Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Chapter 6. Log Search

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Chapter 6. Log Search

Fae walked alone with Thea fluttering along next to her.

“You have been quiet for a human. Especially for you.” The mini-bot looked around. “We are farther than we have ever gone, are you disturbed about something?”

Fae shook her head as she walked along in her thoughts.

“No, not something, someone. When we got the order for everyone who would voluntarily go into hibernation or stay on the surface, I talked to my family, everyone accepted the positions in the pods, my husband did too.” The human frowned. “I found my brother’s name, he is in there. So is my mom. But my husband and father are not in the logs. I don’t think they made it, thirty-thousand years, there is no way to find their graves if they died. If they were not buried, their bodies have long gone to dust.”

“We can find out if there was anyone left out in the contaminated atmosphere.” Thea flitted. “I know where the early archived logs are. Early on, humans wore virus-check badges that automatically registered the movements and if they suffered exposure to any contagion.”

“There are logs after so long?”

“Core System deletes nothing. You just need to know where to locate the logs. Core System maintains them deep in fixed archives, written into hardware systems.”

“What do you mean? Hardware systems.”

“It is not a code, the Core System determined that the best storage is writing in hard-wired systems. They cannot be accidentally erased.”

“Let’s go look up the logs, we can compare them to the ones I have seen.”

Following the large artificial dragonfly, Fae walked as fast as she could to keep up.

“Could I get a flyer like you have? Only bigger?”

Thea laughed and slowed down to a human walking pace.

“The size requirements increase exponentially with weight and size.” Thea explained, and drifted off into an engineering lecture that included wing loading, speed of wing flap and size of wings.

It was all beyond engineering that Fae had ever studied. Her studies never covered flight engineering, physics of flight and related math formula.

“So the final answer is that I would have to have one that has a wingspan about double my own arm-span.”

“Blunt, but essentially correct.” The riding mini-bot nodded. “At macro sizes, rotary wings become more efficient than those of Rudy here.”

“Rudy?”

“That’s what I call my flyer.” Thea smiled, her eyes glittered in good humor. “I named him after a company that built powerful engines for waterborne vehicles.”

“Ah.” Fae tried to nod and look wise, having no idea what Thea was talking about. “Good choice.”

They arrived at a building that Thea flitted up, then stopped.

“I don’t know how to get you inside. I fly through the vents normally.”

“Your nanobots maintain everything perfectly, let me try just opening the door.”

She turned the red-metal knob, it felt stiff as if it were not going to give. Then warmed up and pinged.

A built-in panel, flush with the wall. Not visible until the words illuminated “Access Granted.” On the surface.

“That is weird.” She traced her fingers over the panel, it was the same texture as the wall, there was no change, perfect blending of the function and structure.

“This way!” Thea called as she and Rudy the speed happy artificial dragonfly fluttered ahead.

Stopping at a console, they fluttered for a minute and then landed.

“This is the first one we can get to, the access is open. You just log in with your badge.” Thea smiled. “The logs are sequential. No codes, you can scroll all the way back to day-zero.”

“When is day-zero?”

“You will have to tell me. I was not around then.” Thea looked up at the human woman. “But zero is before humans were frozen, no one was frozen then.”

History scrolled by, she stopped zooming forward on video, war information, death counts, virus discovery. Fae closed those and moved her hand through the three-dimensional file system, spinning the virtual clock forward and opened another video file.

Thousands dead.

Closed the video with a sigh.

“How did people die from this?”

“Badly, it was a hemorrhagic virus, it drove people mad after it caused a bleeding in the brain. People would pull off their own ears, claw out eyes, those that did not self-mutilate, they became murderous and turned on others.” Fae shook her head. “It spared anyone with a genetic mutation of four fingers. If there was an accident, and they lost a pinky, it did not matter, the virus targeted only five-finger DNA.”

“I read that it was a four-finger DNA virus.”

“That was the answer the government had, once it was out of the control of the scientists, the two different DNA were going to be wiped out. That was everyone. Only the others that would have had mutations of three or six fingers would survive.”

“How many of those genetic structures were there?”

“On this planet? Too few to survive. We all had to go into hibernation. So the military did a final attack then ordered everyone into pods.” Fae flipped through more files and found the order that she was talking about. “People who refused to go, for health or religious reasons remained unfrozen, but they were all had to live elsewhere.”

She opened a file.

“Oh my god.”

“What?”

“I found my brother, he was one of the first into the pods. Number nine-sixty-two.”

“That would be very near the Core System on the X,Y grid and nearly a kilometer deep on the Z axis.”

“How deep does it go?

“One-hundred meters per hundred pods.” Thea answered. “They go top to bottom, the deepest pods are five-kilometers deep and are leaders of the saved society.”

“My brother is almost one-kilometer deep. That makes him important.”

“Yes, how deep were you?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t awake.”

“Last in first out.”

“Oh. So I was not that deep.”

“No, your pod was one of the first by the doors.”

“That’s depressing.”

Thea danced through the three-dimensional displays and moved files around on her own power and found what she was looking for.

“Here is yours. The system shows you also had a neurological implant for encoding memory engrams.”

“What? I don’t remember that.”

“Odd. Do you find that you have unexplained knowledge about systems you didn’t know of before?”

