Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you’ve been having increasingly painful headaches for weeks. You’ve tried the usual, but end up making an appointment with your Doctor. The usual questions pass, then some testing, and you get your results.
“Hey so, I’ve got some results from the MRI.”
You both share some silence.
“Well, the scan has detected…”
You feel one of those mini heart attacks, pain in your chest from shocking fear.
“…to give it to you straight, it’s not really in a position that we can…”
The time we all endlessly procrastinate about, has come. You are now that one in one hundred million people who dies in a plane crash.
The numbness, the fear, the anger, and the pain, have come and gone. You sit at your computer, and do what you always do when you are desperate for an answer: google.com
Every web page you open is further confirmation of your coming end.
You refuse to give up and keep looking.
Deep into your search, you find a highly experimental treatment program accepting applications. It’s an operation with high risk of death. Does the risk matter in a situation like this? You’re dead anyway so you might as well play the lotto. You might as well make it interesting. And this one is definitely interesting because it’s part of the program to train Astronauts for a mission to Mars.
Your family begins with the usual. Everyone tells you what they would do, what they think you should do. But no one asks you what you want to do.
Are they just trying to spend time with me so that when I die they won’t feel as bad?
The program accepts your application.
It’s in Washington D.C., which is strange, but you go.
The NASA Astrobiology Institute, Program for Interstellar Training & Research was intended to sound as plain and tax dollar wasting as possible. Headquartered in a privately owned research facility right in Washington D.C., who would ever think to poke around and ask questions?
This program wasn’t a NASA program at all. It’s true purpose? Nothing crazy like taking over the world, just money.
The research was being run by a company owned by Apple, Clarity Innovations (though you would need some of the best corporate lawyers in the world to find that out).
The purpose was to create a product the world had never seen, bio-nanobot modifications. Bio-nanobot modifications could allow an endless amount of enhancements to be added to the human body. Increased speed, better vision, possibly even eternal life. The stuff of movies and dreams. All theory of course.
After checking into your hotel in D.C., you went straight to your interview. Desperation and fear can be great tools to combat procrastination.
You’re greeted by a nerdy looking man, wearing the most stereo typical white lab coat and large glasses possible.
“Hi there and welcome, welcome, WELCOME!”
Is this a YouTube prank? On terminal brain tumor victims? Probably not…right?
“Come, come, let’s get this interview started! We’re so glad you made it.”
Boring technical chat and promises ensue. They say they are testing implants in the brain that will be used when astronauts go to Mars, but at these early stages, risk in the operation is high. The purpose is to combat the effects of deep space travel…or…something?
You don’t really get it, but you get the most important part. They are willing to go deep enough into your brain during this implant operation, that they can probably remove your tumor. They will basically perform an operation that no other Doctor out there would dare attempt.
You will probably die, but if it works you’ll just have some computer chip in your brain. At least if it doesn’t work, you’ll die in your sleep. And dying now, going under with the hopes of possibly waking up, sounds eerily more soothing than what you have now, certain death.
You sign the papers.
They will begin the operation tomorrow and have free accommodations for you.
“Wait, I need to like, call my family and stuff. Actually, I’m sorry, I’m not sure about this. I can’t do this so fast, I’m completely overwhelmed right now, I…”
“Relax, we are flying in your family right now. Our people are phoning them now and will bring them to the airport soon.”
“What? That seems a little…”
“Listen, I didn’t want to really scare you but, with your app we pulled your MRI. With your current state, most experts would have expected you would be dead by now. We need to operate now, you’re truly out of time.”
“What? Are you sure?”
“You know what, here, here’s your room card, just take a few moments to relax and think about everything. This is a lot at once and you are still free to walk, so just take a deep breath and let’s meet back here in an hour? Okay?”
You take the key.
“Where do I go exactly?”
“Oh right, just head over to the elevator in the lobby and take it to the sixth floor, your room is there.”
You head up the elevator. The building is quite nice in general. Premium and modern finish is everywhere. It looks quite new, maybe a couple years old. It even smells new, like fresh carpet and…clean.
