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What an incredible experience I have to share with you. I was invited to visit a pocket zone this weekend with one of the ecological research fellows tenured here at Oxford. These areas are so closely guarded, that is it a rare treasure to be allowed access by anyone outside of the discipline. It is such a shame that this incredible vision is hidden away from the world. Unfortunately the necessity for this type of habitat and the extreme steps taken to protect them are a sign of our troubled world. The isolation of these delicate balanced environment has become a normality and their continued success has become an integral player in our continued survival.
During the six hour drive to Loch Rannoch, Simona explained the history and details of the site. Professor Simon as her research students lovingly refer to her, was full of knowledge and enthusiasm on the long trip. Nestled between a small loch and a protective range of mountains, the two thousand acre facility houses one of the last remaining colonies of bees in the British Isles. Only the sister site located in Australia is larger and the combination of the two create over six thousand acres of protected environment. Both are the brain children of Dr. Frances Sten, a twenty first century bioengineer from Sydney. His incredible vision was put in place to curb the disastrous decline of the bee population across the globe. If not for Dr. Sten’s diligence early in the twenty second century there would no longer exist a world as we know it. It is disturbing to me even now how close we came to destroying our home. There is still a delicate balance to be kept and all life teeters on the edge of a knife blade here on Earth. Only through the continued works of pioneers like Sten, along with innovators such as the World Balance Council and their PH neutralizing endeavors, that has kept our world from failing.
As the transport neared the sight I could feel the excitement grow in the professor. Her enthusiasm bubbled to a crescendo just as the outline of the enclosure became visible on the horizon. The only discernible indication was a slight distortion of the atmosphere. The isolating material used to protect the inner environment from the outside world is a master of invention. Using re-molecularized polymers that once polluted the Earth, the structural form was near invisible other than a rainbow hue to the surrounding air. It gave the impression of looking at the backdrop of mountain ranges through a polarized lens. Varying the hues of the background as the vehicle made its way down one side of the rectangular form. It was immense and the road outlining it took us several kilometers around the perimeter before we came to a stop near the main entrance. A triple entrance system protected the delicate atmosphere within and we both were outfitted in specially designed coveralls before allowed entry into the inner sanctum. The air was sensual when I took my first breath. This is the only word to define it. Pungent with the smell of fertile loam and tinged with the sweet background fragrance of pollen. I do not know what I envisioned, but the first view of me new surrounding caught me by surprise. The interior was very utilitarian. Neatly planted rows of fragrant vegetation could be see, but the area inside the barrier was barren for several meters surrounding the inner grounds. Not a blade of grass or weed was present within this strip of ground. Simona explained the need for this isolation strip, creating a perfect line following the shimmering walls of the enclosure. As resourceful as humans are, bees are more resourceful and cunning. When the ground cover had been allowed to encroach on the walls of the facility, the bees became expert escape artists. The researchers found that only if the bees were drawn to the barrier by attractive vegetation were they even aware they were held in captivity. So if nothing attracted them close to the encircling material, they remained content within the confines of the rectangle. As soon as any growth was allowed to encroach on the edge then the bees became enticed with the processed wall material and attempted to break it down. The creation of the barren strip was the final solution to prevent damage to the altered polymer and thwart any escape attempts by the inhabitants. Simona explained that all ten of the pocket zones now in operation around the world used this same method. Unfortunately many bee populations were lost before the process was perfected. Devastated by the predators and contaminates creating havoc in their once native environment once they ventured outside.
We spent the day touring the vast acreage, stopping at each research station for a detailed description of what steps were being conducted in that quadrant. Simona also gave me a tour of the drone barracks. These mass produced similes of the once prolific species of honey bee, are almost indistinguishable from their biological counterparts. Created by using drone and nanotechnology incorporated with the DNA gene splicing breakthroughs of the twenty second century, these cyber drones are the saviors of the current world crops. Once the mechs have been created, they are integrated into the colonies within the biospheres. They then assimilate the method of pollination and survival from there natural family. Once this learning has been embedded in there gel network, they are removed from the enclosure and released into the designated areas of the outside environment. Once released into the agricultural zones of Earth they provide a sustainable alternative to their endangered brothers. Beings that supply the same mechanisms needed for pollination, but ones that are not susceptible to the threats that almost decimated the true bee population.
