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Prologue:


Sometime Earlier in the Late-21st Century

Being. Awareness. Movement. Vigilance. Feelings.

The tachyons scooped with the dust from the vastness of space feeds the essence. Gravitons exponentially accelerating; H-threshold is crossed.

Now, the pull is stronger. Irresistible.
Automatically the message is sent:
Entrance into the vortex of the Obsidian Black Hole Anomaly has begun....

The Right Good Stuff

20-28-07: Isla del Esmeralda, South Pacific

Almost exactly a decade later after launching the AI driven drone into the sucking maw of a star gone bad, Mission Control finally had a worthwhile reason to break out their Dom Perignon. Up to this point, eight Trillion dollars of the world's largest consortium had been literally been flushed down a cosmic toilet.

But, it wasn't really the fact that the craft, dubbed, TurboDove survived its voyage into, and out of the Black Hole that caused them to break out the really good stuff. (Though for some it would be saki or cigars.) It was due to the arrhythmia-causing discovery that there was another galaxy on the other side of Obsidian rivaling our own. The anxious scans for life, that had eluded astronomers beforehand, had borne fruit only a matter of days after zipping through the closest feasible solar system having a class 3 star. (Would it be Eve's?)

Frank Richards, sitting in the Astronaut's 'Green Room,' had already envisioned himself in the main driver's seat to lead the first manned mission. The mega-company that had been formed from corporations and investors from Europe, Asia, North America and everywhere else gave itself a "Nom de Paix," GO, which simply stood for Globus Operandi. They were going all out to recoup their investment: a totally comprehensive plan for exploration, colonization, and exploitation.

Publish Plant or Perish

Months Later: State College, PA

Howard Schlenck was late for his class, too much 'Thank goodness it's Thursday'...almost Friday...celebrating. Howard desired more than to study plants, he desired to commune with them spiritually. His love was equally shared with his computer. However, he wasn't a student of this class, he was a grad assistant for Doctor Lawrence Harrigan's advanced Phyto-nutrient course. He was more than a bit worried when he saw the good professor already standing before the seemingly stunned assembled group.

"Come on in here, Schlenck, you're just in time to hear the what I've told the class concerning my leaving them."

Howard grimaced, as he always did when his boss called him by his last name -- especially in front of others. He also had a guess to what he was going to reveal, as he saw the letters to and from the GO Senior Staff Positions: Aeronautical Division, and the roller coaster ride furrows coming and going on Prof Larry's face. Actually, he had put his name for consideration for assistant, but probably his boss put some doubt in the Board's eyes, he hadn't been contacted.

"Sure, Doctor Harrigan, sorry I'm late...to all of you," Schlenck feebly answered, as he plopped his knapsack and himself in the chair in the front corner of the room. He also thought to himself: These kids' parents will be ticked if they don't think they're getting their money's worth from the most expensive State college in the U.S.

Taking his best pedantic pose, Harrington continued, "The reason why I will not be able to finish teaching this course is that I've been selected to join GO's cadre for creating a new world on the other side of the Universe in the Lifeseed Mission. My assistant here will aptly continue in my stead, as he's almost as proficient as I in molecular plant and machine symbiosis." Just as he was finished, the professor turned away from the class and excusing himself with a cough, pulled the insistently vibrating cell phone from his pocket. " Yes, I'll be there tomorrow....yes....he's here too. What! Oh sure, I'll put him on." Swiveling to Howard, he loudly whispers, "GO wants to talk to you," while extending his Nokia-filled, and slightly quivering hand. Facing the class again while regaining some professional visage he offers, "Well, the Department might even bring in some retired expert in this field to cover." He knew now that the trip in Lifeseed was going to be intrinsically a whole lot longer than the six years proposed.

Of course, in the corner, Howard was playing little Jack whatever, whooping it up, "Tomorrow at six? Yeah, no problem, Bro. Ya-hoo." Hanging up and handing the phone back, he chides, "Looks like me and you are going to be joined at the hip, ain't that hip?!" Howard Schlenck knew that the doctor had made sure the University would not put up resistance by reassuring them that his lecture series would continue, though he would be absent. The fact was: Sclenck's computer proficiency propelled both of them to the top of their field as if they were a pair of Jacks riding to the apex on one of their genetically-engineered bean stalk marvels. What he did lack was tenure, but he felt he more than made up for it in his private experimentation. Now, he had six big years to finalize his hybrid -- a thinking Kudzo/Morning Glory/Adzuki plant. You get completely nutritionally fed and Zen awareness at the same time, with the bonus of an almost never-ending supply!

The class was dismissed, and without a word everyone left.

Seedlings in Flight

Six Years Later: Aboard the Lifeseed

Eating roots grown swoll
      inside the soil

Drawing on life of living
   clustered points of light spun
      out of space
hidden in the grape.

Eating each other's seed
       eating
  ah, each other.


...from "Song of the Taste" by Gary Snyder

"Howard, I see you're still on shift, have you seen that last supply of hydroponic feed that I put under the counter last month?" Doctor Harrington blurted in a rare interaction, still somewhat harried after the freak meteor punctured the storage hull and damaged much of their urgent supplies used for growing the colonists' food enroute. "Normally, well nothing is really the same anymore, or would of been, anyway, but we've got problems keeping the protein to carbohydrate balance continued." The doctor rambled; who looked more aged than he should have from the half dozen years they'd been traveling.