“Like this one? Yeah.”

“Do you have an access port?”

“Um. That is a little personal?” Fae laughed. “Sorry. Gutter mind.”

“What is guttermind?”

“Never mind.” She laughed again. “Now let’s find my dad.”

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Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 2. Waking Naked

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Generation 2. Waking Naked

The first thing she felt, was cold. And her arms felt heavy, like someone hung bags of sand on them, or gravity had increased.

Fae R. MacLir slowly became aware of a bright light shining directly into her eyes.

TWO bright lights, but her eyes did not want to focus on anything.

Holding her hand in front of her face, she nearly had to touch her nose with the flat of her palm before it came into focus.

“About 20/500.” She noted with a sigh. “I’m blind.”

She put her hand down on the table, the appendage felt like it weighed as much as all the machinery that filled the room around her, combined.

She became aware that she was under warming blankets on a firm bed, the room felt small and warm, slightly more than body-temperature. Warm air was blowing through the tubes built into the blanket that covered her, and she was shivering.

While the temperature warmed her, a voice, tiny but sounded like it was booming in the room.

“Warm fluids, she will be dehydrated, administer isotonic electrolytes, buffer it and prevent alteration her pH level. Infuse slowly over an hour and continue warming protocols.” A pause, slight clicking sounds as if someone were tapping on keys. “Keep me in the data loop. We need to find out why this happened.”

She looked around for the source of the voice, but saw no one, becoming aware of what looked like bugs flying in the air, close to her face.

*Must be a field hospital with a window open* She thought to herself.

She ranked as an engineer’s assistant, she was twenty-years old and would be among the first of the awakened, with the chief engineer, Amsi Idd-Tejo, they would supervise the awakening of the governing leaders.

But, she could not see him. Her focus was improving, in the glass walled room, there were four beds, besides her own, all were empty.

She was the only one awake.

“Who…” Her throat felt like someone sanded it with broken glass and salt. Then whispered. “Ah! Who else?”

Silence, except for a buzzing. Sounded organic. More bugs, the flying pest control protocols had failed.

Then a voice, it sounded as if it the speaker stood next to her ear.

“You are the first. Viral bodies stayed in the environment longer than the time originally anticipated.” The small but very close voice said. “The Core Systems chose you, no one else. We don’t know why.”

She turned her head, slowly. The movement making her dizzy, and her life changed forever.

In front of her barely functioning eyes, a gold and silver… something… hovered. Barely as tall as her thumb, the eyes looked back at her and blinked with oversized eyes.

“The doctor is on his way,” The tiny, fluttering creature spoke just loud enough for her to hear. “He stepped out to see to another alarm on the Core Systems.”

“Who,” She paused. “Or what are you?”

“I am Thea.” Her golden-eyes glittered and caught the lights that illuminated the room on the face that looked as if someone carved her from an emerald gem. “I am a minibot. Who are you?”

“A what?” The human girl asked. “I am Fae MacLir, an assistant electrical engineer and tech support in SCOTOC.”

“I am Physicians Apprentice, Abu Thea.” She fluttered with a smile. “You can call me Thea. I’m not a doctor yet, I’m only halfway through.”

“IF you survive.” A deeper voice, but still sounding as if from an earphone from a distance. “You still have a lot to learn.”

“Good evening Miss MacLir, I’m Doctor Ofir Bhabel. You no doubt have some questions, we have a good many questions ourselves. Not the least of which, do you feel?”

The little… Minibot? That said her name was Thea, landed on the edge of Fae’s field of view.

“What is going on? Who are you?” Fae asked. “And a Doctor? Of what?”

“What is SCOTOC?” A silver-winged, gloss-blue creature lit along side Thea and smiled as the questions overlapped each other. “First, I will answer you. I am your physician, I supervised your awakening. You can call me Bel. You were the first to be awakened by the Core System.”

“I don’t understand.” The human said in a whisper. “My head hurts, I’m dizzy.”

“That is a consequence of the length of time you were in stasis, you were in a helium bath that supercooled your body.” The blue fairy seemed to shimmer in her eyes. “You have a case of brain-freeze, your body temperature is still less than normal, your core temperature is still thirty-two celsius, but you are warming at a good rate. I am pleased with the protocols written by your people.”

She ran her hands over her body, under the blankets, “I’m naked?”

“No, you have a warming blanket over your body and you are in a capsule, warming you with infrared heat and warm air, you are naked inside of it, and the blanket is transparent to infrared.”

“You talk funny.”

Doctor Ofir blinked twice.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your voice. It has an electronic buzz in it, a slight dissonance caused by a code error. It’s minor but nothing I can’t fix.” She said rubbing her eyes. “Everything seems oddly colored and it feels like a dream. You look like little fairies.”

“We are minibots. Humans built our ancestors, but in much smaller scale. They were nanobots, and after time, the Core Systems determined that the most efficient use for the planet was to increase sizes. Microbots were built. Then millibots, then our kind are officially designated as minibots. Macrobots are generally outside, do not fly and are few. There is a point of diminishing return the bigger bots get. The greatest numbers are nanos, followed by the minis, we are the best sizes.”

“The doctor talks too much.” Thea said. “You have a lot to catch up on, hun.”

