Ahh… What a day. I’m very proud of Turing today. He planted his first Biolcellular database today. Granted, it’s on the defense grid but those little storage pods are all sunk into the soil and on their way. All we need to do is plug in the sun and jack in the Planet Whisper Avatar and those little buds should blossom in about a week. Their pretty tasty too. cook them up in a little olive oil, seasoned with some data bonding salt and you don’t even lose any information, you just return it in the fertilizer.
Well. Honestly this is dependent on him, or one of his transfer bots not accidentally overwatering them. That would be a shame. You should see him. He’s beaming – at least for a computer he’s beaming. Alright, to be honest i thought i detected a slight grin on Transfer Bot 32 as it passed me doing the breast stroke earlier. But that’s like doing the Macarena for a teenaged computer. They do still have the Macarena don’t they?
Okay. I promised the Travellogue. At least i think i did. My Transfer Bots #57-61 are all working on some weeds in a subsection of one of my processors so i’m just a shade foggier than usual. Also i have decided to actually physically type this so, for the moment anyway, you can call me Ned.
Where were we? Oh yes. The beginning and coincident end of the Monday War.
Well. For about two hundred or so years after the end of the Monday War we, meaning the humans left in the solar system, pretty much minded our own business. We got reacquainted with the worlds we inhabited, we took up alot of Gardening and then there were the advancements in telecommunications, computing and consciousness. I would get into these a little more but frankly i am losing audiences daily and i can’t imagine any of it is terrifically rivetting stuff. Not to mention, having now rewritten this entire novel three times already because of the connection getting lost, i am getting frustrated with repeating myself.
At the end of the two hundred years of blissful peace and quiet our respective races and the planet itself decided it was time to stretch it’s legs a bit. In the absense of all that noise and junk and people we had all gotten really good at solving problems and inventing things. Many of these things were gardening related – the new tomatos, for instance. We had discovered a method by which we could tap into a tomato and ask it what configuration of DNA it would prefer and what would be the best tasting configuration and then we all together began growing them. Apparently tomatos always wanted to look more like peaches and had long wished to dangle free on tree branches. It also turns out that this makes one wickedly good marinara, not to mention a weapon of incalculable power – but more on that later.
We had also discovered some new ways to travel. Truth be told we had undiscovered ways to travel. It seems in the absence of having dicatorships to flee from or having anywhere we really needed to be on time we all began walking alot more. Walking was very nice, you got to see all sorts of things, listen to your thoughts, breathe clean air, and chat with the occasional squirrel. The trouble with walking was that you were fairly isolated to local areas of walking. You could take a vehicle and cross the planet in seconds but people hated doing it and in fact, by this point, most interplanetary craft were rusting quietly away or recycled into pieces of our homes. Of course there were the transport craft and trade craft, flown occasionally when someone on Mars had a particularly interesting potato chip they had grown into the shape of a evergreen tree, or when a favorite chihuahua memorized Shakespeare. Walking was pretty much it. We discovered, after living thousands of years trying to go faster and faster that really it was more rewarding to go slowly.
This brings us to the Leafdrive. The leafdrive was the next phase of interstellar travel, only no one knew it at the time. Basically you take a supercoded leaf with dimensional maps and realtime weather patterns, you fold it from where you are to where you want to go and you’re there, without so much as breaking your stride. Of course its a great deal more complicated than that, involving impossible computations of scale, physiognamy, science, religion and a fair share of aesthetics which – when it gets to the gigantic scale of the leaf drive are all more or less the same thing anyway.
Pretty soon people were walking, literally, everywhere. You’d leave your Underwater Manhattan coral apartment and walk straight onto the face of the moon, play a round of speed golf, bash a caddy or two, then walk to the central forest of Mars for dinner with your kids who just got done with a ball game on Io.
Which, finally, brings us to the travellogue.
In 2570 a San Diego Fisherman (there were lots of San Diego fishermen in those days seeing as San Diego was more or less a state of mind in the Pacific Ocean) attached a leaf drive to his interplanetary craft, the SS Horseface. It was a beautiful, crystal clear night and he was just off shore of where Catalina Island might have been had there been a Catalina island and had it still had a shore. He looked into the stars. He played a few notes on a Harmonica which he had never bothered to learn how to play. A Humpback Whale drifted by and said something disparaging into the sonic receptor which was translated, roughly into ‘get lost.’ The Fisherman looked at the whale, who might have shrugged had it had shoulders capable of such things.
“Do you really think so?” He said back into the sonic emitter.
