The Nexus Odyssey, p.10Hylton Smith
“I’m sure you do know your stuff, but it would appear you are failing to get the point. You have no jurisdiction here and even if you had a piece of paper to say that you did, how would you enforce it? You may need us to get more information for you if your own operation runs to dead ends. Now, do we get safety for Redgrave’s kin? We are not requesting this for any other reason than helping you out in future.”
“You have it. I will confirm this has happened before we look into this Telebbi Martins connection from a distance. I can see you don’t need this as part of your mission. Thanks.”
After quite a long day with horticulture and chemical analysis respectively for Banjani and Natalia, Indira asked if her friend had enough energy left for that long awaited massage. The mere mention triggered waves of butterflies in Natalia’s stomach. “Yes, actually, I could do with some of that relaxing stuff myself.”
Banjani said she had no training but would reciprocate, that was only fair. When Natalia came with the cream, Indira was already lying face down with her eyes closed, apparently drifting. Natalia gazed for a couple of minutes at the lithe naked form of her friend and struggled with her conflicting emotions. Their friendship had grown slowly and was deepening, and her desire for this to become more was possibly about to overtake and ruin everything. She resolved to resist this unless there was unmistakable reciprocal response from Indira, and that did not look likely. This massage was a serious challenge to her resistance. As the aromatic concoction teased the senses, Natalia’s fingers moved closer to the forbidden areas of a full body massage. Kneading the upper thighs while Indira was still face down at least meant Natalia’s facial expression would not betray that the pleasure was mutual. The gentle pressure was spreading her legs and there was no resistance. The back and neck gave some respite in the building arousal. Natalia then whispered, “Time to flip over.”
“Oh, right, I was drifting.” On turning over the eye contact was a potential problem so Natalia decided to talk. “I think Alex must have mixed thoughts about having a double walking around all the time, a bit spooky really.”
“Yeah, might be fun to be the double though, for a day or so.”
“What do you mean?”
“You could be adventurous and say ‘it’s not really me’ you know.”
Natalia paused and thought of Indira’s double and her mind went into overdrive. “Oh yes, I can see you would be naughty, but if it was a double of yourself would it not be risky?”
“Mmm, you are right but it would be interesting to come face to face with your uninhibited side, which I guess we all have, but suppress, because of what others might think.”
The massage was again at the pelvic nexus and there was almost a reflex accommodation of space for the gentle action on the inner thighs. It was entirely natural and did not slow the conversation. When Natalia declared, “That’s it.” There was a brief hiatus. Indira whimpered, “Oh no, already? I wanted that to go on and on.”
She sat up and her eyes sparkled as she simultaneously kissed Natalia on the cheek and enthused, “Your turn.” The disrobing was easier than she had anticipated largely due to Indira’s natural accommodation of nudity. She made no attempt to put on any attire while returning the favour. “If we aren’t too late after your massage Natalia we can have a sonic shower to finish.” The entire contact was an internal see-saw of control and utter emotional abandon for Natalia Balinsky. She could barely remember any of the dialogue. An exception was the reversal of Indira’s fingers innocently brushing lightly around her genitalia. “You seem tense, am I applying too much pressure? I hope it’s not painful. You must tell me to stop if it hurts.”
“No, it’s not that, I suppose I am a bit nervous, I have never had such contact with a woman, this is a first for me.”
“You must relax fully or you won’t enjoy the true therapeutic joy of your aches being taken away by another person. Just imagine a beautiful beach and the lure of a warm turquoise ocean, you stand up, you slowly walk to the sea and long for the water to caress your naked form, after the sun has had its turn. It’s such a liberating experience to swim naked, and the contact with the more ‘intimate’ regions is part of that liberation. It’s natural, don’t fight it. Just embrace it.”
“Yes Indira, but I think it’s more complicated than that. This is extremely pleasurable for me but I’m having some difficulty in avoiding getting..... well you know what I mean, it must be obvious, and it’s getting hectic down there. I’m really uncomfortable and your picture of the ocean has just made it worse.”
“Oh I’m sorry Natalia, I see what you mean, but why should you be so uptight about that? We all have fantasies. It’s only a massage but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it what you want. It won’t embarrass me if you’re lost in the ether of imagination; if that is arousal then so be it, let’s face it, we all at some time have experienced such guilt during our solo sessions of that nature. If you relax more you may find the brain can take you closer to or further from such emotional dilemma. Go with flow, it really is only a massage, what is in your head is up to you.”
This made Natalia feel less concerned about displaying pleasure, but she knew that Indira had not connected this professed shyness as an intense attraction toward her. It had gone as far as it could for now or maybe forever. It should not be assumed that her casual attitude to being a free spirit included intimacy between two women, depending on the definition of intimacy.
