Tuesday, 17 November 2009
‘Guess what I found, Professor?’ When Mikey smiled his skin patterning made him look like a tree with teeth.
Still bleary from a long night’s sleep I peered into the cramped Lander’s main viewpit and its perspective on the caldera. Most of the pit was filled with a 3-D backprojection of the scene below the water but an inset volume gave a wider perspective. In it the distant blue-white sun was getting low, making the caldera’s jagged lip cast razor sharp shadows across the water.
Careful scrutiny doesn’t always pay in this game. Sometimes it’s best to shift focus so that you’re looking a little beyond. That way you don’t get hung up on details. And sure enough as I stared blankly at the underwater scene I became aware of the incomplete pyramidal shapes lurking beneath the extravagant organic filigree and the overhanging collateral structures.
‘Shit! Where did they come from?,’ I breathed.
He was a nice kid but sometimes he irritated me. Right then I envied him his lack of experience. I’d spent too long on too many worlds mired in relentless cosmic cruelty. It’s distanced me, numbed me. Of late I’d been comfortably losing altitude on the long glide to early retirement. Now was not the time to find what I’d been searching for all my life.
‘What are they made of?’
‘Can’t say for sure yet, I was just getting the bounce beam ready. Marble possibly.’
‘How many klicks to the nearest outcrop?’
‘Just over twenty, and yeah they’ve got a channel open.’
The granite caldera was about fifty klicks in diameter and the water at the bottom was up to fifty metres deep. Until now this had been big enough for the Bugs who were about the size of your thumb. Big enough while they were blowing each other away in numberless wars, but not if they were starting to attain real social cohesion.
They looked like amoeba but weren’t. Rather than evolving out like true amoeba they’d evolved in. Their single celled bodies had gained greater internal complexity. Right at the start we’d bagged one of the little runts and analysed it, thankfully taking full biohazard precautions. We weren’t biologists but our onboard AIs were pretty smart and, after their examination, pretty shocked. The cell was a mass of subnucleii that communicated with each other mainly by percussion arrays, sending pulses through the intracellular fluid. Apart from the similarity in appearance, and the fact that it was DNA and carbon based, it had little in common with the terrestrial amoeba.
‘Let me see the channel!’
Mikey blinked up the sat-view. The channel lay like a transparent snake caught in mid-slither across the uneven terrain. It skirted the small hills and larger depressions and the clumps of sage-like plants so common on this part of the planet.
We’d seen its like before but rarely on this scale. Hundreds of channels led out between breaks in the caldera’s walls making it look from the air like a giant glass octopus.
Though you could kill the better part of a score of bugs in one incautious step they ruled this mudball. Apart from plants and a few ‘controlled’ species everything else had been eradicated. We’d found fossil evidence of vertebrates that had spread out from the other hemisphere. They’d been doing okay until they’d met the Bugs then they’d disappeared in the flick of a geological eyelid.
I did a quick mental calculation based on the pit’s calibration grids. Their pyramids would be even larger to them than ours were to us.
I tried to keep my voice even. ‘Want to estimate the cusp point?’
He turned to look at me. His leaf patterning was now in autumn giving his skin a disturbingly scalded appearance. ‘A month, maybe less.’
‘They may not make it.’
Mikey regarded me thoughtfully. I shuffled my sparse frame knowing I’d lived too long and too closely with Mikey to have any success with the Emeritus Professor of Neuroarchaeology act.
‘I don’t get it, Dan. Why are you so . . .? I mean forget TV Specials. Fuck the Nobel. We’ll be up there with Darwin!’
I shrugged, casting around for a metaphor. It wasn’t easy. ‘Remember your first time with a woman? You’d probably had to work pretty hard to get her where you wanted her. You’d had to overcome all your shyness and selfconsciousness. Then when everything was set, when it was all arranged and the door was about to swing open, you suddenly found you didn’t want to know. Remember that?’
‘Define ‘dread’ for me, Mikey.’
He hesitated. ‘Aged funk,’ he murmured and looked quickly away, fearing he’d gone too far even after all our cheek-by-jowl time together. He really wasn’t such a bad kid.
‘Sure,’ I sighed and blinked up a zoom of the channel.
Ed, our coordinating AI, had told us that the channel sections had originally been some sort of autonomous animal which the Bugs had selectively bred then bioengineered into bloated, expandable chambers with virtually no brain. Locked mouth to anus so that they formed pressure seals at both ends, they were strung out in chains to form fluid filled Interstates for the Bugs.
