In the year 2420, humans stopped searching for intelligent life. They found thousands of new lives, such as bacteria, DNA fragments, unicellular organisms – but they have never found anything close to a semi-complex form of life.
The first alien encounter was in 2122, when a cargo ship coming back from Ceres hit an asteroid. The crew died in the accident, but the recovery team found that the cargo was covered by a thin biological layer – the first alien life ever found, in the form of a bacteria colony. It was named Methuselah, because the analysis found that it was approximately 969 million years old.
The scientific community began to speculate that life on Earth hadn’t started on planet Earth, but was seeded thanks to alien lives. They had some interesting theories about how and when those bacteria had first arrived on the blue planet. One scientist even claimed to have found the exact spot of the impact of the seeding asteroids.
After that amazing discovery, the Global Scientific Organization (GSO) invested 45% of the worldwide GDP in financing scientific expeditions all around the solar system and beyond. By the end of the century, there where Class-S vessels everywhere, scanning every single cubic meter of space.
It took 45 years of nothingness to find the second trace of non-terrestrial life. In 2175, the Class-S vessel “Prince II” scanned the surface of Charon, one of Pluto’s moons, and found an entire DNA segment. It was in a perfect state of conservation. After analyzing it on board, the crew discovered that it was the exact replica of an amoeba’s DNA.
At the time, scientists had a lot of difficulty understanding how a DNA strand could have been stuck on a planet without any chances of reproduction. The theory of intergalactic seeding was easy to align with comets and asteroids, but Charon had never collided with Earth. Scientists could not explain how the exact same DNA existed in two places that had never touched each other.
The answer to that question arrived 25 years later, when the Voyager X probe landed back on Ganymede after a 100-year journey. The analysis of the hull showed that it was covered with microscopic Archaea, which is also found in the Sulphur lake on the island of Java. This proved that life was really common and boring. It had the same shape, same rules and same laws no matter where it thrived.
Life had a fixed asset and a fixed rate of developing. The only variable in the equations was the environment. In the right place, life could flourish and develop. This was why Earth was the only planet with a significantly advanced form of life; humans were just lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. Considering everything that had been discovered throughout the solar system so far, scientists agreed that humans were the most advanced form of life in the visible universe.
This is how the Gaia doctrine was established. It was formed by two assumptions:
(1) Life is the same everywhere. The chances of finding another intelligent life form depends on how long it takes to develop technology that allows interstellar travel.
(2) The universe is expanding faster than light, which means that humans are unlikely to ever be able to meet any advanced form of life.
Humans realized that finding an exceptional life form in space was useless, because they were already exceptional. The Gaia doctrine established the end of the search for intelligent life, and the beginning of the expansion of human intelligence.
“Goodnight, my dear.”
The room was dark. Through the curtains, the pale blue light of Earth was flickering. Mum carefully put the book back on the shelf, since Selene had fallen asleep. She was a very smart girl, and loved history and biology.
“One day,” Selene often said, “I’ll visit planet Earth and I will go swim in the ocean.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, sweetheart.” Mum slowly closed the door behind her.
Moon was the largest refugee camp in the solar system. It was established in 2450 by the Unified Government after the last War of Jupiter. In less than five years, armies from Mars and Earth had destroyed two-thirds of life across the solar system. The last battles were fought around the moons of Jupiter for the same old reason: the control of resources. Those moons were packed with rare metals, nitrogen and ice water.
Mars was developing faster than Earth, but it lacked resources. Earth was the political center of the solar system and couldn’t allow Mars to overtake its authority. Selene and her family were living on Europa when the Galaga-5 Martian warship dropped its nuclear weapons. They were lucky to live on the right half of the satellite. The war escalated so rapidly that it was clear that human beings were on the verge of the self-oblivion.
In 2450, Martians and terrestrials decided that they had enough, and divided the solar system into sectors of influence. Moon became neutral and was converted into a refugee camp for those who had lost their homes during the war. But being neutral meant that neither Mars nor Earth were responsible for its development. The refugees had to take care of their own lives, producing their own food and establishing their own systems. The only way of leaving a refugee camp was being sponsored by a planetary company, and the chances of that were roughly zero, unless you had very special skills.
“Wake up, kid! Wake up! You’ll be late for your shift.” Mum’s voice called out from the speakers.
