There he was. Again.
It was extremely uncommon for a subject to behave in a regular pattern.
“Subject 245 – non-mother, above average height, slender, pre-geriatric. Sighting Number 54. Subject aloft di-wheeled transport vehicle”, Ariel murmured into the recorder as she inscribed the memory carefully onto her Hippocampus.
She felt as though she knew him, as though they were comrades. A ridiculous thought to have – comrades that had never met. Comrades separated by vast space; one of the two entirely oblivious of the other’s existence. Ariel knew that the ‘connection’ she felt to Subject 245 was one of the hazards of her profession. Anthropologists, unlike the remaining community lived in two worlds rather than one. The study of Homo sapiens required, apart from diligent observation of the subject, a certain level of empathy. Professor Beldam had reiterated several times that to decipher the complex rituals and behaviours of the ancient beings it was essential to empathise. The Empath tutorials had presented the greatest challenge for most.
Not for Ariel, she had been the topper.
“Well dear, tell us how are things at the observatory? Still enjoying the little things scurrying around?” Mr. Triton inquired, condescension dripping from each word.
Ariel’s eyes twinkled and her Amygdalae lights blinked yellow and pink wildly, “Its great, Dad. Its even more fascinating than I had imagined it would be. Take the other day for instance, so we were doing the monthly analysis and we noticed that we have significant data indicating that their conversations can be influenced by facial expression. Now, I know what you’re thinking, we do-”
“Yes, now look here! It’s all great fun I am sure! But you know as well as I do, that it’s just not right! Ogling them like that! What’s next? Communication? Interaction?” He was red in the face and in the limbic system. Ariel’s fascination with the primitive species was incredulous to Mr. Triton.
He went on after drawing a deep breath, “Listen, darling, you know that the whole project is futile. You are dedicating your wonderful mind and all that exquisite circuitry on a group of organisms that don’t even have a Central Data Storage hub. They are single-minded. Single, not even uni-minded. Its vile; each of them floundering around alone and aimless”.
The study of human beings.
The word was borrowed from the Homo sapiens. They dedicated an entire field of academic minds to study themselves. It was one of Ariel’s favourite things about them. A species that had yet to understand itself completely; but simultaneously pursued – Astrophysics, Chemistry, Economics and Philosophy.
Some, like her father, thought the humans to be single-minded, each individual cut-off from the others, each thinking lonely thoughts in their solitary minds. To Ariel, they seemed many-minded.
When Professor Beldam came to her with the proposal, Ariel fought hard to keep a straight face. She then spent the remaining day singing softly under her breath to calm herself. She still needed to tell her father that she would be going down to Earth for fieldwork. She would have to go through several months of training. She would also have to extricate herself from the System. Extrication from the System implied that if vital termination occurred, upload to the Network would not be possible. She would then cease to exist. Luckily, Ariel was going on a round-trip. Still, even distance from the System would mean that her Sensory Cortex could be affected. She could lose any or all of her sensory abilities. Ariel shrugged off those thoughts, there was only a 15% risk of losing a single sense perception function, losing sense perception entirely was a 0.02% risk. Vital termination statistics were not available. It was right there in the math, she would be fine.
Her father, she remembered, would not feel the same way.
/Central Nervous Systems restoring/
/Cerebral functions restoring/
She had to override her micro-system.
She seemed to have an error in vocalisation. Her auditory cortex appeared to be intact, so speech perception would probably be normal. Impairment of vocal speech was going to be problematic; integration would now be far more time-consuming. Ariel assured herself that she had been lucky, visual or auditory impairments could have occurred just as easily and would have been far more troubling. She also had some leg cramps.
Ariel was the first on Earth!
Her first interaction was with a species of the Canis genus. The creature or ‘Doggy’ as she had seen her subjects address it, was not hostile.
She was well prepared for the trip. Years of research had all led up to this – to see Homo sapiens up close, speaking in that rapid way, gesticulating wildly, their faces changing with the tone of their voices. She was enamored by each and every one of them. Different faces, different voices, different expressions. The lack of homogeneity would have seemed brutish to her father; she smiled to herself. To her it was exquisite, they were exquisite.
One aspect of the humans that Ariel could not come to terms with was their ephemeral nature. They decayed over a period. She came to understand, through close observation that they too struggled to accept the finality of their inevitable demise. She found that some among them united due to faith in complex fabricated explanations of their brief existence.
She, first, realised that something was not quite right when she attempted to send some data to the System. There was no syntax error, no logic error. Somehow, she was unable to upload the information even to the Platform-Queue.
She had not been receiving data either. There was no way of knowing how long Connect had been down. There was no protocol in place to deal with this.
This meant that she was disconnected.
There was no way for them to trace her.
It meant that she was just like them. She was human. She was Alive.
She was Dead.
Photo Credit: Emily Carroll