It had been agreed that the crew would officially refer to him as Alex 2 as he had suggested, and they wanted him to have a transmission dialogue with the Earth experts. “It could be tricky because we do not want our people there to know about you just yet, so we think it is......”
“Better that they think I am Alex Redgrave.”
“I’m impressed,” admitted Magnusson.
“My registry maintenance runs when you are asleep. It has been possible to insert subroutines to record ‘the Continuance’ when personal pronouns are articulated by the voice apparatus. This is a distinct advantage of our matrix design compared to your own. I believe other examples may arise if I engage in this subterfuge.”
Magnusson and Veltrano were amazed at the apparent elegance of this form of intelligence. The time-lagged conference began with introductions and moved quickly to the evidence that the spiral staircase had confirmed beyond all doubt that the amorphous material was ‘seeking out’ its own destination. “We would like Redgrave to answer any other queries you may have.”
Mueller opened up with recognition that there was evidence of ‘life’ with Diatoms, based on Silicon or more precisely Silicic Acid. “However, even though there was acceptance that such silicates can replicate under certain conditions, there were other difficulties with Silicon. This is hinged on the fact that Silicon easily turns to Silicon Dioxide and this precipitates in aqueous systems, rendering it impossible to be transported across living tissue by common biological means. Self-replication of clay crystals have occurred, RNA (Ribonucleic acid) based life predates current DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) based life, and has been theorised as the first step in evolution of life, but not life itself.” The chatter would have continued if ‘Alex’ had not intervened.
“I cannot help but feel your definition of life is very narrow if looked at from a non-human viewpoint. The material in question is a complex ratio of organometallic constituents which form Antimony clusters on a Silicon surface. There appears to be a controlled configuration and rotation of the clusters by an atomic scale torque exerted on the Antimony dimers by some internal mechanism. This reversibility could provide a basis for atomic scale memory cells. This step is every bit as promising as the original RNA. Can I remind you that this property is very close to the human design of computer MRAM, which apparently operates in extreme temperature conditions and has high radiation resistance?”
The ‘committee’ must have been knocked off stride for a moment as their respons
Magnusson was not surprised at the scepticism and felt that Cameron’s gesture was simply to patronise, in order to avoid lowering morale. Discussing the implications of shifting up a couple of gears with Veltrano met with a cautious reception. Exposing the replicant now could be premature because Koppelt would have to be involved and this meant the world would be fed a story of manageable convenience. Veltrano suggested that it might be better to give Herr Koppelt another helping hand with the Circle of Restoration, to isolate that threat, prior to manipulating the way the Earth’s inhabitants discover that they may have to question their faith, in the light of the claims made by the Continuance.
Magnusson countered that concern with another. The launch of the Darwin was almost upon them, and it would be irresponsible to jeopardise that, or fail to take advantage of Alex 2’s emergence to bring new cargo and personnel with the relief vessel. A compromise would have to be hammered out. Typically the Commander wanted to involve the whole crew in any decision which could affect the mission or their own survival. Most of them found it very difficult to take in the revelation of Redgrave’s intended suicide, and this became open hostility when the rest of the background was known. It even had a temporary impact on the fascination with the replicant. Redgrave was forced to suffer this indignity without participating in a way forward. His double was not, nor was he hampered by emotional conditioning. “What cannot be changed is my existence. Your species could eliminate me, and that would not be resisted. The discovery will occur again. Your lifetime or that of your species is of no consequence in the context of the Progenitors. Their approach has always been one of design – implement – observe. They operate on a triad of possible rates of progress; they are Logical, Predictable and Random. All can be involved at any stage and at the same time. Therefore, the seeding experiments have to cover emerging patterns of behaviour from the triad. The Continuance is one, others that are known are - the Interference, the Amalgamation, the Elimination and the Subtraction. The seeding of all of the mechanisms is designed to endure for periods which make your time interval from single cell organisms to the present too short to be attributed significance. Small events, such as the subtraction of your sun, hardly register on the triad interpretation. Why am I saying all of this? Because you may never learn the method, by which an apparently lifeless collection of predominantly inorganic atoms, can function more efficiently than the predominantly organic ones who are judging them. To be precise, you will never be told how to develop this leap of technology. You may or may not discover it. That is the way of the Progenitors. Therefore any further discussion with the Committee to convince them of your discovery seems to be at this time, without merit. Doctor Dupree has asked about improving the chances of sustaining plant life here. What would your home planet make of the statement that I, we, the Continuance could ‘terraform’ this planet in less than 1% of the time you will take to do it. This is only now a possibility since we came together. It is this kind of trend that makes it a slightly less likely chance that your species will ever encounter the Interference or others. That may seem like a faraway benefit. We will comply with your decision.”
