A D R A N
Some people look to the heavens and, believing they see heaven, persecute any who do not share their vision.
Some look to hell, use others, lie and betray, creating hell on Earth.
But we are neither angels nor demons: we are human.
Earth’s horizon is our guide-star.
> System active: Please state name.
‘Setular con Diovay of the Third Prelate.’
> Please state Training level and Prelate function.
‘Training 9, Production.’ System updates. They’re supposed to be fast. Internal AI systems are supposed to be the best in Orbit’s history.
> State password and commence bio-regenerative systems and nanotechnology tests.
> Begin bioregen and nano tests.
> Tests complete. Psychic transponder system is functioning within normal parameters. No physical or psychological abnormalities present. Please enjoy your latest update from Orbital.
‘I’m sure I will. Thank-you.’ Only 5 minutes today! One would think updates could be done anywhere but, no, we’re still using 20th century ‘cable’ technology! ‘Manual connector’?
> Setular con Diovay: Report to ministerial chambers.
Well, the underlings will have to wait. Ministers take precedence. At least they can’t barge in to my thoughts during an update. Maybe if I inserted my own cable I could block them permanently.
Perhaps they’ll finally grant my request for more resources for the new-borns. Almost 25 years and they keep reducing allocations rather than increasing them. I’ll set them right this time!
‘Landing approach nominal. Touchdown in 10 seconds.’ The shuttle’s AI voice is designed to expertly soothe and enthuse but it’s definitely not working for me.
That could have been handled better.
‘Hatch opening. Please stay seated.’
Oh, this heat! An ancient, dusty launch pad. Must’ve been centuries since this was last used. The ministers could’ve warned me before I landed.
> Activate bioregen systems.
‘Please exit carefully. Shuttle departs in one minute.’
Heavy, so heavy. Actual gravity! Oh, I can barely move. This is what I chose? To come here? A dusty landing pad is hardly stylish.
> Bring nano production to maximum.
Nor is clambering out onto it.
Rotten old buildings. Gutted machines. Tombstones of a bygone era. Every object picked clean of anything useful. Just missing the sign, “Welcome to the graveyard.”
> Scan: Derelict equipment, obsolete technology, minimal protection from environmental impacts. Alert: UV and radioactive isotopes at extreme levels.
> Assess area for shelter.
That lovely shuttle! Gleams like a pearl dropped into a swamp, daring the rubbish around it to make a move. Electrostatic sheath stops even the dust from touching it. My last chance to return to Orbit.
Not really a choice, though, come to think of it.
The hatch seals perfectly, the engines whine delightfully, sleek lines glistening up through the atmosphere. That’s the last I’ll be seeing of that, I guess. No going back now. I’m stuck here. Here?
> Analyse main terminal.
The pillars stick up through the wreckage like ribs of a desiccated carcass. No refuge there.
> Analysis: Structural collapse. Unsafe to enter. Small shelter nor-nor-west.
Oh. This place could use a tidying. Looks like it hasn’t been used in decades. Perhaps I should make some notes for future Orbital visitors: ‘Maximise nanos to compensate for gravity and humidity prior to arrival. A broom and dust cloth are also advisable.’
‘I hate Earth!’ Yelling does help, after all.
The vid on the flight down did not prepare me for this! This place is irksome. I feel sick. I can’t believe we came from here. No wonder we left!
My home is up there. My friends. Friends who let me leave? Silent as I walked away?
I wish they’d given me more time to prepare. What was the hurry? A few more days or even weeks wouldn’t have made any difference. Not even Borallian showed sympathy.
How am I going to live? Decades of genetic engineering doesn’t make my body suitable for anything now except production. I chose to come here. Best adapt.
> Activate nanos for gravitational adaptation.
Who would produce with me now anyway? The Locals?
‘Everything is so heavy here!’ Oh, hearing a sound here is a relief. It’s so silent. Ah, talking to one’s self is the first sign.
“Choice” and “identity” – ha! Oh, I really must calm down. I guess the weight — haha — of this decision is affecting me more than I thought. It’s been decades since I applied Training to a novel experience. I must be rusty.
Locals. Hmmm… I wonder where they could be? My body certainly won’t match their bipedal forms. Something else to start altering.
> Activate genetic sequencing for physical reconfiguration.
Locals really lost out: no nanos, virtually no medical knowledge, basic subsistence living. I guess I’ll experience this non-tech lifestyle—
> Alert: three figures approaching from magnetic sou-sou-west, weapons present. Caution advised.
At last, my welcoming committee. Why are they are crawling along the ground?
> Scan lifeforms.
