Its been some-time since my last blog post. I’ve been busy with thesis – as have all of the MA/MSc students – but we have all submitted our final documents this morning.
As well as presenting the main argument of my thesis, The Human Spectrum – a short science-fiction ‘parable’ – is to become the main narrative for my final film/animation.
Rather than present the entire thesis, I have decided to extract and post the story on its own. I have also decided to omit footnotes from these posts – for brevity – but if anyone is interested in reading the story in-situ I will upload a copy of the full thesis document. Moreover rather than upload the text in entirety, following the tradition of serialised SF, I will post one part per post.
The Human Spectrum
A Science Fiction Parable
“In regione caecorum rex est luscus”
“In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King”
Desiderius Erasmus’s Adagia, 1500
<Command: We’re in the gravity-well>
Cmdr Khali-S54 (Callistan Republic),
‘The Jupiter’ flight-logs.
An hour after landing, the first human appeared; at least it seemed human. A light snow shower was rapidly turning into a blizzard, obscuring Khali’s vision. Simulated landings hadn’t modelled such extreme conditions, but she wasn’t worried. Khali’s quad-suit could survive in even the most severe storms, and the body of the lander provided some protection. It still glowed cherry-red from its passage through the atmosphere; heat from its belly was melting the ice, and a cloud of steam threatened to engulf both ship and crew.
The landing had been timed to maximise daylight hours – but the blood-red sunrise, a glowing spaceship, and three mechanised creatures moving in the mist must have seemed like an alien invasion! Undeterred, it pressed forward with its slow shuffling gait. Brave, she thought. A head blended into hunched shoulders and a body wrapped from head to foot in furs and what looked to be synthetic materials – speckled shades of brown, black and grey mixed with stripes of a garish red-orange; from the moment she saw it, the colours started to fade under a thickening layer of snow.
A scan confirmed it: human, male, and very old. A bi-centenarian at least. He was an Elite; only they were permitted enhanced healthspans. For him to be so close to the excavation site was not unexpected; The Cartel only operated from the largest cities. Those who had survived the cataclysm clung to remnants of their old lives, and most of the larger ruins – including London – were occupied, if only by the hardier survivors.
The old man stopped, before crouching down on the ice – less than a meter from a freshly cut opening. Had he seen it? Khali didn’t know how long he’d been watching them. With luck the storm had hidden Ghan as he dropped into the ship below. Her two remaining crew members, Owan, and Yu were puzzled by his behaviour. Yu flash-transmitted a message through her surface emitters – her aura a deep shade of purple. [What is he doing?].
Khali wasn’t sure. They’d been briefed on common cultural practices, but she couldn’t recall anything like this. The old man had shielded his eyes from Yu’s message, but now just sat there patiently. About to connect with the database on the lander, something made Khali pause – his lips were moving. He was speaking to her! The quad-suits had audio-receivers for this situation; the Elites still used a written and spoken language, but Jovians rarely spoke. Sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum, and what started as a language used by work-crews had become the norm: a form of communication based on signs, the emission of light and exchange of written words via a HUD.
Since landing, snow had hammered against her suit, sending an arrhythmic pattern of vibrations through her head; sound added another layer of annoyance, so they’d all muted their receivers. By chance Khali’s had still recorded the old man. Within seconds the message was translated. It was simple, so the chance it had been miss-translated was pretty low, but it still came as a shock. [What did he say?] asked Yu.
Confused, Khali’s aura changed to purple. [He said: ‘Welcome back’].
The old man needed to be careful. He’d worn his old Cartel pin for years. Even now, his Elite status gave him the respect of the other survivors. The Pioneers were clearly interested in his ship – one had already dropped through the ice – but why were they here?