You arrive at your room and it’s better than you would have expected. It features a gorgeous view of downtown D.C., a small kitchen area, and a large king bed with a brand new 3D T.V. You allow yourself to fall on the bed, and begin crying.
The phone starts ringing.
It’s your Doctor from home.
“Hey…oh um…are you okay? Is this a bad time?”
“No. No it’s okay. “
“Are you sitting?”
“Oh haha okay. Well GUESS WHAT?”
“What? Are you kidding me? Why do you sound excited?”
“Ah yep I’m so sorry that was not…okay I’ll just say it. We are terribly sorry but when we took your MRI, your files got mixed up with someone with your exact same name, born the exact same year. Can you believe that!? Anyways, yeah, we are horribly sorry but, you don’t have a brain tumor. I actually double checked over your blood work and it was obvious at first but I guess I got distracted by the MRI. It seems pretty likely that you have undiagnosed diabetes so we just need you to come in and run some more blood work. But yeah, no brain tumor. I repeat, no brain tumor.”
You hang up.
What is going on?
It’s silly, but you feel like school called and said that due to the impending snow, there will be no school tomorrow. But not just tomorrow, forever. The emotion is beginning to overwhelm you. You just have to tell someone, you have to hug someone. You make your way over to the door to leave the room.
It won’t open.
It’s not locked from your side.
Is it broken?
You bang on the door loudly, adrenaline still rushing from the phone call.
The door opens. It’s the Doctor from your interview.
He raises his hand and that is all you remember, everything goes black.
In 2152, the United States and Russia were deep into what was known as the Cold Space War. Space X had fulfilled Elon Musk’s dying wish with the creation of a space elevator. The space elevator eliminated the expensive and dangerous use of rockets to send things into space. It was a technological marvel, a skyscraper-like cylinder that endlessly faded away into the clouds.
The physics were remarkably simple as it was a platform “tethered” to the Earth and kept up by the planet’s natural rotation and centrifugal force. In normal people terms, picture yourself holding and swinging a piece of string in a circle with a tennis ball on the end. Your hand is the Earth.
Soon, Russia had it’s own elevator and both countries amassed a huge military presence in space, with nuclear armed military space stations and bases on the Moon. The Moon was littered with raw materials that made it extremely valuable. Before the space elevator, it would have been too expensive to mine, but now it was fair game.
On a Friday evening in May, what is believed to be an asteroid, caused a massive explosion of the Moon itself. The Moon was shattered into an incalculable amount of pieces, some quite large. Hours after the explosion, fragments that had been projected farthest began to fall to Earth, some the size of small cities.
The real damage began when Moon fragments soared through orbit around Earth, destroying the U.S. and Russia’s vast military space station empire. Stations and debris fell to Earth, dispersing the nuclear warheads they carried into the atmosphere. The sky became a nightmarish landscape, painted with our worst fears and highlighted by orange fire. Society crumbled within days because too many people’s sense of survival began and ended at the supermarket.
Life’s new chapter of Neo Dark Ages had begun as the world went silent. The real killer was nuclear radiated Moon dust that filled the atmosphere and made life outdoors virtually impossible. A gray ring of Moon fragments formed around the Earth, similar to Saturn’s. A horribly elegant piece of jewelry decorating a tomb.
Most life was gone within weeks and made what happened an extinction level event.
But you survived.
After one operation, you became the most advanced piece of technology humanity ever created. The program team transplanted bio mechanized gills on your neck. It was the easiest place for integration because of the naturally high level of blood flow to the brain and close proximity to the start of our respiratory system. Although small, they gave you the underwater breathing capacity of a shark. They filled your blood with their revolutionary nanobots solution that resulted in prolonged life by an unknown amount and significantly increased physical capability.
A member of the team could not keep the excitement to himself and told a friend. Who told a friend, who told a friend. An unknown branch of the Pentagon seized the entire operation and moved everything to a secret facility, somewhere. All you experienced was being held under guard by U.S. soldiers in a small cell for months.
