This is the preface/intro to my new Science Fiction story, Cogent (current working title).
|One hundred years ago, another species came to save us. They saw that we, as a species, were finally on the brink of deserving to become the next civilization that could join the galactic family. That we were finally shedding off notions of archaic beliefs and faiths, embracing differences, and making progress and our survival the priority. That we finally realized how much damage we had done to our planet, and we didn’t have time to wait for Earth to heal herself. But, they saw, it was too far gone, and despite our best efforts, the environment was crumbling beyond the point where our species, as a whole, would survive. So they came, helped us elevate ourselves beyond our petty squabbles, and promised to return when the time was right. But that will be explained in due time.
It took a few decades for the old ways to peter out. There were still pockets of religious zealots that thought their god or goddess was the only way, and that they would kill significant amounts of people to prove that point, trying to force people to their will with terror. Humanity, however, finally grew tired of it, and just began to ignore them. Defend against them, of course, preventing attacks, but did not give them the satisfaction of trying to hunt them, and give them the media exposure that they wanted, so that they could twist it to their own ends and recruit more people. After a few years of being ignored, even the most violent and fervent of groups waned. The international policy on religions was instituted not long after, which, in page after page of boring political jargon and inane detail, explained that it was perfectly fine if someone wanted to practice a religion, but it was something that was kept private, and proselytizing outside of the family was outlawed. Religion, and religious morals, were absolutely not allowed in law and government.
After these laws came about, organized religion had all but disappeared. It was replaced with a sense of looking to a bright future through the haze of a tumultuous present. For a long time, those people who held steadfastly to religions balked that humanity would be doomed to fail, because religion provided a moral compass. But, after meeting a prosperous, technologically advanced species from beyond our solar system, which gave up organized religion millennia ago, we realized that there indeed was a moral compass in us all along: be kind to yourself, your home, and to others. It was so mind-bogglingly simple, it is a miracle we had made it this far as a species. A lot of religions preached things like this, to varying degrees, but after hundreds or thousands of years, that initial message was blurred or all but blotted out by people trying to make sure that their religion (and sometimes only their religion) survived, and that those close to the religion would benefit and prosper, whilst imposing their views on others and stomping out those who opposed. Once it got through our heads that we just needed to find that Zen-like balance within ourselves, our environment, and those around us, humanity was much better off.
The other poison that needed to be leeched out was that there were still many people that took that “be kind to yourself” to ridiculous levels. These were the people who would do anything to keep the money and power that they already have. These were the people that were the billionaires, CEOs, politicians, and their cronies that did all that they could, stepping on people all the way up, just so their bank accounts would stay fat and happy, and what they thought as the right path for their companies and nations was instituted and held onto. So humanity had one last hurrah of the old ways. There was another world war. It was generally the have nations versus the have nots, but this time, things were different.
When our new galactic friends came, they gave the same technology to everyone, from the greatest of powerhouse nations, to the poorest of them, who could only wish to be rated a third-world country. One of their greatest gifts to us was the technology of energy/matter conversion. This meant that, as long as there was energy, anything that you could want could be created. Think of the awesome replicator technology on those science fiction shows, now available for free to the entire world. Was more energy needed? Toss in some of the same trash that is destroying the environment, and it would easily convert it from matter into more energy. Win for you, win for the environment. But that also meant that anyone who needed one, could easily requisition a weapon.
Those that were in power tried to hit hard and fast, to assert their dominance, but those who would, in the past, have had no choice but to either cower and comply or just keep feeding soldiers to the meat grinder, now had everything they needed to make the fight fair. The war raged on for just shy of 10 years, a great back-and-forth battle across every portion of the globe, but in the end, the privileged few finally gave into the fact that they were vastly outnumbered by the people who had once been struggling just to have clean water and meager supplies of food. By the time they came to this realization, however, millions had perished on both sides.
But then, something unprecedented happened: they forgave each other. There were no war concessions, no occupations, no compensation for lives lost. Both sides were badly hurt, but both sides also had the means to recover. Unlike the past, there was no need to scramble for resources like minerals, oil, and other things that could be now simply punched into a machine and it would appear in an instant. For once in the span of the history of our species, we all realized that we were all, indeed, equal.
