Author Topic: Chapter 13  (Read 8102 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 13
« on: July 21, 2022, 03:02:10 AM »
Chapter 13

Presentation day had come. Bez didn't seem that nervous, but Simon couldn't say the same. Noah had cleared the whole morning for it, starting out in one of the domes north of Harmony.

Simon had some understanding of what most of the presentations would be, but Torin's was a surprise. He had actual silkworms inside that dome! They were in varying states of growth, from eggs, to larva, to the cocoon he was now showing the class. Or the forming one, anyway. "See this one is turning yellow? He stopped eating like two days ago, and now he's spinning the cocoon around himself. It's real slow, though. He should be done by tomorrow, or maybe the day after. After that, it's a waiting game. He'll be in that cocoon for the next two weeks or so. Now here's the cool part. See that spiderweb thingie he's spinning around those leaves? That's not a bunch of different strands like a spider does. It's all one thread. If it was stretched out end to end, it would be a kilometer long!"

Simon leaned in with the others to get a better look. He was near the back though, so he could only see the white mess of webbing the little guy was assembling around himself. "How do you know it's a guy?" Bez asked from the back of the group.

Torin smiled. "I don't, for sure. Females are larger, so I'm just guessing this one is male because he's on the small end. You can't really tell until they get out of the cocoon and have wings. And trust me, that's not a pretty process either. Kafka's got nothing on what moths and butterflies go through inside those cocoons."

He was referencing another book they'd read in lit class, The Metamorphosis. Like Frankenstein, it dealt with a hideous monster shunned and neglected by humanity, but it was much more depressing, given that the monster had started out as human. Noah had suggested it was about how humans on Earth had treated their elderly. Since there were no geriatrics on New Eden just yet, Simon figured they'd find out in eighty years or so.

"The larva secretes a kind of enzyme inside the cocoon. It's a form of acid actually, that breaks down its entire body. Then the DNA gets to work rebuilding it, and eventually it'll break out of its cocoon as a moth and fly away. Once its wings are fueled up, anyway. I don't have any footage of that just yet, but here's a timelapse of this little lady over here," he gestured over to a fully formed cocoon, "doing her thing."

He pressed a button on the monitor, and a wide-screen image of the worm appeared. It was going at about an hour every six seconds, as the little white worm flitted around the inside of a white forming mass. After a minute or so of the timelapse unfolding, the worm was entirely cocooned. "She's been this way about ten days now. Tomorrow, I'll cut open the cocoon and start harvesting the thread. Just for the experiment, I mean. If I wanted a bolt of silk cloth, I'd need to cut open like three thousand of these. This is just for the school project for now."

"Won't that kill her?" Simon pointed out.

Torin nodded. "This is how it's normally done, but there's another kind of silk on Earth called Ahimsa. It's supposed to be made without animal cruelty. It's harder to harvest, and takes longer. I'm working on that, too, so that I can keep the worms alive. Noah said I couldn't let them out of this dome, though. He's building an ecosystem out there, and he can't have a bunch of moths flying around, finger-painting all over his ecological masterpiece. Eventually, I'll have machines that can harvest a bunch of cocoons all at once, like this." He pressed his control again, and it showed a drawing of a machine, apparently drawn by Torin, of all the threads from a bunch of silk cocoons being drawn together. Another drawing depicted a machine that apparently ran the individual cocoons along a conveyor, running up to the point where the cocoons would be cut open and harvested.

"Of course it'll take years for me to get a full silk farm going. Growing that many cocoons won't happen overnight, but you've already seen what I've done with cotton and flax plants. Some of the kids over in the big dome are wearing cloth that I made. It doesn't compare to what Noah makes for us yet," he admitted, "but someday it'll be even better."

Noah's classroom drone stepped forward, clapping his plastic and metal hands. "Well done, Torin," he complimented, as the class followed suit. "Just make sure you build a cage around this enclosure before the first few silkworms end up with wings. I don't want the moths eating any of the other plants in this dome."

"I was planning on it," Torin responded wryly, and Noah nodded. He instructed them all to put on their breathers, and head out to the next presentation.

Next up was Rhys. In lieu of a full-on musical performance, he'd devoted his entire month to a single exhibit. He led the way around the edge of the dome, to a warehouse in the back. One of its walls had been blocked by an opaque plastic sheet every day for weeks now. That was, when Rhys hadn't been here working on it. Rhys waited until they were all there, said a few words of preparation, including thanking Noah for keeping the area off-limits to everyone but him while he'd been working. "No artist likes to have his work judged before it's finished."

