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======================Fossil Gamesby Tom Purdom======================Copyright (c)1999 Tom PurdomFirst published in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, February 1999Fictionwise ContemporaryScience FictionHugo Award Nominee---------------------------------NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the purchaser. If you did not purchase this ebook directly from Fictionwise.com then you are in violation of copyright law and are subject to severe fines. Please visit www.fictionwise.com to purchase a legal copy. Fictionwise.com offers a reward for information leading to the conviction of copyright violators of Fictionwise ebooks.---------------------------------Morgan's mother and father had given him a state-of-the-art inheritance. It was only state-of-the-art-2117 but they had seen where the world was going. They had mortgaged twenty percent of their future income so they could order a package that included all the genetic enhancements Morgan's chromosomes could absorb, along with two full decades of postnatal development programs. Morgan was in his fifties when his father committed suicide. By that time his father could barely communicate with half the people he encountered in his day to day business activities.Morgan's mother survived by working as a low-level freelance prostitute. The medical technology that was state-of-the-art 2157 could eliminate all the relevant physical effects of aging and a hidden computer link could guide her responses. For half an hour -- as long as no one demanded anything too unusual -- she could give her younger customers the illusion they were interacting with someone who was their intellectual and psychological equal. Morgan tried to help her, but there wasn't much he could do. He had already decided he couldn't survive in a Solar System in which half the human population had been born with brains, glands, and nervous systems that were state-of-the-art-2150 and later. He had blocked his mother's situation out of his memory and lived at subsistence level for almost three decades. Every yen, franc, and yuri he could scrape together had been shoved into the safest investments his management program could locate. Then he had taken all his hard won capital and bought two hundred shares in an asteroid habitat a group of developers had outfitted with fusion reactors, plasma drives, solar sails, and anything else that might make a small island move at nine percent the speed of light. And he and three thousand other "uncompetitive", "under-enhanced" humans had crept away from the Solar System. And set off to explore the galaxy.* * * *Morgan had lived through three lengthy pairings back in the Solar System. Six years after the Island of Adventure had begun its slow drift away from the sun, he established a fourth pairing with a woman he had met through the ship's information system. The ship's designers had endowed it with attractive common spaces, complete with parks and cafes, but most of the passengers seemed to prefer electronic socialization during the first years of the voyage. Biographies and lists of interests were filed with the system. Pseudonyms and electronic personalities proliferated. Morgan thought of old stories in which prisoners had communicated by tapping on the walls of their cells.Savela Insdotter was eleven years younger than Morgan but she was a fully committed member of the EruLabi communion. She used pharmaceutical mental enhancers, but she used them sparingly. Morgan consumed all the mental enhancers his system could accommodate, so his functional intelligence was actually somewhat higher than hers in certain areas.The foundation of the EruLabi ethos was a revolt against genetic enhancement. In the view of the EruLabi "mentors", the endless quest for intellectual and physical improvement was a folly. Life was supposed to be lived for its own sake, the EruLabi texts declared. Every moment was a gift that should be treasured for the pleasure it brought, not an episode in a quest for mental and physical perfection. The simplest pleasures -- touches, languor, the textures of bodies pressed together -- were, to the EruLabi, some of the most profound experiences life had to offer.One of the most important texts in the EruLabi rituals was the words, in ancient Greek, that the Eudoran king had spoken to Odysseus: Dear to us ever are the banquet and the harp and the dance and the warm bath and changes of raiment and love and sleep.* * * *The Island of Adventure had pointed itself at 82 Eridani -- a Sol-type star twenty-one light years from the Solar System. 82 Eridani was an obvious candidate for a life-bearing planet. A fly-by probe had been launched at 82 Eridani in 2085 -- one hundred and eighteen years before Morgan and his fellow emigrants had left their home system. In 2304 -- just after they had celebrated the first century of their departure -- the Island of Adventure intercepted a message the probe was sending back to the Solar System.It was the beginning of several years of gloomy debate. The probe had found planets. But none of them looked any more interesting than the cratered rocks and giant iceballs mankind had perused in the Solar System.The third planet from the sun could have been another Earth. It was closer to its sun than Earth was but it could have supported life if it had been the right size. Unfortunately, the planet's mass was only thirty-eight percent the mass of Earth.Theorists had calculated that a planet needed a mass about forty percent the mass of Earth if it was going to develop an oxygen-rich atmosphere and hold it indefinitely. The third planet was apparently just a little too small. The images transmitted by the probe were drearily familiar -- a rocky, airless desert, some grandiose canyons and volcanoes, and the usual assortment of craters, dunes, and minor geological features.The Island of Adventure had set out for 82 Eridani because 82E was a star of the same mass and spectral type as Sol. The second choice had been another star in the same constellation. Rho Eridani was a double star 21.3 light years from the Solar System. The two stars in the Rho system orbited each other at a promising distance -- seven light hours. With that much separation between them, the theoreticians agreed, both stars could have planets.When you looked at the sky from the Solar System, Rho was a few degrees to the left of 82 Eridani. The Island of Adventure was a massive, underpowered rock but it could make a small midcourse correction if its inhabitants wanted to expend some extra reaction mass.* * * *The strongest opposition to the course change came from the oldest human on the ship. Madame Dawne was so old she had actually been born on Earth. All the other people on board had been born (created, in most cases) in the habitats the human race had scattered across the Solar System.The Island of Adventure had been the first ship to embark for 82 Eridani. Thirty-two years after it had left the Solar System, a ship called Green Voyager had pointed its rocky bow at Rho. The texts of its transmissions had indicated the oldest passengers on the Green Voyager were two decades younger than the youngest passengers on the Island of Adventure.If the passengers on the Island of Adventure approved the course change, they would arrive at Rho about the same time the Green Voyager arrived there. They would find themselves sharing the same star system with humans who were, on average, three or four decades younger than they were. Madame Dawne would be confronted with brains and bodies that had been designed a full century after she had received her own biological equipment.* * * *Morgan was not a politician by temperament but he was fascinated by any activity that combined conflict with intellectual effort. When his pairing with Savela Insdotter had finally come to an end, he had isolated himself in his apartment and spent a decade and a half studying the literature on the dynamics of small communities. The knowledge he had absorbed would probably look prehistoric to the people now living in the Solar System. It had been stored in the databanks pre-2203. But it provided him with techniques that should produce the predicted results when they were applied to people who had reached adulthood several decades before 2200.The Island of Adventure was managed, for all practical purposes, by its information system. A loosely organized committee monitored the system but there was no real government. The humans on board were passengers, the information system was the crew, and the communal issues that came up usually involved minor housekeeping procedures.Now that a real issue had arisen, Morgan's fellow passengers drifted into a system of continuous polling -- a system that had been the commonest form of political democracy when they had left the Solar System. Advocates talked and lobbied. Arguments flowed through the electronic symposiums and the face-to-face social networks. Individuals registered their opinions -- openly or anonymously -- when they decided they were willing to commit themselves. At any moment you could call up the appropriate screen and see how the count looked.The most vociferous support for the course change came from eight individuals. For most of the three thousand fifty-seven people who lived in the ship's apartments, the message from the probe was a minor development. The ship was their home -- in the same way a hollowed out asteroid in the Solar System could have been their home. The fact that their habitat ... [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]