Friday, July 4, 2014

An American On Rhea--Part Two

 (Author's note: Still have no idea where this is going.)

As jails go, after spending what amounted to ten terrestrial days in what the Rheans call a prison I couldn't really complain. The interior of my cell is circular with at least a third of the wall a huge window facing out to the frozen, airless surface of the moon. The view is breathtaking even for someone like me, in the distance I can see two of the large domes that pass as settlements along with Saturn itself positioned above in the sky. I am told by my keepers that the tiny lights I see buzzing around in the blackness are spaceships, mostly short range types going between the settled moons and various space stations.

One of them would eventually bring my newest accuser to Rhea. Right after I was tossed into jail I learned that not only were there disembodied survivors in the form of sentient recorded personalities from the mid-twenty first century Corporate War. But that biological technology had advanced enough to allow them to grow new human bodies and then have their conscious essence downloaded into them. For me it was quite the wrinkle in an already complicated existence I never could have dreamed of when I paid all that money to go into suspended animation.

At least the interior of my jail cell is comfortable to the point that I have to admit it rivals some of the five-star hotels I stayed in on Earth back in the twenty-first century. The bed looks pretty conventional to what has existed for thousand of years, except that it is made of a living form of aerogel that draws in its sustenance from my dead skill cells and toxins from my sweat. For reasons I can't figure out, I also have a couple of easy chairs and a table far too large for just one person, I guess Rhean prisoners like to entertain?

The most remarkable thing though is the passageway running from my cell to a central dome filled with park-like vegetation, a small pond, and what passes as exercise equipment. While the dome is truly both beautiful and functional what I really would like someone to explain is how the clear substance that allows full visibility outside during the night cycle somehow generates enough light to make plants grow during the day. Internal automated mechanisms, computerized, biological and mechanical I am told, dependably provide an oatmeal-like substance for food, recycles the water and air we need, and I guess also makes sure no one does anything stupid like trying to open one of the airlocks. I would ask, but I've only seen two others, both native Rheans, during my time in the dome and they avoid me like the plague.

This botanical garden/prison yard dome is also connected to fifteen other similar cells arrayed on the surface like the peddles of a flower. My fellow prisoners and I are completely cut off from the civilized parts of Rhea, a small jump shuttle comes out every other cycle to check on us. I guess I would be more upset had I any place to go but at least I was making full use of the computerized library to read up on both Earth and Rhean history.

Just to show how lowly the Earthers viewed the likes of me, only a week had passed from my resurrection to them escorting me aboard the interplanetary ship that would bring me to Rhea. It only took that long because the disembodied sentients wanted to make sure I was not a war criminal, of course while I wasn't, it was bad enough that I knew some of them. So, I was clothed, given the translator device, and instructions that the Rheans would allow me to stay with them until the starship arrived as long as I consented to some genetic tests, which was the only reason I was brought back to life. Not in a position to disagree, I was told all my questions about these tests would be answered on Rhea, until then, they told me, I best keep my mouth shut.

In fact, the Earthers seemed to take pleasure in telling me as little as possible about how their precious Earth Unity Collective was formed during my time there. I did learn that the vast majority of Earthers were embedded with tiny crystal devices all through their nervous systems and brains that directly linked them to vast collective intelligence. While they were still unique individuals they had the ability to create different facets of themselves that could essentially do dozens of complex tasks in different locations across the planet.

With having to come to gripes with a gigaton-sized culture shock my little pleasant prison became a calm respite from a storm of bewildering changes I never could have imagined. Since the other two inmates avoided me, I spent most of my time in the recreation dome reading as much as possible and waiting for my newest accuser to arrive from the Neptune habitats.

I have to admit, reading about the Corporate War turned out to be an uncomfortable proposition. According to the commonly accepted history throughout the solar system the causes essentially developed in the latter part of the Twentieth century with the collapse of old style communism, which conversely to many living at the time elevated its supposed antithesis, capitalism, to a religion. Government and its usual services was looked down upon since it never returned a visible profit. This in turn lead to casual disregard of such things as infrastructure, educational, and health care systems even as increasing population pressures required they stay up to date.

With the populations of the developed nations worshiping capitalism above all else, power flowed away from the middle of their societies to a tiny percentage of elites who increasingly exercised their influence to garner more authority. As underfunded governments failed the elites stepped in with offers to provide the basic institutional services an increasingly demoralized and distracted populations needed without raising taxes. The trouble started when the elites began only providing services to those who could pay. By that time societies throughout Earth had crumbled to the point that many populations seethed with resentment over essentially being written off and left to die. Their only choice was to rebel, which the elites quickly put down with not only overwhelming force but in many cases just dissolving what was left of the hollow shells of democratic national governments.

The screen on my jail cell tablet provided a host of troubling pictures of that era with one showing the members of the the five-person corporate guidance committee signing the treaty that formally dissolved the United States and Canada and formed the North American Corporate Authority. It troubled me greatly to see I personally knew two of those committee members years before I was placed in suspended animation. One of them, a man I knew as Carter Lewis, who made his money in software development, ended up in charge of the southeast section of the former United States and ordered the extermination of eight million people in retaliation for the Atlanta Food Riots of 2044.

The elites had supporters among the poor masses, which they mobilized for war with promises of increased status after the rebellions were put down. With battle lines drawn, the Corporate War lasted fifteen years and devastated every continent on Earth. The elites were only defeated after their allies among the poor realized they were never going to be rewarded.