Then he nodded to Noah. A flyer landed on the warehouse, just above the plastic sheeting, and pulled the top layer free. The whole sheet collapsed, revealing Rhys' opus.

All ten of them gasped, and even Noah's drone seemed impressed. The entire wall was taken up by a multicolored mural. Reds and greens and blues all meshed together to show a picture of a garden. Not one like the silkworm farm they'd just seen, or the exotic plants that Argent and Massimo were planning to show them next. This was filled with fully-grown trees and bushes, and it had people as well.

"This is the garden of New Eden," Rhys explained. "Or my interpretation of it anyway. There is an apple tree in the middle, but you can see how it's protected."

Indeed. The proverbial Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil had been walled off in the painting. Bricked off from the rest of the garden, so that not even its branches were in sight.

"We learned our lessons from the people of Earth," he went on slowly, with a note of somberness in his voice. "In this Garden, there is a tree, but there is no Serpent to lead anyone astray. Or if there is one somewhere that I couldn't think of, it can't tempt anyone to sin. Instead of the original Adam and Eve in their nakedness and shamelessness, there are the twenty of us, standing guard over this new Garden."

Simon blinked. Sure enough, that was a fairly accurate rendering of his classmates. He could make out the particular features. Adam always wore green, as a symbol of what this world would someday become, and his likeness in the mural did the same. Simon himself looked nondescript, but he could make out the painting's version of Bez's widow's peak, and Hippo's slightly distinctive ears. Rhys might have painted himself a little taller than reality, though.

The girls were harder to make out. He only knew them by how close to the bricked-off tree they were standing. Sarah was closest, and Diana was furthest. He supposed Rhys had a harder time painting them because he spent so much less time with them.

Rhys stepped forward again. "We're building a new society here, and that means we have a fresh start. We have the mistakes our ancestors made, and the lessons they should have learned. We have a planet—a garden, really—here all for our own, and it's our job to do better than they did with it. We're the first class here, and that means it's on us to make this world into a great one. I hope you like my depiction of how that'll get started."

Simon was the one who started clapping this time. He was creative enough, programming-wise, but he never could have made a painting that was beautiful like this one. Much less on this scale! Something occurred to him as the clapping rose and then faded again. "How will you keep it from being weathered away, though?" He called out over the noise.

Rhys smiled. "Noah agreed to get me some transparent plastics in a month or so. I'll encase the whole wall behind them, making it weather-protected and airtight. That should make it last a century or two."

Not bad at all, Simon reflected. He'd known these projects would be interesting, but he hadn't guessed just how much work everyone had put into them. It shouldn't' have been a surprise, really. Bez worked like a dog most days, even if it wasn't on this project, and he'd dragged Simon along with that work ethic.

The next one on the list was Massimo's exotic foods, with Argent's assistance. The commissary was a pretty well-known feature in Harmony by now, but most of the kids had never been inside Massimo's dome at all. Not all of the first class had been, even, including Simon.

They took off their breathers as soon as the airlock had equalized the pressure, and Simon was immediately hit by the sheer humidity in here. It felt like he was suddenly drinking the air instead of breathing it. Massimo immediately started the tour by taking them through the growing process of each of the plants here. The big ones were sugarcane of course, along with a limited cornfield on the far west side of the dome. Because they had slightly different heat requirements, but had to be in the same dome, they had to be as far apart from each other as possible. They also had different water requirements, which explained why Massimo had spent so much time in here. He puffed out his chest with pride, upon explaining the irrigation system he'd set up.

All the water surrounding the island was salt water, naturally. Desalination was well out of their reach for now, but there was a brook on the mainland that ran down into the ocean. Simon knew that Noah had tapped that brook and run his own water pipe out to Harmony. Part of that was redirected here, into this greenhouse.

The rest of the plants were fruit trees and bushes. Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apples, peaches, and more. That was where Argent stepped in. He described in detail how they used the processed sugar from the sugarcane and the corn syrup from the cornfield, along with water, to glaze the various fruits and berries that they sold in the commissary. Despite his lack of using the commissary, Simon found the process fascinating as well. He had no idea that Argent needed to put so much work into selling his products. He'd just assumed, based partially on Argent's blackmail-like words earlier, that he was a grifter and thief. Maybe there was more to him than Simon had thought.