The whale would have shrugged again. “Why not?”
The Fisherman, we’ll call him Nuggin, nodded and closed the capsule on the boat. After consulting with a few anxious rhododendrons they all plotted a course well out of walking range and without much further ado or fanfare the next great era of exploration had begun.
Somewhere near our solar system, though farther out than any of our colonists had wound up, Nuggin winked back into existence. Talking about it later, he would say it felt like the Universe was saying to him and his supercomputing rhododendrons “Congrats, You finally did it! Now check this out. It’s really really cool.”
And it was.
Nuggin, who would not be seen on Earth again for nearly 20 years had popped up – quite accidentally at the mouth of what we’ve come to call the Oxford Rift. Imagine, if you will, the Grand Canyon. Now, make all the rock into brilliantly colored gas. Imagine it looks more like a rainbow made of clouds or a cloud made of rainbows. Sitting still in space at the mouth of it, you can watch the gases cool, heat up, charge, and then cool again, gravity causes interesting tides in it and the tides cause parts of it to swirl and super high speeds which we’ve now come to think of as really ponderously slow.
The Rift is hundreds of light years long but it is a segment of a nebula that is thousands of light years across and which is itself pretty amazing, though mostly a uniform shade of yellow with bits of cool blue streaking through. Throughout the Rift, all along the walls of the trench are systems and planets, some of them perfectly designed to create the most amazing Wow spot. In fact, for a few centuries before our arrival the denizens of the Rift would have wars to determine who had the best location for views. These weren’t wars as you know them, of course. They were more like design wars but even they could get fairly vicious with all of the sabotage and espionage that occured.
To say its spectacular is to say that the Grand Canyon is a pothole. Which – in terms of planetary geography it sort of is but i know you folks have strong feelings about it so let’s just let it go. The first system you come to is, well, we call it Heaven. It sits about midway up on the opening of the rift and they have the best seafood. Seafood so good it will actually kill you with joy which is really a shame because with all of the excess water Earth ended up subjecting itself to we thought we had a lock on it. Oddly enough there isn’t a drop of water on Heaven. Instead the crustaceans swim around in a soupy delicious brine of Gasses. The people who live there (no we did not call them Angels) were crustacean like themselves but prided themselves the kings of hospitality, a title we later stole from them without them minding one bit. They were the Thread. Or so it was translated to us later. They stood ten feet tall, had four thin exoskeletal arms and would have looked really frightening to the colonists had they met them. But really they were wonderful. The only thing you do not want to do on Heaven is eat the bread. Not because its bad but because it is rude to the yeast and because the yeast will give you the worst drunk you’ve ever had in your life. People have said that the bread will leave you so drunk that you will be incurably hungover for at least three reincarnations and then the karmic reaction from being so rude to the yeast will last another five.
From there Nuggin travelled a dozen or more planets. What was most remarkable was how there was life on every one. We had long suspected that it was possible and in fact probable that there was life out there somewhere but no one was prepared for how much there was and how prevalent it was. It seemed to be everywhere, even on rocky husks of planets. Conciousness was found and heard everywhere and most of it was shockingly nice. Particularly there in the Rift.
You see, what had happened was that Nebula that had created and protected the Rift had released gasses that assembled an abundance of life throughout a number of systems. Though the systems had different planets and different environments, life had developed in remarkably similar ways and at a similar pace, thus – when one civilization set off to explore its little corner of the rift, it invariably ran into another civilization about to do the same. After a few misspent centuries where one world tried to prove how awesome it was to others they cooled down and came to deliberately and purposefully enjoy each other. But even so they had met no one like us.
But our story does not take us into the Rift, unfortunately. I just wanted to present this as a segment because it will be useful when we get to the meat of the story which is coming next.
One last thing about the Rift though. Okay two. First if you ever get the chance, and i know you never will, check out Zarkins Loft on Thrum 3. It’s halfway in on the left bank of the Rift, sitting right above the little Nitrogen tributary. They have this sandwich made of angelfood cake and Zeppleberries that you will simply not believe and they make this lovely little candle that, when it sings, produces the famed Angel Fish. Really beautiful to watch, it’s even better to Be the candle.
The Second thing is the Golg. At the far end of the Rift, in fact in space at the far end and not even a part of it, sits the planet and system of Rex the eighth. Home of the Golg. A race of war like, club smashing, hedonists who delight in things blowing up and think violence is the best sport in existence. They also happen to be Humanities best friends and allies in all of known space. Really really nice when you feed them some Bread of Heaven.