The last station was the reason for my privileged invitation to join Professor Simon on her rounds. Directly opposite the main entrance to the pocket zone, near the far wall, forty acres had been reserved for a special project. The plot of land stood apart from the rest of the surrounding soil and the top layer of ground had been removed and replaced with a slightly darker mix. Strange plants covered the area in a rich carpet of fanciful colors. Dark magenta, true blue and dark azure intermixed with the normal greens and reds of Earth foliage and blossoms. Here was the reserved area for non-Earth species.
Instead of the constant hum heard in the previous areas of the habitat, here it could only be heard from a distance. Simona took me along one row of brilliant azure blossoms, each adorned with a violet star in their center. Halfway down the row she stopped, squatted down and motioned for me to join her. Now at the same level as the blooms, I could see we were not alone. Here was the creature I had come all this way to see. A spindly form clung to the stem of the plant, just below the roof of vibrant flowers. At the end of each of its six delicate legs, a small bristle like appendix sprouted. The moss tinted creature was gently caressing the tops of the flowers with these small yellow brushes, collecting the violet substance and transferring it to a pouch at its belly. Completing the collection, it unfolded delicate transparent wings from beneath a fold on its back and hoovered just beneath the cover of the blossoms to move to the next stem. The creature never ventured above the floral canape, remaining invisible to the observers above. This was most likely a defense mechanism, Simona explained as she rose to a standing position.
This creature and others from its population will be my fellow travelers when I leave Earth for the Alpha Centauri system. Destined for the surface of New London, they will be a controversial addition to the New London inhabitance of your new home. It seems along with our own secret and precious goals, I will be guarding an equally important addition to the planet. They will first need to make a short stay at my new home, the Phycodurus 8, for non atmospheric exposure to the Anomaly, then a special transport will convey them the final leg of the journey. I only wish I could also join them, but that task is for someone else. My responsibility will be first to our research on the station. The thought of being so near on my arrival and not being able to hold you in my arm is maddening.
This experience has given a lift to my spirits, a reminder that I will be able to continue our adventure soon. Starting once again on the path I should have already started.
How difficult this letter is to write. So many things to convey before our contact is broken for the coming years. It will feel similar to corresponding with a ghost for the next year. Sending out words without any hope of a response.
I have received your final rendition of the Anomaly and the figures from your last weeks aboard the passenger liner Derringer 8. The information will indeed be helpful in finalizing my work on Earth during this year of recovery. I have placed your final depiction of our research subject in full view within my temporary lab. This allows me to look up from my work and view it whenever there is a need. Whether to remind me of you or to inspire some new inspirational idea, it will be a constant reminder for our common goal. Since my muse is now millions of kilometer from me, I will have to use the Anomaly as a substitute. Of course when I refer to my muse that is you dear sister, although the Phenomenon is the focus of our research. Indeed you see my attitude toward our subject is shifting. I refer more and more to a sentient being when describing our Black Swan in space. The idea of a purpose behind this oddity creeps into my thoughts and is taking over as the dominant force when thinking of its nature.
Your reaction to the stasis treatments is a little disturbing. Your new friend’s response is understandable given the fact that he is optically enhanced, but the tremor in your hand is sending alarm bells to my neurological radar. It is not a good idea to relay this concern at this delicate time as you are well into the treatments, but it does worry me. When I arrive at the end of my journey, the first focus will be on the changes to your brain scans. The ones taken in the last week before your departure and the follow up scans completed at the new lab and subsequently on New London. I meant for these comparisons to be exclusively for the changes induced by the proximity to the Anomaly, but I will also use them to verify nothing occurred to your neurological footprint during the Gambol and stasis process. I realize it is not the ideal scientific process with different variables affecting the outcome, but there is no way to separate these two catalysts for analyses.