Reconstruction began. Humanity cleared away the rubble from the final, destructive war. Cities tried their best to preserve important places and buildings that survived the best that they could, but some relics were lost. In their place, new homes were built. People came to realize that, although it is wonderful to embrace your home and culture, we were all fundamentally the same, and the lines that once marked the borders of nations began to dissolve. We began to think of ourselves less as a group of hundreds of nations, and more as simply citizens of Earth. An easy to learn, common language, uncreatively named “Common”, became the lingua franca for the planet. It was taught in every school and, although some native languages lingered (and were encouraged, for the sake of cultural preservation), they were generally use only at home, and it was considered taboo to speak something other than Common beyond the threshold of one’s residence. It left everyone effectively bilingual, being able to communicate with anyone, anywhere, without the need for translation. Now that we got the aggression over land, culture, and possession of resources out of our system, it was time to focus on making sure we could survive as a whole.
Besides what the ravages of war had done to our planet, we also had centuries of tearing up our beautiful globe up for resources and our own gain and expansion. We had a lot of work ahead of us. Although we were given the basic technologies our new friends thought we needed to survive, they wanted us to develop our own future. Scientists were shown how to operate the technology and expand upon the basics of the new science that was given, and then it just became a technological playground. Beyond the quality of life applications to make sure anyone and everyone had what they need to survive and have basic quality of life, the primary focus became the pursuit of patching up our planet, before the planet decides that she is sick of us and something catastrophic happens to cleanse herself of us.
Since new, environmentally friendly power sources were available, oil, coal, and other polluting resources were scrapped. Mining and drilling for various substances and minerals was stopped, as alternative means of creation were achieved. Scientists created drones that would fly around the skies of polluted cities, scooping up the smog and excess carbon dioxide, and convert it to breathable air, meanwhile using a small portion of the toxins to keep themselves airborne. A fleet of water crafts were created to be sent out into the oceans, highly tuned to seek out trash and chemicals, such as oil and gasoline left from boats, and also out to the phenomenon known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, a mass of floating debris carried by the oceanic currents, which was estimated be the size of the former nation of Turkey. Slowly and methodically, the PTV fleet chewed its way through the gargantuan mass of human-made flotsam, leaving the ocean free and clear for life to thrive in the area once again. The ozone layer was repaired, stemming the melting of the ice caps. Since food and clean water could now be replicated, we no longer needed to clear forests to make way for farms and livestock. It took quite a while, but nature began to recover.
But as this bright and shiny day for our planet dawned, we came to a realization: our population was going to continue to grow unchecked. There were no longer chunks of our population being felled by starvation, war, and disease. All three had virtually been eliminated. Eventually, habitable land would become an issue. So we had to look towards the future again in the effort to ensure humanity’s survival.
Several ideas were thrown around at first. We could colonize the bottom of the ocean, or have floating cities. After all, water covered the majority of the planet. Even though it was now logistically past the stage of being whimsical fiction penned on an author’s page, it was not seen as an optimal solution for two reasons: First, it would only be a temporary solution, as there was only so much usable surface area, and it would eventually be used up. Second, the power needed to maintain a living environment at greater depths would grow exponentially, due to the crushing pressure outside of the biodome, and might pass the point of being feasible. Lastly, the idea of large populations living far beneath the surface would mean they would be effectively be cut off from the sun. Yes, wisps of blue light would filter through the depths, but eventually, entire generations might go without ever having the feel of the warm sun on their face, and never see a sunrise or sunset in anything other than a recording. Transportation to and from these domes would not be as easy, either, as just getting in a vehicle and flying there. There was all sorts of life in the ocean, and going through water at tremendous speeds would put undue stress on the animal and plant life already thriving. So the idea of large scale, subsurface habitats fell quickly to the wayside.
