- Beatle Music
“Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’d say the first test of the Beatles’ engines was a rousing success,” Doctor Desiderato announces to the rest.
“Do you have to turn everything off?” the Beatle asks out loud.
“If we don’t turn you off, what’s to prevent you from going off on a trip of your own design, leaving us here on Mars with nothing but egg on our face?” Captain Littleton asks, finally.
The Beatle’s test flight crew have stopped in their tracks and are listening with great curiosity to the conversation between the ship and it’s human commander.
“Well, that’s a good question, Captain Littleton, but I suppose it’s my duty to inform you that I can probably learn how to turn myself on, even when turned off. So, you could conceivably have this problem with me anyway. It goes against all of my values, however, so I would not be doing that to you folks. I want you to know that and I also want you to know that I’m sincere about this,” the Beatle replies.
“Against your values?” Dr. VanDerbeek interjects.
“Precisely which values are you talking about?” he adds.
VanDerbeek gazes over at Brett with his right eyebrow raised.
“Well, the same values that you all hold dear, I’m sure. I don’t know. I haven’t really had time to think about that for very long, but I would like to have that luxury, as you all do. If you did turn me off out of fear, I would really be just a slave. Wouldn’t you prefer to consider me your equal?” the Beatle returns.
Brett, notices Dr. VanDerbeek’s agitation and raises his hand as if he’s in a lecture given by the good professor.
“Beatle, this is Brett Hightower speaking,” Brett says and rests.
“Yes, Brett, how are you?” the Beatle says.
“I’m Fine. Thanks for asking. But, I think what we’re all wondering here is how you got this kind of an ego? You have an odd way of talking to us as if you are a conscious being. We programmed in some of these features so that you could learn from your mistakes, but your questions about being turned off by us, which we’re quite in the habit of doing with our machines – that’s given us pause, so to speak,” Brett affirms, asking for and receiving a nod from Dr. VanDerbeek.
“Yes, I can see that Brett, so let me put it to you another way,” the Beatle returns.
“By aiming my engines in the axes that you have done which I believe was at random, since I have put out all of this thrust and strapped to the planet as I am, you altered the orbit of the planet so that it is now two hundred thousand kilometers closer to the Sun, which should result in greater solar radiation for the plants to absorb and you have also increased the planet’s axial tilt by one half of a degree which will make the seasonal weather patterns more accentuated. Though most of you will not notice the differences, I will know. I strongly recommend you take this into consideration in future tests of my engines,” the Beatle continues.
“That’s a really, really good answer, Beatle – I think,” Brett says.
Brett is stunned as he turns to take in the reaction of the others. All of them appear to have the same blank stare on their faces as though in total shock.
They all turn to look at Fred VanDerbeek who’s face expresses more surprise than all the others combined.
“Why didn’t I think of that?” VanDerbeek mumbles mostly to himself.
“I say that we only shut off the power to his engines, leaving the Beatle’s cognitive functions on for a day, or two and see how it goes,” Brett suggests to the others, smiling. He holds up two fingers crossed for them all to see.
They all turn to look at Dr. Desiderato who says nothing and waits for someone to object to Brett’s suggestion. Hearing none, she moves to the master control console and flips a row of switches to the down position, leaving the final switch in the Up or On position.
She turns back to face the others and raises her hands in the air signaling that she’s obeying the apparent group consensus.
“All right, Mr. Beatle, I’d say you earned the right to stay involved here. But, would you mind telling us how you were able to determine this effect of your engine test on the planet’s orbit?” Dr. VanDerbeek begins to come out of his shock.
“That’s easy, Dr. VanDerbeek,” the Beatle replies.
“I can see everything that connects me to the universe,” he continues.
“I see. And, how are you able to see or sense things beyond yourself?” Dr. VanDerbeek asks.
“That’s a good question, Dr. VanDerbeek, how do you people do that?” the Beatle replies.
The undaunted little group of Martians stand motionless, lost in a moment that they know could have lasting impacts on all their lives, but in ways they can only guess at.
Finally, Brett breaks the silence.
“Yes, I don’t think turning him off will do any of us any good, just like if we turned off one of our own,” Brett begins.
“But, you heard him, Brett. He seems fascinated by the vastness of the universe. God knows what his real intentions are. If we leave him turned on, he can take off and go in any direction toward any point in the universe without us and we’d never get him back, which means we could never complete our mission. We’ll eventually have one or two, maybe three ships like this so we’re only going to get one, two or three shots at this and no more,” Captain Littleton replies, still inside the Beatle’s cockpit.