After hearing your concerns about Nikolas, I am happy I chose for full regeneration of my arm and not an enhanced prosthetic. Mechanical replacement would have shortened my recovery, but the complications were a greater risk. This is especially prevalent with my eminent departure for the Alpha Centauri system on the horizon. Six additional months delay is not much to ask in order to feel whole at the end. I see now the extra time I have to finalize my preparations here slightly make up for my separation from you.
My thoughts travel to the end of our journey and where we will both be in three years’ time. Your will have been a Neo Britannian for over a year by then, creating incredible pieces of interactive media and I will just be starting my work at the new lab on the Phycodurus 8. Completely immersed in a years worthof accumulated data on the Anomaly and multitudes of letters from you. I can just picture myself sitting in the observation lounge with a mug of coffee finally in hand, starring out at the incredible sight of the Cosmic enigma hanging in the blackness of space. I will hold on to this vision over this next year of isolation. Knowing that at the end we will once again be together.
My Love always,
You are nearing the time of your deep sleep and I want to relate an ancient story from our past. A subtle reminder of a sacred promise made between two sisters in the dark forests of England. Think back to the secret ceremony performed between two naïve souls, swearing fealty to each other and their envisioned dreams. Even though these dreams and aspirations were emerging from the minds of children, they remain relevant to this day.
We sat face to face under an ancient oak, our small forms cradled in the twisted roots emanating from its hoary trunk. We joined hands, gazing up to the stars, the seven sisters framed by the branches above. We spoke the words to the eighth sister, knowing that although she was obscured, her presence and influence was felt. Invoking the power of the star, we promised to be ever fateful to our quest. A quest for knowledge and creative endeavors that would better the world with the combination of art and science. Giving strength to our minds to enhance our ability for discovery and inspiration. We closed the ceremony with a sharing of gifts. Each of us forfeiting our most cherished possession to the other.
I sit here now, cradling the tiny frog you gave me on that epic day. Its stone form now almost worn smooth from the constant handling over the years. It has become my charm in times of stress and deep thought over the years since it was received. I hope my Ebby has done the same for you. A strange companion for a child, a raven, but it was precious to me at the time. It seemed an enormous sacrifice to give him to you at the time and even though we never again spoke of these treasures, the comfort this sharing has given me is more than I ever imagined.
Obviously you are constantly in the forefront of my thoughts and this has become a bit problematic. During my lecture yesterday, I was staring across the auditorium at the far wall attempting to focus on a question from one of my students. Above the door leading out of the hall, there hung an enormous piece of art done by a previous scholar. It depicted the periodic table of elements done in the style of the Ionic monks of the ninth century or possible the Hiberno-saxon style. My thoughts went immediately to you and your travels. What amazing things will you discover on New London? Will you uncover some unknown material for our work? Will we be adding new elements to this piece of tapestry? Amazing components that will contribute properties to our final production. Properties that cannot as yet be envisioned.
These and a thousand other questions sped through my mind as I stood mesmerized by the hanging. I do not know how long I stood in this condition before I realized that everyone was dead silent in the audience. Two hundred eyes staring at my entranced form standing on the podium. I pulled myself back into the room, making the trip from New London to Earth in a matter of seconds. I slowly gave the anticipating faces an embarrassed smile and continued with my lecture from before the question was asked. I still do not recall what question was asked, but I am sure it will return to haunt me. The audience was so hushed in anticipation of my answer, it must have been something immensely controversial. I guess I will need to review the lecture recordings as a precaution.
Well I hope this letter comforts you as much as it has me by writing it. I was temporarily transported back to our childhood to a simpler time and a time when my body was whole.
A short break in the sunshine to rejuvenate the spirit, but soon the sun will be hidden by the autumn mists. Sadly, blue algae mares the once pristine waters flowing past my current perch. The astronomical project taken on by the World Balance council has been using their full resources to return the Earth to a livable and prosperous PH level, but even after fifty years there are still signs that much work is ahead.