After that, they returned to Harmony, to one of the classrooms in the common area. John and Adam were working together, it turned out, on a new form of government for their new planet. They had drafted a version of a New Eden Constitution, based mostly on the old American one.

"Obviously there's no need for a declaration of independence here," Adam had explained early on. "We don't have to break free from a monarchy like the Americans did. But we do need a set of principles to follow, written down and, uh," he hesitated.

"Codified," John put in.

"Right. Codified into law. We need to get a full constitution, along with a bill of rights available for everyone, as soon as we start to build our new world-nation. That way there's no confusion about what's right and wrong, or what's legal and illegal."

Simon leaned forward, and he could sense the change in the rest of the group as well. The presentations had just gone from interesting to important. His own project would be helpful, as would weaving silk and painting beautiful murals, but they wouldn't be essential for the future. This... would be.

John stepped up, showing this new Constitution on the projector for the whole room to see. "We spent our month analyzing the American system, and the systems that built up to it, for all the flaws in them. The Hebrews failed mostly because they weren't militarily powerful enough to avoid being conquered by others, eventually Rome. The Romans failed because, while they eventually got the right state religion, they let their empire become corrupt, and lost control over their colonies. Britain failed, at least partially, because they put all their power in the hands of a king, instead of God himself. And lastly, America failed because they tried to put God first, but messed up at it." He looked over at Adam, who spoke up in his place.

"America tried to be a meritocracy. Where anyone who had power only had it because they deserved it. Because they earned it. The whole point that made America different from Britain, and from other nations at the time, was that in their New World, any man could become rich, famous and powerful. The other places at the time didn't have that. Most of you know all that, from our Faith history classes. The real trouble started when they tried to put that equality of opportunity into practice."

He pulled up another image on the projector, of a blank pyramid with multiple layers from the top to the bottom. "They tried to set up a system where everyone starts out here," he pointed to the bottom layer. "The people with the ability to better themselves would climb the pyramid from the bottom, and get to a new level. Only a fraction of the whole population, but still a bunch of people. Then, from that new group, a few people with even more ability would climb up to the next layer, and so on and so forth. Eventually they were supposed to end up with one person, or a small group of people, at the very top." At each point, he tapped his remote, and the pyramid started to fill up with text, illustrating his words.

"The problem was, they started to treat everyone as if they were equal, when the whole point of a meritocracy is that they're not! Some people are simply better at business, or politics, or life itself, than others! Pretending that everyone was equal was just asking for trouble. I can't paint like Rhys can, for example. And John trying to put a bolt of cotton cloth together to make fabric? Can you imagine?"

Even Simon smiled at that thought, though John remained deadpan. He'd never had much of a sense of humor. Adam pulled up another image, of what looked like documentation. After a moment, Simon recognized the historical documents from Noah's memory.

"We've been comparing the history of the Faith with remnants from the Earth historical database in Noah's memory banks. The second one is missing a ton, naturally, but we found plenty of examples of how America messed up their meritocracy. In the early 1960s, the country started a policy called 'affirmative action'. We could only find fragments in the database, and there's nothing about it in the Faith history, but from what we could tell, this policy was meant to give some people an unfair advantage. People who didn't have any power or opportunity were given both, suddenly, by the government. Not only did they have no right to those things, because they hadn't earned them, but it was unfair to them as well! They had no idea how to use their new power well, because they just had it, suddenly, without any real warning. No wonder they messed it up!"

John spoke again. "There was also the social safety net that was in place for hundreds of years before Noah was launched. One part of it was a pension. Basically the government would take a portion of your paycheck each time, and just hold onto it. Then, when you got old enough, you could start getting some of that money back, over time. They said it was to protect people in their old age, but think about how insulting it was! The government was treating its entire population of adults—fully grown people—like they were kids. We all get an allowance from Noah, but in just a few years, we'll be making our own money. Imagine being treated like kids for your entire life. Doesn't that sound insulting to you? It's not the only thing wrong with America at the time, by a long shot. There were housing initiatives, where they would just give people houses, people who wouldn't even work for a living! Rewarding people for doing nothing was just encouraging more people to do nothing."

