Jake awoke. He was lying on a bench and could feel a slight breeze. He pulled himself up, registering the mass of noise coming from his surroundings, people talking, transport machines making their unique brand of buzzing and whirring, the sub park bird colonies screeched for whatever reason...
He opened his eyes again, registering the dimming light of a fake sunset as the subpark`s sorry attempt at a sun approached the dome`s edge.
This was one of the older attempts at recreating an earthlike atmosphere. One of those places built when there were still more nostalgic earth expats on here than real plutonian sub-born. Why else would you create a dome that tries to recreate Central Park in New York? A place no-one had seen for 200 years. More importantly, a place no-one on this ETDP would ever see the like of again, beyond these pale copies where all the half senile regressionalists come.
Why was he here? He couldn`t really remember. Programming his neural protection network to simulate alcholic effects was a fairly new "retro" fad, the safe version of taking a dangerous neurodegenerative drug that could not be found anymore. Except in the darkest storage subs that the great "Jettison" had missed. The bit about memory loss was something that those bastards in Neural Software refused to take out though, if you went into the stronger forms. Something argument about "the responsability being no less", the sadistic bastards.
No matter. At least he could switch off the hangover, they let us have that much. He got up and started down a path to the sub transport point, trying to ignore all of the graying half cyborg oldies that were walking around acting as though they were on earth. Most needed at least 10 of their biological systems regulated or fully replaced by autonomic technology of varying designs. It really was a boom industry these days. Old age pharmaceuticals had become medical mechanics, and were just as ruthlessly capitalistic.
As he arrived at the station he stopped and looked around. He switched off his neural P influencing completely and thought about what was about to happen. Today, he would graduate to surface duty for 6 weeks. His first actual view of what life was like on the surface of an astro body. He was one of the few who didn`t suffer from PUAD in this modern subworld and thusly one of the few who could work on the surface without heavy panic therapy, which was virtually incapacitating and costly. Only the absolute best in necessary fields were ever given that, so that they could be sent up there.
He was not one of those. His PUADlessness was his only qualifying feature. He prefered neural tripping to actual studying. Still, driving this rock(or at least participating in driving it) would be a fun career. Plus, he might get a hint of timeline or direction from the Seer Computers, or if he was really lucky, from the Seer himself-
At this point those around him spotted his eyes glazing over him freezing for about a second and then suddenly jumping as though he had woken up suddenly. This was a common occurence, especially here, where brains were older. One of those harmless side effects of neural P.
Jake headed into the station to report to one of the upper subs, where he would be prepped for transportation to a surface dome. The final wishes of his train of thought completely forgotten. Erased almost.
The Plutonian Subworld, or ETDP(Exported Transportational Dwarf-Planet) was one of 3 human colonies that had used existing dwarf planets to create a sub-base network in their solid cores. A perfect complex that could act as a home for millions of humans outside of a solar system. A travelling world. Or rather a travelling dwarf-planet with a world hidden in it`s centre.
Each sub-base, or simply "sub" as the residents call them, is a dome in which an atmosphere and various other aspects are created to make it inhabitable or useable for human beings. Either as a giant warehouse building, a farming village, a park, a city block... They have gravity producing machines under their "grounds" that maintain an old earth normal(or certain variants for different needs), and air recycling and production centres. The entire network complex of sub-bases is entirely self-sufficient, so long as it has energy reserves.
These Subworlds were designed to transport colonies outside of the Solar System and take them into deep space, create worlds that can travel self sufficiently. No-one truely knew why, but as the technology was developped by 3 great "Seers", human cyborgs of fully immortalised capacity and who controlled closed off computer networks that greatly augmented their capacity, they decided that they would invite the "faithful" of each of their great religious followings to join them on a journey for enlightenment for several centuries. Evidently, all were tested for their faithfulness to their religion, and many were refused a place. When the subworlds finally did depart, many of those remaining who had not been part of the religion were shocked by the emerging evidence of utter impartiality in the selection process. Even those among the most powerful of the Seer religions had been refused a place had the mysterious "test" proved negative. Even those with a semblence of being the most faithful.
Once the seers departed, earth`s slow centuries of long decline continued.
On each of the worlds certain measures were made obligatory, such as the implanting of a neural protection circuit in the brain, not influencing it`s function in any real sense, but rather acting as a protection against neurodestructive substances and creating diversely programmed effects on command of the user. It was never explained why this was obligatory, but as this was a religious "pilgrimage" none complained when they were not told. The Seers each proclaimed that the knowledge of where they were going and when they should arrive was information only the holy guides could know. Once again, this virtual imprisonment without knowledge of why was not greatly questionned.
Each dwarf planet had a large outer layer of ice(30% of the diameter of the planet) that was structured with skeletal hold in structures that allowed transport elevators into the core, transport tubes across the surface, and propulsion stations at spaced intervals all over the planet that allowed for steering via propulsion at the right moment in the planet`s launch spin. Propulsion involved a giant Antimatter Explosion launched from a pressure cannon that ripped a crater in the ice surface. The ice acted as a cushion allowing the explosion to shift the planet, but not affect the core. Then surface crews would remold the ice and eliminate the crater allowing the cushion to be optimal against falling meteors and future propulsions.
Propulsions and otherwise were decided by the Seer and Seer computers(controlled terminals with whom the rest of the subworld interact), but put into place by the same surface crews. The Seer himself rarely saw anyone once they were under way. He lived in a ball centre, in a minor complex of domes known to the subworld as "The Surface", despite the fact that in reality they were 3km under the ice. It was from there that surface crews were based and went to the surface. The Seer Computers directed surface crews in all their duties, but rarely intervened in actual subworld running beyond on important issues or religious questionning.