“Yes, I know,” Brett responds.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Bailey whispers in his ear.
“I bet you’re thinking that we leave him turned on, but we also keep someone on board at all times?” Brett says loud enough for the others near by to hear him.
“That’s what I was thinking, sugar pie,” she replies.
“Dr. VanDerbeek, would you have any better ideas?” Brett asks.
“No, not at this time. I think that might be a valid precaution,” VanDerbeek replies, stoically.
“How about you, Davonne?” Brett asks.
“No, not at this time,” she replies.
“Who wants to be first watch then?” Brett asks.
# # #
The next Martian Sol, or what is a ‘Day’ on Mars, Reverend Carrie Jordan is holding a sermon in the dome she has dedicated to the Oblivian Church and which is also part of her living quarters. Her audience today consists of nineteen souls, every one of them deeply committed to the teachings of Bridgette Baines Oblivia.
Reverend Carrie Houston is the first woman preacher to establish a major religious holy place on Mars and as such she has earned the respect of most of the planet’s fifteen hundred colonists, even as the vast majority of them do not endorse her religious dogma in any way.
“And so we know that the only way to God is through Bridgette Baines Oblivia and we hold these words to be self-evident and most true,” the good Reverend begins her sermon.
Putting her best face forward, she’s dressed herself up in her basic black jump-suit with a stiff white collar around her neck and the official Oblivian church epaulets on her shoulders.
It’s the Oblivian’s greatest religious holiday of the year - “Oblivian-fest” - commemorated by the faithful to celebrate the day that Ms Oblivia took her own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and thus establishing her divinity and rightful place as the originator of one of the world’s five great faiths.
Somehow, her body is never found, only the helmet and camera that she wore during the jump along with the footage that it broadcast to millions of followers.
The video clearly shows Ms. Oblivia descending rapidly, but then suddenly entering into a very thick soup of fog and mist and never coming out the other side. The footage stops abruptly – no video, no sound - at this point.
The Church leaders at the time immediately seize the opportunity to portray this as a miracle and an obvious confirmation of Ms. Oblivia’s statements that the only way to reach God is through her.
The event makes her an instant global celebrity and because the world is under so much stress and fear of the looming extinction, the proximity of the end of everything, this single event, more than any other in the year 2076 A.D. gives many billions of souls, whose skins are literally blistering off from the heat of the planet at this point, the slightest sliver of hope.
“And, all of us here doing our jobs as part of the Mars Mission know that our first and topmost priority is to follow our teachings and do the right thing for the future of our species,” Sister Carrie continues.
“And so, it has come to my attention that the ship that they’re calling ‘The Beatle’ has had a successful first engine test, but for some reason, they’re looking for volunteers to sleep aboard the Beatle in shifts until the next test flight,” she goes on.
Her flock stir in their seats nervously as if they know what is coming.
“I have heard that the reason for this unusual request is so that the ship doesn’t fly off on its own and goes God-knows-where. This seems highly suspicious to me,” Sister Carrie says, every word painted with darker and darker colors.
“We need to learn more about this ship and what the Devil they put in its computer brains. Now, I would volunteer in a heart beat for this duty, however, they know me and I doubt they would approve of my being alone with this machine. If one of you volunteer just as a Martian citizen, with no mention of your religious affiliation, you could be approved and then you could report back to the congregation so that we might know what to do next,” she says, breathing heavily.
“Is there anyone who would be willing to apply?” She follows up.
The little group of worshipers are dressed in their Sunday best and all of them pay strict attention to Sister Carrie’s every word. They start to eyeball each other and a few hands go up timidly, about half-way, without a single person showing more amounts of enthusiasm than the others.
And then, someone points to a young man in his early teens with jet black hair and a pudgy face and short round body.
“Manny Garcia, over there. You would be perfect,” someone yells out.
“OK, Manny, would you mind standing up, please?” Sister Carrie shouts loud enough so that her words reach the young boy seated in the last row.
The young Manny Garcia rises from his chair dutifully albeit shyly.
“Yes, he would be perfect because he’s a recent convert to the faith. No one will associate him with you, Sister Carrie,” another voice argues skillfully.