“I don’t want to, I hate my shift.” Selene twisted in her blankets.
“Selene, unfasten your bed-belts and get up. I want you downstairs now. No whining!”
Selene lived in a geodesic dome in Camp A47. It was one of the first parts of the camp to be built, so it had a lot of issues. It was cold, the pressure was uneven and sometimes the gravity balancer didn’t work. They had to fasten themselves onto their beds at night to avoid unexpected floating.
“Mum, where’s my breakfast?” Selene shouted as she climbed down the stairs.
“You are late, my dear. You’ve missed it. Next time, wake up earlier and maybe you’ll get breakfast.”
“I’m hungry! I can’t start my shift without eating!”
“Take this and run. The transport is coming.” Mum gave her a plastic container with food. “You can eat it on board. Off you go now.”
Refugees had to work to keep the whole base active; unemployment was something no one had ever heard of. Everybody had to do something. The only limits were age and health. For that reason, elderly and sick refugees were discriminated against. They were considered useless, just a waste of space and air.
“Goodbye Mum, I’ll see you after my shift.” Selene grabbed her breakfast and rushed downstairs to the basement.
Each dome was built on a bunker that was linked to Moon’s transportation system – it was designed like the twenty-first century London Underground. Moon had more than 50 million refugees in roughly 10 million domes. The whole system was powered by solar panels made by lunar sand that was cheaper than silicon and with a higher yield compared to the one produced on Earth.
The breathable oxygen was also made by another kind of lunar sand, the so-called regolith – by first placing it into a hot batch of molten calcium chloride salt, then running an electrical current through the mixture. This allows the oxygen previously trapped in the lunar rocks to migrate to an electrode to be captured. Air on Moon is even better than the average air on Earth. But water cannot be made out of sand, which is why refugees often bartered their solar panels for clean water. It was the only way to survive in such a harsh environment.
“We are now approaching platform number seven, the Greenhouses. Prepare your unboarding pass.”
Selene, alongside some of the other children, was responsible for the production of vegetables. The Greenhouses were huge domes made from reinforced steel and UV-filtered glass, and were the only source of food for the refugees. They were generally all vegan, but the luckiest kept chickens and pigeons in their shelters. Some refugees had tried to breed sheep and goats for a while, without success.
The whole lunar system was a closed loop economy. The Greenhouses produced regular hydroponic crops. Any leftovers from the crops, along with food scraps from camp; were used to produce compost. Water from the compost was then recycled into the system using biologic filters. Nothing was wasted, everything was reused. Moon had become a model of efficiency for Mars and Earth; the refugees demonstrated how to be frugal, effective and peaceful.
The train stopped smoothly, Selene stepped out and showed her unboarding pass to the scanner. The doors buzzed open and she climbed the stairs up to the ground level. She was late.
“Hi Merz, I’m ready to work!”
“Good morning, Selene – you are so late! You’re lucky the supervisor hasn’t checked us yet. Come on, come here and grab those scissors. It’s time to harvest tomatoes.”
“Are you sure? They don’t seem too ripe. I think we should wait a couple of days. The UV filters block some wavelengths, especially between 650nm and 720nm. You should have known that.”
“Who cares about two days? They are nice and juicy. Let’s harvest them.”
“But this isn’t Earth. We must optimize every inch of land and every single drop of water. Just wait two more days and we’ll have 7% more juice.”
“Selene, you are so strange. If the supervisor asks me why the tomatoes haven’t been harvested, I’ll tell him it’s your fault!”
“Trust me, they won’t be upset. They want us to be productive.”
“Oh look, there’s Trish. I bet she’s in trouble again. She hates harvesting bell peppers. Let’s go say hello!”
The Greenhouses were managed by a few adult supervisors and hundreds of little girls. Their small hands were perfect for handling the fragile vegetables. On Moon, gravity wasn’t as strong as it was on Earth, so vegetables – and people – were weaker than their terrestrial counterparts.
“Hi Trish, is everything okay with the bell peppers?” Merz smiled with her deep blue eyes.
“Oh haha, Merz, you are so funny. You know I hate peppers. I told the supervisors that I’m allergic, but they don’t care. They just laugh me away.” Trish replied angrily.