The class was drinking all of this in, Simon included. It was the longest presentation by far, but that was to be expected from a combination of John and Adam. Neither of them was ever short on words. And while they were making a kind of sense, Simon had a bad feeling about what they were saying. He couldn't really put a finger on it, though. Just how they were talking about these programs. He'd also stumbled across the references to affirmative action in the database, but exactly who it was meant to protect remained a mystery. That data was gone.

Adam spoke again, and his tone suggested he was in his conclusion. "Here's the biggest contributor to American decline though, by far. They gave women the right to vote in 1920, in America at least. Now, they weren't stupid enough to start letting women run businesses right away, but they planted the weeds right there. A woman isn't geared the right way to run a business, or a political office or, God forbid, a congregation. They're geared to raise children and care for them. They can do that in a way that none of us could ever hope to, and it's what they were meant to do! Imagine, giving someone with those abilities, those drives and biological urges, the right to affect change on a governmental scale! They put the last nail in the American coffin, right there."

He shook his head. "No, we won't make the same mistake here. In New Eden, you'll only be able to vote after you've earned the right to vote. If you just give that away to anyone, they won't treat it with the respect it deserves. Only people who own actual property themselves, be it just a house of their own, or a full-on business, or an entire town, will be able to vote. That way we can be sure our leaders are elected by people who actually understand the tremendous weight we'd be putting on their shoulders."

"Hear, hear," Argent put in, clapping loudly, and a bunch of others joined in. Simon clapped along with them, but his mind was on Diana.

They'd talked many, many times through their consoles. She'd told him about her life in the other half of the dome, and how she'd cared for her little sisters alongside Noah and her peers. She did so because it was expected of her by Noah and Sarah. But she'd been quite clear that she didn't want to do it for the rest of her life. The first class would be reaching adulthood in just a few years now, and she wanted to do something different with her life. At least she'd gotten back in contact with him last night, using the consoles. She'd told him that she was reading the flight manual, so it seemed her crisis of self was over. In turn he'd promised to get the simulator up and running as soon as possible.

By comparison to the other side of the dome, the little boys here were cared for almost exclusively by Noah's caretakers themselves. Adam and the others didn't have much to do with it, though some of the younger kids played with each other. Childcare just wasn't part of their duties here in the male half.

Diana was at least as smart as Simon was, and far more forceful in a group. She wasn't afraid of flying, while he was petrified by it. When he thought about what Adam was saying, about how women simply couldn't be trusted with any responsibility or authority, he knew that it was wrong. About Diana especially, but probably a great many other females as well.

But... it was in the Doctrines of the Faith. The Bible had made it clear that men were in charge. They were the head of the family, just as God was the head of the Church. There was no debating it. Even most of the heroic women in the Bible were only heroic because they found inventive ways of being dutiful wives and mothers.

He tried to pay attention. John was speaking now, with his own conclusion. He'd returned the projector to an image of their new Constitution. "Finally, we're learning from another major mistake the Americans made. When the Pilgrims first landed in their New World, they were fleeing religious persecution. A whole bunch of others who followed them were exactly the same way. They wanted to worship God, free of the horror and suffering they'd faced back in Europe. It's only natural that they'd want to make sure that they could keep that freedom when they made their own country, but they messed that up, too!

"Our new Constitution doesn't allow for freedom of religion. The Faith recognized that other religions existed, but they knew that those other religions weren't legitimate. They were corruptions of Judaism and Christianity, and just tolerating their existence was good enough for the Americans. But look at what happened because of it! The whole country was under siege by other religions, for hundreds of years. Their biggest threat after Britain was Nazi Germany, which were socialists by their very name, but after that, came communism. The 'state religion' of the USSR was atheism. Imagine that: an entire nation—a bunch of nations actually—who believed in nothing at all! No wonder they were so aggressive and evil. They had no concept of God looking out for them and protecting them. They didn't believe in a soul, or in the shared love we have for each other. Of course they turned into warmongering monsters! Now, a religiously united country could have held them off easily, but America had started separating their church from their state almost as soon as it was founded!"

He shook his head, slowly. "And then another perversion religion attacked them on September 11, 2001, declaring a decades-long war against the whole country. We're learning from that mistake, too. There's no freedom of religion, because there are no other religions but the Faith, not really. Anyone who says there is, is just lying to himself and to everyone else. Adam and I drafted this document to be a seamless blend of Faith and government, because ultimately, they're the same thing."

Again, the crowd clapped loudly.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2022, 03:10:05 AM by Daen »