RING CITY
From a sci-fi novel in progress

 

 

 

Sometimes the best things come out of the worst things—but not always.

We three boyfriends descended from Ring City, legally of course, for purposes of re-creation, though we had darker and more subversive intentions in our naughty little hearts. Our triad had all been born and grew up in the orbital space of the City, which has far more living space for people than the entire biosphere below its continuous circlet of construction.

In fact, though two of us were in our twenties and one in his thirties, not one of us had ever set foot on Gaia at the ground floor of the thirteen geosynchronous elevator lines between the circular city and the gorgeous Mother Planet below. All our lives we had admired the bulging blue majesty of the cloud-dappled and swirled globe, the shimmer of the oceans, the gleam of sunlight in cycling night and day that chased each other across its magnificence, and the dun and greenish land-masses… yet we’d never felt compelled or motivated to seek permission to visit.

Not until now.

Not until Kaz and Paul dreamed up their dastardly scheme and I was stupid enough, or sufficiently enamored of them and their dazzling good looks, to be swept along into their dualistic dark side so that we became a triskelion of triadic evil.

What we saw from the elevator on the way down completely dazzled us. The familiar spherical bulge eventually began to flatten out, the dappled rafts and sheer veils of stratified cloudscapes seemed to blossom upwards, loom, and then flick by as we sank swiftly towards groundside.

The extreme arc of the hazed horizon we had always known relaxed, spread out and in a short time the familiar black of the starry heavens faded from deep violet to indigo. The stars winked from view as the blue grew opaque and lightened to cerulean and even paler tints of blue and white. The flattening distance spread around us as we swept lower and lower to our rendezvous with the planetary surface at Quito Station, near the West Coast of South America in what was called Ecuador before the true globalization of the surface.

A scattered curdle of clouds towed dark shadows across the dun and gray and greenish terrain that had been rewilded following the ascent of millions, then several billion humans to Ring City and beyond via those thirteen famous orbital elevators. The geosynchronous cable connections were grown in place via nanotech that employed self-replicating molecular assemblers.

Our species learned almost to late that we could not go backwards into Paradise, that Eden had to be rewilded in a forward direction with advanced visionary technologies indistinguishable from Magick, only using them wisely and consciously. This required the humility of  a more mature species willing to learn from Nature itself, rather than the delusion that we could outthink Gaia.

I’ll admit that Kaz and Paul dazzled me during our passionate triadic couplings, such that I lost all will of my own and saw nothing through my own eyes any longer. I saw everything as “we three,” or really, as Kaz did, for he dominated both of us—an irony since my name is Dominicholas.

The clear-walled compartment descended the last few klicks to Quito Station. The volcanic plateau seemed to rise to meet us from below, and we decelerated so that during the last fifteen minutes we seemed to float down feather-soft. We could see the silvery serpent of the Guayllamba River that snaked away into the misty distance amid its attendant volcanic peaks, but then even that view seemed snatched from us as we landed, except for the stately cone of Pichincha.

There was not even a jolt at groundside. Less than a billion people now lived on Gaia’s surface. Most human structures had been recycled via nanotech, to their chemical elements. Intelligent nanotech had been sprayed into all of the massive landfills humanity created, in order to sort them into atomic elements that could be recycled into the natural living environment as pure primordial matter. We three air-headed boyfriends understood very little of this at that time… though that would soon change, and change radically.

We wasted no time on human history, however. We took a tube directly to a shuttle station and flew in a suborbital supersonic hop north and west in a flight of several hours to reach the middle of the North American continent.

There we descended upon a region that had once been called the State of Kansas. Bored by the several hours flying time required, on approach to landing the three of us eagerly observed a panoramic view of the terrain below brought into the cabin for us with holographic clarity, as if the shuttle was made of clear crystal.

We saw great expanses of rolling open grassland with forest growth along winding rivers and streams. A paler, flat green haze across the north, the flight attendant told us was a vast forest of sunflowers twice as tall as a man.

Our shuttle eased down guided by its AI onto a landing X in the middle of an open yard within an immense palisade of logs that enclosed bare soil and a complex of wooden shelters.

“Mum’s the word,” Kaz glared at both Paul and I sternly, with a subtle touch of a finger to his glossy lips.

Paul gave a slight nod. “Of course,” Paul said. “Though I can’t speak for Nicky here,” he added.

I huffed. “Don’t even try!”

Well, in what grand rustic style we were escorted from the craft. Burdened only by the vile, guilty secret intentions we harbored, we three young men from Ring City emerged into the full daylight. The alien freshness of the air, the complexity of organic scents and odors that assailed us, chaotic air currents, momentarily halted our exit. “Quite amazing,” Paul muttered.

Kaz pushed him from behind. “We’ll have plenty of time to feel amazed during the Mammoth Safari, Brothers.”