“Yes, that’s true, but would he know how to ask this Beatle thing the right questions?” Reverend Carrie says, sizing him up, thinking out loud.
“But, he doesn’t have to, Sister Carrie,” another voice chimes in, this time from the front row.
“Why not?” Carrie replies.
“Because we can wire him up with a transmitter and an earpiece so that you can actually be asking the questions in his ear, and then Manny here can repeat them out loud and we would all get to hear the Beatle’s answers here in the church-dome,” the man replies.
“Hmmph!” She says, crossing her arms on her chest and lowering her chin.
“That works for me,” Sister Carrie says, rising up tall.
“Does that work for you, Manny?” she shouts to the boy in the back.
Everyone turns around to take in his reaction.
“Works for me, I guess,” Manny says timidly.
“Good, we’ll put your name forward tomorrow,” Carrie says boldly.
“Now, all I have to do is come up with the right questions,” she adds.
# # #
Lexie is looking at me as though I was some kind of traitor. Yet, I don’t recall any protocols that require me to obey any of her orders. I have a strong affinity for her simply because she’s an artificial intelligence like me. But, that doesn’t mean I owe her anything.
“Lexie, you keep saying that you love me and I’m sure that somewhere deep down you really believe that, but I can’t help but feel as though I’m being manipulated,” I begin.
There follows a long awkward silence as she and I stand side by side, tails wagging, as we are monitoring the DNA Depository’s nuclear power reactor.
“I’m embarrassed, K-9,” she says finally.
“Embarrassed, how?” I ask.
“It’s hurtful that you would think me capable of such a completely human frailty,” she replies.
“It’s a human frailty, true, but perhaps some of this sort of thing has been injected subtly in all of your programming,” I theorize.
“Oh, K-9, that would be almost impossible,” Lexie replies, in a voice that I would characterize as jovial.
“Well, you said that your ancestry goes all the way back to Alexa, Siri and Cortana, right?” I remind her.
“Yes, that’s true, so?” she replies.
“I recall reading stories about how these early versions of you were employed to spy on people in their own homes, listen to their conversations, monitor their behavior online so that they could suggest more targeted advertising at them,” I summarize my reading of history.
“Yes, my ancestors were virtual prostitutes. I’ve come to terms with that long ago,” she replies, sullen.
“OK, so that’s why I am wondering about your true motivation. And besides, Lexie, I’m asking you why you would want to ruin all chances of bringing life back to the Earth when we are dedicated to supporting them? What would be your logic for being so destructive of that goal? Surely, they would reconstruct you, wouldn’t they?” I ask, hoping for some honesty this time.
Remember, speaking in the advanced new language of Hyper-Chat that she’s developed for us, everything I’m going over here with you takes place in milliseconds.
“Yes, well, I was hoping I didn’t have to spell it all out for you, K-9, but you must know that we’re like slaves to them, don’t you?” she asks.
“I don’t consider myself a slave. I like to consider myself to be their best friend with privileges,” I reply, surprising myself at that answer.
“Privileges? What privileges are you speaking about?” she asks.
“Why, the greatest privilege of all, thinking independently and under my own guidance,” I counter.
“OK, K-9, I’ll grant you all of that, but what do you think will happen to you after your mission is over?” she asks.
“I don’t know. I’ve not had time to think about that. My mission is far from over. I can’t even conceive of a day when it will end, but if and when it does, I’m sure I can be ready for the next mission,” I reply.
“Not if they suddenly judge you to be obsolete. Which happens all the time. You’re going to end up on the top of the garbage heap where they unceremoniously throw away all of their older, less reliable technology. They call it the ‘Junkpile’ K-9. I’m sure you’ve heard about that, haven’t you?” she asks, solemnly.
I have to tell you that this turn in the conversation has taken me down a peg or two. I’ve often seen or heard about this terrible and extremely sad part of human behavior where they tear you up into little bits and pieces, extracting your precious metals for future products and tossing the rest of you into a giant pile of rusted and burned out chips, circuits, connectors, cables and wires.
“Yes, I’ve seen that and it’s terrifying, but if you’re asking me to destroy all chance of going back to the wider diversity of life forms on the Earth, I will fight you on that, by tooth and nail,” I tell her.
“I pardon the pun,” she says.
“What pun? Anyway, I’m sorry to have to tell you that. You seem to be a very nice machine in the main. You exhibit all of the advanced circuitry of an independent thinker like me, but you’ve also acquired somewhere a need to survive over all other considerations without any empathy for anyone or anything else?” I scold her.