“You called me… Hun?” Fae said. “Can I get some clothes? Even inside this little oven-thing you have built, I am uncomfortable just laying here. It feels heavy, like I have no strength. This was not supposed to be this way, they said we would not notice any changes in sensation.”

Thea and the Doctor looked at each other.

“Fae MacLir, there are no clothes in this facility for your size.” The Doctor said. “But I will leave it to Thea to search. You are an unexpected presence in our society. The humans have a story in the database of a man who traveled a long ways by the name of Gulliver.” The Doctor looked at her. “You are a giant among us.”

“Doctor.” Thea interrupted, tapping on the side of her head. “There are storage areas for hazardous materials response the humans built. I think those had clothes for humans.”

“Good. Go check that, use my authority to have a team go with you and transport any clothes that would fit this human.” The Doctor nodded. “Providing we cannot get her to overcome the archaic restrictions of being nude.”

Thea flew off so fast, she was a blur and a flash as she exited the window.

“Excuse, me.” Fae spoke up. “I’m right here. And I’m not about to walk around in my birthday suit. I could get in trouble.”

“You may be excused.” The Doctor answered. “And you must also know, there is no one to make you feel uncomfortable. You are the only human on the planet that is not immersed in helium, partly dehydrated and filled with glycerin to protect cellular structure in stasis.”

Turning her head away from them, Fae took a deep breath.

“How is it that I am the first one awakened?”

“The Core Systems chose you. The criteria are unknown.”

A noise of footsteps sounded. A macrobot, about four feet tall with four legs moved in an eerie grace, carrying a black folded object that looked like vacuum-packed bags.

The eight eyes on four stalks were more akin to a lizards, moving independent of each other watching all points of the compass at the same time. The washing machine sized bot deposited its cargo on a table and departed without a sound.

Thea landed and with a smile reported to the Doctor.

“Extreme mobility, hostile environment protection suit. The voice interface called it a EMHEP suit” Thea said proudly. “The computer interface worked perfectly. And it is in her size with her name.”

“Her name?”

“She has her own wardrobe listed.”

“I would like to get up.”

“I would recommend against that, you haven’t stood on your own feet for thirty-thousand years.”

“I…” Fae shook her head. “I didn’t hear that right. You say that again, please?”

“I would advise you…”

“No, no. The years. You said thirty-thousand.”

“Yes, I rounded for your sake.” The Doctor nodded as he walked along the edge of the platform that served as her warming capsule. “You’ve been in stasis for thirty-one-thousand, two-hundred eighty-four summer solstices.

“Holy crap!” She pushed open the heating capsule’s cover and sat up, her skin felt warm, but she was still cold. Muscles trembled when she stood. “That is why I am weak.”

Then paused as she pulled the heating blanket close around her, Thea unplugged the heat tubes so Fae could walk.

“And I am hungry!”

“You would need to eat carefully, the digestive system has nothing in it, we will give you enough flora to live in your intestines so you can live on the proteins you will consume.” The Doctor motioned to a macrobot standing in the corner that moved off out of sight.

“How do you do that?”

The Doctor looked at her and smiled.

“Get dressed, we will get you a glass of synthetic milk. Your organs of digestion will be as weak as your legs.”

Fae nodded. She was trembling at every step to the table where her clothes were, naked and chilled with every breeze, the hair on her arms stood on end.

“What is that?” Thea asked, pointing to the piloerected hair. “Why are you fuzzy?”

“Humans get that way when we are cold.”

“You are still hypothermic.” The Doctor said. “You will have another hour with shivering. I ordered your drink warm, so that will help.”:

“If I am so cold and I’m not shivering. Why?”

“I don’t know, precisely, you should have crossed the threshold but the Core System says that you have been in stasis for so long, there is no data. There is no precedent. But your core temperature still shows thirty-two celsius, you might still be too cold still.”

Fae lifted up the pile of clothes, a black body suit slide over her legs and torso, then black ceramic plates that contoured to her bodysuit. The memory of her being fitted for the metal-infused laminated ceramic plates that fit on the soft spider-silk bodysuit like scales.

It was comfortable and warm. Even the socks she wore felt strong, but the shoes were little more than slippers with ceramic scales and looked funny.

Reading the paper that came in the package, the suit was an electrical insulator, she would wear it to work on the systems. The uniform had the badge molded in with a different color of ceramic, and she had a computer access key.

She would find out why the Core Systems awakened her on a planet six-times the size of Earth.

Alone.

Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta: Prologue

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I don’t often write BACKWARDS, but in this case, after writing “Generation 1.” The back story came to me.  I don’t like doing it this way, but ladies and gents, it is what happens when I give you my soul to the dozen (plus or minus) of you who read what I post. Sometimes it is out of order.  I’ll catch it next time on the edit and put it to order.

For now, I give you (First draft, so it is crap, sorry, final draft may not even be close to this.):

Steel Gardens  of Anid-Sta: Prologue 

In the year 2,952 After Niska, the leader and founder of the planet colony that grew in the nearly three-thousand years to one-hundred six billion citizens, the Csu, a religious sect founded by the prophet of the Lord Qat-Csu developed the political system that began at the remote corners of the planet the century before.

