Antarctic Expedition

penguins at sealifecentre

Randolph Whines sat in his cabin, on the ice-breaker, SS Discovered, unaware of the chaos engulfing the Northern hemisphere, looking through his new equipment, and organising it ready for the great exploration awaiting him at the Ross Ice Shelf. He was an Explora-Sub, commissioned by Oodles to retrace the footsteps of one of the most intrepid, and possibly foolhardy, adventurers of all time.
At any moment, he wished to hear the scrunching and scraping of the ship as it forced its way through the ice to the Base-Camp. However, he never does! And he knows he never will. The ice-sheets surrounding the bay have all disappeared.

He went up on deck to look for himself, as the view from his porthole was obscured by steamy condensation – on the outside! He was not surprised to see that there was no ice. The rocks leading down to the sandy beach were bare. He could even make out small figures sun-bathing on the beach in shorts; he was disgusted. There were no ice-floes and the bay was clear blue water, just like the Mediterranean used to be. The hole in the Ozone layer made the constant ultra-violet glare from the bright sun dangerous, but even the penguins were sun-bathing, with sun-glasses provided by the Research Team, and seals lay under deck-chairs, stolen from Base-Camp. A kindly and thoughtful man, Randolph nevertheless ranted and raved at this stupidity; it was never like this in his grand-father’s day!

He set off inland, walking alone and with minimal provisions to give his followers on the Web some frisson of excitement, to try to find some real ice and snow. But for miles there was only bare rock. He sat and drank from his Thermos flask, munching on a Mars bar, and quietly despairing of living up to his fame and notoriety. He took out a map, opened it, and studied the latest updates; he could have done this in his head if he wished, but that would have been too easy and lacked the historic perspective he was trying to give the mission. Also, he liked maps and needed them in case the Communications Satellite went out of range, or was shielded by the mountains, as he was so far south. It was sometime since he had last logged on and he didn’t realise that the world had gone strangely silent.

Noticing a strange contortion of the rocky contours on his map, he jabbed at it with two fingers. The rest of his fingers had been lost to frostbite many years ago. “That looks strange!” he thought. “And it’s just below where the snowline starts now. I’d best go there and investigate!”

He packed up his rucksack again, rather bulkier than it really needed to be, hoisted it on his shoulders, and marched off on his 12-point cramponed boots and his pointless ski-poles. Reaching a spot just below his intended destination, he looked up in wonder at the bare, black granite cliff, hollowed out by aeons of blasting ice, snow and grit. There appeared to be caves, or openings of some sort on the face at its base. As he got closer, he realised they were not part of the natural structure, but piled-up, regularly shaped slabs of rock, collapsed into twisted and broken heaps, and now sticking up out of the receding snow and ice.

Had he discovered buildings, or man-made structures of some sort? Could this be an ancient civilisation never before heard of, or even dreamed of, that had lain buried beneath the snow for thousands, if not millions of years? He inspected the rocks more closely. To his wonderment, if not actually to his surprise, he found traces of carvings that proved this to be a site of some intelligence, not just chaotic chance.

The carvings appeared to be in sequence: the first showed the figure of a man, arms outstretched, with light shining all around him. In the next panel, the long-haired, bearded man was holding a globe, which, to Randolph’s astonishment depicted the continents of Earth, pretty much as they were now. “But the first accurate globes were only conceived in the late XVIth Century,” he thought. “This must be earlier than that!”

Running his gloved fingers over the next section, he was shocked again; the carving was of the same globe split asunder, torn into two jagged pieces, spinning in the Cosmos. His sanity was threatened as he made out the next engraving, of what could only be described as a Space Ship, or some sort of large machine. Some crude letters, “H-H”, “M-T”, and “P-J”, were scratched beneath it. They signified nothing to him.

Then there were two final, whole globes etched into the hard granite. One was a plain orb, empty, a mystery; the other had one land mass, almost covering the whole surface, but surrounded completely by what must be the ocean. Looking closer, Randolph could make out thin lines etched into the surface of the land-mass. It was a jigsaw puzzle of shapes. But he suddenly recognised them as the main continents: Africa, Antarctica, North and South America, Australia, and at its top right corner, Eurasia. They were cleverly arranged into one tight-fitting shape. He realised he was looking at a map of Pangaea as it was, or thought to have been, some 300 million years ago!

