Narrative 1 Spartathenia
In the end, across light years and the long walk to the black hills, epic battles with alien wildlife, festering carbuncles bursting from skin, children in dozens, livestock and crops by the container load, after a lifetime together with her, when I sit down to write as an old man, the story is irrevocably about, and for, the woman. Anna.
Passing on the legends. Handing down the tales.
We were born on a two hundred and fifty year fusion powered flight to the new worlds, multigenerational and ongoing, when the ship from the future contacted us. We’d been flying for 100 years since 2030. This ship from Earth in 2120 only took 10 years to catch up with us!
So it’s 2130 and we hitch a ride to this planet, Spartathenia, that we hadn't even known about when we left. Had an atmosphere even when the robot explorers first got here. They did gardening, and now it’s verdant, we can breathe this air. 2030 seems so long ago.
Worked in the town for a few years and then against the advice of the elders you and I set out on our own. A wagon train to the open territory where putting down stakes and starting a new life was going to be possible for us. I never would have started on this new life if you weren’t beside me, Anna. A man and a woman together and young can do a lot.
"I want to live for a while without a schedule," she said one morning after we woke up at the new farm.
"I mean things have been pretty locked up in all the mission critical getting to the new world, spreading out across the planet, building the farm."
She poured cereal from an old-school box like we were making down at the co-op in those days.
"I might do some drugs," she said "clear out some chakras."
"Stay away from that stuff Danny has," I warned her.
"That's where I got this," she said, "Supposed to be the latest in neurostimulators. Direct from Earth."
"I want to try too," I said.
And we spent the afternoon out in the meadow by the pond in a science fiction fantasy. Clearly a few things had been learned in 100 years. The chemistry was exquisite. So clear and pyrotechnical too. There were discreet messages embedded in this code. The dark events that had taken place on Earth in our absence were hinted at. The victories too, though sporadic, incredible celebrations of a whole new humanity. A million ideas and their spinoffs came into my head, the montage summoned, so I grabbed a notebook and started working on design...
"We are going to have to go see Danny tomorrow," I said to her.
When the humans from 2130 flew into deep space and swept us off to a new planet, they left five of their crew behind. One is a special advisor to our leader, another is a special advisor to our doctors, the engineers also got a special advisor. But the last 2 are flakier positions. Beth Fromm is kind of an advisor to teachers and priests, but she also is spearheading athletics on our planet, climbing the peaks, swimming across the seas. Pretty inspiring lady really. Then there's Danny. Advisor to the alternagencia, psychedelic landlord of cyberspatial realms that we only dreamed of in our day.
"I am a legitimate person back on Earth," he told us when we got to his ranch and had a cup of tea.
"There is a new respect for mind explorers."
"From your gadgets it looks like we're talking about virtual worlds that are uh, psychedelic?"
"There's been a merging of the externally projected and the internally projected," said Danny.
"Trippy," said Anna.
People were moving to Danny's end of the planet, or moving away all because of his psychedelic teachings.
We were home then for a few weeks.
I was assembling machinery, swearing at the primitive stuff we'd brought from the past. I mean I'd seen stuff at Danny's that made mine seem stupid.
I ran into Beth Fromm on a supply run I did to town, and I learned a few things about Danny.
"You have to understand, when a bird builds a nest or a beaver builds a dam they are animals acting under instinct to do architecture. Danny believes that there is a human instinct with regards to the stars. Not like a general waging a war, but like a bird making a nest or more like a beaver building a dam because we are creatures preparing a habitat that we can best thrive in. There are about 1000 people from Earth in 2130 arriving here in 3 years time, people that at least on some level, agree with Danny. "
"I hope they bring some farm gear to sell.”
"I'll put that in the next message. Our mail takes about 10 years to get to Earth so it will be too late to tell the 1000 before they leave, but it will probably be picked up at the half way station by where we met you. Lots of commerce goes on in near space."
When I said we walked across the planet to the Black Mountains, I was kind of exaggerating. We drove trucks, flew small airships and walked beside the animals a bit. The animals walked the whole way. So on this trip to town I was flying, and I was back home with Anna before I knew it.
"There's another ship coming from Earth, with 1000 settlers on it," I said to Anna as we were going to sleep.
"The more the merrier," she said.
And years had a way of going by.
Was that 20 years that passed? Anna you raised our children with excellence and when the time came you fought to not have the last 2. It was our grandparents who signed the agreement that we would have 12 children, before we were even born.
You made your point clearly "I want to paint, 10 kids is enough," and in truth those last few were mostly raised by their elder siblings while you looked at image through the ages...
It was the cave art that took you, wasn't it Anna? Five years, you studied and replicated the cave art of Earth in your studio, and then you left the farm and set out for the caves of Spartathenia. You did 10 galleries in all, the early works of our planet. Site 1 is primitivist, pigments derived from plants and animal fats splashed on rock, and by site 10 you polished the stone on the wall of the cave using buffers and etched photorealistically with laser in the reflective surface.
Those who will follow will see that the first ones drew on these cave walls. And your paintings tell a story. About an epic journey across the stars, days spent studying mathematics and physics while staring out the window at Earth. Watching the far away ball of blue and green light get smaller and smaller each day.
Our kids are having kids these days, and I like to go over to their places, sit in a big armchair and tell stories of our early days on the starship. I don't think they really believe me, they seem to think that we've been here forever, but they like their grandma's cave paintings. They get it when you tell the story.