Not nice, but then ‘nice’ was a word rarely found in evolutionary vocabularies.
A timebomb cord virus was the main reason for the Bugs’ supremacy. It went like this: some poor conglomerate of proteins with pretensions to vertebrate status would eat a Bug. After that it’d have a couple of months left to associate with its own primeval kind, really get a chance to spread the DNA nibbler around a bit, then it’d die, ultimately taking heaps of its misbegotten pals with it. The planet was fertile enough to support a Biodiversity Quotient about twenty times higher. The Bugs made sure it didn’t.
Of course Mankind at its worst had managed to lower Earth’s BQ by a similar factor, though we’d had to resort to less elegant means like deforestation and high velocity lead. The Bugs were our kind of people.
They lived life in the fast lane. Our DNA analyses indicated they’d evolved into this form only a few tens of thousands of years ago. That they could so quickly build and sustain so complex a civilisation when their lifespans lasted little more than a year implied a genetic transfer of memory. This was no small potatoes nature v. nurture wise. We’d n
been working with the AI’s in the struggle to crack the mechanism and see if it was transferable to other species. Say, for the sake of argument, man himself. It passed time and might make us some money but was still only a sideline for the main event. Like selling chilli dogs on Krakatoa.
I watched the Bugs goading their teams of spider-like workhorses as they dragged the marble fragments over the steep lips of the pressure seals. Neither species massed much so it was tough going.
And all this effort just to build a few pyramids. The weird thing was that just about every substantial civilisation on Earth and elsewhere had done the same thing at one time or another. Were pyramids really as useless as they seemed or did they form a focus, perhaps a concrete symbol of the first true externalisation of thought? A sign that a species had started to look out rather than in.
Or were they just the logos of an egotistical creator slavishly recreated by its bondsmen.
The latter explanation was my bet.
As I watched the Bugs’ huge endeavours I felt my first sneaking pity for the savage little brutes.
In fact it took nearer three months to reach the cusp. Safe and sound in the Lander, one thousand klicks from the caldera, I actually saw it happen. I was refining Neivson’s Progression, incorporating the few slender inferences we could make about the Bugs’ social, philosophical, technological and bioengineering complexity into the conglomerate models of the sixteen other alien races we’d studied up to that time. The viewpit was tuned to one of four remotes set up to scan a small sector out to the SSW of the caldera. One second it was filled with a hundred thousand or so frenetic Bugs, the next it wasn’t.
I watched open mouthed as the little bodies settled slowly like sediment, drifting down between the arching tubular habitation structures and work pods to form a misty carpet on the caldera’s algal covered floor. Within minutes the gloriously coloured and convoluted aquatic plants they had cultivated in such profusion to garland their buildings began to fade.
Sickened, I rapidly flicked the viewpit through the rest of the caldera and was relieved to find the sector membranes holding. I summoned Mikey and within a few minutes he staggered in, still befuddled from his play stims. By then I’d located the ruptured industrial storage pod and had got a spectrum back from the bounce beam.
‘It’s some sort of chlorinated compound.’
‘Accident?’ I felt a momentary anger at his enthusiasm. He hoped it wasn’t an accident. And somewhere deep inside me where the seeker after truth still lived, neither did I.
We found the best remote angle and replayed the sequence. A single rogue, its body already attenuating from the hypermetabolic burn (‘Yes!’ Mikey yelled), could be seen churning its way towards the pod. A chain of pulsers, perhaps making up to ten times its mass and jerking with the Bugs frenetic efforts, slipstreamed away behind it.
We’d seen them use pulsers before. It was how they usually killed each other. Pulsers were tiny creatures bred down to be portable, their abdominal tubes focusing waves from their own internal sound generators. They produced enough energy to breach a Bug’s outer membrane at a distance of a few body lengths.
Reaching the pod the rogue flattened out impossibly like a cartoon animal hitting an invisible wall. Bugs’ bodies were flexible, but there were limits. I imagined the rogue’s delicate internal structures tearing, severing nutrient pathways, shearing sound channels.
The psuedopod holding the pulser chain retracted, dragging them over the flattened face which erupted with smaller pseudopoda to greedily grasp the pulsers. Immediately the nearest section of the industrial pod began to flake under the concentrated sound waves.
