Gaiastan, Chapter 2

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Chapter 2

“Mr. Indigo,” asked a young man dressed in lab coat. “Your test results indicate that you are making good progress.” He announced this with an authoritative, baritone voice that seemed mismatched with his youthful features. “…All your bone density scans are near normal. Your muscle mass is responding well to the electrolysis and the isometric regimen. Your chart even shows that your psychological variability has nearly returned to acceptable ranges. Things are looking good for your timely re-assimilation.”

“Aren’t you a little young for a senior physician?” Indigo asked, still groggy from the early morning medical wakeup call. It was a question that exceeded the acceptable ranges of social protocol. His follow-up of “You look barely out of med school,” was soon followed by a queasiness in his stomach.

The internish-looking doctor chuckled. “This is my sixtieth year in the medical profession.”

“Funny,” Indigo replied. “You don’t look a day over twenty-five years old.”

The doctor was un-amused. He whispered downward into his clipboard, “Patient still displaying some class 4, asocial outbursts… assuming it to be episodic only.” He grinned a phony grin at Indigo, then continued speaking into his clipboard. “Typical, interpersonal bluntness often associated with post traumatic stress. Normal aspect of recovery from long-duration-isolation. Prescribing anti-psychotics and opiates. I do not expect this to be an obstacle to social reintroduction on the predetermined schedule… still expecting full, seamless social harmonization.”

Indigo felt a little offended at the doctor’s public diagnosis but his thoughts were diverted to his growing nausea. In hopes of bringing relief, he changed the subject. “So what’s up for today, doc? Swimming pool? Isometrics? Four hours of holovision[1]? I’m bored with holovision. It seems like such a waste of time. Maybe we could go outside, today?”

The doctor cocked his head and gave Indigo a curious look before responding. “Those holovision sessions may seem insipid and pointless to you but they are invaluable as part of a complete program of social re-integration therapy. Those holovision programs help to recondition your brain into thinking like a functional member of Gaian society. You were away from Gaia for eighteen months, Indigo. Your brain needs to be retrained as to what constitutes appropriate behavior.”

“I didn’t like holovision before I became an astronaut.”

“Well, Mr. Indigo, you are a free man. You are always free to choose the choices prescribed to you. You can watch four hours of holovision or you can do four hours of communal therapy. Should I wheel you into the Green Room? I believe a session is about to begin.”

Indigo’s face filled with disappointment at the ‘freedom’ embedded in the doctor’s Hobson’s choice. The doctor dropped his clipboard down to his side and, in the most condescending tone imaginable— even for a doctor— he asked, “Please tell me, Indigo, why are we so ungreen[2] this morning?”

Indigo didn’t answer but was convinced that it should have been obvious. Four weeks of intensive rehabilitation in what amounted to a prison was fueling an irritability that thinly veiled an emerging depression. Humans need sunlight and fresh air. The irradiative welding arc of the sun that astronauts are blinded with in space does them no good. Humans must have the warm, golden glow of the sun whose healing rays are gently diffused by the earth’s atmosphere. Indigo yearned for the sunlight of earth. He conveyed this line of thought to the doctor with a mere longing glance towards the window. Indigo’s disappointed body language was interpreted imperfectly by the senior physician.

“Indigo,” the doctor said with a faint smile which revealed only a superficial understanding of Indigo’s longing, “we’re rapidly approaching the end of the program, here. You’ll be out in two months, depending partly on how you test out this week. I think you should be looking forward to your final days in convalescence. When you are out of here, you are going to experience a tremendous amount of psychological strain. Your obligations to Gaiastan will weigh heavily upon you. You’ll have to endure your National Triumph. You’ll have numerous public engagements and media events to deal with. There will be an endless list of demands placed upon your limited time. It’s going to be quite stressful, Indigo. The expectations are very high. Gaiastan expects much from those to whom it gives much. You should consider this insulated and antiseptic place as more of a spa than a prison.”

Indigo was well aware of all that. All he wanted was to go outside and absorb some sunlight and breathe some fresh air, but he didn’t want to press the doctor who was keeping a tally of his asocial outbursts. “Of course,” Indigo replied, with emotionless monotone.

The baby-faced doctor smiled again, faintly but genuinely, and turned to leave the room.