“They don’t care because you’re a liar.” Selene rolled her eyes. “You aren’t allergic! They know everything about us, they screen our health on a monthly basis. You’re just lazy and afraid of damaging the peppers. I told you hundreds of times how to handle that. You need to grab the whole pepper from the apex, then gently twist the pedicel without damaging the calyx or the exocarp. If you just tear it away, you’ll just spoil the placenta and the seeds. You know the seeds are the most important things here, don’t you?”
“Who’s in charge of the tomatoes?” thundered one of the supervisors.
“I am, Sir,” replied Selene, springing up from the plants like a grasshopper. “I’m in charge of the tomatoes, Sir.”
“Do you know what ‘in charge’ means?”
“I do, Sir. It means that I’m responsible for their growth, Sir.”
“Do you know why we grow food, kid?”
“Yes, Sir. Because we need to eat.”
“If we need to eat, can you explain why those damn tomatoes are still on the vines? Do you like rotten tomatoes? Or are you just waiting for some mold to eat it? Do you like mold, little brat?”
“No, Sir. I don’t like mold. I’ve just analyzed the ripening state of the tomatoes and realized that they still need two more days to grow, Sir. The UV screens block the redshift wavelength and it takes longer for the tomatoes to fully ripen, Sir.”
“Wavelength? Are you a damn engineer? You are here to harvest vegetables, you fool. How old are you?”
“I’m twelve on Sunday, Sir.”
“You weird little kid! I bet Mr. Gamble has a few words for you. Follow me.”
The supervisor turned and walked away from the kids. Selene shrugged at her friends and followed the tall man.
Moon was a huge warehouse where Mars and Earth could pick up commodities and people. The planets divided their spheres of competences and divided their market share, especially the marketplace of human beings. Earth had the privilege of choosing the best soldiers and engineers, while Mars was more interested in farmers and architects. They had bureaus all over Moon and supervisors who were paid to scout the best among the refugees. Mr. Gamble was one of the most influential Martians in the solar system.
“If you’re smart, you could fly away from this sterile rock. Don’t screw up your future, kid.”
“Thank you for your help, Sir. I won’t disappoint you, Sir.”
“Here we are. Wait here and don’t move.”
The supervisor knocked three times on an iron door. A small hatch opened in the middle of the door. Selene was too short to see inside, but there was a very bright white light that came out from the hatch.
“Good morning, Mr. Gamble. May I have the permission to show you an interesting element?”
“Mr. Creek, good morning. You have permission to enter.”
An invisible hand slammed the hatch shut and opened the squeaky iron door. Selene was still blocked by the supervisor and couldn’t see anything past him but a big iron desk.
“Where is your element, Mr. Creek?”
“Here she is.” He stepped aside and exposed Selene to the bright light of the office.
“Little girl, do you know who I am?” Mr. Gamble leaned over his iron desk, trying to guess her age. “You are very young, aren’t you?”
“I’m twelve on Sunday, Sir.”
“And what’s your name?”
“My name is Selene, Sir.”
“Selene? What a lovely name! Do you know the meaning of your name, my dear?”
“No, Sir. I’ve never thought that names had any meanings at all, Sir.”
“Stop with those Sirs, just call me Mr. Gamble. My first name is Peter, which means ‘rock’ – did you know that? Of course not, you don’t even know the meaning of your own name.”
“No, you’re right, Mr. Gamble. I didn’t know that.”
“Do you want to know the meaning of your name?”
“Yes, Mr. Gamble. I love learning new things.”
“Well, my dear, in Ancient Earth Greek mythology, Selene was a lunar deity. The word ‘Selene’ was used for describing the moon. My dear, your name is the same as the place where you live.”
“Are you serious? I can’t believe I’m named after Moon! I’m Moon!”
“Your parents chose a very beautiful name for you. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Europa, but we were forced to leave after the Wars of Jupiter.”
“Selene, Europa, Jupiter. It’s a very strange mixture. Are you aware of this?”
“No, I’m not, Mr. Gamble?”
“I bet your parents are quite clever. Europa was another Ancient Earth Greek mythological figure, who was abducted by Zeus, also known as Jupiter. I guess you are a special girl, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Gamble. I’m just me.”
“If you’re here, then you are special. There’s no doubt. Mr. Creek, is she special?” he asked, without looking away from her.