Other Bugs arrived with their own pulsers. They blasted away at the rogue causing gouts of intracellular jelly to erupt from its body. They’d almost disintegrated it when the pod burst.
There was a few seconds of silence before I looked at Mikey. ‘No accident.’
He grinned and beat his fists against the air. ‘They found the Glyphics!’
‘Time to send back a capsule,’ I said heavily.
After nearly a year and a half the compressed accommodation of the Lander was getting severely in my face. And so was Mikey and his bizarre enthusiasms. Stims and a mountain of work kept us from tearing each others heads off as did the desperation which was always lurking below the surface. We were a long way from home. We were all we had.
Mikey’s recent foray into Tantric Buddhism, complete with relentlessly inappropriate utterances, had vanished now the Bugs were living up to our expectations. They had become the sole focus of his attention.
He got so bad that one day I woke to find him leaning over me. As soon as I opened my eyes he started talking at me, drowning me in details about their eugenics program.
I shoved him away and went for a walk. With full armour and scorch fields I left an incendiary path through the sparse shrub. We were under the strongest directive to remain undetected but there were no Bugs this far out so who gave a shit? The small intense sun hung high over the flat ground making it look even flatter. The mudball was a quiet place with no really large bodies of water to give it interesting weather.
All worlds smell different though no human has ever given it a try directly, the effects of airborne alien micro-organisms being too complicated to contemplate even for the AIs. But we could get the AIs to simulate it from their analyses of atmospheric gases and biomass emissions. This planet had an acrid herby bitterness which would have taken a lot of getting used to. Mikey and I had never bothered. We’d gotten used to our own emissions.
After the Bugs had got to the Glyphics stage we’d got the Orbiter to fire off a capsule, one of only three we had for communications with home. The pea sized memory, safely enclosed in several hundred tonnes of engine would take almost half a year to accelerate up to half light speed. At that point it would have enough energy for the Push. An instant later the memory would be back in the Solar System, broadcasting all our findings before it continued off into deep space.
I knew only too well that the ‘instant’ took a subjective eternity. It was like you still had your umbilicus which you were sucked through until it inverted and you were shat out the other side. When you got to the mid-point, just before the inversion, you experienced a bleakness and an emptiness that cut through the heaviest narcotic. Nobody knew why. I was comforted by the thought that the next Push would be my last.
The limits of interstellar communication meant that it’d take at least a year and a half before our colleagues arrived. The expense would be immeasurable but they’d come, of that there was no doubt.
Our application of Neivson’s Progression indicated that the Bugs with their compressed developmental timescale would soon be centuries ahead of mankind. We hoped they’d learn to understand the Glyphics, perhaps even defuse them.
A filmy rainbow plane undulated through the air across my path. I stopped quickly before my leading scorch field touched it. Set on its task of mindless pollination, the plane settled over the single unspiked section of a plant to my right. Its bright colours ameliorated the cold blues of the seed heads. I magnified vision enough to see the tiny indentations on its wings where insects had nibbled at it while it fed from the seedheads. If it was lucky it would live long enough to breed before its gossamer wing was too tattered for flight. Struggle and death. Look closely enough beneath the beauty and they were always there.
Man had first discovered the Glyphics in bacteria in the 1980’s but hadn’t recognised them for what they were. It wasn’t until the beginning of the millennium, and the completion of that meticulous mapping and functional cross correlation that was the Human Genome Project, that the same codon sequences, camouflaged by occasional sections of randomness, were found in man himself.
While the Push was being developed and AIs sent out to explore our nearest stellar neighbours, the bioscientists continued to puzzle over the Glyphics. Viral tools were perfected for manipulating DNA in vivo and when man tentatively began to alter his own makeup, they were applied to the Glyphics.
The effects were inevitably disastrous. A massive wash of enzymes caused almost instant hypermetabolism with each cell and organ getting energy from its own breakdown. The rogues were always as destructive as they could be in the brief time allowed them. Even in humans, in the few experiments that had been attempted.
Of course it’d never gone as spectacularly wrong as with the Bugs, but then few ecologies were that fragile. The Bugs had only survived as long as they had because it was ingrained into them not to damage their habitat. Even their wars were fought in carefully demarcated zones.