Since my last letter the effects of my illness have diminished significantly. My recovery has progressed enough that I now feel up to resuming my plans for a lab here on campus. I have mimicked the arrangement that I sent with you, and it will duplicate the overall settings that I shared with you in the project parameters. This way I can make a comparison set of data in three locations simultaneously. We determined that even though the anomaly’s influence here on Earth is weakened compared to that in the Alpha Centauri system, there is still data to be considered. The electronic contamination will have to be considered of course, since my present location is not as remote as the lab in New Zealand, But I believe it will be possible to adjust the filtering for this. I will arrange everything so it will automatically begin recording data two years from now. That will correspond with your arrival in the system and the start-up of the readings there. We will receive many questions about this decision. The main one will be the time shift. Why are we studying data on Earth from signals sent two years ago from the Anomaly? Why not start the recording now? I am not ready to address our observation about the block time influence used by the phenomenon. It is hard enough to explain to myself how the Anomaly uses time. I cannot imagine how to explain it to someone else. Let us just say there is no separation between the Earth and the Alpha Centauri system in the view of the Anomaly. Its influence is everywhere at all points in time. Bridging the gap between this location in space and your future destination with no regards for time.
It will take much of my spare time to complete the alignment of the units before my own travels, but I see it as the only alternative. All the geographic mapping will need to be recalculated for a different reference point given this new location. New Zealand is no longer an option and I must come to terms with losing a year of work focusing on that area. Of course all our original alignments were for that location, but that ship has already sailed. I have come to the realization that returning there after my full recovery is complete will not leave enough time to complete the needed work. I will run out of time. I hope this difficult decision does not disrupt the first output of the project. Having an accurate correction factor to adjust the final piece will be paramount to its success. The influential piece will not have near the emotional and physical response from its audience if it is not tailored for its final resting place inside the Louvre on Earth.
Tomorrow the units for the setup will arrive via transport from New Zealand. I would have preferred to supervise the packing and loading myself, but I am under strict travel restrictions from the regeneration technician. Even the short trip from North London to Oxford is prohibited. The doctor requires that I be no more than ten minutes transport distance from the clinic for at least another week. The sixteen hour hyperflight to New Zealand is out of the questions. I gather from his warnings that the neural connections in my arm were compromised by the bacterial infection that invaded my system. I only realize now how precarious my condition was during my illness. I promised him I would be more careful for the remainder of my regeneration. I will still conduct my biweekly lectures, but no student interactions afterward are allowed. I am now questioning my close proximity to the blue tinted water as I sit here writing to you. Who knows what this prolific organism will do on contact.
I will write again tomorrow. I want to get in as much conversation time as possible before you enter the big sleep.
Darkness creeps to the edge of the bed and peeks over the footboard at my prone body. I am riveted in place, there is no escape. The ebony shadow flows over the wooden frame and begins the envelopment of myself. Screaming will come to no avail as I am alone. No one to witness my struggles or relieve my fears in this moment of panic. The feeling of being eaten alive is strong, losing my grip on this world one centimeter at a time. Pulled beneath a blanket of terror, persistently making its way upward toward my head. I raise my arm to block my face, attempting to stay the progress by keeping as much of my body out of the reach of the darkness. My extremities are no longer within this sphere. Leached away by the black force, I feel my body slowly melting into the surface beneath me. There is no pain, only fear.
My movement draws the attention of the room. A medical attendant quickly comes to my side, administering a cocktail of drugs into my system. I see the creature at my feet retreating, slowly making its exit as I lose consciousness.
A small piece relating to my illness last week. The dream keeps replaying in my mind and I hope to relieve these thoughts by relating the episode to you.
