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Chapter 7: History Lessons

Mrs. Palmer sat at the head of her class, smiling back at her students. The subject matter of today’s lesson plan was a bit more sensitive than normal. She had spent several hours debating how best to approach it, but in the end decided that being direct and honest was the best route. The bell rang, telling her to begin.

“Good afternoon class, today we’re going to review last night’s assigned reading, Chapter 3 : The Evolution of Space Travel. Now to begin, who can tell me about man’s first steps into space?”

Several hands shot into the air, but Mrs. Palmer already knew who she wanted to call on, but his hand was not in the air like it always was. She chose a small brown haired boy.

“Thomas, what happened in 1957?” Mrs. Palmer waited for an answer.

Thomas paused for a moment, formulating his answer.

“In a race to beat the United States of America into space, the Russian government launched a satellite named Sputnik into space. It was the first time man had ever done something like it.”

“That’s correct Thomas!”

The boy beamed with pride from the praise.

“Shortly after that the former United States of America beat the Russian government to the moon. After a few more manned missions to the moon it became clear that humans did not possess the technology to allow us to explore deeper regions of space. The distances were simply just too great, and humans required too much on the trip. Many governments lost interest in space travel, leaving space to private companies. Many corporations began exploring space and taking advantage of the resources it offered. Who can tell me how they did this?”

Mrs. Palmer watched her students hands shoot up with pride, noticing the same hand abnormally absent. She decided instead to call on a tiny strawberry blonde girl who was blossoming into a woman.

“Sara Usijic.”

The girl exuded confidence, “Many corporations used robots or drones to explore space and harvest metals from asteroids and nearby planets, but others sent lots of drones out into space so they could look for things.”

Mrs. Palmer nodded in approval, “Well said Sara. Many companies adopted the use of drones to explore space and  harvest metals. Even more companies sent out survey drones, these drones would collect information, then send that information back to Earth. But there were some companies looking for a way for humans to travel into space. In the year 2092 the Zuirchoveski bubble was discovered, who can tell me what the Zuirchoveski bubble does?”

She checked again, and found the hand absent a third time. Ignoring that fact she decided to call on her favorite student anyways. He was small twelve year old boy, both incredibly smart and kind.

“Gideon, can you tell us what the Zuirchoveski bubble does?”

“What…? Hmmm…oh.” Both his eyes wide in surprise, Gideon looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Mrs. Palmer was disappointed, this was very unlike Gideon he was normally very attentive.

“Can you tell us what the Zuirchoveski bubble does Gideon?”  She asked again.

“The bubble stops any and all biological processes in any organic matter placed in it.” He answered, the normally bright and intelligent qualities of his voice dull and grey.

“Very good answer Gideon!” Mrs. Palmer responded, he had quoted the text book.

“The Bubble not only stopped the biological processes within it, it allowed every process to normally resume upon leaving the bubble. It’s like stopping time, or hitting pause, for whatever is inside the field. This meant that we could send someone all the way across the galaxy, they would need no food, no oxygen, and they wouldn’t age. It was a very big discovery, and had lots of potential uses aside from space travel, food storage, medicine, and research were just a few. Many corporations began developing spaceships to carry people to far away planets, and over the course of the next several years seven colony ships left Earth carrying thousands of people. Unfortunately the companies that sent these ships out were greedy, and ignored certain test data. Some parts of the human brain stayed active while in stasis, and the extended period stasis caused the human brain to ‘break’. Sadly everyone who traveled on one of these ship was lost.”

Mrs. Palmer paused and looked at students, giving them a moment to absorb everything she’d just said. She disliked teaching this subject in such completion to students this young, but the lesson plan called for it. She knew Gideon in particular did not like this subject.

“The sickness was named Mind Break, and resulted in some very bad feelings about stasis technology. Stasis and space travel would be not considered a viable combination until nearly fifty years later, when a visionary would combine stasis with another, new technology, opening space back up to the human race.  Who can tell me more?”

Hands shot into the air again, her first instinct was to prod Gideon a bit more, but she decided against it, something was bothering the boy. Instead she chose a large boy with straight brown hair, “Thomas, tell me about the next technology.”

“The gaming and entertainment industry developed virtual reality, the technology directly interfaced with the human mind.”

