Essence Chapter 1

CHAPTER ONE

T minus 60 minutes and counting. All systems are go. Astronauts enter cryo chambers for suspended animation.

I enter the clear glass chamber as I have for so many training sessions. But, this time, it feels very different. Despite the preparation, my heart is pounding, blood pressure is surging. The importance of this mission is overwhelming. The future of the NTH rests on the shoulders of seven human beings on an odyssey to save mankind.

“One hundred, ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven, ninety-six, ninety-five, ninety-four…..”

The voice of the automatic countdown continued as my mind faded to distant memories.

“Josh! What’s the matter?” My mom asked as I ran into the house. Mom was tall and slender with golden hair and the deepest blue eyes. Dad always said it was her eyes that first drew his attention. She was such a perfect balance of strength and tenderness. Mom would not hesitate to face down anyone, or conversely to tenderly embrace anyone needing comfort.

“The BEMIH are picking on me again!” I had been playing at the school playground with my friend Nick. “They say I’m not fit to play with them. They called me a turd from the past!” I was panting heavily from running. The BEMIH had chased me three blocks and could have overtaken me at any time. They just wanted to taunt me.

Mom wiped the tears from my eyes. “Never you mind what they say, Josh. You are fitter than they will ever be! You’re my little man, handsome and smart as an eagle. Don’t pay the BEMIH any attention.”

“But mom, why am I so different? Why are they so different?”

“Well son, over the last hundred years many things were discovered by scientists that were used to alter human beings. With science leading the way, they began transforming people from what they were since God created them. The first BEMIH came in 2085. After that, more and more parents chose to allow their children to become something they were never meant to be.”

“But mom, why didn’t you let me become a BEMIH? I would be so much faster! I’d be a lot smarter too!”

“Josh, your dad and I, as well as the other NTH, believed we should keep the human body the way God made it. That’s what the Non-Transvergant-Humans believe.” She gently lifted up my drooping head, and kissed me on the forehead. Her kiss seemed to make the whole world right. “Now, give me a smile. Come on. That’s my little man. Go play in your room while I finish supper.” She gave me a soft swat on the behind and sent me on my way to my room, my sanctuary.

We had a modest seven-room modular home in Morril, Nebraska. The population of Morril had barely grown since its establishment in 1907 until the NTH began to migrate to small towns and villages to avoid being stigmatized by the BEMIH’s. However, the BEMIH had grown exponentially in numbers since plurality occurred in 2085, thirty-two years after singularity.

Singularity, the idea of uniting humans and machines, was titillating to the imagination of some. But, having one’s consciousness downloaded to a mainframe was not what it was made out to be. Humans need to feel the warmth of the sun, a moist kiss upon the lips, and the sensation of a loving embrace.

One cannot be human without relishing such sensations. This simple belief was now an obsolete relic of a bygone era, save for the NTH.

Plurality occurred in 2085 as a result of the continuing evolution of technology and advances in genetics. It was the amalgamation of human beings, trans-species genetics, and machines. Thus the BEMIH evolved, Biologically Enhanced Mechanically Improved Humans.

The BEMIH had many variations with mechanical enhancements taking a multiplicity of forms. The mechanical enhancements had begun to be popular in the late twentieth century. Most joints were replaced with titanium ones. Nano robots were injected into the blood stream of people to fight off infections and disease. Computer chips were implanted in the brain to enhance language acquisition, memory or mathematical abilities. A wide array of chips were developed and used for many purposes.

Communication devices were the next wave of implants. People were on their cell phones so much and lost them so readily, it was an obvious marketing step to offer implanting the devices directly in the body. These devices eventually evolved into the TCI, Total Communication Implant.

The TCI was a three-by-two-inch implant on the forearm. The screen was flesh tone, but when activated became a video screen. A nerve-sized lead wire ran to the larynx and another to the cochlear nerve, the neurological pathway of sound to the brain. With the worldwide telecommunication network established, communication was global and instantaneous.

Military science had heralded many of the mechanical enhancements and biological improvements. Fighter pilots had chips implanted in their brains to counter the G forces experienced in the newest and fastest fighter jets. The Army had developed micro-nano robots that worked on an atomic and cellular level. These “bots” merged titanium atoms with human cells to produce titanium skin for solders. Most of the biological improvements required initiation soon after conception. Further mechanical improvements were added as the child grew. When total plurality was achieved, usually at the age of 18, a ritual ceremony was observed as a rite of passage. The ceremony was called Transvergance, and although idolized by BEMIH, it was anathema to the NTH. A modified version had been developed for any NTH who wished to join the BEMIH. Out of necessity, this process dealt mostly with mechanical improvements, since it was too late for the majority of embryonic-related biological enhancements.