Gingerly skirting the rainbow plane I trudged on. Looking back I could follow my smouldering meanders back to the holographic hillock which hid the sleek arrowhead shape of the Lander. A string of projectors to the west camouflaged the five klick long tracks the landing gear had gouged in the soft ground. We’d come down a thousand klicks from the caldera, relying on a multitude of carefully disguised remotes for our studies. We’d move in closer if we felt the time was right. I looked at the charred crisscrosses Mikey and I had made on our constitutionals and laughed. Our paranoia had definitely slipped.
I wandered on and worried some more.
The Glyphics had given man pause for thought and it’d taken years before human in vivo bioengineering really caught on. Mikey’s skin patterning was a typical example though I feared that by the time we got back to Earth less superficial changes might have come into vogue. Providing the restructuring viruses could be tailored to keep well away from the Glyphics virtually any changes were possible if supplemented, like Mikey’s, by special diets. But any attempts at neural enhancement activated the Glyphics.
Meanwhile our interstellar probes had found life to be common amongst the stars. Water based life was de rigeur and so it was found to be confined to temperate zones around well behaved single suns. None of it was both sentient and civilised, as our few manned expeditions had shown. Where species had achieved things like space travel and bioengineering they had become extinct, leaving only bone and fossilised skin for our remotes to sample for their DNA.
And DNA was everywhere. And inside it was always the Glyphics.
Aside from killing us if we tried to tamper with our own minds, what other more subtle functions did they perform? To what intellectual frameworks and perspectives did they confine us? Did they define our rationality? They clearly acted as our intellectual blinkers. What might we be capable of without this genetic graffiti?
That the Glyphics had been implanted was now widely accepted. The DNA of species on each planet had many similarities, reflecting common ancestors, but planet to planet variations were colossal. Yet the Glyphics were always there in barely altered forms, resistant unlike the millions of other codon chains to the usual mutagenetic mechanisms of radiation and chemicals.
Neuroarchaeology had been born out of mankind’s perception of its prison. A science less than fifty years old, it commanded astronomical budgets to obtain the DNA of dead or nascent species.
Now by an incredible stroke of luck we’d found a species alive and about to overtake us in bioengineering terms at least. We would have to watch our trailblazers carefully.
I stopped again and scanned this unpleasant world. ‘Why me? Why now?,’ I thought. ‘I’m too old for the terrible truths.’ With a sigh I blazed my own trail back to the Lander.
I began to wake with vague feelings of despair. Even after coming too I’d spend hours turning restlessly in my cot.
Mikey’s feelings too seemed to confuse him. His natural enthusiasm, normally boundless, had become sporadic and interspersed with silence and depression. I remembered his dedication and brilliance and how by careful, meticulous study he’d discovered the caldera from his analyses of the returning memories from automated probes. Though only a postgraduate student then it had earned him the right to accompany me on this expedition, leapfrogging many more senior colleagues in the process.
He still looked healthy even though his eyes seemed to reflect some awful loss. His patterning cycle excluded the greys and blacks of winter, skipping instead straight to spring. Normal flesh tones had reappeared and were becoming stippled with bright green tracings. It didn’t seem appropriate.
‘It couldn’t be more perfect,’ he said to me one day during an ‘up’ period as we chaffed through the data checking for novel developmental indices. We were in the tiny recreation area, created by retracting the partition wall between our cabins.
‘I mean they’re way too contained to be a threat to Earth and their technology’s for shit. They haven’t even colonised further than a couple of hundred klicks. We could afford real contact.’
‘Maybe later. If they survive.’
‘Easy. They’re tough.’
The Builders had been too, I reflected but kept it to myself. Squat and thick skinned with lots of meat they’d had lasers and atomics and nanotechnology. They’d chewed out vast trenches on their neighbouring planet and constructed huge generators that cracked the permafrost, making air and filling the trenches with ocean. Then they’d disappeared within 800 years, barely five of their lively generations.
‘Professor Helver, Dr. Marillo,’ Ed interrupted gently. ‘I’m sorry to bother you but one of our remotes has picked up something of possible interest.’
The watchword of AIs was understatement. Mikey and I exchanged glances then we were squeezing down the marrow corridor to the Obs Room. He got there first and froze. I had to stand on tiptoes to get a look. When I saw the viewpit I stumbled back in disbelief. The sudden perception of vulnerability hit me like a rock.