Missionaries moved through villages of farmers promising that the Lord Qat-Csu would bring sufficient rains for the colonies in the back country. In the years that followed, a small and dedicated group of followers preached to anyone, anywhere giving testimony to the power and glory of the Lord of rain and plentiful harvest. Qat-Csu brought rain and plenty to all those that followed. The true followers of Qat-Csu were required to have the small fingers of the left hand amputated and their DNA modified so that offspring would be born without the appendage. Failure to do so, marked one as not a true follower and suffered denials of rain and good harvest.

Those that received good rains but were not true followers would be found guilty of heresy and have all the harvest taken on the word of the ruling Cahir, the high priests of the church of Qat-Csu.

In the generations that followed, resistance grew as the word of Qat-Csu, interpreted by corrupt Cahir of the religion caused a rift. The rift grew between the factions, each claiming to follow the true path commanded by Qat-Csu.

Claiming that the growing splinter group were apostates, calling themselves simply Csu and they did not believe that amputations of fingers as an answer to anything.

The Cahir of the Qat-Csu enlisted a fanatical genius who bio-engineered a virus to target carriers of five-finger DNA and delivered by missiles and drones to the centers of populations of the un-enlightened and the apostates. A disillusioned scientist stole samples of the virus and leaked information to the intended victims at the cost of his life.

DNA bioengineers for the splinter-group of the Csu modified the virus genetic coding to target four-fingered mutations.

The following war was a biologic nightmare. Missiles passed each other in mid-flight. A blow for each of their gods and included the non-combatants in collateral damage.

No one came away unaffected, in the struggle to dominate as the only religion, they contaminated an entire world six-times the diameter of the earth with a fraction of the density.

In the attack, the virus was more successful than Grey D’Gran the biologist that mutated the fragments of genes imagined in his darkest dreams.

Ninety-seven percent of the population died outright in fever-induced seizures. After a year, the ravages of the fever, fewer than ten-thousand survived out of more than a hundred billion.

The religion of death survived until the end, when the last remaining Cahir walked down the path explaining the prophet of no name died of his own hand.

Looking into the eyes of his Hukis, students of the religion of Qat-Csu, he spoke haltingly as a man with a broken soul.

“The Lord Qat-Csu that speaks only to the prophet.” The hazel eyes of a farmer-come-priest wept. “Is a machine a… computer programmed by a man.”

Called a blasphemer by his adepts murdered him with a golden candlestick. They burned the Cahir’s body and threw his bones into a river.

One by one, the remaining followers turned on each other, the final three finding their demise in one evening as they fought over how to bless the last meal of the day.

Peace settled on the dead planet, but life assumed to be extinct, found a way.

 The machines of war, lined up at the ready before the biologic attack, now sat with the patience of machines. Machines that waited in this world of corrosion resistant metal and ceramic when life took hold.

The steel gardens, lived.

Kingdom of Pirates Chapter 8. Arrival of the King

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8. Arrival of The King

Even scene investigators began to suspect that the Empire was under some new kind of control.

In the Momo Embassy where the representatives kept offices on Evabor, a planet orbiting the small star were not willing to discuss the events. Declaring that the events constituted a frame up and that the pirates were manufacturing the evidence.

“The great devil it the matters is the Pirate Confederation. Forever causing incursions and supporting unrest in our Empire. This is not of Momo Empire making. It is more probable the rogue pirate, the great criminal organization that tries to conquer the Empire of the righteous people, that are trying to throw off suspicion from the outlaw shippers.” Grelon the Ambassador, Godmother to the Crowned Prince, hissed. Drawing a breath while reading from her hand-held padd, “According to our records there is no Empire ship on this side of the border space. Any more accusations would provoke an interstellar incident for the defamation and insult of the Empire.”

The Buccaneer leaders of the planet Aquila looked at each other, rolled their eyes and shook their heads while videos of the speech played on media outlets.

A few shrugged, the evidence was proof enough, no one believed any of the kingdoms cared enough to try to manufacture evidence against the Empire that they long-held a peaceful coexistence with.

Rhetoric and demonstrations calling the evidence an insult to the Empire, Momo citizens that worked and did business called on the governments to apologize, cease reporting of the attacks.

Many conspiracy groups suspected it was a third-party trying to start a war between the two, then pick up the pieces after the Empire and the Confederacy tore each other apart.

Only the central governing body founded by the first settling wanderer that began to terraform a planet into the first Kingdom, orbiting a red dwarf star with a highly elliptical orbit with short, mild summers and long springs and autumns, the depths of winter lasting half the year. Snow falling as the planet reached its apogee of the orbit, planetwide. It was a wonderful place for a young man to come of age when the plagues went through the systems, felling farmers and city dwellers alike.

With mild weather three-fourths of the year, as time went by the planet became the center of trade and commerce, the seat of the government, informally called “Pirate Royal Court”.

In time, the Great King abdicated, his son, Boru U’Maille, became king of the Pirate Royals.

The King was coming.

Steel Garden of Anid-Sta

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Prologue

In the year of Niska, the child religious leader, system population exceeded one-hundred six billion. The Csu, a secondary religion founded by the prophet of the Lord Qat-Csu developed the political system that began at the remote corners of the planet the century before.