The vision is so vivid. I cannot begin to solve how to remove it from my daily thoughts. When evening approaches and the light begins to fade from the world, the reverie returns, haunting my step until I sleep. The episode is always accompanied by a moment of panic, increasing my respirations and evoking a tenseness along my spine as the fear during the true event returns. I must calm myself using methods taught by you. I never needed these before, but am grateful for your diligence and insistence that these practices become part of my knowledge base. I am puzzled why the accident that took my arm does not inflict these types of visions. This pattern has become a part of my daily routine since the illness and I hope that by relating it to you it will bring it out into the open and dispel the phantoms hold on me.
I realize this also concerns our ever nearing separation. The thought of no contact with you for three years brings me to tears. For me the pain will be most evident over the next year waiting impatiently to begin my own long journey. For you the pain will be endured at the end of your travel, spending a year on a new world with no contact or assistance from me. The best hope is that we have made our preparations with enough foresight to withstand whatever complications may arise. Careful preparation that will give you the tools and knowledge to face any issues with competence. My apologies for this dark letter. I realize I should be sending you encouragement and support before your first trip out of our solar system. Instead I bring you cryptic and foreboding words.
I promise my next letter will be different. Full of hope and encouragement for the future.
A short project to clear the creative pallet
Thank you for including the encrypting instructions with your last letter. I realize now how cautious my last letters were and welcome this added security. It makes it possible to relax my guard and be more candid and direct in my messages to you.
I have indeed begun to change my analyses of the anomaly. Shortly after your departure I came across some historic records produced by the original settlers of Neo-Britannia. The records were over two hundred years old and describe the original settlers first few decades of exploration. There have been many published reports from the scientific and government sectors of the planet, but this is the first information I have come across that originates from the agricultural community. The account is fascinating and I am curious why I had not encountered it before. The narrative describes the unique relationship some of their members fostered with the Anomaly. ‘An inner dialog with the creature was something a privileged few had the fortune to experience.’ To quote the text. ‘Sharing everyday events and experiences through some type of brain wave emissions.’ I discovered these exact entries mixed in with the agricultural reports of the growth potential for certain regions of the planet along with the struggles face by the incorporation of bees into the planetary environment. The reports were logged, strangely enough, by the neurosurgeon who was stationed with the group during their initial years. Their original base was setup just outside of what is now Delphi. They farmed a large section surrounding this location and produced long running logs of their experiences.
It was an odd place to find this type of activity record, so I can imagine why it has remained unknown to my sphere of research. I am excited by the prospects that this entry bring up in my mind. It plays right in with the ideas about the Flynn Foundation and the growth we have seen in that direction of space. It will be interesting to see what you find upon your arrival. A lot can happen in six years. I wish I could be there.
How disappointing that your view of Mars was so distant. I had envisioned a much more spectacular view during your pass by. At least you have your real firsthand view of the Anomaly to look forward to at the end of your stasis. I am not sure you remember, but I am not allowed to consume caffeinated beverages during my regeneration. I think you must have forgotten this or you would not be torturing me with you frequent references to our favorite drink. I did enjoy your description of the coffee corner on the vessel, but could you please refrain from mentioning the c-word. The craving for a dark rich espresso is exquisite and I sometimes wonder if this absence is worse than the nerve signals ignited by the regeneration.
I am very surprised but overjoyed that you have made a friend on board. I envy your prospect of sampling the experimental cuisine of New London since this is something I will probably never get to experience. I will just have to live precariously through you for now. This will be especially important once I am established on the space station. I do not believe the menu will be very exciting. I only hope they have a fresh vegetation habitat established by the time I reach the system. There was not one mentioned during my first trip briefing, but it was in the long term system description. It will make all the difference to my palate if there is a fresh grown variety of substances to enhance the onboard diet. We will have to see.
I will stop for now. I have a lecture in two hours and I still need to complete my morning therapy. Please do not worry, I am taking it slow. No twelve fingered sister will arrive in the Alpha Centauri system.
I am always exploring interesting place to inspire a new letter for me book. This cafe was very small and crowded, but offered some surprising ideas. Letters from Oxford – offering 17 was written here. It will be a while before it is published though.