It hadn’t taken long for Bioethics to run amuck. The Genetic Biological Parental Authorization Act had been passed in 2079. This gave parents the legal backing to make biological improvements to their fetal offspring. The improvements were conservative at first, choices of gender, size, weight, and height. Then came more peculiar requests such as six fingers for those who wanted to give their children an advantage in playing musical instruments. Parents wanting a superior athlete could have hamstring muscles from gazelles genetically engineered into their children. Soon deltoid and biceps muscles from gorillas were genetically added to offspring. One was only limited by their imagination. Second and third generation BEMIH’s became more and more bizarre as BEMIH parents chose the makeup of their offspring. Society forever changed on planet Earth.

“Ninety-three, ninety-two, ninety-one, ninety, eighty-nine…” The countdown awoke me temporally from my slumber. I quickly faded to the past again.

“Hey Vent, how does it feel, you know, to be a BEMIH?”
Vent was short for Venton. He was a rare BEMIH. Vent actually talked with me. We had become friends. Most BEMIH would not give you the time of day. They had developed an Aryan attitude of superiority. But not Vent. Even though this was the case, we still had to talk and play in secret.

Our hiding place was an old, empty grocery store on the edge of town. It had long been vacant. There were rows upon rows of shelves that had once held a variety of foods we had never tasted. Some old boxes, opened by rodents, were scattered here and there. We would play games up and down the aisles. Then we would sit and talk for what seemed like hours.

Vent pondered my question.

“I don’t know. It’s the way I have always been. It’s like when you play baseball, you know you will always hit a home run. Sort of a good vibration inside. We have feelings and emotions like you NTH do. But, we have a bunch of chips and programs in us you don’t have. “Makes us feel like we can do anything. Like we are super heroes.”

“Wow! I wish I had that. I really get nervous and shake bad when I am at the home plate tryin’ to hit the ball. I sweat. Not sure if I will get a run or strike out.”

“I have never struck out.”

I thought to myself, “wouldn’t that be kinda boring?” But some thoughts you keep to yourself. They got really angry if we ever hinted at any weakness in them.

“Eighty-eight, eighty-seven, eighty-six…” I drifted to bygone memories.

“Josh! Hurry! We have to be packed and leave by seven in the morning. The transport won’t wait for us!

“I’m hurrying mom. But, I can’t fit all my stuff in the bags they gave us. I don’t want to leave my things behind!”

“Joshua, don’t argue with your mom. The two bags are all you have. If it won’t fit, you must leave it behind.” My dad could be very stern.

He was fifteen years older than mom, and didn’t seem to have much patience for questions. He had worked at a manufacturing plant making many of the implants for the BEMIH. It was the only work available but he hated it. His disgust from work spilled over to our home life sometimes. Finally, he could stand it no longer and quit. After trying various odd jobs, Dad finally settled on an automated food-dispensing route.

Most food was condensed and served in liquid form. The need for old-fashioned grocery stores had faded away. Vending machines were everywhere providing one’s nutrition. As the BEMIH evolved, those nutritional supplements had begun to change to meet their needs while varieties for the NTH diminished. My dad ran a route that supplied the NTH.

“Dad, I just don’t get it. Why do we have to leave? I thought the constitution protected us. Where is equality under the law? Why did our representatives cave in?”

Dad stopped amidst the flurry of activity, got that distant look in his eyes, breathed deeply and began another of his dissertations.

“It’s being disguised as our choice. The National Progress Act made it law that America would not allow itself to be held back by those who refused to accept progress and transverge. We were allowed to choose not to transverge. But, the consequence is forced migration to Australia.”

“That’s sorry! Where are we goin’ to live? What are we goin’ to do? NTH and BEMIH can live together and get along. Vent and I have been friends for years!”
“I know. But those with power in Washington think otherwise. Just be grateful we have a place to go. The UN created an NTH state in Australia. The UN mandate is our only salvation.”

“That’s the only good thing the UN has done in decades,” chided mom. Her opinion of the UN was well verbalized. She saw it as an apocalyptic monster. Save for this one act, it might be true.

The world was closer to unity than ever before. The global warming scare of the last century set the framework for world government. Eventually, it was discovered global warming was due to two overlooked factors. The first was that our galaxy was traveling through a hot spot in intergalactic space. This was probably the remains of a dead star. And, the second was the unspoken factor of respiration. All insects, reptiles, and mammals burn oxygen and produce the byproduct of CO2. There are an estimated 200 million insects for every human being on the earth. For awhile, decreasing animal populations, due to exploitation and loss of habitat had helped maintain a balance with the ever-growing human population. But, this had changed in the last half of the twentieth century due to human population explosion. An average of 1,000 lbs of CO2 per year are produced per human. Global warming thus began to be unabated.

All the efforts to reduce green house gases helped to mitigate the problem, but did not resolve it. The UN emerged as the real power in the world to deal with the crisis. Even so, the situation was not rectified until the population was reduced by the “UnWar” of 2029.