If this monologue had achieved nothing else it did restore the original level on the ‘fascination meter’. It had done something else. It once more raised the appreciation that the initial objectives of the Mars mission had already been outstripped by its achievement. The problems on Earth, although serious, should not detract from their unanimous acceptance that the discovery of Alex 2 was the most important in humanity’s short history.
Alex 2 then asked a question. “What reaction would the Experts, the Intelligence and the general population have if I was to be filmed walking outside with no suit or breathing apparatus while planting specimens which would replicate in real time?”
“I think it would create utter chaos,” ventured Veltrano.
“What if a follow up filming session showed Alex Redgrave and me talking to one another, and we just told them the truth. First his explanation of what happened to him during the completion, and then I would explain much more about my chemistry for the Experts. Finally, I could reveal my disclosures to you about the Circle of Restoration for the Intelligence, and my ability to really make this and future missions from Earth more credible to the people. It is naively simple but the alternatives are so complicated they are likely to become unmanageable and backfire. If you consider the global impact of it all in one broadcast I would predict that even the Circle of Restoration would conclude that Alex Redgrave could no longer be expected to continue their task. If recent events have caused Alex to re-evaluate his faith, will it affect others of all faiths in the same way? The Circle would have to consider this.”
Carvalho turned to Redgrave and asked what specifically had made him shelve the ‘murder plan’ if it would have brought more danger to his family. The reply was measured. “While I was apparently unconscious I was aware of you all, and your concern, I was also aware of an untangling of conflicts in my mind. I was not seeing things in a different way, just a less complicated way. This not only applied to my planned actions but it challenged them in the true context of my faith rather than their subordination to my faith. The safety of my family is still very important to me, but I realised that their reaction to my ‘murder’ would be marketed as an act of holy significance when it would actually be part of a chain of orchestrated human power manoeuvring. I can’t really explain why I could not rationalise this earlier, nevertheless I feel compelled as the first human to be in this bridge with another life form, to be available for whatever happens next. Any impending sentence of incarceration is secondary to that. Like my counterpart said, I will comply with your decisions.”
This crew were split over two points – what to do next with the Committee, Intelligence, and their families as part of the populace; and secondly, Redgrave’s declared cleansing. The hawks were in the minority. Veltrano reminded everyone of his own secret remit to flush out situations exactly like this. He was also quick to point out that events back home caused him to re-prioritise his loyalty. “Perhaps we overestimated the importance of the mission when we set out. Now we could be in danger of underestimating it. If Alex Redgrave can be trusted again as I was, then I will shelve my instincts for once, to deal with Mars and let those back home figure out how to deal with the naked truth. I waive my objection.”
That left only Carvalho. “I’m afraid that I’ve always had trouble with taking things on trust rather than evidence. I’m an engineer, it’s a requirement.” Natalia smiled at him and said, “Maybe Alex had ‘evidence’ but it was manipulated by smoking mirrors. I honestly think this is a human judgement, none of us can be certain, we may follow our head our heart or our gut. The stakes are high either way Daniel. I for one will respect your reasoning and honesty whatever your decision.”
They slept on it, except for Alex 2, who was undergoing ever more updating. He was the first to hear the incoming message alert. He did not want to disturb everyone so he turned off the sound and left on the flashing signal. It had, however, already awoken Dupree. He wandered in and said he could not sleep anyway. “I have been meaning to ask this for some time, but never got around to it – do you have plans to replicate anyone else?”
“The Continuance does not have plans in that sense. If contact presents itself it could happen, as with me. However there is no preordained or structured programming of seeking specific contact, t
“I think this aspect would be a concern on Earth and the corollary to that is the potential for exploitation.”
The replicant looked confused. “Exploitation? In what way?”
“You still have a lot to learn about our species, my friend. That is still one big difference between you and Redgrave. There is always a section of our society hungry for profiting from others regardless of the consequences for their ‘prey’. In that respect we are even worse than so-called lesser animal species - at least they have the absence of understanding the choice as an excuse. Sorry, I digress. I have not been able to medically examine you yet, but your declared ability to withstand intense cold and radiation would be worth a fortune to these entrepreneurs. You are a walking marketing man’s dream and battles will be fought over this technology.”
Alex 2 was even more puzzled. “Why then did you not say this earlier, to everyone?”
“Because everyone knows already; it simply goes with the territory. The laws of natural selection are ruthless. We have had to flourish at the expense of other species. It is an inbuilt characteristic of mutation led genetic transfer roulette. This fusion with the Continuance may help change that barbarism a little, so the attendant price may be a necessary investment. I could not say this openly if I was to remain as a practitioner of my Hippocratic Oath.”
The Nexus Odyssey by Hylton Smith / Science Fiction have rating 3.3 out of 5 / Based on20 votes