still stuck to us like faithless remoras. I looked to my left but my wife wasn’t there.

An older woman stood beside me stretching with an expansive peaceful smile on her face. The smile of the landed settler. The trip is over, the smile said, and the now the hard work begins. Let’s get to it. I smiled back. I had gone under first and it was a big ship. Lisa had been put into another compartment

The lockers contained our clothes. We put them on and huddled around the monitors to get the reports on the atmosphere outside. I checked the colonist logs to see where my wife was.

The atmosphere was breathable and it was a sunny day. The doors hissed open and nearly all of us ran out with abandon and rolled around in the red flowers. Ten thousand humans played like children around the base of an iron mountain arkship in the middle of a field of alien flowers.

I didn’t. I just kept looking at the log list and at the message in my inbox. It was a message from my wife. I pressed play.

She didn’t get on the ship. She’d been seeing someone. She didn’t think that I’d understand. She was sorry that it had come to this. She didn’t think that running away together would solve the problems we had. She had added her fare to mine so that I’d have more points over in the new land and be a desirable mate. She was staying home.

I think I played it back three times. I let it sink in. Outside I could hear the whooping and yelling of people born again in a new world. Tears crawled down my face. She had seen me to my compartment. My last memory of her was watching her put her jacket in the locker next to mine. It had been a ruse to let me sleep easy.

I’d been asleep at over light speed for months.

The message was nearly five hundred years old.



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