“Oh, wait,” Indigo called, stopping the doctor in his tracks. “What can you tell me about Staley? I haven’t seen him or heard anything.”

The doctor grimaced a little while pondering his response. “Let’s see. Ahem… well… his physical health is… uh… I suppose the best way to describe it is ‘fair’. His recovery is definitely behind schedule.”

This came as no surprise to Indigo.

The doctor continued. “I don’t have to tell you that the actions Staley was required to take out there, which were all necessitated by the challenges presented by the mission, have weighed very heavily upon him. Unlike you, Indigo, Staley hasn’t accepted those events as rational necessities in pursuit of the greater good.”

“So what can be done for him?”

“We’re doing everything we can, now. We are hoping that, with time and electro-shock therapy, he will become more receptive to the social re-harmonization program.”

“Maybe I could speak to him?”

“We don’t think that is appropriate for you or for Staley just yet. We don’t want you two to catalyze each other’s psychological dysfunction. You aren’t completely rehabilitated either, Indigo. But don’t worry, when we get his mind healed, you will get plenty of hours together to share your Mars experience.

The doctor left and Indigo spent the next four hours absorbing cultural re-assimilation via holovision while nurses extracted his blood, urine, and stool, scanned his vitals, and removed an array of nodes glued to his shaved scalp.

 

#

 

Three days passed during which Indigo never left his hospital room except for his morning underwater yoga sessions, but it was the ninth day of the week and Nineday[3] meant ‘download day’. Twoday, Fiveday and Nineday were always ‘download days’. The ritual began at 4 (four hours after sunrise) when a nurse would appear with a tray of nodes and a tube of adhesive. Indigo would be propped up in bed and then the nurse would squeeze a dollop of goo onto the back of forty nodes and squish each of them onto strategic points located on his scalp. Once properly aligned and tested, Indigo would be wheeled by chair out of his room, down a glossy cement corridor, and into the opposite end of the wing. They would take an elevator there down into the depths of the deepest hospital basement where the possibility of electromagnetic interference is minimal.

The ‘download’ or ‘brain dump’ procedure, as it was popularly known, was part of what the doctors called Social Harmonization and Integration in Virtuality (aka the SHIV Test for short). Indigo was fitted with a crown of interwoven and intertwining receptor wires which comprised a halo array designed to capture, map and relay the transmissions of his synapses as they responded to stimulation beamed from the nodes glued to his scalp. Indigo’s 100 trillion neurons and 100 quadrillion neural pathways were mapped in about two hours creating what amounted to a 95% accurate copy of Indigo’s consciousness. Once activated, Indigo, at least in the consciousness sense, existed simultaneously in two dimensions: one terrestrial and one virtual. And as the terrestrial Indigo was wheeled back into his hospital room to be bombarded by mind-numbing holovision, the virtual version of Indigo was brought to life in a simulated reality and bombarded with hundreds of stressing events. From the virtual Indigo’s responses to these stimuli, the doctors could determine just exactly how ‘harmonic’ the terrestrial Indigo’s social reactions would be, if he were to be released into society at that moment. It was very important for the authorities to understand and predict how everyone of any consequence would behave in any circumstance. All usefuls went through frequent consciousness downloads and testing

“I don’t understand why you don’t just take the consciousness stored by my immortality locket. All this fuss with nodes and downloads seems like a waste to me,” Indigo whined.

“Relax,” the technician suggested in a soothing voice just as colors and sensations and mild emotional responses and Mandelbrot patterns spilled into Indigo’s mind’s eye. “We never interface with the locket. Who knows what could get uploaded into Greater Virtuality[4]? It’s too easy to introduce corruption routines and viruses.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Indigo replied.

“Besides, a locket download would be complete as it’s done every hour,” Continued the tech. “It’s a 99% accurate mapping. I think I’d be more concerned with what they’d find in the deepest 4% of my mind. Having all my thoughts, memories, and neurosis captured by a quantum-computer and thoroughly examined by a gang of patho-bureaucrats is kind of creepy,” he explained as he monitored the system displays for errors. “But then again, if you don’t think ungreen thoughts about anything, what do you have to hide?”

Indigo found the technician’s diatribe annoying. The techie couldn’t be much higher than third or fourth degree in rank. Who in the hell was he to even attempt a philosophical discourse with someone of Indigo’s level? Indigo said nothing but the techie continued, nevertheless…

“I think the entire notion of our mind being our own is utterly wrong.”