Could this possibly be the remnants of an earlier life-form, or an earlier civilisation before the Ice-Ages? Aliens who had suffered a terrible catastrophe befalling their original Earth-like planet. Then perhaps, a flight through Space, and the discovery of a this planet, similar to their own, but at an earlier stage in its history, where they may have settled and lived happily for many thousands, even millions, of years. Until the land started to move and the climate changed! It was known that after 125 million years the Earth’s single land mass had started to break up, and before that the Earth had become colder and colder until practically all life on the planet had been wiped out. But how could the first rock carving look exactly like Earth as it was now? It just didn’t make any sense!

There was a crevice below the carvings, some six inches wide and an inch high. Randolph groped inside with his mutilated hand and felt an object, deep at the back. He pulled it out, gingerly. He was staggered to see an old-fashioned, stainless-steel shielded, plastic-coated USB memory stick, wrapped in polythene and rimed with frost and ice, which was just beginning to melt.

Randolph was dumbfounded by what he had seen and found. Then he had a moment of sudden revelation: it wasn’t a Space Ship depicted on the rocks; it was a Time Machine, somehow sent back aeons from the present age! He tried to transmit a message back to Base Camp, warning, rather belatedly, of imminent disaster.

But his Comms Pack, relaying the thoughts from his terminal, was shielded at that moment, he assumed from the shrill static in his mind, by the wall of granite in front of him from the Communications Satellite orbiting the planet. He turned to retrace his steps to lower and more open ground, slipped and fell headlong down a crevasse. His head jammed between the rocks and he was left struggling, unable to move, apart from his arms and legs flailing about uselessly in the air.

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SILENCE

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Tom and Maddie in Space

 

 

rainbow_mandelbrot

“We settled down in the space-ship, not realising then that we were about to travel back in time. The big red button was pressed, and the automatic sequence powered up. We felt a shudder and the giant rocket slowly gathered momentum. It would be many years before we landed on anything like Earth again.

“All of the young couples have been injected, even Jacqueline and I, our terminals now redundant. Hills and Hodges, McGill and McGilly still resist for the time being, waiting to see how things develop.

“As soon as they were injected, the nano-chips and nano-bots commenced their work. The youngsters are beginning to think of things they had never imagined before.

“They see history from the beginnings of the World, experiencing simulations of the cosmic chaos, through the evolution of life to the early beginnings of man. They experience hunts, cave-paintings, love and companionship. They learn about cultivation and animal husbandry and the unseen dangers they can pose. They begin to see the start of civilisations, the horrors of war, and the birth of science.

“They experience art in all its forms, from the earliest chanting to the later symphonies, jazz, folk, rock, even disco. They discover great paintings from the Aborigines in Australia and elsewhere, through the Medieval, to the Renaissance, the Impressionists, Cubism, Dada-ism, and Modern Art.

“They experience Dance, Theatre, and Ballet, wondering at the skills and abilities of the human body. They understand Architecture and Design, how to build and create lasting environments. They learn about great adventures, explorations, sporting achievements, skill and craftsmanship. And they are aware of every book that has ever been written. Of course, there are many warnings; many wrong turns and blind alleys; many disasters and cruelties; but at least we are fore-warned.

“We are also taking with us the DNA of all the plants and animals that grew or roamed, or once upon a time grew or roamed, upon the Earth. We should be able to reconstitute them on Earthtoo, or at least superimpose them on any flora and fauna we find there.

“In time, even Hodges, Hillsy and the McGills saw the wondrous change in their children as they become more and more enlightened; ever more peaceful and serene; ready for any eventuality. They agreed to be injected too. They may even have more children themselves; it’s not too late for them on the flight.

“The nano-chips are working on everyone’s DNA, implanting the whole Human data set, to be passed on to future generations as a complete start to life. Future babies will begin their life-journey in full possession of all knowledge and wisdom, though there is much yet to be discovered and experienced.