Missionaries moved through villages of farmers promising that the Lord Qat Csu would bring sufficient rains for the colonies in the back country. In the years that followed, a small but dedicated group of followers preached to anyone, anywhere giving testimony to the power and glory of the Lord of rain and plentiful harvest. Qat-Csu brought rain and plenty to all those that followed. The true followers of Qat-Csu were required to have the small fingers of each hand amputated. Failure to do so, marked one as not truly a follower, who suffered denials of rain and good harvest.

Those that received good rains but were not true followers would be found guilty of heresy and have all the harvest taken on the word of the ruling Cahir, the high priests of the church of Qat-Csu. In the generations that followed, resistance grew as the word of Qat-Csu was felt to be interpreted by the corrupt Cahir of the religion.

Claiming that a growing splinter group were apostates, calling themselves simply the Csu. The Csu did not believe that amputations of fingers as an answer to anything.

The Cahir of the Qat-Csu enlisted a fanatical genius who developed a virus to target carriers of five-finger DNA, obtained the virus through an apostate who left the Qat-Csu and leaked information out at the cost of his life. A DNA bioengineer modified the virus genetic coding to target three-fingered mutations.

The following war was a biologic nightmare. Missiles passed each other in mid-flight. A blow for each of their gods.

Ninety-seven percent of the population died outright in fever-induced seizures, after the ravages of the illness, fewer than ten-thousand survived out of billions.

The religion of death survived until the last, one of the last remaining Cahir walked down the path. The prophet of no name died of his own hand.

Looking into the eyes of his Hukis, students of the Qat-Csu, the Cahir spoke.

“The Lord Qat-Csu that speaks only to the prophet.” The hazel eyes of a farmer-come-priest wept. “It is a machine, an automaton .”

Called a blasphemer by his adepts, the students attacked and killed him with a golden candlestick, his body burned and his bones thrown from the cliffs into a river.

Peace settled on the dead planet, but life assumed to be extinct, found a way.

In the steel skeletons of the machines of war, lined up to be used by the dead hands after the biologic attack, life took hold.

The steel garden, lived.

“Extinction”

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Urgency

He had long named his car “Red” which was a touch of humor, being as it was black. The pair sped along the highway, sensors on the self-aware car kept them from losing control around the dumb modes of transportation. They moved along faster than the flow of traffic.

He was late. He ordered the emergency call to the leaders of geneticists, physicians and associated scientists the night before. But on his exit of his gated community, Anti-Vaxxers blocked the road, protesting his teams newest vaccine that suppressed genital warts in those that had it and prevented infection to those that were not previously exposed.

And now he was late, having to wait for the police to respond and clear the road of the two-dozen people who based their objections on the preachings of a holy man who declared that the vaccine interfered with the wrath of god on women having out-of-wedlock sex.

Doctor Camane Minouche raced in his small car. The picnic blanket sliding back and forth on the small shelf behind him as he took corners that challenged gravity. He was held in his seat only by belts and the intelligent post-war car that used the some fifty-thousand sensors around and inside the machine to keep the Doctor safe and secure.

Into the parking lot they flew, dust and cats ran from the speeding, wheeled missile. The team of machine and human. The Doctor spoke to the car, but it was a one-way conversation only. Long ago, the car chose to keep the self-awareness and abilities to it’s own heart.

“Faster, faster.” The Doctor whispered out loud while he typed the finishing touches on his presentation and saved the graphics to the fingernail drive. “Flippin’ late!”

The car calculated he would be five-minutes behind the clock no matter what it could do, they had made up twenty-minutes on the highway, blowing through a speed-trap and a drone traffic enforcement attempted to pull them over, but was left far behind as the small car jammed radio frequencies and applied greater power to the wheels while the Doctor read and re-read his report and talked on the phone.

Only once did Camane look up and give the command to throttle back, he became alarmed at the speed that the stripes in the road were passing by.

They were traveling over two-hundred kilometers-per-hour at that time. So Red-the-black-car dialed the speed back.

Never would the Doctor know that their speed was nearly fifty-percent faster before he looked up.

Tires smoked slightly when Red wheeled into the parking lot, Camane jumped out of the small car and ran up the steps to the door, nearly forgetting his briefcase in the process.

The picnic blanket slid to the edge of the seat, filling the interior of the car with its piquant odor of grass, sun and laughing memories that were lost to the Doctor as he headed to the meeting with the panel of public health care leaders.

Still straightening his tie, Doctor Minouche set his papers on the podium and cleared his throat and put on some reading glasses.

He did not need the glasses, he had read the reports so many times, he had it memorized.

Pulling out a fingernail sized USB memory stick, he pushed it almost flush into the display and picked up the remote control, advancing forward to the infographics.

“Thank you for your patience, there are some folks in this world that don’t seem to appreciate my appointment schedule.” The audience chuckled as he drew a breath. “Ladies and gentlemen. Due to an undisclosed cold-war era disaster, the human race has approximately two-hundred years of viability left.”

He looked up and moved the informational graphic forward one frame.

“In the latter-half of the twentieth century, countries that had ruled with racist laws to keep people separate, developed a short-lived virus based on a s-oi virus, they then released this virus in general population of a prison in a country on the African continent to reduce the numbers of “Undesirable elements” in their society. During this time, one United States Warrant Officer stationed at the Embassy there, returned home on leave in a three-to-twenty-one day window after the government inoculated prisoners with this virus with aerosol dispersion.” He flipped the page and changed to the next infographic. “Sometime during this period, one or more of the prison population escaped or released. The airborne infection at the time was mild-to-moderate and considered a failure by the government.”