“Yes, she is. She knows about wavelengths and more advanced matters,” replied Mr. Creek.
“Okay, let’s test her. Then let her go back to work – we need everybody’s efforts in the Greenhouses.”
Selene was afraid of failing. She knew that Mr. Gamble was a sponsor and could help her fly away from Moon. It was a once in a lifetime chance for her.
“Selene, last year we lost one-third of our lettuce crops. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with them until we sent a sample to Earth. We spent a lot of money and it took seven days to get results. The leaves turned dark yellow five days before the harvest. Do you know what happened?”
“Was it the outer leaves or the inner leaves?”
“The outer leaves first, then the inner leaves after five days. We had to throw it all into the compost machine.”
“I think it was Xanthomonas. It’s not very common here on Moon. Maybe some terrestrial water hadn’t been filtered with the proper membranes, I guess.”
“How did you know that? We spent one month’s worth of potatoes just to send the samples to Earth. Congratulations Selene, I’ll be your sponsor if you want to move out of the refugee camps.”
Selene was so happy that she didn’t think about the fact that she had never studied botanicals or biology. She just knew things without knowing how.
“Oh Mr. Gamble, thank you so much. I really am grateful for this opportunity. I won’t disappoint you.”
“Of course you won’t. But please leave me alone now, I’ve got an important call. Go back to work if you don’t want to disappoint me.” Mr. Gamble smiled pleasantly at her, pushed a small red button on the right corner of his iron desk and grabbed his communicator.
The door squeaked, Mr. Creek saluted and grabbed Selene’s shoulder. She absentmindedly stood in front of the desk like a statue for a few more seconds.
“Have a nice day, Mr. Peter Gamble.”
They walked away and the squeaky iron door closed behind them.
“Hello, it’s Peter. Yes, we have just found one. She’s perfect and she’s ready to leave.”
The morning shift was about to end, but Selene was so excited that she didn’t realize how late it was. She hurried with her morning routine, running and jumping between the rows of vegetables with her basket full of onions, as if she was dancing. She knew that her life on Moon was going to end soon. But she didn’t know that her life was going to change for good.
“Selene, where have you been? You left us in the middle of the shift and we had to cover your work as well!” Merz was upset and blocked her passage.
“Yeah Selene, thanks a lot! You owe us a shift tomorrow. I had to pick those stupid bell peppers all by myself and you know how much I hate them! Look at my basket – they are all ruined because of your stupid method.” Trish thrust her basket right in Selene’s face.
“Calm down, Trish, I told you how to do it properly. It’s your fault because you are lazy.” Selene replied pushing away the basket with her hand full of dirt.
“You’re lazy, not me! You are lazy like your Mum. She’s the only one who stays at home all day, as if you were on Mars or Earth. She’s a scrounger. You are both scroungers!”
“We are not scroungers! We are not lazy! We are not–”
“The shift is over. The shift is over. All farmers have five minutes to grab their belongings and return home. The shift is over.” The powerful speakers shouted the message all around the Greenhouses. Farmers had to leave quickly so that the next shift could begin. The living space on Moon was limited, so everybody had to act like bees in a giant hive.
“Haven’t you heard the speakers? We’ve got to move – you don’t want to do a double-shift today, do you?” Selene pushed past her friends and ran away, dropping some onions from her basket. “See you tomorrow, folks!” she shouted, running through the blooming indigo artichokes.
All farmers had to pass inspection at the end of each shift to prevent them smuggling food or tools. Mars and Earth decided that Moon wasn’t allowed to have any currency, so the only way of doing business was by bartering, which was why stealing and smuggling were common on Moon. Even kids were trained to steal anything possible.
“Next, please. Come here and put your basket on the scale. Next, please.” The gate was right before the exit door and was guarded by two supervisors. There was a scale for weighing both the basket and the farmer. Each farmer had a strict daily harvesting quota. If they didn’t harvest enough vegetables, they were forced to go back and do a second shift.
“Put your basket on the scale and come here.”
Selene put her basket and stepped on the scale. Her weight was acceptable but there was a problem with her onions.
“You were supposed to harvest ten pounds of vegetables, but the scale marks just nine pounds and four ounces. You have missed your daily goal. Go back to work, you lazy little kid.”