“It looks like everyone did their reading last night!” Mrs. Palmer proudly exclaimed.

“Innovative Gaming Industries developed a virtual reality that allowed for full immersion of a  human consciousness into a virtual world. We are in fact in one of these virtual worlds right now. Dr. Gideon Plock had the brilliant vision to combine the technologies of the stasis bubble and virtual realities. The combination of these two technologies would prevent the mind break effect from happening as well as allow people to learn vast amounts of new things. In fact that is what we are all doing right now.” She thought she looked like a game show girl as she splayed her arms, presenting the classroom

“With the combination of these two technologies complete, and impressive test results, the Yan-Ti corporation immediately began constructing fifty massive colony ships. Only forty one of the planned fifty ships were completed, then on <insert date> those forty one ships all departed Earth, each headed for a new planet. Three years relativistic time and fifteen years real time later, we have received word that our sister ship the Nephilim had arrived and succesfully woken its passengers. Our last contact with them suggested that they were thriving, there had even been several children born.”

Before she could begin her next sentence the bell rang signalling the end of the school day. All of the children started to get up from the desks make for the door, she watched three in particular: Gideon Plock, Sara Usijic, and Harold Tot.

————————-

His two friends stood over his desk staring down at him, expecting something out of him. Gideon tried his best to hide his bad mood and finished packing things into his bookbag. Sliding out of his seat he pulled the bag up off the floor and forced a smile for his friends.

“So what do you guys want to do this afternoon?”

“Lets go play at your house!” Harry almost instantly replied.

That was the answer Gideon expected, Harry always wanted to go play at his house now. Sighing inwardly he replied “We always go to my house, why don’t we go play at your house Harry?”

“I don’t think so Gideon, my parents don’t like it when I have people over, they say it messes up the house.” Fidgeting nervously, Harry looked like he was contemplating running away from the situation.

“Well how about your house Sara?”

“No way! My room is super messy and I’d be really embarrassed if you saw it Gideon!” Her cheeks flushed to a rosy pink, illustrating her point. “Can we go to your house please?”

In the six or so years of living inside, Gideon had never seen either of his friends houses, they always came over to his. Every time he asked to go anywhere but school or home he was met with some excuse. He wasn’t in the mood to push the point, he was a tired and his mental resources drained.  His father had been acting very strange lately. One week he would be fine and act completely normal, the next week he would be cold and distant. Then the week after that he would be angry, ready to snap and scream over the smallest thing.

With no other options Gideon conceded, “Sure lets go to my house.” He picked up his bag and dejectedly walked towards the door.  His friends happily followed him. They walked out into the empty hallway, it never failed to amaze Gideon how quickly this place emptied out after class finished. Before long they were at the data transfer node, Gideon looked around and then his home partitions network address and entered his password. The three friends placed their hands on the smooth material of the node, Sara and Harry confirmed their destination was correct but Gideon paused.

Something had caught his eye, in front of him, just a bit passed the school, a bird hung in the air, completely unmoving. He stared at it watching, waiting for it to move, but the bird was unmoving, it hung in the air completely still, as if frozen in that spot.

“Hey guys do you see that bird?” Gideon turned back towards where his friends were, and found nothing but empty air. Gideon looked back at the node, it should not have transferred them without him. They were all bound for the same destination. Gideon looked back  at the bird, it was still hanging in mid air. The world around him seemed to stutter, the hills beyond the school disappeared, replaced with a wall of blinding white.

Fearing what might happen next, Gideon quickly confirmed his destination, like lightning the node fired, sending Gideons data through the network. Something felt wrong though, the network felt shaky and the transfer felt sluggish. It felt like he should be almost home, and hopefully free of whatever was happening. Gideon suddenly felt like he was falling, he remembered flying through the air after he left the swing, and how much it hurt. The only sensation he had was of falling, he could hear, see, smell or feel nothing.

The falling sensation suddenly stopped, Gideon felt himself impact something cold and hard. Whatever it was it caused an incredibly unpleasant sensation to shoot through his nerves. Strange and unpleasant sensations assailed him. His thoughts raced in his head, his brain struggling to make sense of everything at once. It became too much and his brain simply shut down, inviting in nothingness.

 

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