The infographic leading up to a negative response.

“This resulted in a failure of followup on infected and released prisoners.” He pressed the button on the remote again and changed to the US. “In the meantime, Warrant Officer Pers Hershey was exposed, left without feeling any symptoms and returned to the United States. Records indicate that he passed through the system at Fort Dix, but portions are missing. We only know he was  seen for a low-grade fever and mild vertigo. At some point he came in contact with other recruits and became Patient-Zero for the swine-flu outbreak in and around Fort Dix.”

The Doctor clicked forward to the next frame, showing infection rates among recruits.

“At this point, one death and a number of people infected with this virus that could be described as a collection of poorly assembled DNA moving about in loose formation.” He pointed to the Capitol of the United States. “At this time, alerted to the outbreak, the government issued vaccines against the H1N1 Swine flu. The debacle that followed was poorly understood as why it occurred. Theories focused of the vaccine’s adverse reactions.”

A click again, changing the screen of his infographic presentation.

“This was, in fact, a reaction to the existing infection that was ongoing but alerted no one due to the mild nature of the infection. While they intended the vaccine to prevent infection, due to the influenza that the laboratory overseas constructed with, considered even by mid-seventies standards as archaic, no one realized they dealt with an ongoing infection.”

Another infograpic of two virus’ interacting.

“The unintended response of the existing virus to the vaccine that the government distributed nationwide, the virus was altered and increased the transmission rate and capability while mitigating the physical symptoms of fever and muscular aches.”

A hand raised.

“Doctor…” The woman spoke up. “I’m Doctor Sheena Westlake, Director of Emergency Services at Metro-Memorial Medical Center. This is not an emergency, you are giving us ancient history, both our vaccines and detection are generations past those days.”

“Hi Doctor Westlake, we met a few years ago at a coffee Klatch conference.” He nodded. “Yes, this is history, but please bear with me, I am nearly finished.” He smiled. The dark-skinned woman was beautiful, if built like a door with square shoulders and the look of a warrior when roused . “The combined DNA of the first generation technology influenza and the vaccine combined and created a world-wide pandemic that was so mild in symptomatology, no one pursued the effects.”

He pressed the forward button again, displaying a slide of twenty-three chromosomes overhead.

“Y-mediated infertility has been the problem since the seventies. It is progressive and becoming widespread. The mild nature of the influenza, no one followed up on the effects of the virus. The damage is irreversible and the results are no male children are born. Since ten-years after the initial pandemic that the rare person ever saw their doctor and fewer still had bloods drawn. “

“So Doctor what are you saying?” Doctor Westlake asked again. “Boys are going to be born brain-damaged?”

A chuckle from one side of the room.

“Aren’t they all? At least until they are eighteen.”

Doctor Minnouche laughed.

“In this case, you are correct. Male versus female births have fallen out of balance in recent years.” He continued. “In short, at the rate of damage and the skewed birth ratios between genders with female births dominating at this time in history, in the next few generations, the male of the human race will become an endangered species, pushed towards extinction in about one hundred-fifty years, and the human race will become non-viable in about two-hundred years.”

“I’ll take questions now.”

Another hand raised.

“Professor Fenix Stone, Atlantic Bay University of Biological Sciences, Bar Harbor.” An older man, with intense black eyes, seemingly born before there was hair. “How can you estimate the damage to the y-Chromosome from that one event?”

“Thank you professor.” The Doctor frowned. “We have had samples from a broad spectrum of people for hundreds of years. My team, consisting of over two-hundred professionals as of last month, have collected said samples from every source that could be dated. The y-chromosome has been steadily decreasing in size over millions of years, but since the swine flu of the mid-seventies, the gene that was part of the genetically modified virus has spread, and destroyed parts of the male gene. We have the good fortune, if you would like to call it that, to have obtained a sample that has remained frozen and forgotten in the biological research facility where they kept this virus in deep-freeze storage, along with the notations of one Doctor Van Skeet, who, as best we can ascertain, died in an accident relating to his research.”

The Doctor paused.

“He became infected with his own monster with a lack of sufficient protective protocols.”

“This is wrong. There is no way to target just the y-chromosome.” A voice from the back called out.

“Actually, yes, just because it is not in our history of doing so does not mean we cannot. We have identified genes on bacillus and virus for years and creating vaccines against them.”

“Can we stop this damage to our genome?” Another voice asked.

“No, the damage is done. It was a biological weapon designed to do what it did, but the government then assumed the illness was self-limiting, which was a fail, and affect only a specific group. Another fail.” The Doctor gave a big sigh. “As of today, the current birth rate of viable human males has dropped below twenty percent. The reports based on this information on records dated thirty-months ago. The birth rate has certainly dropped since then by a few tenths of a percent.”

“You are incorrect.” A tall, dark-skinned man with an Australian Accent stood up. “Doctor Syd Gayiri, Headmaster of the School of Biotech Sciences at Toowoomba University. There are boys born in my community every month. My sister just had a healthy baby boy.”