Unbelievers started existing the second a new generation of plutonians started thinkning for themselves, but were generally very easily tolerated so long as they never tried to interfere in the religious running of the surface or created trouble in the subworld. The Seer Computers had been very clear that freedom of belief and practice were absolute where they did not affect the importance of the subworld "mission".
A few generations later, and the original earth "stock" started dying off. The religion held strong, as did varying moderate factions of unbelievers. But all started witnessing problems. Living so long in controlled and boxed in domes created a large number of people who became extremely prone to heavy anxiety attacks on the surface, soon to be dubbed PUAD(Person Unrelated Agoraphobic Disorder). Soon only those who were free of this disorder were authorized to work in the surface crews, unless one was a natural at ice reconstruction mechanics or meteorite analytics.
In all this time, no-one has truely questionned the Seer on what he is doing.
Jake had been on the surface for 3 weeks. He had soon discovered that his little collection of tripping software had been erased by his interview with the Seer Terminal on arrival. The fun in life had severely declined after that. Seeing ice was exciting at first, but soon pretty boring, as was working surface telescope analytics. After the 57th time of calculating that they were 130ish million miles ahead of where they were the day before by several different triangulations, he got very easily bored. Even seeing space got boring eventually.
The first thing that seemed like it could be exciting in 2 weeks(after the pretty intern in ice comp analytics told him that she wasn`t really interested in another date) was happening tomorrow. He was going out on a manned recuperation mission, on the actual surface. He was going to collect an "unidentified" as they called solid objects that had fallen to the surface, that multiple scans could not, surprise surprise, identify.
Thankfully that meant 3 hours tube time to the nearest surface manhole and then a hyperweight transport buggy he could drive to go and get it which could last days. Days on his own away from an already tedious job. He would take as long as possible, of course.
The buggy was an unusual thing, something reminiscent of earth travel vehicules. It had large wheels, and actual used contact with the surface to travel along it. On the ice surface that meant that it generally attached itself where it could and relentlessly continued until it got there.
Jake quickly realised that driving it was almost as tedious as telescope analytics. Once he was used to a direct view of space and a surprisingly smooth (recreated here) plutonian surface, there was utterly nothing to see. It was basically relaxing while he watched movies, checking that the auto was keeping a correctly straight course and occasionally readjusting manually.
The first "night" he slept fitfully. He may not have PUAD but sleeping under stars was something he was definitely not used to. The Buggy was big and did have a an opaque sleeping room, it just didn`t really help that there was so little between him and open space. The methane atmosphere didn`t really envellope it at all.
The next "day", insofar as they existed out here, he came across the crater of the Unidentied.
As Jake descended on manual into the crater, he was struck by how in the centre there was a full hole, not just a half imbedded rock, as was usually visible here (At least so the guys training him had said). Whatever the rock was must have kept residual heat for several hours to have managed to melt it`s way in. He now suspected a bit of old uprooted melting tech that had reactivated on impact. That would explain why the scan hadn`t identified it. Still antique scrap was quite useful on surface, so this mission wasn`t a complete waste of time.
As he got closer he spotted various bits of metal debris that told him he was probably right. That was until he arrived at the site of the hole, where the debris seemed to be a fair amount for any burning module Jake was familiar with. Add the fact that the hole seemed to be somewhat bigger than he had believed inside, with reconstructed rims around to cover the extra surface.
This shocked Jake. This meant that someone had been doing the reconstruction. Something that should not be possible. He sent a quick contact to the Seer Terminal explaining his situation, and then cut comms. He didn`t want to recieve orders saying he couldn`t get a look inside that melthole.
In his mobile walker unit, Jake stuck in his last grapple connector and tested the cable to the buggy 200 metres away and lodged firmly in stable ice. Then he lowered himself quickly 300 metres into the hole until he touche the slanted side and was only 50 metres from the object his scans were picking up but resolutely refusing to identify. They couldn`t even indicate surface material.
He switched on his lights in the direction of the object.
There he saw, what extremely old sci-fi movies and books would have called a Ship.
It was curved edged almost everywhere, and only about 110 metres long and 30 metres wide at it`s largest point. Evidently quite damaged, and almost utterly dormant.
Almost. A small gas vent seemed to be breathing in methane and breathing out what looked like CO2. Plus a thermal scan showed a heat centre point that looked to be roughly a 10 by 5 by 20 cuboid.
Once he arrived at the machine a sort of light display woke up, and a door opened into what he believed they used to call an "airlock". Inside looked remarkably like the inside of your average intersub travel tube portal room. Basically a sort of crossroads room between multiple areas. It was cold however, not heated nor really powered beyond the door mechanisms. On of whom opened.
Having let these doors guide him to the edge the the heated cuboid, which looked like the entrance to some form of entertainment lounge, Jake hesitated. He practically knew he was going to meet another human in there. But one that he was fairly sure should not exist. One whose ancestors had not been worthy to join their holy journey.
But he had always been hesitant to believe, and today he was in front of something that was outside of his Seer controlled world. He tried uploading a calming program on his neural P, but it wouldn`t work. It was as if his neural P was no longer there. He shrugged to himself and hit the button that had been flashing for 10 minutes.
Inside he met a girl who looked about 25. She simply looked at him. And he looked at her. Unable to speak.
"You are one of the subworlders, aren`t you?", She finally said. "Fuck, I knew jumping so close would be a bad idea. Next time, I`ll bloody put my foot down. I guess I need to see your Seer. As soon as fucking possible."
Jake just stared. Jumped? She just wanted to see the most important being in the subworld without introduction? Who the fuck was she?
"Who are you? WHAT are you?" Jake asked.
"I am human, more so than you, thank you. And I am the bloody girl giving your world the reserves it needs to survive the next 15-20 years."
This may one day be continued.