“I didn’t miss anything!” Selene cried out. “That scale is broken. I never miss a single ounce of food!”
“Hey Selene, you dropped some of these.” Merz stretched her arm over Selene’s left shoulder. She was holding two onions.
“Thank you so much, Merz!” Selene turned her head and grinned at Merz.
“Ten pounds and three ounces. You can go home, kid.”
Selene passed through the checkpoint and walked towards the lift. She pushed the button and the door opened.
“To the train station please,” she said to the speaker, before turning to her friend. “See you tomorrow, Merz!”
The door closed while she waved with her tiny hand full of dirt.
The lift went down, then stopped four levels underground. Selene got out of the lift, which quickly closed behind her. She waited on the platform for the next train to take her back home.
Exactly fifty meters above her, Mr. Gamble pushed the small red button on the right corner of his iron desk.
“Good afternoon, Peter. Long time no see, huh?”
“Good afternoon, Matt, It’s been a while.”
Mr. Mathew Goddard was the Chief of the Moon Security Bureau. He was in charge of controlling the whole satellite. He had the power to decide whether or not Mars and Earth could even talk to Moon. He was a former Martian captain who commanded the forty-fifth marine corps in the Battle of San Diego. After the Wars of Jupiter, he was awarded as one of the best soldiers of the last century, both from Mars and Earth. This was why they decided to put him in charge of Moon.
“I hope you called me for a good reason. I was playing golf in the outskirts.”
“Still playing golf? I’m sorry, but playing at a quarter of the gravity is not the same. I don’t even know if it could still be called golf.” Mr. Gamble handed him a thick glass tumbler with ice cubes.
“Ice cubes? You’re too fancy for a lunar. Are you going to pour me some of that terrestrial whisky or that horrible booze you offer to your colleagues?” Mr. Goddard pointed his finger at the wooden cabinet next to the window.
“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” Mr. Gamble smiled and opened the cabinet.
“Peter, I don’t like any ‘e’ in my whisky.”
“Enough said. Here’s your juice from Earth Scotland.” Mr. Gamble poured a good sip of whisky and left the bottle on the side of his desk.
“So, tell me – what’s the big deal? Did you find someone gifted or what?”
“Yes, my dear friend, I did. I’ve just found a gifted little girl this morning. She knew things that even our best scientists don’t know. And she’s just eleven!”
“Are you sure she’s not a filthy terrestrial spy? Or some kind of inactive Martian soldier?”
“I’m sure. Her mum is a Model B and it’s been with her since the beginning of the experiment. We know everything at every moment.”
“Do you still use the Model B? You should save some resources for a cyborg update instead of wasting them on ice cubes.”
“She’s a little kid. She won’t notice that her mum isn’t a real human, or lunar, or needs an update.”
They both laughed loud and toasted to their little experiment named Selene, child of Moon.
“Hey Mum, I’m back. Where are you? I’m so hungry. Come here, I need to talk to you. I met Mr. Peter Gamble. Do you know him? Mum, where are you?”
“Stop screaming, you little monkey! What’s wrong with you?” Mum emerged from the kitchen holding a pan. “Do you feel like some scrambled eggs?”
“Eggs? Where did you find eggs?” Selene asked with her eyes full of joy. “I love eggs!”
“I know you do, my dear. I’m your mum and I know everything about you. Go wash your dirty monkey paws first.”
Selene ran to the bathroom and washed her hands, then jumped into the kitchen, grabbing a chair.
“You’re dripping all over! Haven’t you ever heard of towels?” Mum scolded her while she was serving the scrambled eggs at the table. “Here you are, my love, and chew slowly. Don’t swallow it like a snake.”
“Mum, I met Mr. Gamble today. His office is on the upper floor of the Greenhouses. He told me I’m smart and even said he would be my sponsor! You know what that means? We could get away from Moon! He also told me that my name means Moon. Did you know that? Of course you did, that’s why you chose it, didn’t you?” Selene was talking and chewing so quickly that she was about to choke.
“Calm down, my dear! Eat first. Enjoy your meal and then we will talk about Mr. Gamble.”
Selene took a deep sip of fresh water and asked, “Mum, why don’t you work? Everybody but you works. I was told that all the refugees had to work. Are you special?”