> Analysis: Female. 25. Infertile. Low Telepathy Skills. Genetic radiation damage.
> Determine origin.
The departure vid did not do justice to their freakishness. Nor did it note the smell! Why are they caked in mud? I came here to integrate with them. “I made my—“
‘Ya reckon it’s food?’
> Analysis: Male. 17. Infertile. Genetic radiation damage.
‘I am not food!’ Apparently no bathing as well as no manners. Or subterfuge: their ‘whispering’ could wake the dead.
I will never again flow through the Halls of Production, nurse the young ones or see my mates. They practically expelled me. “Wilfulness”, harrumph!
Now the disgusting reality of my existence stands petrified in front of me. One boy is urinating in his pants. I’ve fallen from Orbit.
‘It, it, y-ya speak?’
The girl seems to be the leader. What a reception committee this is.
‘Oh, of all the Honours in Orbit, of course I speak! If it behooves you to answer, state you and your associates’ aliases.’ My temper surely needs soothing. ‘Stand!’
‘M-m-me, err, I be, er…’
‘What. Are. Your. Names. Out with it!’
She stands tall.
Misshapen, deformed face, barely human, nasty wheeze.
> Analysis: Male. 16. Infertile. Congenital deformities. Genetic radiation damage.
At least they dropped their weapons. “A demure dullard is better than one assuming superiority yet is more difficult to predict.” Perhaps it’s best I keep them so positioned, but how to let them think they still have control?
‘Ya space aliens?’ Rallen. Pure temerity.
‘That is where I first gained consciousness, yes. I’m an Orbital.’ That would have to suffice as an answer at this point. I’m sure this little group would be hard pressed to comprehend the finer points of consciousness accrual and bioregen tech. ‘How about you?’
Just an eyebrow raise?
Kohrd’s squeaky voice escapes from the filthy, misshapen face. Looks like the boils have formed their own features.
‘Um, ya human?’
‘Indeed I am. Are you?’ Oh, my stare is too forceful. I must attenuate.
> Alert: Environmental analysis recommends Hyronalin. Extreme radioactive toxicity levels.
> Commence Hyronalin treatment.
‘I represent the pinnacle of human genetic engineering with focussed reproduction capabilities, enhanced multitasking and adaptive heuristic matrices. Indeed, I am vastly more capable at certain functions than many of my peers—‘
Giggling? I’ve not heard that for seventy years! Rallen giggles?
‘Yes. I am human. Just like you.’ I foolishly exceeded my young acquaintances’ comprehension skills. I best rectify this situation ‘a.s.a.p.’, as they used to say. There must be some remnant of Training amongst these Locals. At least they’re starting to relax.
‘Why ya like spidahz?’
Frank curiosity. Seems young Rallen will soon be impudence incarnate, sans boundaries. Her accent is definitely Local. At least her impish smirk withers under my glare. I’ll need to Assess them. Haven’t had to do that recently, either. I guess this is also something to get used to.
> Prepare psychological matrices for data analysis. Activate psytrans.
‘I have arrived to, to ‘check it out’, to check out the place.’ Confusion, thoughtfulness, opportunism and hesitancy all flash across her face.
Lack of Masking will certainly make my job easier. Oh, this heat is abominable! ‘Where yas hang?’ Their dialect is awful!
> Extend scan for habitats.
Rallen and Kohrd respond instinctively to Bellmarcher’s glottal stops and croaking sounds, touching his arms, making soothing sounds, but the trio are definitely involved in some conspiracy. They’re very protective of him. My nurturing instincts definitely have an outlet here.
‘I am no stranger as your parents are no strangers. We must leave this heat. Let’s ‘chill’.’ My vibrissae are finally acclimating but the abominable gravity and humidity are still taking a toll.
Let’s get them Assessed.
> Scan surface thoughts. Assess Rallen.
Visions of a small township with parks and lakes and smiling people, a vid of some lost age but she is determined to find it here, somewhere. Her intentions are to protect her brethren. Apparently not genetically related, then. And more located elsewhere. She’s determined to ultimately find her vid-town utopia. A born leader. I wonder how she’d respond to a few decades in Orbit?
> Assess Kohrd.
He has fatal radioactive poisoning contracted due to his curiosity, and fearless, foolish drive. He projects a parent, misshapen, but long-since dead from some bacterial infection. He always finds new options and has the complete trust of the community.
Ah! The community is located 1.09 kilometres away at 352.3 degrees south and 62.58 meters underground. The entrance is 112.72 meters to the south-east. At least that was useful.
> Assess Bellmarcher.
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