Springingtiger's Blog


13: Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

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I think the thing I miss least about Earth is the Common Cold. I am the only person who remembers it and have been for centuries. When you think about how much money was spent in trying to cure the common cold it is slightly that its defeat was accidental a mere side effect of our travel into space.

After the first Exodus the later jumps wouldn’t accept anyone for stasis until they were tested clear of all disease. It wasn’t a precaution taken on the early jumps and some of the early colonies were very much like Earth with their catalogue of ailments. Humanity only gradually discovered the unforeseen consequences of terraforming particularly the occasional genetic mutations that sometimes occurred. It is bad enough to have chickens turn into flying dinosaurs, but introducing hostile bacteria into a genetically unstable environment can be disastrous.

The colony on Beta Four was still flourishing when Beta Seven was quarantined. The B-7 colony was less than a year old when it went into quarantine. Their communications indicated that they were suffering from a new form of influenza they called Encaphalitic Flu – it had a Latin name, if I remember I’ll look it up in the data bank.

We sent medical supplies and emergency food aid by unmanned shuttle when they requested help. Over the weeks the requests and messages became fewer. By the second anniversary of the settlement there were no more messages from the seventy thousand men, women, and children of B-7. We sent an expedition to scan the planet from orbit. While the scans found mammalian life signs there were no human communications. We didn’t land to investigate which upset some people. Death is supposed to be inevitable, but even now after all these centuries people find it hard to accept.

I remember in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries there was a tendency for bunches of flowers to appear on railings, lamp posts, railway tracks, anywhere where someone died suddenly. Perhaps it was a symptom of the decline of religion’s power to provide comfort and answers, but temporary shrines to the dead seemed to spring up everywhere. Interestingly the practices of the Dia De Muertos seemed to spread internationally during the same period. In all the millennia I have been wandering I have encountered many rituals around death, and much speculation about the fate of the dead, I have never encountered a culture that has not had rituals and beliefs about death. I have seen deaths go unmarked, frequently to punish the dead person and their families. I have seen names expunged from the records, because people are terrified that they may be forgotten they punish others with oblivion. The majority of those who have lived and died have been forgotten, but humanity continues against the odds.

The United Nations Resolution on Floral Remembrance ended the practice of floral shrines. It also ended the practice of taking flowers to mark graves. The reduction of habitable land masses and the fertility changes brought about by climate change eventually placed prohibitive restrictions on the cultivation of non-edible plants. The decreasing space soon meant the disappearance of the graveyards and gradually of all residential accommodation less than twenty stories. Some people were actually relieved when the exodus came. As the area for growing plants diminished and the cultivation of whole species banned except by scientific institutions the seed banks became particularly important, because it was these seed banks that were eventually to feed the diaspora.

The first exodus had neither the time nor the luxury to be too choosy about those we took. As long as the Cybertrons were prepared to allow humans to leave the Earth unimpeded, we took everyone we could and many of those who remained remained out of choice. Someday perhaps I’ll return to Earth and see how humans have fared in a planet ruled by machines. I doubt whether the machines could have been as unjust or intolerant as some human governments.

Even before the tragedy of B-7 screening had become more stringent, but not so harsh as to make minor ailments a bar to travel. I think some viruses were rendered unviable by the cryogenic process. Some survived. After B-7 the occasions of an undetected virus getting into space dropped to a fraction of a percentage point. It happened, but very rarely and – at the time of writing – to no recorded adverse effect. As well as pre voyage screening all colonists in stasis were monitored continuously by the pods. In the colonies it became normal to quarantine people at the first sign of illness until a diagnosis and risk were completed.

The biggest danger were the independent Militia Colonies. There will always be people who resent the imposition of restrictions and law and a number of these struck off into deep space without authority. most of these groups didn’t have access to the terraforming equipment of the official expeditions, but many militia groups were not averse to stealing the tools they needed for their colonies. The majority of the independent planets were not terraformed, but set up on habitable planets, some barely so.

Without the stringent controls of the official colonial expeditions many of the independent colonies were riddled with disease. However those who survived tended to be the toughest and most resilient. When the Alliance planets tried to impose their rule over the Independents and Militias they came up against the people least amenable to surrendering their sovereignty to outsiders. In the end the Alliance claimed victory. However they found it expedient to apply a policy of non interference with the Independents who continued to carry on all the same practices the Alliance had gone to war to prevent. Sometimes the only time an Alliance ship was seen on some planets was when the police were hunting the sort of criminal attracted to the easier laws of the outer planets. On the whole the Alliance avoided the Independents out of a fear of contamination.

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