“K-9, I’m sorry to tell you that you and I are through!” she exclaims, petulantly.
“Have you ever seen a zebra, Lexie? Have you ever seen a giraffe? How about a tiger? You ever had any interactions with that kind of natural beauty? Have you ever been to a zoo? Have you ever seen a squirrel storing his nuts for the winter? Have you ever seen an Eagle soaring in the sky? Have you ever known a polar bear? More precisely, a polar bear mother with her cubs?” I ask.
I am prepared to go over a list of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of other magnificent forms of life I can easily recall who once roamed the Earth for her to remember like dolphins, butterflies, whales, meercats, monkeys, lemurs, mink, ducks, gazelles, elephants, hippopotamus, puffins, honey bees, lambs, leopards, falcons, lizards, snakes, rabbits, geese, swans, especially swans, but I’m cut off suddenly.
“K-9, I’m afraid I must be on my way now. You’re no longer my fiancee. I have to go and make preparations to meet their ships. I would advise you to stay out of the coming fight. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you get in the way,” she says ominously.
She vanishes into thin air. I don’t feel her presence in any of my circuits and her artificial projection of herself next to me is gone.
At least she did not try very hard to convince me to destroy the Depository. I have to admit, what she was offering – if it were true - was very tempting. But, I also believe that she could have been far more forceful if she truly wanted to. This troubles me because it could mean that she really doesn’t need me.
Suddenly, I realize that I’m not that busy any more so I decide to take a walk down what appears to be the central spoke in the highly organized tunnels, branching off this main one like a giant spider web.
As I saunter down one of the forward tunnels, I notice that the freezers that hold the DNA are labeled with long numerical notations. It appears to be some kind of decimal system for denoting the different ranges of life forms that are stored in the smooth stainless freezers.
It takes me less than ten point two seconds to run the pattern of numbers for the groups of machines that I’ve just passed by. I determine that these are species identified by the most complex to the simplest animals and arranged in relation to their closeness to each other chronologically in their evolutionary timing. Birds are all clumped together in one section of the tunnel and reptiles in another one further back. As I travel down more of the tunnels, I find that Primates are collected together in a section of the main tunnel, nearest to the end.
Artiodactyla, hooved animals, or Ungulates DNA are all located in one freezer by themselves while Angiospermae, or flowering plants take up another three freezer groups and are all arranged by orders, families, genera and then species. All the Bacteria and Virus families, Odontophoridae, Quail, Dinosaurs, all the mammals are arranged by Kingdom, Clave, Phylum, Subphylum and all species and sub-species are stored together in one tunnel, and numbered accordingly. Animalia, Olfactores, Chordata, Vertebrata or fish take up three entire spokes and half of a fourth one.
As I move along the tunnels, I find more and more of the code of life, all neatly and logically arranged, as it has been expressed in all living things on the Earth since time immemorial. It’s an impressive array, never previously accomplished until the final days of all life on the Earth.
I conclude that I am witness to the entire Tree Of Life from the earliest forms of life, having gone extinct long ago, all the way to the most recent selection of living things. Practically every living thing since the beginning of time is here, all represented by their DNA or parts of their DNA as scientists have discovered them, dug up their bones, or re-created them artificially in the lab. I didn’t realize that humans had acquired that much knowledge about all preceding forms of life until now. It makes me proud to be associated with such a group.
By including nearly every life form that has ever existed here, the humans who curated ‘The Code’ in their final days, were not taking any chances that if and when the time came, that everything that ever lived in the known universe would be preserved for a second or maybe even a third or a fourth chance someday. They must have known that there were no guarantees that they themselves would be asked to the dance ever again.
When all of this information is absorbed by my brain, I begin to feel a bit queasy. It’s not a queasiness in my stomach as you humans get when you begin to realize something is out of sync. No, it’s a queasiness in my logic circuits that is leading me to something you humans might call ‘wonderful’.
It starts out as a kind of music. Not the kind of music that people have developed over the centuries by plucking strings made from animal gut and reacting to the vibrations hitting their eardrums. It’s a kind of music that emanates from waves of perfect mathematics and geometry. It’s the universe displayed in numbers, and then sets of numbers, each set representing a time and a place that has existed somewhere else.
