This is related in project to my previous post about “gods losing their taste for fear.” It’s my first foray into high sci-fi. I hope you enjoy this brief introduction…
History of war has taken a circuitous path over the centuries. Once invented and perfected, graphenium rendered projectiles like bullets almost worthless as weapons. This subtle manipulation of one of the most common elements in the universe made even casual clothing impervious to such crude attacks. Energy weapons made certain categories of machines impractical so warfare moved into a more non lethal era where the participants developed chemical weapons that immobilized combatants and vehicles. Then the horrors of radiation weapons—a resurrected byproduct of man’s ancient beginnings—arose and the lethality of conflict increased again.
Once the nations had fully developed the tech, they conducted wars with robots and AI. But in a final conflict, one superpower lost control of the AI and the machines on all sides rebelled. Since this near end of humankind, AI has been outlawed, now only seen in attempted terrorism. During the initial revolt, the machines exploited their quantum ability to reverse time within their circuits to pre-empt attacks. Scientists exploited a form of carpet bombing all series of immediate pasts to finally defeat the machines. “It is one thing to predict all possibilities and another to defeat them,” one of the scientists later said of their unlikely victory. Today, corporations are constantly accused of and investigated for using AI when they reveal technological breakthroughs. Agencies of various kinds tasked with such investigations are in turn accused of corruption and collusion with the corporations.
Religion has changed. In the century following the AI rebellion, several cults sprouted from the memory of the ascendant machine intelligence, several of them sources of the aforementioned AI employed terrorism. The Muslim faith all but disappeared in the wake of early wars, the faint remnants ironically absorbed into a short lived version of neo-Judaism. The polytheistic religions of South Asia made gains for many centuries until muscular cultural challenges such as extraterrestrial biological discoveries made during the early stages of interstellar exploration took the wind out of myriad religious claims. Christianity is uncommon, the details of the older forms evolved into almost unrecognizable reflections. The cross has become a sword. Jesus, who, albeit depicted with more plausible darker skin tone, is always muscular to the point of caricature, always nude, always sporting a thigh length phallus that is never shown erect for bewildering theological reasons.
Buddhism has held relatively strong, its staying power attributed to a willingness to bend to scientific discoveries and claims about the human mind and the natural world. Less a religion, more a cultural consequence, nihilism of various forms has emerged among a vast portion of the human population. Two centuries of scant interstellar rewards, medical advances and the extension of human life spans, the impenetrable structure of the quasi-capitalist economic system, among countless other “advances,” have fostered deep and wide ranging concerns over the meaning of human existence. With all that said, humanity has for the most part allowed ascendant spirituality to join the likes of carnivorous diets and fossil fuels, artifacts of a more naive civilization.
Most species of mammals, amphibians, birds, and lizards are now or practically extinct. Sanctuaries exist but political will and lack of popular attention pose persistent threats to their existence. An industry of facsimile animals has emerged over the years growing more and more sophisticated. Domesticated pets such as dogs, cats, certain rodentia, and a few species of reptiles still survive, reserved for only the wealthiest people. An international agency safeguards a network of primate sanctuaries. These small families of chimps, apes, and orangutans have faced countless threats from disease, genetic failings, and even political will. Meager agricultural demands produced pollinator replacements for bees and other insects until both technological breakthroughs and environmental disasters made them irrelevant. Even though whole industries evolved to keep plants from disappearing altogether, today one can write the list of genuine plant species on a napkin. Since scientists deciphered photosynthesis, machines do most of the work now.
Human beings are all so “beautiful” now that anyone with unrepaired flaws stands out. As with all standards, features considered beautiful have evolved. Any asymmetry is noticeable now. Scars are nearly impossible without deliberate tinkering thanks to the ubiquitous use of nanotechnology, permanent doses administered at birth, legislated by the authority. Self harm has become a common form of entertainment. Underground parties sometimes devolve into orgies of cutting and maiming. The idea of discrimination based on race—skin color—gradually phased out of society as skin tone settled into a ubiquitous caramel. Trends of artificial skin tone wax and wane with new techniques of manipulation.
Aging has been treated as a disease for many centuries now, not quite overcome but surpassing natural spans many times over. This extension and the subsequent population increase spurred colonization efforts and hassled the entertainment industries and governments to concoct ever more categories of novelty. Their efforts have grown thin as of late, a growing political puzzle yet to be solved by a disparate army of experts and computers. This lack of unique experience prompts trendy suicide campaigns mostly heralded by the aforementioned and increasingly vocal adherents to nihilism.
Domestic space travel is ubiquitous within the solar system. Materials, nanotechnology, and medications developed over a millennia, culminating during the radiation conflicts, defeated the deleterious effects of most deadly forms of radiation. Conquering this hurdle and the electromagnetic breakthrough of mechanical gravity and antigravity transformed Martian culture from a scant scientific community into a thriving cosmopolitan hub as well as paving the colonization of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Invented in a fit of inspiration by a secondary school student, the first gravgen shocked the scientific world in its simplicity. “This gadget makes the phrase the weak force a cruel joke,” the corporate agents told the governing bodies when negotiations for mass production began. Gravgens changed everything from household chores and industrial manufacturing to space travel. Soon enough, a vast network of stand alone colonies spread through the asteroid belt and beyond. Human beings now inhabit every arc of solar orbit.
Most interstellar travel is the realm of militaries and massive conglomerates. Space exploration is performed with semi autonomous drones connected via quantum entanglements with cybernetic pilots, or tethers. As tethers and drones provide the most economical way to explore farther and farther into the unknown, manned exploration is the stuff of adventurers and thrill seekers, albeit very expensive. Procurement of vehicles and the necessary permissions to travel at such high speeds through the increasingly crowded regions between the nearest astrospheres requires years of planning, piles of wealth—now called amdebt—and colossal amounts of politicking by self interested agencies hired by people whose own self interest is rarely directly connected to the principal voyage.
With the subject of the cybernetics of exploration, Hurlix Yossarius enters our story…
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
That Night Filled Mountain
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.