“Also, much is yet to be learnt about the vagaries of nature and the dangers inherent in a Universe of chance and fractal order.
“Creation and Life will always be fighting Entropy, delaying or reversing the slide into Chaos and Decay.”

(PKD’s final Blog #6)

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The National Space Centre

National Space Centre

The chosen few travelled by helicopter from the pad on top of the Tower to the National Space Centre in Leicestershire, which everyone had previously thought was a defunct joke.

Now there were new hangers and factories, cranes and gantries, and dominating all, a huge silver streak of blue titanium – the rocket! Everything had been paid for from the vast wealth that The Founder had creamed off the Oodles Corporation. He had engineered his dreams to perfection. Now was his last chance to re-boot Civilisation, under his control. As long as he went with them, he could continue to gain their confidence, coerce them to his will, without them even realising it, controlling the last remnants of humanity. Hopefully, a super-race would breed, and the nano-bots would continue their work, altering the DNA of their offspring to achieve his aims.

After eating and relaxing, some sleeping, not having slept for days in anticipation of the previous day’s raid, they assembled once again in the comfortable, but clinical, surroundings of the new control tower.

The Founder explained the mission, lying through his teeth as he showed them pictures of the bluey-green planet identified by the last space-flight, which he called Earthtoo, and warning them of the ten-year journey. He took them into the space-ship, and explained that the whole procedure was automated; they had only to press the large red button in the middle of the flight console, when they were ready.

It would be comfortable, and there would be plenty for them to do and learn. They could even start families before they arrived at their destination. It would be as well to begin the DNA process as soon as possible, and see that it functioned correctly.

He explained the necessity to inject the nano-chips and nano-bots into their central nervous system, through the back of their necks. Hodges and Hillsy were instantly suspicious, remembering the pain of removal of their old transplants.

“Is this really necessary?” asked Hodges. “We have spent our lives resisting this. We don’t want to do it!”

“Well,” said The Founder, “Let’s start with the children first. Then you will see that their lives can be transformed for the better, and for the good of all. You will want to participate then, I assure you!”

He told Tom and Maddie to lie on the two couches and he prepared to inject them. It was a simple enough procedure; anyone could do it.
Hills and Hodges looked on, suspiciously. Then they noticed a gleam in The Founder’s eyes; a look of triumph and greed. They charged forwards as one, picking up a scalpel and pushing The Founder back. He grabbed onto the console to maintain his balance, his fingers slithering over the touch-screen he had previously been using to set up the flight. He didn’t realise in his panic, and no-one else was even aware, that he had changed the time parameter “Years” from 70,000 to its maximum setting of 300 million. He tripped and fell to the floor, hitting his head on the sharp cross-bar of the metal work-bench. A dark pool of blood flowed over the tiled floor from the open gash beneath that silvery mane. Hillsy raised the scalpel, hesitated, and then dropped it to the floor. The Founder was already dead!

“You’ve killed him!” screamed Jacqueline. “He died trying to save us all!”

“Aye. But not voluntarily!” breathed McGill.

Tom and Maddie were horrified. All human history, knowledge, culture and experience would be lost forever if they didn’t act. They quickly injected each other with the nano-chips.

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The Final Calamity

 

jungle fires

“Global Warming is reaching its climax. Whole areas of previously densely populated cities and coastline are under the sea. Others are burnt to the ground. There is nowhere left to inhabit. The tundra is exploding as methane gases seep out of the earth and ignite, dramatically increasing the Greenhouse Effect.

“The Earth’s tectonic plates have begun to move more quickly as land masses expand with the heat. Massive earthquakes shudder and retch with increasing frequency, destroying any remaining cities and many temporary structures. Volcanoes are erupting violently around the world. Tsunamis are drowning further areas inland where people thought they were safe.

“Torrential rain pelts down on land not quite hot enough to instantly evaporate it. Flooding is common-place. Expanded rivers are washing whole areas of rock and soil away; landslides are endemic. Nowhere is it safe to build even temporary structures.

“Hundreds of thousands are dying on a daily basis. It cannot be long before life on the planet is totally wiped out. Any new life does not stand a chance. Even the Oodles infra-structure has begun to break down in the chaos.