The scene showed a table of rock viewed from a remote at a higher elevation. Spelled out in letters made from travel tube creatures were just two words:
I spent the next few hours telling myself how impossible this all was. The Bugs had no electronics, no radios, no lasers. Their terrain was the organic, the microscopic. They shouldn’t have been aware of our remote, they shouldn’t have been aware of us. They shouldn’t have understood English. Anthropomorphised Bugs was something I was just too queasy to deal with.
Ed performed long range interrogative checks on the remote’s onboard AI. He eventually came back deeply ashamed but with some answers. We listened numbly to his contrite tones.
‘The Bugs up to now haven’t been subterranean creatures. In fact no burrowing creatures longer than a few millimetres exist within several hundred kilometres.’
‘They dug a tunnel?’
‘Correct. Depth scans were only performed during the first five months with no appreciable changes recorded. Attention levels were therefore distributed to more apparently significant studies.’
‘Didn’t you detect the excavations?’
‘The effect of the pulsers on the rock is minuscule. The Bugs are small, they live in a fluid medium which is highly sensitive to the planet’s random seismic activity. They’re intelligent enough to mimic it.’
‘And intelligent enough to understand English?’
‘Ah, now there,’ said the AI very softly, ‘I really can’t help you.’
I was still pretty screwed up but I’d managed to do some thinking of my own. ‘I’d guess induction,’ I refilled my glass from the plastic bottle of Scotch we’d been working our way through. ‘Their bodies are full of electrolytes. If they got close enough to, say, the AI’s aerial feed they might’ve felt it.’
Relief washed across Mikey’s face. ‘And the AI’s send back images overlaid with text. For a second there . . . ‘
‘Yeah. It looked like they had a whole technology we didn’t know about.’
‘But how could they have deciphered it?’’ asked Ed with some interest.
Traditionally ships’ AIs displayed themselves as whirling digital patterns on screens set above the viewpits. Some sort of focus was always better than a disembodied voice. I stared at Ed’s grimly.
‘By altering situations in the caldera, by creating events and seeing how the remote’s signals back to the ship changed. In effect by prodding and poking you, Ed, like the cheap pile of junk you are.’
‘Wow! Smart or what?’’ Mikey took a pull on his Scotch. ‘And they worked it all out without computers. How the hell do they expect us to help them?’
‘It’s time to find out. Ed, send a message to the remote then have it sent back in case they’re only tapped into the return feed. Ask them: ‘How can we free you?’’
We watched the tube letters retreat then grow back. It took hours.
REMOVE THE POISON
By now we were too impatient for circumspect communication. Trying to clarify things we described the Glyphics and asked if that was what they meant. We stopped them when they were half way through the laborious construction of a ‘Y’.
‘What makes you think we can remove them?’ we asked. By the time the answer came back a second bottle of Scotch had been finished.
YOU MADE US
‘No we didn’t,’ we blithely replied, ‘ and the Glyphics are in us too.’
We never heard from them again.
I was dreaming of aching, stabbing loss when Ed’s voice woke me.
‘I would advise you to hurry to the Observation Room,’ he said.
Feeling sick and wishing I could vomit, I scuttled as fast as I could down the rat run to the Obs Room. Mikey was already slumped over the central console.
‘They’re dying,’ he said.
It didn’t seem so at first. The caldera looked to be seething with as much activity as before. Then I saw the bodies on the floor.
Normally as the Bugs died they drifted down to where teams of bioengineered scavengers would drag them to the recycling pods. The teams weren’t coping now and the little corpses were beginning to accumulate.
That was the beginning of the end. It took only three months but seemed to go on for ever. As the long days passed we watched chilled and helpless as an entire species was extinguished.
I couldn’t understand why we both took it so personally. The anthropomorphism created by the message had been brief. Despite their intelligence they were still brutal, alien little fucks, given to cold and calculated manipulation of other species.
So why was I grieving? Sure, they hadn’t defused the Glyphics and that was a terrible disappointment but it didn’t explain the crushing despair we both felt. A despair which was somehow intriguingly familiar, yet difficult to pin down.
By the time the population had decreased by ninety percent the medical AI was starting to fuss about mission termination. Mikey’s hideous patterning couldn’t disguise his weight loss. Sleeping pills were getting less and less effective. We were drinking more and more. The stims had lost all attraction.
‘Gentlemen,’ Ed said one day, ‘if we left now it would take ten months and six days to get you to full medical facilities. At your present rate of deterioration you might only just make it. I must insist we leave immediately.’