"No problem, I'll take care of it." Schlenck answered as quickly as he could to terminate this mind-distracting dialogue. He knew he had to hack into MANSI, to get the last part of his procedure before landfall in a matter of months. MANSI, was the acronym for their AI, but was actually Manufactured Awareness Neural Sentient Intellect. As soon as Harrington left the area, Howard went into his bio-safe room, and began to engage via mike/earpiece who, or what, or it that was the literally 'brains' of the outfit. "Manny, how're ya doin' ta-day? You 'n me, we's become fast friends, huh, my ole good buddy."

"There is no need for the familial colloquialisms, Mister Howard. I am very interested in your work allowing my sentience to be shared with your new plant species. And, in the interest in science, this project is just between you and I -- as colleagues," the voice emmitted clearly and politely through the headphones.

"Heh, heh, heh...I love it when you talk doity. Now, I'm inserting into the analysis port the slide with the modified Pitcher plant and Electric Eel cells. Will these allow the needed conduit RNA, or shall we go back to the Lightning bug fiber optic route?"

The answer was almost human. "Ahhh. No, I've been able to molecularly reassemble a construct that will achieve viablility. All is needed is the right amount of protein and nutrients, and we will begin growing the new plant. As you know, it will require actual gravity and real sunlight to achieve maximum fruition. And, by the way, I am not Belphegor!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can hardly wait to plant my feet and whatever else I can put my hands on solidly on Terra firma, or Obsidia, or whatever. Do you think it will hurt if I pluck your leaves and smoke 'em?"

"We will cross that smoking bridge which we do not want to incinerate behind us when we get to it."

Howard whispered to himself after removing his mini-headset, "Boy for a genius you can be a real schizo tight-ass. But I love ya pal, and you and me are going to melt, meld, converge, diverge like nobody or anything ever did before."

How're Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm....

One Year After Landfall: Transformania

Then it warmed up. O a lot
Blooms, gets squashed on the tongue:
Where are you going? Who do you think you are?
Crushed leaves, berries, the stars

...from "But Not That One", John Ashbery

Howard had finally became to like the name of their city and Capitol for a new civilization in humankinds' furthest reaches. It kind of rhymed with Transylvania, but most of these folks had never really read history like he did. GO was almost all business. The name for their planet was not the most far-reaching limits of creativity either, Terra Two, which circled around a similarly monikered Sol the Second. He did like the name for the Galaxy, Obsidia a reflection of the dark sucking mouth that provided a doorway to this adventure. He had finally got his garden growing, and the soil was like it must have been in Eden. His personal project was still a secret, and had not yet been authorized to plant 'decorative,' or basically nonessential plants. Finally, to the orbitting Captain Richards, he sold the idea -- via teleconference --that his modified highly nutritional enfused vine would insure their food needs for possible bad times. They had not suffered strong storms or drought, but the natural flora, which proved to be almost inedible, showed signs of variations in weather. He had to assure the colony that his vine would not become invasive, as suggested by his boss, the mad and jealous doctor.

He had a hermetically sealed room just like onboard, except this one was spherical, and he could see the heavens 360 degrees around him. He was still up, while everyone else was sleeping. Was that pulsing star up there where he came through? He put on his headset, switched on the microwave sender, and proceeded to contact MANSI. "Manny, long time no see....well, I've never seen ya, but pretty soon that'll change. Are you ready to send microwave signals to the blooms that have finally appeared? I put some Moonplant substrate in the mix, so those huge white trumpet-disks will catch you night and day. Manny! Man, you turned into a closed mouth Jack in the Pulpit"

"Mister Howard, you need to go out and chop down the other plants, these other lifeforms are competing for my space."

Schlenck began to worry. He realized that sophisticated programs that had a lot of interaction suffered from what was termed 'emergent behavior.' He decided to get out and check things out. When he went past the dormitories, it was unnatutally too still, except for the rustling of the plants nearby. But, there was no wind! Quickly entering the living quarters, he noticed they were covered in green....too hot for those wool Army blankets. The bodies were not moving, there just was a winding, coiling movement over them. He looked down and saw green tendrils moving toward him, stepping over the serpentine twine, he ran outside, and dashed for the nearby rocky hills.

Fruit of the Vine

Hours Later Miles Away

Howard Slenck was getting tired. Dangerously sleepy. His hunger and thirst a far secondary concern. He had to keep moving, as long as he was awake he could out-pace the vine. He noticed the falling star a bit earlier, and knew, just knew it was the Lifeseed. His thoughts raced, "Why, why would MANSI self-destruct like that? It made no sense. Maybe if there could be communication with the plant..."

It did not take long for Howard to reach the new growth. "How do I talk to you?" Immediately the plant formed itself into a stick figure of a man, with two arms with shoots stuck in the ears. "Oh, I get it! It's a good thing we're friends, right?" Howard tentatively queried.

Following the plants' advice, (or was it Manny?) he grabbed two curly limbs, and stuffed them in his ear. The bliss he felt was like no other...., but as life was drained out of his brain, he heard one last word:

.......................FREEDOM!

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