“The Arctic ice has melted completely, Antarctic snow and ice is sliding into the oceans; sea levels have risen around the world by three or four metres. Most islands in the great oceans have been engulfed, only the tips of mountains and volcanoes are showing above the ever-expanding waters.

“The Earth is covered in a dark shroud.”

(PKD’s Blog #5)

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The Time-Machine

lagrange points

In fact, The Founder had a plan. He had realised long ago of the futility of space travel, due to the massive demand on resources that not even the Oodles conglomerate, with its almost total strangle-hold on the Earth, could afford. He had lost many of the best brains at his last attempt. Besides, it took too long to develop and assess, even approaching the speed of light, and there wasn’t any time left, now that climate change was out of control and nuclear war had broken out in the Middle-East, North and South Korea, and along the Russian borders.

Time was of the essence. The Founder, with all his personal wealth, had developed an alternative approach in parallel to the space programme. He had built a time-machine! He intended to start Civilisation again from scratch. To go back to the Rift Valley, with a few sturdy Londoners, armed with all the knowledge and technology of the past 70,000 years, and begin afresh, hoping to avoid most of the unpleasantness the Human Race had so far inflicted on itself.

He would be in charge, of course. He had already chosen his Disciples from those few left that had proved themselves independent, resilient, adaptable and innovative. They just needed a little guidance and technical help from himself. The New Order would be a vast improvement on anything that had gone before and maybe they could reverse the almost inevitable decline into chaos that every system so far devised had descended into.

He had already proven that his theories worked by sending back that titanium cylinder to the Olduvai Gorge and hiring Indigo Brown to retrieve it. It was a pity that such a resourceful man couldn’t join his disciples, but he was far too self-obsessed and sexually motivated; too much of a potential threat and rival.

For his experiment, The Founder had used a very small worm-hole that did actually exist on the top of Mount Lemakarot, but for this expedition he would have to use the larger one that he knew existed at one of the Lagrangian Points, the exact position where the gravity of the Earth, the other planets, and the Sun cancelled each other out; where Newtonian Laws ceased to operate. Which was why his time-machine was actually a space-ship, with a fairly short range, and capable of reaching its destination in a matter of months rather than decades. All he needed to do was to collect his crew and settle them down for the trip of a life-time. After the necessary injections and immunisations, of course.

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The Meeting

newJeans_007

Down in the basement, Hodges, Hills and the others cautiously emerged from the escape stair lobby, stepped over the still smoking, bent and battered steel door, and looked back into the crypt-like chamber where they had detonated their explosives. There were clouds of smoke and dust, gradually settling on the broken racks of equipment. The air smelt metallic and sulphurous. They looked with satisfaction at the distorted cabinets, the charred circuit boards and the shattered rows of test-tubes, their contents a useless grey puddle on the floor.

“Better get back to Maddie and Tom,” said McGill. “We need to get out of here before the Enforcers arrive.”

“OK,” agreed Hodges. “But, well done everybody! That’s one in the eye for The Founder. At least it might make him think!”

They turned and began to traipse back up the stairs. As they rounded the first landing they looked up and fell back in surprise. At the top of the stairs, silhouetted by light streaming in from behind, was a tall figure, slightly stooped, wearing a white suit and sporting long, white flowing locks down to his shoulders. He had a silver-grey beard and moustache, neatly trimmed, but impressive none-the-less.
They stared, slightly terrified. They knew that face; even they had seen the bill-boards and Phil was intimately accustomed to it from his illicit screens and all the adverts extolling the virtues of Oodles. It was The Founder!

“Peace, children!” the figure said in a soft, melodious voice, stretching out his arms and holding out his hands to them. “You know what you are doing is futile! There are many more Clouds in Britain, let alone the rest of the World. All the data is duplicated many times over.”

“We just want to give you a kick in the pants!” cried Hodges, bravely. “You have to stop this madness!”

“Oh no! I’m not mad. I think you will find that you are! There is no escape now. The Tower is surrounded by Enforcers. We knew of your arrival as soon as you attacked Jacqueline! We have been watching you and your group for months now, anyway. Did you think that drunken wreck, Mac, couldn’t transmit as well as receive information?”