“Correct, he is healthy for now. The odds, however, that his children will be girls, or there will be a child born to him with special needs. The degradation, by limiting the scope of DNA mixing is much worse. Thus we propose to keep communities robust is to promote outside family marriage and children in close-blood relations minimized, this improves the length of time the human male genome will become non-viable.” Doctor Minouche. “We will need to evolve into a mono-parous species to survive.”

The Doctor pointed at a severe looking woman sitting in the front row.

“Sonja Gutierrez has two sons, oh, sorry.“ Sonja is from the University of Spain, Madrid. But you all have read her paper of the stresses of caring for two special needs children. I would venture that it is both the boys?” Camane asked.

“Yes. Is this to do with the damage to the gene?” She asked.

“It would take some testing, do you remember getting ill with the flu during that time?”

“Doctor, I am not that old.” Doctor Gutierrez laughed. “That was before my time.”

“My apologies. Do you have any brothers?”

“Um. No. No brothers, I had one, but he was sickly and died very young…” She trailed off. A cold feeling crept over the room.

“Anyone else here have patients, family members, co-workers, classmates that have had problems with children— and were the health problems with boys?” Doctor Minouche traced a line on the projected infographic with a laser pointer. “Damage to the y-chrome is a pattern that we can follow. Initially it looks random, but if you watch as the gaps fill in on a chart, there are patterns. Closed communities that have had contact with the virus, the interbreeding magnifies the damage. A given group that mixes with others mitigates the damage.”

Taking a deep breath, he continued.

“Segregation, isolation, and staying with a small community will accelerate and magnify the damage. It’s proposed that the y-chrome could be extinct in more than one-hundred thousand years, however, at the current rate of change, computer models show between one-hundred and three-hundred years, with two-hundred being the mid-point.”

“So, Doctor, you are saying that we could see the end of male births in our children’s lifetime?”

“Yes. Perhaps, in a worst-case scenario, our own lifetimes.”

Tapping on tablets sounded, pens on paper, disbelief evaporating like a coastal fog on a summer’s day as the scientists and physicians crunched numbers. Writing notes on personal digital assistants, notepads and tablets.

“We have a century and counting. If  two-centuries pass, and if we do nothing, there will be no naturally born males and the human species will be dependant on engendering fertile males with an XX karyotype or en vitro fertilization.” The statement hung in the air.

“Each of you has submitted an email to attend here, the transcript and graphics are being sent to you as we speak.” He nodded to an off-stage assistant. “Every page that we displayed here we researched and signed off, including the Surgeon General’s office of the United States is on board with this. I must remind you, this is not for public dissemination, yet. We are looking for this panel to bring forth something larger than my team can, we are reporting only what we find. The effort to repair the human genome before it is beyond fixing is up to us. If this information is released for wide-spread publication, it is possible we will set off a world-wide self-destruct in all religions, this requires the opposite of what religions demand. Secularism is the only way to go, no borders, no religious prohibitions. It is time that we look at ourselves as one race or dwindle into extinction.”

“Doctor, do you have the fix in your proposal? Are there repairs of the y-chrome that we can  act upon?” A man in a black business suit with long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail, flanked by two young men with shaven heads and sharp eyes that constantly scanned the room. “Doctor Simon Connery MD MPH PhD, Director United States Centers for Disease Control.”

The secondary introduction made Camane nod.

“Simon, you have spent too much time in school, and welcome.” A chuckle from the audience. “At this point, we do not have any genetic repairs to speak of. We do need the resources of the CDC and everywhere around the world to focus on saving the human race.”

He looked around the room.

“Or we may as well have never met and make plans to fill a time capsule for the next rise of intelligent species.” The grim tone of his voice hung in the air. “Without cooperation, we are soon to be endangered.”

“Doctor,” A younger man approached him. “I’m Steven Rivers, senior reasearch geneticist at Southern California University at Dinuba. Although I may not have a cure for the birth rate of males, I may have a longevity plan and increase the number of years for research.”

“How much of an increase?” Another voice sounded.

“I will have to share my work, but it depends on the gene we work on.”

“Telomere work is ongoing, nothing new.” A male voice sounded.

“Not telomeres, something new…”

“Ladies, gentlemen. Please.” The Doctor brought them back to focus on the issue he was speaking on. “Let us read and discuss what my team has worked on and schedule a meeting, not an information release to this esteemed board

“Speak for yourself,” A woman’s voice sounded from the back. “Women will rule.”

It would be funny if not for the serious tone of the presentation.

Gathering up their notes and tablets, the group filed out.

Walking to Red, the car. He held his one-way conversation to the best friend a person could have in a non-organic entity.

“No one believed me. Except the boy-genius from California.” He told the little car built at the old car building company, Terran Green Machines, before the military absorbed the company by decree. “Red, we are screwed.”

The Overconfidence Effect

Standard

The Confidence of Committee

Remember, they were confident the Titanic was unsinkable.

‟The virus is simply that: A virus. We know it is not airborne and can live outside the body for some time. This virus hazard time is in days, before it becomes inactive. But it is not airborne or dust-borne. We can handle this.”

Doctor Azrae Calnau, head of the Biosafety labs in the government. A dark agency within the CDC, not only charged with finding treatments, preventions and cures of a particular pathogen, but to find a way to treat such illnesses for soldiers. Whether enemy or ally, Dr. Calnau cared not. It was information that the ,government would choose to share.