Mikey, drawn and weary, was lying slouched in a corner. He hadn’t spoken for days. I was curled up in my inertia web. I had no idea how long I’d been there.
It was clear that the Bugs would never now recover so there was little point in staying. We also had a good reason to return home, though it was something we only dared consider tangentially. The Bugs’ collapse had been on the Neivson Scale at a point about one hundred and twenty years ahead of mankind’s. We’d estimated the error at plus or minus one hundred and fifty years.
‘OK, Ed,’ I said. ‘Do your stuff!’ It was just as well we weren’t expected to fly the thing. I had enough trouble strapping a febrile Mikey into his web for takeoff. He grasped my hand.
‘Why?,’ he asked. ‘Why did they all have to die?’ I gently stroked his hair but could give him no other comfort.
His question stayed with me. It wasn’t until afterwards, after the takeoff, after the docking with the main engine in orbit round the planet, after the five interminable months acceleration and our increasing dementia, and finally the horrors of the Push itself, that I had the terrible epiphany that gave me the answer to it all.
As soon as we were back in the Solar System we started to recover. Decelerating we picked up tight beam radio messages. Mankind was still forging ahead, unaware as yet of its fate. Though a source of great relief I knew it wasn’t the main reason for our improving health.
Mikey stared at me intently over the meal table. He was still about twenty kilos down on his normal weight. He’d long since ceased his dietary supplements and his skin was made up of pink and green blotches.
I stared morbidly at my hand clutching the glass. Bony and shrivelled from the wasting it reminded me of a bird’s claw.
‘Well?’ asked Mikey, his voice weak and high. The muscles in his face were too attenuated to convey much expression other than a gaunt emptiness. Somehow he’d sensed I knew something and he’d kept on at me during the brief, infrequent periods he talked at all. I didn’t want to explain. I knew once I started I’d be made to do it again and again for the rest of my life.
I took a deep breath. ‘I think the Bugs reached the end of their useful life.’
This was the only thing he was interested in so I used it. I deliberately waited so he had to communicate. It worked.
‘Useful for who?’
I shrugged. ‘I couldn’t even guess.’
More silence until finally: ‘The ones who inserted the Glyphics?’
I nodded. ‘I think the Glyphics act like a fuse, or a tamper switch or a limiter. Get too clever, mess with them and your species goes down the drain.’
It took about a minute but finally he asked me to go on.
‘You must have felt it when we made the Push. The same kind of coldness and emptiness as when the Bugs died.
‘We were there when a whole intelligence was extinguished. No man has ever experienced that before. On Earth we live our lives right at the heart of an intelligence that is so all-pervading we’re totally unaware of it. It’s only during the Push, when for an instant we’re in interstellar space, that the ambience momentarily diminishes. That difference is enough to wither us, creatures of the bright light that we are. Try and imagine what a complete absence of that sustenance would be like, and not just for an instant but for eternity.
‘I think for the beings who implanted the Glyphics we’re just background illumination. They’ve strung the stars with sources of intelligence, like lights on a Christmas tree, or maybe campfires to ward off the cold. But fires can’t be allowed to burn too hot, they can’t be allowed to get out of control. The Bugs realised that at the end. They were smarter than us and that’s probably why they died. Maybe it’s not the limiter that kills you but the awareness of it.’
Mikey had lapsed into a silence from which he would never emerge. I didn’t know that at the time so I shrugged and continued. ‘Whatever happens we won’t be allowed to develop further. Perhaps if we can learn to accept it we might survive.’
I didn’t believe it, then or now. The glyphics MAKE us strive, MAKE us chaff against the chains. Intelligence IS a matter of struggling to push back the limits.
The belittling awareness of ultimate limitation, reached now and not at some faraway endpoint in mankind’s glorious future, will eat its way into our psyche. It’d killed the Builders in five of their generations, the Bugs in barely two of theirs.
I’m not sure we’ll take that route. I don’t think we’ll just lie down and die, but at the same time we’re not great when it comes to acceptance. Far from it. We rebel against everything sooner or later.
In the future I see great genocidal armadas setting sail across the gulfs of space to extinguish some of the other bright ‘lights’ in a vain attempt to signal our defiance to the Gods.
Of course it won’t do any good. After all, would you take any shit from a light bulb?