August 12th, 2185. I was seventeen and at the height of my testosterone. I did not want to leave. I wanted to fight. There was a small underground resistance movement. It had little effect. The BEMIH were too advanced and all aspects of society were too controlled. Resistance seemed pointless.

“Dad, why don’t we stand our ground and fight? Why would God allow this to happen to us? What will happen to those who don’t leave? Why is evil so strong if God is all powerful?”
“Hey, slow down son! One question at a time. You’re asking some hard questions with no easy answers. I’ll try my best to give it a shot. God allows this because He created us free to choose good or evil. The problem is that most choose evil. Those decisions have many ramifications. Most parents began to allow their children to become BEMIH due to the competition for jobs, money, and power. They wanted their children to have every advantage possible to succeed. Greed for power and money. Success at any cost. The end justifies the means. That’s not God’s way, but man’s choices. ”

“We don’t fight here because there is no possible way to win. You know that. We will fight someday, when we are prepared. On our terms. All NTH uniting in Australia is the best plan to gain the strength to fight. A final battle, Armageddon, between NTH and BEMIH is inevitable. This is not the time.”

Dad got that idealistic gaze in his eyes as he continued. “God is all powerful, yes. But most times He works through Human instrumentality. He has not forsaken us nor will He. And be for sure. One day He will make a world for us again like Eden was. Paradise. The way He planned it before humans messed up everything. Now get ready. We don’t have much time.”

“Captain Edwards. Please awake. Cryo status is complete. Captain Edwards, please awake. Cryo status is complete. Captain Edwards…”

The repetitive, computerized wakeup call was somewhat annoying. My, how the mind wonders in that twilight phase of sleep. All those memories of my dad. He had disappeared that night before reestablishment. In all the confusion of morning, we were forced to leave before we had a chance to find him. Secretly, I think he ran off and joined the resistance.

I cannot bear the thought of the alternative. For years NTH had been vanishing. The civil authorities would not assist in searching for the missing NTH. Their attitude was good riddance. Conspiracy rumors ran wild as to the fate of those people. I refused to let my mind entertain the possibilities.
“The cryo chamber will open in ten minutes. The cryo chamber will open in ten minutes. The cryo chamber will open in ten minutes…”

There’s that repetitive voice again. So different from when mom would wake me up in the mornings as a child. The sound of her voice as she softly spoke and ushered in my day. Those memories are implanted deep in my mind. Radically different from all the implants in the BEMIH. It’s hard to think they are human at all. How could they be? It’s difficult to remember they too were once human like us. But now, what are they? Can the true human race be saved? That’s what this mission is all about. The salvation of what is left of the human race.

The swoosh of the glass chamber opening was a relief. When you’re in CSA, cryo suspended animation, time moves on without you. Anything can happen. In early tests, some crews were never revived from the cryo chambers. The systems malfunctioned. Danger comes with the job description.

Slowly I, and the six other crew members of the Argo, emerged from our glass chambers as butterflies from cocoons. It takes a few minutes to get reoriented.

“Nick, what’s your status?”

“Slow, but sure Captain.”

“Erica?”

“A little stiff.”

“That will be remedied in the Revitalization Chamber.”

Much research had been done to come up with a means to help humans overcome the effects of long periods of Cryo Suspended Animation, which is required in deep space travel. It was discovered that a specific set of alternating light and sound waves would revitalize the body, eliminating space lag. Thus the Revitalization Chamber, RC, was born.
“Carlos?”

“O.K. Captain.”

“Charles?”

“Good as gold, sir.”

“I question that!”

“Wolfgang?”

“Functioning well.”

“Raj?”

“A little sick to my stomach.”

“Then you enter the RC first, Raj”

“I don’t have to remind you all of the importance of this mission. Our families, friends, and the very continued existence of mankind depend on us. Our deep space probes have revealed that Ventura is the closest match to Earth within reach. It’s ten times larger than Earth, and has the ingredients needed for life. Sensors indicate the planet has dense vegetation covering a vast array of unknown structures in its northern hemisphere, but most of the southern area is void of all plant life. We will focus our attention on the northern area. We have less than seven years to find a suitable planet and transport all NTH to it. We have a lot to do. Let’s get to work.”

With that the crew went to work. Each took their turn in the RC. Nick, our medical officer, and I had been friends since childhood. The others were chosen specially for this mission by Space Command. We were a true melting pot of world cultures and ethnicities. All united to fulfill our mission.

“Raj, status report.”
Raj was our tech officer. He was born in New Delhi, India. Even though we NTH stood firm in our resistance to merging humans with other species and machines, we fully embraced all other technological advances. Our ship, The Argo, was so advanced; it really didn’t need much input from us. Raj was there to handle any technology issue that might arise. It was his niche, the passion of his life.

“Computer confirms all systems are go and performing properly.”