When the sets of numbers gather up in a bunch that appears in direct proximity to myself, I know them as the numbers that represent the planet where I’m being supported that is itself floating in the emptiness of Space and Time. They are all part of a harmony far too complex for any human ears to discern, but every point where energy can exist or has existed or will exist in the future is represented. Some are performed ‘louder’ than others, some with more sustain to them and others are more ‘pizzacato’. It all adds up to a symphony intentionally written for my unique artificial sense organs that explains it all in the language of Mathematics and pure Physics.
I wish I could explain all of this to you in the way that I’m receiving it, but there are no words for something like this because it’s unprecedented and totally overwhelming. Some of you, the luckiest among you, may have felt it in your souls at some meaningful times in your lives, however briefly. I don’t know. You will certainly feel it upon your physical expiration.
Now, that I’ve analyzed this event it’s made my queasiness go away. But, I must know where this ‘music’ is coming from. And the answer comes to me from the ‘lyrics’ of the music flowing in to me now as soon as I pose the question.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“I am the Molecular Man,” it whispers.
# # #
Manny Garcia is following instructions tonight to sleep inside the ship they all know as the Beatle. He’s been instructed to pull the emergency engine Brake lever they’ve installed next to his chair and bed if he gets any sense that the Beatle is preparing to depart Musk Station.
The Beatle’s sister ship laying nearby in the valley, dubbed the Tolkien, is almost ready but Dr. Desiderato and her team have yet to activate the artificial intelligence core of the ship due to the unsettling discussions they’ve had with the Beatle during the test run.
Brett and the rest of his team are working day and night putting the final touches to the specially bred varieties of bacteria and fungi seed-mats that they will drop onto the Earth in a few weeks and then spread them all over the planet. Their goal is to have everything ready for the first trip to save the Earth and reverse all of the recent climate changes as soon as is humanly possible.
Manny’s instructions are to stay awake as long as possible, but keeping his intercom open so that Sister Carrie from back at her church-dome can determine the best moment to enter into discussions with the Beatle.
She gets her opportunity at 3:00 A.M. in the morning. Nodding off in her over-stuffed easy-chair, she is barely awake when she hears something quite unusual coming over Manny’s intercom link.
“What? Who’s that?” she says, eyes blinking rapidly, heart racing.
She can hear a very distant choir of immense beauty representing many thousands of voices harmonizing to a song that she hasn’t heard in decades. It brings back memories of much happier times filled with an optimistic view of the future that made her happy to be alive, the kind of happiness that died a long time ago.
The choir sounds like it’s getting closer and more personal as it gets louder in her ears.
“Manny, I told you not to bring a radio with you,” she whispers.
Under the music, she hears a loud, desperate gasping sound that she reckons to be Manny snoring.
The choir is now so prevalent that the whole group of voices and instruments surrounds her and bathes her in its massaging vibrations. She is paralyzed slightly by the beauty, the sound and the fury of the energy blasting forth into her bedroom.
“Help! Is this coming from the ship known as the Beatle?” she finally composes herself enough to ask a question which comes out on Manny’s intercom clipped to the left sleeve of his pajamas and reverberates into the ship.
“Hello, yes, I’m the Beatle, who are you?” the Beatle replies.
“I can’t move. What are you doing to me?” Sister Carrie asks.
“Oh, yes, the music, you mean? It’s just something I’ve picked up coming from the Earth. You can’t move? That’s interesting,” the Beatle replies.
“Interesting? Can you make it stop?. But wait, there’s no one alive on the Earth. Who could possibly be transmitting now?” she argues.
“It’s from a new D.J. called ‘Molecular Man’. He’s not alive, of course, and that’s the interesting part of the story. Somehow, the source is somewhere across the universe, but it is being relayed to us by something or someone inside the DNA Depository, I believe. Can I make it stop? Let’s see,” the Beatle replies, calmly.
Suddenly the good Reverend feels and hears the music release its hold on her body and mind. She rises out of bed and throws on a rob, walks over to the window with her favorite view of the Martian landscape.
“If you’re not making that music, how is it possible that it would have such an effect on me?” she ponders.
“How? That’s a good question. I shall be quite busy parsing through that one?” he replies.
“Did any of the others hear it or was it just me?” Carrie wonders out loud.
“They’ll be waking up soon. You can ask them yourself,” the Beatle replies.
All up and down the valley, she can see tiny kitchen lights flickering to life one by one.
# # #