Saturday, 17 September 2011

15) Geoff Returns

     While on a mining rig in the Oort cloud Geoff El Unsanett Grey received an ansible message, a full spectrum faster than light data squirt. It read simply ‘All children of Earth come home, ASAP’ in plain text. He was happy being the furthest from home, just a trickle of old news and stars all around. No bustling crowds like the inner orbits.
    He stared at the message for several minutes. He checked to see if the composite words or letters had a code, but it was a plain and horrendously expensive message, and with that weird acronym at the end. Usually ansible messages were one maybe even two bits. Simply, each successive character was exponentially more expensive to send. This must have cost the yearly GDP of an entire continent of sprawls.
    He switched to his realtime audio visual feed and idly switched through the channels, nothing was of interest or dangerous. Being nearly a light year away from home he got his signals on a significant delay, but he figured there’d be some prefiguring of the crisis he’d just been called home for. But no, peace, boring peace ruled the land. He suspected that as he traveled back inwards he’d see the emergency unfold over the feed.
    Methodically he went through his mining clade’s protocols for leaving the equipment running. Worst case scenario he never came back and the drones would continue to mine and smelt comets and asteroids into perfect one meter spheres, set them for a slow re-entry into the inner solar system and ease them into a comfortable orbit around Earth. There was enough work for a billion years, far past the point where the Earth was engulfed in the sun. Of course the drones were intelligent and might make a mistake when repairing themselves and alter their programming. On second thought he added a bit of code that would let them be shut down remotely.
    After a metric week of preparing his trusting drones Geoff powered himself down into shuttle mode. He set a filter to monitor the television broadcasts from Earth for anything world changing and set the hyperbole threshold as high as it would go so the news would have to be very important indeed to wake him up. He fell asleep watching his favorite show and dreamed of blue skies and green grass and too many people.
    After several weeks of accelerating and only a light month from Earth his filter woke him. The news was on all channels. “Sudanese worker drones rebel in the Sahara.”
    Geoff scanned the article cache in his ship. The news articles and video had been building for a few days.
    The worker drones had been bred to build a city out of the dead and radioactive desert, optimized beetles had organized and declared themselves free sentients.
    Geoff nodded, that seemed fine, that happened all the time. History was rife with slave uprisings.
    Then the workers formed factions. That was new.
    Some wanted peace with the humans, some declared themselves the true inheritors of the new Earth and any non-beetle a sin against God herself. That was really new.
    He could see where this was going. Fanatics always went the same way.
    The War was short.
    The last article was from an automated news service, usually with only several thousand readers, but as the only news service with an eye on the surface it became the only human free press left. Even if the eye was just a set of security feeds and pirated pattern recognition software. All the talking heads were gone.
    Death had come in the air, something contagious turned sunlight into liquid fire and the works of man were cleaned from the surface.
    The barbarism continued underground. Man fighting insect until death was the only winner.
    Geoff wept.

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