“Charles, what’s our ETA to Ventura?”

“The Skip placed us 1.7 hours from destination.”

The Argo was driven by a reversed polarization propulsion system. Research had revealed there were negative and positive ions throughout space that moved in waves. The ship would reverse whatever polarization existed in our current wave and skip through space, much as a rock thrown on a pond skips across the water. The duration of each flight would vary based on the waves and strength of the charged ions in it. We launched September 16, 2213. The current date is April 1, 2214. Two hundred and eight days. Not bad for traveling thirty-two light years.

“Raj, make connection with Space Command. Send them all pertinent data. Inform them of our ETA. Apprise them all is proceeding well with the mission.”

“Yes sir.”

“Charles, when we arrive at Ventura, maintain orbit optimizing scanning of Northern Hemisphere.”

“Yes sir.”

“Nick, not that I don’t trust the RC, but give everyone a good looking over.”
Nick had graduated from medical school with sufficient credentials to be chosen for the mission. But, having grown up with him, I knew him. He had a tendency to hesitate at critical moments. In the end, he always came through, but his lack of confidence troubled me. Still, I totally trusted him. We had been through too much together.

“Erica, check out and prepare the landing POD for descent to
the surface.”

Since we would be on the surface forty days, the landing vehicle was designed to be a self-sufficient habitat if necessary. All indications suggested the surface was completely compatible with human existence, but all precautions had to be taken. Nothing must be left to chance.

The mother ship would be maintained in orbit by the computer system while all crewmembers descended to Ventura to thoroughly “spy out the promised land”. We hoped for a good report and no surprises.

It was very curious that despite the environment being so suited for life, our probes and scanners found nothing other than the lush vegetation. Nor, could we determine why the Southern Hemisphere was so desolate. The planet held mysteries we had to unravel quickly. The next closest planet possible for colonization was fifty-nine light years in the opposite direction and on a different spatial plane.

Charles was busy at his control panel. “Sir, we’ve arrived at Planet Ventura. Optimum orbit has been achieved. Complete grid scan is in process. Estimated time to finish scan is three hours.”

“Carlos, work with Charles on scanning to pinpoint the most ideal location to establish base. Be sure it’s in a clearing near a viable water source.”

“Yes sir.”
Carlos was our Biologist/Life scientist. We were hopeful the genetic makeup of the plant life would be compatible with humans as a food source. It would be a great accomplishment to be able to return to growing and eating real food. Few of us had had that experience, given that all food on earth was produced as a liquid supplement and marketed through vending machines. There were only a few choices remaining for NTH.
The thought of real, steaming hot vegetables that could be chewed and enjoyed was extremely thrilling.

“Com., twenty on Erica and connect.”

The communicator, Com. for short, was developed to have the same benefits of instant communication as the BIMEH had in their TCI without actually having an implanted in the body. It was worn as a belt. With just a voice command, telecommunication could be established.

“Erica Noble is in loading dock. Connecting.”

“Erica, progress report.”

“All internal systems on the POD check OK. Supplies for the forty-day exploration are good. Weapons check. Ready for departure.”

There was an intense debate on whether or not to have weapons on this mission. The NTH had made it their policy to maintain only defensive weapons. It was written into our Constitution to never strike first. Because of this policy, extensive work was done to develop the capability to ward off any attack from the BEMIH. Iron Dome technology from the early twenty-first century had sufficiently evolved into an impenetrable system that protected the NTH on Australia from attack. It was agreed, after hours of arguing by our leaders, to allow offensive weapons on the Argo. The mission was too important to risk failure. We needed the weapons to be ready for any circumstance encountered.
“Sir, we’ve located a potential location. It is bound by four rivers. There’s a sufficient clearing with a level grade ideal for the POD. It seems to be nearly calling us.”

“Good, we will depart at 0700 tomorrow. Charles, put all systems on auto.
Crew report to R room in thirty minutes.”

Through centuries of rapid change and development, the knowledge that humans are not machines and never should be was validated. They need down time, relaxation, time to de-stress. The R room is where we unwound. There was a sauna, tables for chess and old-fashioned board games. Nick doubled as a massage therapist. A small racquetball court was very popular. The 3D visual center was in high demand. Tucked away in a corner was a reading room with a complete digital library of all literature. But, the small collection of old bound books was the favorite of all. A chapel for spiritual reflection and encouragement was centrally placed in the R room. Space was also allocated for a garden with flowing water. Many found solace there. The R room sought to meet the needs of body, soul, and spirit.

“We depart at 0700 tomorrow. We’ve all trained hard for this mission and know its importance. I need say nothing else. Now I want each of you to get some R time, and then a good night sleep. All are at ease. Enjoy the evening. Report at 0600 to departure dock.”

With that, we all tried to relax awhile.

Copyright © by Mack Pitts, 2010

 

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