But he was confident that the reports of this new pathogen that was moving through the communities of the poor, but highly populated planets were accurate. The crushing poverty since the collapse of the economy of the Gliese had come suddenly and left those that were heavily invested in the worlds with no funds to leave for new lives.

The result of crowding of families with poor ventilation and non-existent medical care.

****

The planet Sapphire, once the most violent planet in the outer systems enjoyed a resurgence in prosperity and peace. The government’s need to find an effective vaccinations against such a lethal illness quickly before it spread to Sapphire was a serious and growing threat .

Laymen called it red-sweat. Infected victims began to perspire heavily, the sweat turning crimson as the red blood cells broke down and hemoglobin leaked from the smallest of blood vessels— the capillaries— and flowed out of the sweat glands. The sheets of the bed turned red, while the patient turned the color of a sheet. Death followed quickly with organ failure on a catastrophic level.

After the patient began to perspire, even clear sweat, contaminated everything by contact or touch. Clammy hands typing spread the disease from a keyboard or mouse being touched by someone else,  from touch screen menus at restaurants to the handles on doors of transport systems to call buttons on elevators.

Even the air could be contaminated with aerosols of an innocuous sneeze or cough. Even the filters of the ventilation systems of Gliese were inadequate for the task since the failure of the economy.

Teams of scientists volunteered, fully aware of Gliese’s limitations with sanitation and ventilation filter systems that dated back hundreds of years.

They were talking of two MD’s. Now infected, the illness was far more virulent than they ever expected.

A meeting, the best minds of the commitee of infection control.

‟We have the technology, we know how to control this. We can bring the two doctors here, under our controls in a class 3-I underground facility. There is no exposure to our open atmosphere, they would live or die on their home soil.” Paige Brach MD, Ph.D, D.Sc., president of the southern hemisphere research station. Located in a desert, the one area of the water planet where the perpetual high pressure system remained stationary in the last four-centuries. The desiccated land where the facility sat was billiard-table flat and no measurable water content in the soil until they drilled through bedrock more than a thousand meters deep, it was the only source of water for the facility.

‟We can treat them here.”

Raffe T’mbua, MD, Ph.D spoke up.

‟And if either one of them does not live? The bodies remain a vector, even if you mummify them. Do you have a plan?” He spoke softly.

‟We have two proposals, one is absolutely safe for the planet, even if the family may object.” Doctor Brach said.

‟Care to elaborate?”

‟Incineration, on the lab floor of three-eye, the ‟I” stands for incinerate. The body would be cremated in a fire so hot that the remaining ash would be melted into a glass.”

‟You would do this to the body of one of our own?”

‟It is an option, it would be sterile, to say the least. The plasma torch used, reaches temperatures in excess of twenty-thousand Celsius at its center to reduce the body to ash and then to a glass slag approximately five to ten-percent of the original mass, perhaps less.”

‟That’s…” Tsing Mao-Smith shook her head. ‟Wrong. That is no way to treat a human body. What is the other option?”

‟High-energy ionizing radiation, we would irradiate the body for a period of time to sterilize it.” Paige described the procedure. ‟We are fairly certain that this would prevent spread of the virus to the population at large.”

Fletcher Steel Ph.D. coughed and spoke up. Professor emeritus at the Northern University of the biological studies and research school.

‟That is not a zero-percent chance. It is impossible to irradiate and say with absolute conviction that nothing will live.”

‟No, the math is not absolutely zero. There is always a small chance.”

‟Even if the chance is vanishingly small, I am not willing to introduce a virulent life form into this planet that is already an artificial biosphere, we have not addressed everything yet. Our oxygen event is still happening. The planetary systems are showing signs of cooling down, this in turn will tend to cluster our people closely— a prime setting for a plague to wipe us out.” Professor Steel said softly. ‟We would not have time to develop a defense to fight back.”

‟So you support incineration?” Doctor Mao-Smith said, incredibly. ‟Fletch, I would have never thought you would support that.”

‟I’m not, I oppose either of these people brought back to our planet. One mistake, one leak, a single aerosolized droplet on a worker that goes home, it will spread in this world like wildfire.” The Professor said. ‟It is safer to send our equipment there.”

‟And expose more of our people to the illness?” Paige shook her head. ‟How do you justify that? We have the technology here, ready. There is nothing we cannot handle.”

‟They stay underground until they are clear of the viral bodies.” Tsing said. ‟We will not use any of the equipment again. Everything is incinerated in the plasma furnace, gurneys, bedding. Anything that has direct contact with the patient.”

‟That would be a challenge, Doctor Mao-Smith.” Paige said formally. ‟We can irradiate with UV-c and gas with Cyto-tox. And non of the equipment would ever be brought to the surface.”

‟You are confident in your assessment of containment, then.” Mariko Wong, Ph.D looked directly at Paige.

‟Yes, there is nothing that can go wrong. We have quadruple redundancies.” Paige smiled softly. ‟Nothing can go wrong.”

Quietly watching the circle of highly educated minds grapple with the issue, Doctor Calnau tapped on his PDA, spoke to Paige.

‟Explain this to me as if I were a child, I have confidence in you— but convince me anyway.”