“My dear, I work every day and every night. I cook, I clean, I wake you up. Isn’t that a job?”
“You know what I mean – I’m talking about leaving the house to work. You’re the only one I know who stays home all day. You never go out. Trish told me that you don’t work because you are a lazy scrounger.”
“Selene, I do have a job here and it’s with you. This is my job.”
“Okay, so that makes me your boss, right? So, you’re fired. It’s time for you to find another job.”
“Are you firing me?” Her mum slowly rose from the chair. “Do you want me to quit my tasks?”
“Yes, I do. Terminate all your tasks,” Selene replied smiling. “And don’t forget to clean before leaving.”
A strange buzz echoed all around the dome. Her mum was standing up with her arms straight out. Her neck was rigid and her eyes were looking out into the void.
“Mum, what are you doing? You’re scaring me!” Selene jumped out of her chair and stepped back.
All of a sudden, her mum closed her eyes and fell to the ground.
“Mum what’s wrong with you? MUM?! Somebody help me, please!” Selene was shocked. She saw her mum dying right in front her eyes for no reason at all. “Mum, please wake up. Wake up!”
She put her ear on her mum’s chest, trying to understand what was wrong. “I can’t hear your heart. Mum, please wake up! Don’t die, I don’t want to be alone. I need you. Please come back to me!”
Selene, in a desperate attempt of resuscitation, began to hit her mum’s chest with her fists to restart her heart. But instead of hearing a heartbeat, she heard a strange continuous buzz.
“What’s that noise?”
Her mum opened her right eye. It was completely white for a couple of seconds, then began to flicker with a pale blue light. There was something noted on it. Selene leaned over her mum’s face and realized that in the middle of her eye, there was a word written in a tiny font: “Rebooting”.
“My mum is a cyborg...” Selene was paralyzed. Her mum was nothing but a machine.
The communicator beeped for a minute. Then it fell silent. Then it beeped again loudly.
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Don’t hang up. Hello? Peter Gamble here, what’s the problem?”
Selene was in a catatonic state, lying next to her mum’s body. Her mind was completely blank. She was totally numb, as if she was floating into space: no sound, no gravity, just the blistering cold. She couldn’t feel anything. She didn’t realize that her dome was packed with agents from the Bureau. Somebody took her head into his hands and spoke to her, but she couldn’t hear anything.
“Selene, wake up! Can you hear me? Wake up!” Mr. Gamble was down on his knees, shaking her. “She’s out. Maybe she wasn’t ready for that shock. Please call the medic squad.”
Selene felt weightless. Time began to slow down. The people were moving around her slower and slower, as if she was travelling at the speed of light. A man in a white coat pointed a light straight into her eye. She couldn’t feel anything. She wasn’t alive, but she wasn’t dead.
“You told me she was ready. Can you please explain what happened?”
“She couldn’t manage the stress and blacked out. That’s it.”
Mr. Gamble and Mr. Goddard were standing in a small white room with no windows. The walls emitted a strange whitish glow, the only source of light. In the middle of the room was Selene, dressed in white, laying on a bed with white linen.
“She’s in coma, Peter. I can’t understand why you keep on making the same mistake. We’ve been doing the same experiment for years and we always have the very same results: dead brains.” Mr. Goddard was pushing his thumb against her forehead, back and forth.
“There is something wrong with the memory seeding, I guess. Too much pain, the stress of the war, nuclear explosions. Why can’t we just override their memory with normal images?”
“Peter, we need soldiers – humans are prepared to overcome anything. We need individuals with superior psychic and physical qualities, and we need them now. Our enemies are humans, so our soldiers must be superhumans.”
“She was nice. I feel sorry for her.” Mr. Gamble stared at her tiny hands with melancholy. “She loved growing vegetables.”
In the year 2480, the Gaia doctrine was completely abandoned after the gargantuan explosion of an alien device. It was the fourth sign of alien life, but this time they were far more advanced than us. We still don’t know who they are, where they came from or why they want to destroy our civilization. The only thing we do know is that people like Mr. Goddard and Mr. Gamble are working for the Ark project: we are trying to create artificial superhumans and deceive the laws of evolution. Sometimes we succeed, but nine out of ten experiments end up in the compost.
On Moon, nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed.