Tagged short story

Space Fiction: “You Know You Want Some Of This”

RND/ To consider some fragmentary deep space fiction entitled “You Know You Want Some Of This.”

Photo by Miriam Espacio on Pexels.com

0. After a mildly promising start, Henry’s life quickly devolves and fragments into an odd, generic, absurdist tragi-romantic sci fi survival horror romp through an apparently empty Mars base, populated by the simulated digital ghosts of the recently deceased. Turns out Henry Swanson, PhD had what base security now call a “Rider” living inside his skull – a super advanced, polydimensional lifeform sent to observe the unevolved human natives next door. Word got out, and fearing an ‘Alien Invasion’ company officials on Earth decided to pull the plug on the whole Mars deal, initiating a Base Wide Colony Purge. History dutifully records them as paranoid idiots.

1. Shortly after the first thousand humans had fully settled on Mars, it was decided (bizarrely, some thought) to send an anthropologist to study the new colonies, and generate a detailed record of their emergent culture. An expensive P.R stunt. A short list of suitable candidates was generated, and one eventually chosen for his mental toughness and keen analytical eye. After all departmental waivers were signed in triplicate, Dr. Henry Swanson found himself with an important decision. Which of his favorite gaudy Hawaiian shirts should he take? He eventually decided on the one with the large purple jungle flowers, as he considered it lucky.

2. Henry was a Cambridge PhD graduate who felt at ease in his own company. The thought of a five month, ion fusion propelled round ticket to Mars in deep cryosleep did not bother him. Apparently everyone dreamed in fragmented cycles during the flight, but few ever remembered any specifics upon medical revival. This was seen as a bonus.

3. After what seemed a mere nap, Henry awoke naked and alone on a freezing aluminum slab and apart from a sore neck and a dry mouth, felt like he’d been accidentally delivered to a swish international airport in Dubai.

4. “PhD in rambling bullshit, more like” thought Henry as he stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling of his new home. A large egg shaped pod made of Mars sand reinforced with steel fungus spirals, it lay alone on the fringes of the central colony to the West of Core Base Alpha. Henry’s particular group of travelers consisted of visiting engineers and technicians on a year long work cycle. During debriefing, one of the engineers had prodded him rudely in the shoulder and asked him what he did. The guy seemed a real shit kicker. Regarding this strange, dim creature with cold eyes, Henry quietly replied “I write reports for The Company” and left it at that. The engineer suddenly looked nervous, and did not talk to him again.

5. Despite the deadly environmental problems back home, many found the idea of permanent relocation to Mars faintly terrifying. Vast dust storms caused by atmosphere processing shrouded the base for long stretches, sealing off all outside communication. The locals called it ‘Deep Red’ and apparently the scouring megalithic clouds that would grow on the horizon weeks before were an unforgettable sight. Anyone caught outside sixty seconds after the storms hit, would not only find themselves suddenly blown a hundred miles off course but also without flesh, or friends to rescue them.

6. The cool, dry air in Henry’s pod smelt faintly of sea breeze and pomegranates. He wondered idly about his career, his thinning hair and the precise angle of his bobbing erection above the covers, pointing roughly at the aircon unit directly above him. 3AM again and no sleep for three days straight. After five months in cryo on the ship to Mars, the body rebelled against rest and relaxation and distractions were necessary. He sighed, slowly got up, cold showered, dressed and decided to play a quick remastered game of Beast Busters on his classic illegal handheld. Almost smiling, the primitive A.I driven device asked him “No sleep again, Hank?” and he ignored it, concentrating instead on incoming attacks by rotting zombie dogs. Their wild eyes glowed in the silent darkness of the pod.

7. [Redacted by The Company – something to do with an embarrassing mis-sent text message, existential depression and an unpaid electricity bill back home.]

8. All citizens apart from Henry found themselves instantly electro-zapped into unloved carbon dust by some sociopathic, button pushing ‘Gorman’ (bureaucrat) back home. Apparently the whole base was security wired like this for just such an emergency. Busy exploring a local cave system at the time, Henry arrived back at the base with an ancient fossil in hand to discover he was now basically screwed – but still quietly philosophical about his newly updated status. ‘Deep Red’ hit the base at 08:30 SBT Standard Base Time, the lights went out and the silent howling violence of the storm felt deafening.

9. The Rider called itself FRANK, and communicated via delightful, puzzling telepsychic image metaphors. For some reason Henry wasn’t remotely surprised to discover someone living inside his head, and mentally held up his hand in warm greeting to his new neighbor. FRANK smiled via soft, intense blue light pulses. Emergency generators had kicked back in, autonomous life support was fully functioning and apart from being several million kilometers from the nearest human being, Henry found the first week alone pleasant and relaxing. The storm continued to rage outside.

10. Back on Earth all hell was breaking loose. A company employee called M [redacted] managed to hook up with an inside contact from Channel Zero, and the resulting new media frenzy was the worldwide talk of the virtual internets. In order to survive Company retaliation for the Mars Base Purge leak, employee M found themselves on a one way ticket to the destroyed colony. Hitching a ride with space pirates friendly to M’s situation, M dreamed of all the friends they were leaving behind and wept, their tears forming beautiful cryo-crystals on their cheeks.

11. Able to see into the Near Future Now, the Rider in Henry’s skull had augmented the primitive A.I in Henry’s handheld videogames device to the point where it was able to generate and sustain a Base wide simulacrum of the old crew, based on several thousand psychology nodes in each of their private Company records. Factors such as temperament and probable emotional response to stress were processed by the A.I, and the resulting simulacrum booted into existence. Few humans apart from the crew themselves would have noticed any difference. It did this, because it felt sorry for Henry and was worried about the effects of long term loneliness on its congenial host.

12. Horrified at the murderous, utterly wasteful violence of the human species, FRANK asked Henry why The Company had not simply sent A.I driven cyborgs to Mars in the first place. “Good question” replied Henry, suddenly remembering that humans were still currently cheaper and quicker to train. “Economics drives all rational human behavior” said FRANK. “Sure seems that way” replied Henry. “Humans often rationalize themselves insane.” Suddenly the ghost of the rude engineer ran right through Henry. “Out of the way, pencil neck” said the engineer. “I’ve got vital base repairs to make!” Henry shook his head and stared, calling after him as he sprinted down the corridor toward Security. “You’re dead, dipshit.”

13. Deep Red blew over in a couple days, and a faint scarlet mist hung over the sun that shone through the foot thick window of Henry’s pod. The twenty year atmosphere processing cycle was now complete. Despite being a little gritty at times, there was finally air outside. He looked outside to see small docking ship landing over at Core Base Alpha. Henry asked the A.I (who by now was calling itself LISA) who on Earth was landing. “It’s not the company, come to mop up stragglers, is it?” asked Henry. “No, it’s a single person, M. Apparently they’ve been dropped off by a passing pirate cruiser. Motives as yet unknown. They’re armed with a low watt laser pistol.”

14. The problem was that air meant moisture and moisture meant rain. A great rain storm was now on its way, one which would wash Mars Base Alpha off the face of the planet like a distant stain, a single small dirty memory of a great and totally avoidable tragedy, founded on nothing but superstition and ignorant fear of the unknowable mystery of universal life itself. M sends Henry an ill considered instant text message at midnight – “You know you want some of this” – and the last ever feeling had by the last two humans in the galaxy turns out to be embarrassment. While wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

// how to play big science