Luna, the new name agreed upon for Earth’s moon (as it was quite terra-centric to call ours the Moon, when there were countless moons out in the universe), was looked at as another option. Now that travelling out of the atmosphere was as easy as pulling out of a car port, it would seem like a logical step. It only took a few hours, depending on where you were on the planet in relation to Luna, to quickly and safely get to the lunar surface, so going back and forth would be like a long commute in days of old. Without the hazard of traffic jams, thankfully. And since money was no longer an issue, just about anyone with access to a space port could easily go back and forth. But as fun as excursions to bounce around in the lunar dust in the reduced gravity, and making donuts in craters on buggies, there wasn’t much to do. There were two schools of thought with this plan: to just build shielded domes and settle colonies, or to terraform.
At the level of technology we had, we could terraform Luna. But the process would take many generations, having to form an atmosphere, constantly watch and maintain the environment, introduce plant and animal life that would be beneficial to the new environment, install gravity generators over the entire surface, or have to deal with living at a quarter of the gravity that we are used to. Although it seemed like a good idea in theory, in practice it seemed out of reach.
So lunar bases began popping up. Nothing too fancy. Initial supplies were brought up to create the living dome and to deploy replicators. With the dome and atmosphere set up, supplies were replicated to create habitats and necessary facilities. Anything non-essential was built outside of the dome, in order to maximize living space. Eventually, intrepid adventurers began to settle on this new frontier. They had to be to deal with the frigid cold and long periods of darkness associated with the shadow of the earth blocking out the sun’s light, the monochromatic, dusty landscape, only interrupted by machinery and other domes. The constant fear that one catastrophic failure could easily wipe out an unprepared city as easily as a soap bubble popping. But eventually, the domes became large and numerous enough to be seen easily through a telescope from Earth’s surface.
But those closely observing began to see changes. Tides were going out further than normal and for longer periods, becoming detrimental to some sea life. They would then come back in and flood coastal areas, causing tremendous amounts of damage. Stormy weather began to spawn more frequently, and creatures that would not normally be found in certain parts of the ocean were appearing, due to shifts in ocean currents, dying off in swathes when inhospitable waters were reached. At first, scientists were unsure what could cause this on such a global scale, as they had done their best to get the planet back to some semblance of bio-stasis, working carefully to keep encourage regrowth and stymie human-caused ecological disasters. Then they looked up.
It was Luna. Our silver companion had been gaining weight with the arrival of all of these new materials and people. As more and more domes sprung up, and people flocking to the lunar surface after the first denizens survived the first few years, Luna began to have a slightly stronger gravitational pull on the Earth, upsetting the delicate balance between the planet and her companion. Being that we stayed on the “light side”, the pull was off balance, as well, the consequences of which may have future effects that we would be unable to predict. If colonization of our satellite’s surface continued, the tidal changes may cause exponential changes in weather and tidal forces. Colonization was halted immediately, the majority of the lunar population returned to Earth’s surface, and the bulk of the domes were dismantled and converted back to energy to sustain the remaining habitations. The tides returned to normal.
This, however, brought us back to the gloomy realization that we still do not have a viable option for expansion, once our population hits critical mass. We weren’t at the point where we would panic, at least not for a few generations, but it hung in our future like a dark cloud.
That is when they came back. The interstellar craft hopped into our system again. Upon coming back and meeting with the planets leadership, a highly publicized and recorded event, they stated that we were being tested. It seems that we were not the only planet that they had contacted. It was their policy not to dictate how life should be lived, and to let a species develop on their own when the time is right. So they would introduce critical ideas and technology that would advance them to the Stage of Ascension, where they would be ready to settle their difference amongst themselves, and grow past the need for violence and self-centered greed. Just as was done for their species. They would then leave, and observe. They explained that a good portion of the species in the better part of the millennium that they have been doing this, have opted to choose the wrong path, eventually destroying themselves and their planets, leaving them lifeless rocks until nature began to reclaim it. But there were the select few that could get past those base desires and strive to be something more. And all of those, given their reproductive cycles were, well, productive, would all come to the realization that they would eventually need to move beyond their home planet and begin life elsewhere.