And your pictograms tell other stories, robot settlers arriving fully fifty years before the humans, building the ecosystem from lichen to Earth-like. Huge devices like snow making machines blowing genetically modified seed into the wind. Rock mulchers grinding rock to blow topsoil across the planet in a fine dust. Succession occurs, alders turning to evergreens, soil gets built, some animals are introduced, especially herbivores to eat the green stuff and leave fertilizer, but there are wolves to control the rabbits too, and we arrived on a lush and forested paradise...
The trees are young but the planet has lungs. We can breathe the atmosphere because the robots succeeded planting seeds. Everything is genetically modified and way beyond anything those of us from 2030 tech really understand. Beautiful though...
I remember those days. You were working on the robots-terraforming history painting and I was writing about farming. I went over to Danny's and got him to show me farming like the 22nd century does it.
Danny had pot from the future and we lit one up as we drove his sci fi Massey Ferguson tractor out to the fields to have a look.
"Cowabunga," I said.
"Prost," said Danny.
"The first thing you have to understand is how we build a field. So rather than looking at the crops I have in, we should go to an area of untouched planet. Mostly rock a little lichen, a little topsoil,” said Danny.
“We start with an ecosystem that will take 1000 years to gather complexity and we add the complexity now. Old wood organisms, 1000 year forests, animals that live for hundreds of years…"
“Sounds like you’re making Earth before the chainsaw,” I responded.
When we got there Danny had his rock grinder set up. There was a hopper so we just had to turn it on and the rocks would start loading and getting chewed. It shot the powder across the zone with a blower exactly like a snow maker. Pretty soon there was a foot of powder built up.
"Then we wet it down," he said.
This was the first time I really got to see the amazing 22nd century knowledge of hydrodynamics I'd heard about.
He got some water and shot it into the air with something like a mist making machine
But this cloud he built had some amazing properties. Integrity- it wasn't breaking apart. He seemed to be able to control its movements too because it dutifully settled above the field and delivered a light rain.
"This doesn't work very well if there's wind," said Danny.
Then he blew seed across the moistened field with the same snow machine.
"This is not monoculture," he said. "We're planting an ecosystem of a dozen cooperating plants. Every frequency of light is used."
"I know about corn and squash being a good combination," I offered pathetically.
"It's a genetically modified ecosystem that will deliver tomato-like things, potato-like things, Corn-like things, and a variety of other plants like cabbage and squash... "
"I guess no weeds can compete."
"Since we filled the air with the weed seeds here we made them so they can't grow if our vegetables are nearby."
"So no weeding, no pesticide, but did you use fertilizer?"
"Ya I stirred in a bag of powder when we made the soil."
"Must be nutrient rain too..."
"Almost like hydroponics, mostly mineral soil and moisture that delivers plant food."
I haven't really introduced myself. Tom Robbins, is the name, son of Mark Twain. We came from a period in history where the fashion was to name oneself after a historical figure. I mostly write for pretty utilitarian journals, I do not live inside a magic realistic fantasy like my namesake. Still I am in outer space. He'd like that I think.
So then we were 80, expecting to live the average lifespan of 120 years. Our kids were about 60 and they all had brilliant careers in fields other than science. Historians, artists, entertainers, farmers, poets. With Anna as their mother they all document an intense subjective vision.
Our crew was born here, and they weren’t really interested in the nuts and bolts of space travel or all the technical issues that absorbed us when we were young. I mean lots of their generation did high tech stuff. Asteroid mining, exploration, but our brood were home bodies. The grandchildren even more so, were SA people, only a little interested in that far away place called Earth that they’d heard so many stories about.
Then Lotsco invented the faster than light internet, and all of a sudden we were connected again to the rattle and hum of the ball far away. In the 23rd century, space dissolved into hyperspace. I mean, for not much money we could take a portal walk and be back on the home planet in a few seconds…Our grandkids were aliens from this jetset age, hopping back and forth from Earth to its colonies, at will.
So now we’re in our end days and I’m going through the shelf of papers I saved from when we were 20 and I had so many ideas, I was overwhelmed. I wrote them down and saved them for when I was an old man and that’s right now. Kid had insight, but I’m afraid nothing amazing…Looks like I’ll just read over these docs and die…
And then of course Andy, our grandson came into our life. He studies gerontology and we are his test subjects. A whole new story began for you and I Anna when we were a dozen decades old…
These kids are weird. Taught by the new teachers from the 22nd century who arrived a few years after we got here, Andy seems to display god-like powers from the point of view of this mere mortal. Like the way he got you an entire planet to do cave art on. No air out there, but lots of rock to paint on. Navigating the arcane bureaucracy of the mesh he was putting his gerontology to work, giving you something to live for. Andy’s a good one.
But you got him too didn’t you Anna? A guinea pig with attitude. You were supposed to paint the glorious story of human kind’s journey to the stars, and instead you told the stories of our family. Panels throughout the planet describing the time little Robert got carbuncles and kept us awake for 3 months screaming in the night. Or when little Jennifer was tracked by a pack of mutant wolves, and the three nights her and the boys, coms down, fought them off with rocks and sheer will power. Of children and grandchildren and now great great grandchildren, an exponential surge of life from our 10, now several hundred and spread across the sky.
“It’s universal,” you say, and that seems to be your angle, that detailed local information somehow telescopes to be meaningful to all. They’re meeting new species now. Do our family stories cross species lines?
And I’m telling the stories too. In a little book I want to leave for the grandchildren’s grandchildren. This little book.
Passing on the legends. Handing down the tales.