Sci-fi "The carrier"Hello from Alpha Centauri! Good thing those new breakthroughs in the field of tachyon physics now allow our transmissions to travel at roughly 10 times the lightspeed (by shifting backwards temporally while they're propelled forward in space, they say), reducing communication delay to less than half a year. Well, enough science, i'm not an expert anyway. Down to the personal: money is less of an issue here. Once you have enough to rig your own stellar skiff, just come over. You see, Vacuum the Dark and Empty doesn't ask you to pay your way; instead, it puts your ability to operate a zero-capsule (after a few devastating accidents man-shaped spacesuits have been acknowledged as impractical and replaced with ovoids made of highly resistant yet adaptable hell-knows-what, ask the techs, with 4 retractable manipulators for limbs) to a good test, and in case of failure - your ability to instantly transform yourself into a totally homeostatic system, too. More costly artifacts may be required to establish anything resembling coziness down here, i mean planetside, and the autochthons have the concept of trade, sometimes (surprisingly often) fair, but the difference in values means you need considerably less here than on not-so-good old Terra. As overpopulation, resource shortage, mutagenic toxins and other residues of high-level civilization have yet to arrive here (introduced by us the friendly strangers, no doubt), the locals are much less inclined to chew right through your belly than your fellow human. Their snarls may frighten initially, but apparently it's merely a way to express the pleasure of seeing you, or at least to pretend they feel it. It looks like genuine hospitality (when was the last time you used the term out of historical or purely theoretical context?), and out ethologists say it partly is - ostensibly, it stems from the possibility to breath unfiltered air and drink water from natural sources. Speaking of nature - even if you're one of those rare talents who don't require solitude and general calm to write, believe me, this environment is better suited for the purpose. Let's face it, the little fragile germs that inflame the inspiratory system in human body have long died out on our poor poisoned home planet, along with pretty much anything else that couldn't build a protective dome or insinuate itself into one. Writing is what i've been doing a lot lately. Almost like in the ancient tales - composing lines by the luminescence of fireflies, a task greatly facilitated by the fact my comm unit has its own light, especially considering my genetic myopia. As for my official work, it's accelerating, efficacy growing exponentially; most pre-fab domed cities have been unfolded and initiated, their factories already burrowing into the crust and digesting everything they can, spewing the rest miles high into the atmosphere in proud fountains of automatic excretion. By the way, i did ask the coordinator: why bring domes to a planet where you can inhale all you want without the danger your coroner would need a chainsaw to perform an autopsy? Because it's standard, he said. And an ethologist later added, answering my question with a question, as they always do: - Imagine yourself a normal human, not a mutant freak like us all. Well, try to, do your best, for conversation's sake. Would you be comfortable living outside a dome? Honestly, i didn't do my best. Puking is not a big deal here, you don't have to wash your respirator afterwards, but i just didn't want to. So, my work. Domes are set, as i said, factories running. Next is the Cat's Cradle, the landing field - an immaterial baseball glove the size of a small town. The generator, with the adjoining nuclear power plant, and the backup nuclear power plant, and the spare backup nuclear power plant, and the monstrous gizmos you need to find and mine and purify all this uranium and plutonium - all must be up by the time the settler tankers arrive. You're aware, of course, of the big news: 2 years ago (~2,5, i mean - forgot about the delay) a million of perfectly normal humans, although probably not very smart or gifted - else old Terra wouldn't be so eager to send them off with a one-way ticket - were cryo-ed, loaded like a shipment of frozen pork into giant beehives, which were then coated with that same highly resistant hell-knows-what and launched from Lunar Sling. Well, we're here to catch them. It'll take them quite a while to get here at sub-C, you know. Body enhancement or not, i may not live to see them landing, thawing and walking out like a million of bogeymen who suddenly grew bored in their closets. But it will happen, of course - what is there to stop them, in the Dark and Empty? The beauty and the nightmare of interstellar space: the only thing that may befall you out there is yourself, and that's not much of a hazard if you're an icicle. So the tankers will be gently rock-a-byed to the surface of their new home, met by corridors timely thrust out by the cities (it's a good question whether the air is going to be breathable by then, but even if it is, who'd want to risk seeing the sky, and a foreign one at that?), and Earth will burst from them like the shockwave of a nova. Why am i writing this? It's all a bit unsettling, i guess, isn't it? Well, what i'm trying to say is: hurry! This Galaxy isn't so big. And i'd like to see you, actually - before i either die or leave. Because, you know, as i was typing this message it struck me: there's no way i'm going to meet and greet them, the settlers, the normals. If i'm alive, i'll move on. And by the way, i'd be thankful if you kept me updated on the Cepheidae project - as good an option as any, i figure, and you know how it is here with the news. So one way or another, when they come, i'm not here. Consider the time dilation, and that's another reason to hurry - although i do realize this may not qualify as a reason to you. Yes, now i'm sure about it: should my enhancements show sufficiently proof against ageing, and should the law of big numbers spare me for a while, this is where i will be: in the first glittering drops off the crest, announcing the wave that is bound to drown the space, the Galaxy, the Universe. Just like a happy, careless, perfectly healthy carrier of an unstoppable, extremely virulent and 100% lethal plague.
Марк Левитин Фотожурналист, специалист по азиатским культурам. 20 лет в Южной и Юго-Восточной Азии. Большой любитель научной и философской фантастики. Сам пишу в этом жанре, но лишь в качестве хобби. В литературных конкурсах до сих пор если и участвовал, и даже побеждал, то только со стихами. Проза до сих пор не издавалась, ни на русском, ни на английском (пишу я вперемешку на обоих языках, порой сам себя и перевожу). A photojournalist specializing in Asian cultures. 20 years in South and South-East Asia. A great fan of sci-fi and philosophic fiction. I write it myself, too, although as a hobby only. Previously participated in literature contests (and won a few) with my poetry, never before published any prosaic pieces, whether in Russian or English (i write in both languages interchangeably, occasionally translate my own works).