“Why not now?” I said, looking from one to the other.

“Let’s go, they’re ready,” Kaz said.

In the open air I noticed that our home, Ring City, showed as a fine white line that arced precisely across the southern sky, and both ends faded into atmospheric obscurity at the horizons, east and west.

Less than an hour later, our flexible, intelligent land rover of six huge balloon tires flowed delicately and gently across the savannah beneath the blue sky decorated with distant puffs of shining white clouds that scarcely seemed to move. Great cottonwoods and willows thronged along a riverbed where immense stretches of tall cattails grew in lagoons that sheltered all manner of birds.

Our guide, a handsome youth who introduced himself to our tour group as “Scottee,” had finished taking questions from the 36 visitors in our group, and now concluded his lecture: “Very soon we’ll be within sight of one of the herds,” he said. “You must understand, that since the return of horses, camels, lions, reverse-engineered giant bears, ground sloths and mammoths to North America, the vegetation has completely shifted, being restored to unexpected balances by the presence of animal populations that balance one another and behave differently than they did after the loss of the megafauna.” Scottee’s voice took on an edge of excitement: “Okay, I see them now!”

All of us in the conveyance stood up, and many moved forward from the seats we had occupied in an effort to see better. Scottee took manual control of the rover. We smoothly crested a rise and there, upon the grassy plains where only a few copses of trees and shrubs dotted the terrain, the tall, darker shapes of the mammoths stood, and a few of them moved. Some began to stride, as if in response to our quiet approach, which inspired even more to begin to move.

Great trunks lifted, little ears flapped, tiny tails switched and the huge feet began to shuffle. A mighty-tusked bull lowered his noble head and stamped, then reared his humped shoulders slightly, elevated his trunk and let out a shrill trumpet blast of warning.

Scottee had halted our progress a touch too late, for the herd began to move as a group. As the soft exclamations and chatter of the other passengers rose to a welter of sounds, it provided the distraction and cover for Kaz, Paul, and me to sneak to the rear and drop over the side of the vehicle.

We did not need long for our terrible deed, once the six-wheeler came back to life and moved on, at a tangent in order to respectfully avoid alarming that particular herd of mammoths.

Our purpose was not so respectful—not respectful at all.

We each carried a seeming unrelated component of the intelligent weapon that we now assembled with a few snaps together.

Was it some primordial bloodlust that Kaz unleashed with his malign manipulations of both Paul and me? I could try to blame him, but more honestly something deep in my core did get excited, thrilled, and felt incredibly, intensely alive as never before at the thought of killing a full-grown mammoth bull like that!

Not that we even had to get all that close; we remained some hundreds of meters away, upwind. The grass was deep enough, the winds blew loud enough across the savannah, that though we were far from expert stalkers, the herd seemed to have calmed down and almost stopped moving again by the time we approached upwind. Kaz gestured his command. I stood up slowly, shouldered the rifle, and sighted on the magnificent head of that bull. He stayed with three younger males in the male satellite herd peripheral to the calves and the senior cows, who would allow them no closer.

I pushed the button. The shot was soundless, invisible. I’ll also admit that my heart almost stopped, my delirious excitement became an icy horror when I saw the bull stagger, begin to collapse on weakened legs, and toss up his huge head. He gave out an ear-splitting trumpet of alarm, then collapse forward as the younger bulls began to circle him and emit bleats of distress.

Suddenly, at that moment, I hated myself more purely than I ever had before.

Thank Lord Pan and the Summer Stars, the rifle was smarter than I was, more intelligent than the three of us young idiots from Ring City combined! It’s AI knew better than to harm a mammoth, and in fact only sent a beam to stun the creature so that we would be fooled, at the same time that it notified the Planetary Park Rangers. Within minutes Scottee returned on six wheels to arrest us.

The bull was not harmed, only sedated via an electromagnetic beam of the kind the Park vets use.

We three criminals were apprehended, and in line with the humane mandates of the Park Service, we served a year of probation performing menial physical labor at the Kansas Park Headquarters. The system is humane, even if it prioritizes animal and plant rights over human interference.

In fact, that terrible adventure changed our lives. Though Paul and I moved back to Ring City after we served our sentences, we all got married in a group thing that actually included two teenaged boys (including Scottee) and  (surprise!) a young woman. We often visit Kaz, whom I had considered the most evil of us, yet he remained groundside in training to become a Ranger. Maybe he changed the most.

The restoration of Gaia to a Paradise Park via rewilding has not only transformed the Earth—it’s also helping humanity, or at least some humans, to evolve with deeper than ever respect for Gaia itself: the parent of us all.

 

© Bruce P. Grether 2015. All rights reserved.

© Bruce P. Grether 2010-2015 / All Rights Reserved