Soon there were many of you, all taken against your will. All with the same modifications. A guard friendly to you, told you that they were repeating the operation to find ways to speed it up and have more of you to perform tests on. The end purpose was obviously the creation of super soldiers. You cared about as much as anyone who was being held prisoner and having their rights violated would.
When the Moon exploded, the facility was abandoned fast. The guard friendly to you let you out just as he and all other personnel left. You freed the other 49 prisoners, and a disappointing shock came over all of you. The facility was a secret underwater base located deep within a protected zone of coral reef, off the coast of Barbados.
You and your kind had been taken against your will, butchered like lab rats, and now left to die.
The first month was a struggle, as you all lived off the rations and supplies in the base. Eventually it was obvious that someone was going to have to leave the base to find supplies. A few brave souls volunteered to leave the base and became the first to truly test out your kind’s abilities. The underwater breathing worked and you could all swim as fast as a sea creature due to the nanobot solution in your blood providing increased physical performance.
The volunteers returned with mostly bad news. The island of Barbados above was totally inhabitable, as it had been consumed by fire and destroyed by falling debris. The air was filled with a never ending swarm of dark dust carried by strong wind, that blocked out all sunlight. Most alarming was that they saw at least two objects fall from the sky and into the ocean. At any moment, debris of almost any size could land anywhere, and there would be no way to see it coming.
The only good news was that the volunteers managed to bring back some supplies. They found a beachfront resort with a kitchen that had not been looted. Most of the food had spoiled, but there were some canned fruits and vegetables. Luckily, the resort had quite a few grow lights because it featured a wide display of fish tanks with real aquatic plant life, mainly corals. One of your kind was a botanist in the now Old World, and was able to build small greenhouses.
Your underwater base was powered by ocean current generators that were designed to operate for hundreds of years. The only problem was that the Moon was shattered into pieces, thus gravitational pull on the oceans was significantly weaker. This meant that you had some power, but it was weak and could not power much at once.
Unfortunately the brave volunteers knew something was wrong as soon as they returned. They had tried their best to not breathe in dust, but without protective masks, it was impossible not to. To keep the base secret, there was no technology allowed that could communicate with the outside world. The only communicative devices allowed were basic radios. You all had only heard the guards yelling about the Moon exploding, you didn’t know about any radiation.
But you did now, as the obvious and horrific effects of high level radiation exposure showed themselves. You also all learned another ability you possessed. The nanobots in your blood were built to fight any type of sickness that invaded the body. The only problem was that not even they could prevent death by high level radiation. They suffered a long and painful death, that taught you all to never leave the seas again.
This was now your home.
Over time, through natural conversation, you began calling yourselves Mermaids. It had started as a joke, but it made sense, so why not?
You slowly built what could be considered a small city over the course of one hundred years. It began with the sinking of ships still docked in Barbados. With no fuel and no way to use them, it made sense not to waste them. An eerie but elegant city of sunken ships began to form in the ocean waters among Caribbean coral reef. Connections were built between habitats and Mermaids began building their own homes for privacy.
You all agreed that raising children now, at the end of the world, was nothing short of a bad idea. But human nature prevailed and within years there were newborns. With the birth of the first child, there was a startling revelation. The nanobots within your kind had some kind of conscious, or were programmed to reproduce. Your children were born with the same bio mods you all received through operation. It was a bizarrely symbiotic relationship between Mermaid and machine.
You wake up in your Mermaid Royalty Chambers and begin to get ready. Today the Exploration Team was to present their annual findings. The same as always, no life. How could they find anything? After 100 years, it was still too risky to even travel to Barbados above, less than a mile away. There was still no way to even get to the next closest island of St. Lucia, 20 miles away. And for what? Life was not so bad here. You were all safe.
You hear a knock on your door.
‘My Royalty, I know it’s early, but!”
“Make it quick.”
“There is a ship!”