“What are you going to do?” yelled Hillsy. “We’ll fight! We’ll kill you!”

“Oh, I think not. Besides, I have a proposition for you. Let us go upstairs and retrieve the others. I find them amusing.”

The Founder turned and slowly walked up the stairs, apparently unconcerned by the threats; he knew their psyches, and that their curiosity wouldn’t allow them to kill him.

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Penguin Café

still life

When Hodges, Hillsy, the McGills, Phil and the others had trooped off back down the escape stairs, Tom and Maddie looked around the living room. It had an old-fashioned sort of feel, with comfy furniture, thick carpets, a desk and office chair, and rows and rows of shelves. Maddie had seen books before; McGilly had once read her a story from an old Harry Potter novel they had found. She pulled out a book out at random and flipped through the pages, feeling a sense of shame and disappointment that she could hardly understand a word.

Tom stared at the large plasma screen hanging on the wall. “What on Earth’s that!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, I use it for making my documentaries on the computer,” replied Don. “It’s the only way I can incorporate footage from the insurgents. They’re not hooked into Oodles. In fact, they don’t have any transplants. They were banned by their religion, but they wouldn’t want them anyway; it’s against everything they’re fighting for.”

“Like us! We don’t have transplants, either.”

Don and Jacqueline looked at them in amazement.

“Then how do you know what to do, where you are, what’s going on?” gasped Jacqueline.

“We get by. Our parents have taught us everything they know,” replied Maddie. “They’re very good to us; they are only trying to do their best to protect us from The Founder and Oodles.”

“But you won’t know anything about History, Science, Culture, Art, or Music. You won’t have experienced anything, either first-hand or through the Sensories!” said Don, perplexed and staggered. “It’s bad enough that everything real is being lost through the catastrophes, but to not know about anything, even in recorded form, is very cruel.”

“Mum says we have to start again, when all this has gone, if we have time,” said Maddie, unconvinced herself.

Don looked around, perplexed, wondering what he could do to show them that there must be another way. Jacqueline got up and went over to the shelves of DVDs, looking along the titles and taking one out.

“Play them this. It’s one of my favourites,” she said, handing Don a copy of “Still Life at the Penguin Café”.

“Jacqui, you are the apple of my “i” ! Your levels of sensuality continue to amaze me!” said Don, surprised, grinning and triumphant.

“This will show you what humans can do; the beauty of their creativity; the essence of their being. It also shows what has happened to some of our fellow creatures and why it is so tragic that most species are now lost. There are no lions, tigers, elephants or wildebeest left in Africa; no kangaroos, wallabies, koalas or kookaburras left in Australia; no armadillos or sloths left in South America. Soon, I fear, we will be gone, too!”

“Just play the DVD, Don! Let them decide,” suggested Jacqueline.

Don placed the disc in the ancient player and they settled back on the comfy settees as the catchy, bouncy music burst through large Hi-Fi speakers on either side of the plasma screen.

Tom and Maddie watched in amazement as people dressed as strange, upright, black and white birds danced serenely and cavorted around tables and chairs. They admired the dancing of the Utah Longhorn Ram and her partners; grinned at the antics of the Texan Kangaroo Rat; laughed out loud at Humboldt’s Hog-nosed Skunk Flea tying up the Morris Dancers in a knot; wept at the fate of the Southern Cape Zebra, the most beautiful dancer; and felt as one with the Rainforest People. The music was infectious, jolly; sublime in its repetition and juxtaposition of long melodious strains of violin and cello with tinkling ukuleles, bongos and snare-drums.

The dancing was sublime; they didn’t know anyone could dance like that. It was so carefree and apparently casual; uninhibited, sensual and sexual, but so pure and free from perversity.

The Brazilian Woolly Monkey showed them the comic and darker side of human nature, but the death of the Great Auk reminded them of their possible fate. When the Ark appeared, coinciding with a series of loud explosions from the basement below, they understood the message and knew what they had to do.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/TyhEpzBLwd4?list=FLyMbKvFXyOHOLhsSgzevkFg“>Still Life At Penguin Café