While the elites were defeated allowing national governments to reform it took another fifty years before a planetary system of governance was established. Despite the delay everyone alive at the time fully realized that no entity with enough power to dissolve nations and endanger the planet as a whole, should be allowed to exist without some form of oversight. This period of chaos between the end of the war and the formation of the first world government allowed many war criminals to leave Earth for the asteroid colonies as well as many lower middle management types to sneak into the scattered suspended animation centers across the planet in hopes of being forgotten as the years passed.

After reading about how many of the people I called friends and business associates became monsters I finally realized why most everyone I had meet since my resurrection kept me at arms distance. In truth, even though I was long out of the game before the war started, I was honest enough with myself that had I not contracted Susskind's cancer I knew I would have almost certainly been part of that hideous monster called the North American Corporate Authority. I spent days in my cell disgusted with person knew I had been back then and, deep down, probably still was in truth. It was only the sudden and unexpected arrival Anni Missor, the Rhean ancient history professor, brought me out of my funk.

The depression I developed from learning the basics of the Corporate War was only deepened when Professor Missor met me in the recreation dome and began telling me the details on my unknown accuser. There was no announcement that the jump shuttle had landed, it was only when I saw the professor walking along the path towards me did find out she had arrived. I was propped up against the trunk of a fat oak tree at the time reading more about the formation of Earth's world government. I sat there marveling at the grace of Professor Missor's movements in the low gravity, she almost looked like she was floating a couple of centimeters about the path. Combined that with her dress that shimmered in the dome generated daylight and I began having absurd visions of sexy fairies or female angels sent to lure stupid human males to their doom.

“Hello Thomas Blake,” she called out in English.

I honestly didn't know what stunned me more, her beauty or the fact she was talking to me in my own language.

“Hello Professor,” I said back fearing I could choke up like a teenager. “How are you speaking what I was assured by everyone was a dead language?” I asked as she gently to a seat on the grass in front of me.

“The acquisition of new knowledge in this era is far more efficient that you probably can imagine Thomas Blake.”

“Some sort of download, like the Earthers do?” I asked back which only caused her to give me one of those enigmatic smiles similar to the one Mona Lisa had kept for thousands of years.

When she refused to respond I changed the direction of what I hoped would be a long conversation.“I hope you bring some sort of good news. As jails go yours is awesome but it's still a jail.”

“Actually I do,” she said getting down to business, “your accuser goes by the name Doa Criss. Her personal biography says she was not only a survivor of the Corporate War but played an active part in the North American resistance. Her memories were one of the first recorded for posterity because of her advanced age at that time. She became a disembodied sentient about five-hundred Earth years later and was downloaded in her new body two centuries ago. Since then she has lived throughout the solar system but mainly on Triton. Apparently news of your resurrection reached as far out to Neptune and even though the Earth Collective cleared you of war crimes, Doa Criss knew enough of Rhean law to have you placed under arrest and held until she could arrive to present her evidence. Given her status, it goes without saying she carries a lot of weight throughout the settled solar system.”

It also went without saying that Rhean law was structured differently than the American system had been and held that an accused was neither innocent now guilty until all the facts were placed before a tribunal. Nuance being the keyword in Rhea's judicial system I did appreciate the fact that the First Prime, the chief executive of this moon's government took time to personally explain to me that it took an unanimous decision by a seven person tribunal to convict someone, anything less and the accused went free. While not as clean and neat as a person being innocent until proven guilty the American judicial system had been a joke for decades before the Corporate War because what normally proved a person's innocence back then was the ability of a defendant to come up with enough cash to hire a decent lawyer.

“So when will this Doa Criss arrive?” I asked feeling frustrated in ways I could not describe.

“Her ship is in deceleration now, and will enter orbit above Rhea in three cycles,” Anni responded. Our conversation about the upcoming tribunal went on for at least several hours. By the time I asked every question possible about her moon's government and she exhausted every avenue trying to explain how humans in general, and her people specifically, adapted to the living in space the dome's day cycle had ended.

Sitting on the grass beside Anni, I looked up and saw the Milky Way splayed across the now clear dome. “You know,” I said to her feeling microscopically small, “I never really looked at the stars back in the twenty-first century. I was so busy trying to build an empire and acquire more money and power. If someone would have said something to me about looking at the stars I would have thought they were insane.”

“Why is that?” Anni asked sliding closer to me.

“Well, because they would have seemed less than trivial to what really mattered which was money. Secondly, because I lived in the city and the lights all but drowned out the brightest stars and planets.”

“That's incredible,” Anni said, “I can't imagine not being able to see the universe.”

“There is things you'd find even more bizarre from my time than being unable to see the stars.” I said enjoying the simple intimacy I was sharing with Anni.

“Well now,” she said smiling coyly, “since you brought it up I want you to tell me about a few things.”

“Anything,” I said feeling a warmth I didn't try to hide.

“I want to know about Mickey Mouse and something called Walt Disney World.” She said with deadly seriousness.


Pixel Peeper said...

This part is just as fascinating and spell-binding as the previous post of this story. You have a great talent for telling us about things that don't exist and which most of us would have a hard time imagining.

Oh yeah...made of a living form of aerogel...I want this bed!

And I love the sweet ending with a hint of what might come! (I know, hopeless romantic here...)

Rose L said...

The prison sounds so luxurious. I laughed at the part where she asks about Disneyland!!

Marja said...

Wow I am impressed This is better than star track. I love the fantasy, how you described the cells laid out as flower petals and how you
developed a story of the history (or future) I love how believable it all is like "the north american corporate authority, a corporate war. I can see it happening as an extension of our current time.
Funny end too. Can't wait for the next bit. This is a winner

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Know what? It doesn't matter that you don't know yet where this story is going. It's going... and it's going well. Good job!

Pixel Peeper said...

Beach Bum and Susan, your comments about not knowing where this story is going made me think of this T-Shirt on Cafepress!