“I don’t care,” Indigo thought.

“What I’m trying to say is: does it really matter if your will is limited by some omnipotent super-being or by some universal, karmic force, or even by just some biochemical accident? Doesn’t it all lead one to the same conclusion?”

“Please shut up!” Indigo thought.

“Do we really own our minds, Indigo? Ha! Does it matter if you answer to some god or the government or your genome? Doesn’t all that imply that we are just slaves? I must admit that I don’t believe in free will at all.”

“Boring. Boring. Boring.” Indigo thought. “‘Free will’ had been debunked by scientists centuries ago. Please shut the hell up so we can get this over with and I can get back to my holovision,” he muttered.

The techie’s perspective may very well have been an accurate description of reality for men in-the-flesh, but for the downloaded version of Indigo, it was a less ambiguous existential framework. The simulated Indigo was, for all intents and purposes, alive, if existing only in an experimental Virtuality. Virtual Indigo had all of terrestrial Indigo’s memories and experience, 95% of them, anyway. He thought and saw and heard and felt and tasted. To the virtual Indigo, the emotions of love and hate and fear and ease and anger and joy and envy and all the rest were all completely real to him, molded by his genome and his simulated lifetime of experiences. The virtual Indigo’s mind was alive, whatever that means, but there was no doubt as to who owned it. The SHIV test patho-bureaucrats were the virtual Indigo’s pantheon of unknowable gods.

Indigo’s 95% virtual copy endured hundreds of simulation tests on that very day. He was presented with challenges ranging from eminent death, violence, and temptation; virtual Indigo was beaten, seduced, and bribed. It was noted that one test resulted in virtual Indigo attempting to upload a self-replicating variant of his consciousness into the cloud to foment chaos. Another showed that his simian mental reflexes pertaining to breeding and family protectiveness exceeded the acceptable aggression/response ranges. ‘Families’ were an anachronism for anyone of Overman class— a relic of an archaic social arrangement since the community crèche reared all the young of Gaiastan. These were extreme simulations, three standard deviation tests, ‘black swan’ events as they say. The scenarios that triggered virtual Indigo’s failed responses were tossed out as outliers.

With the testing complete, Virtual Indigo, who was enjoying a holiday respite on a virtual tropical beach, half-loaded on virtual mojitos, was terminated by his gods with a mere keystroke entry. Delete.

 

Rest in peace, Virtual Indigo.

 

Unlike Virtual Indigo, the Virtual Staley failed miserably at nearly all of the scenarios of the SHIV Test. The doctors needed more time to unwind the knots of mental illness that had intertwined themselves within Staley’s brain by the nightmare that was their mission to Mars. Unfortunately, the political bureaucrats were applying pressure on the medical bureaucrats to get their two National Heroes out on their celebratory Triumph.

“Gaiastan demands her heroes!” argued the political bureaucrats.

“They are not healed, yet,” argued the medical bureaucrats. “They need more therapy!”

“Gaia cannot wait any longer,” the political bureaucrats answered. “The window of opportunity to exploit their achievement is closing.”

“We cannot allow you to put Gaianism ahead of the mental health of these beings,” responded the medical bureaucrats. “They are not fit for the stress of a Triumph.”

“Gaia demands her Triumph!”

“Not until we release them from our care!”

“Oh, really?”

“Really!”

“Remind us again,” asked the political bureaucrats, “what was your budgetary request for next year?”

Long pause…

“We’ll have them ready to go by hour nine,” replied the doctors.

 

[1] Holovision: A black orb-shaped device that projects an immersive, 3D experience to those located within its immediate proximity.

[2] Ungreen: A negative connotation. An unpleasant demeanor, wrongminded thought, unfavorable outcome, or undesired circumstance. The opposite of green (in this context).

[3] Gaiastan operates on a metric calendar with ten, twenty hour days per week, beginning at sunrise, 9.1 weeks per season, and 4 seasons per year, each beginning on either the equinox or solstice.

[4] Virtuality (as in “Greater Virtuality” or “Heavenly Virtuality”): A concatenation of virtual and reality. A simulated, parallel universe where the consciousness of the physically dead is uploaded.

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