by George Potter
(parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
=== Part 1 ===
What, exactly, is society?
The answer to that question depends -- of course -- on who you ask.
Ask a liberal democrat and you'll more than likely get a bizarre fairy tale concerning some overarching godthing that matters ever so much more than the disposable, puling individuals that just so happen to make up their imaginary hoodoo fetish.
Ask a conservative republican and the answer will differ only in rhetoric. They'll spin it a different way -- adding high flown words about 'values' and traditions' and, more likely than not, whatever religious variant they happen to claim faith in.
Ask a libertarian or an anarchist and you'll at least get some heat. A measure of cynicism concerning the concept, perhaps even outright anger. It won't be positive, at least. Unfortunatly, it will still involve the overarching hoodoo -- as a devil rather than a god, but hoodoo nonetheless.
Big, invisible, inescapable thing that subsumes and commands individuals.
Nonsense, if you ask me.
This 'society as whole organism' concept is what Rose Wilder Lane blew big smoking holes through when she penned these beautiful, utterly true words in 1943:
To think of human society as an organism, developing, progressing, or retrograding, is to think like a bee -- if a bee thinks. It is to think as a pagan thinks. It is to imagine a fantasy.
In the human world there is no entity but the individual person. There is no force but individual energy. In actual human life the only real Society is every living person's contact with everyone he meets.
So far as Society has any real existence, it exists when boy meets girl, when Mrs. Jones telephones Mrs. Smith, when Robinson buys a cigar, when the motorist stops for gasoline, when a lobbyist tips a bellboy and when he meets a Congressman, and when the Congressman votes on a bill; when the postman delivers the mail and the labor bosses discuss a strike and the milliner brings another hat and the dentist says, "Wider, please." Human relationships are so infinitely numerous and varying every moment, that no human mind can begin to grasp them.
To call all these relationships Society, and then discuss the progress or welfare of Society, as if it existed as a bee-swarm does, is simply to escape from reality to fairyland.
-- What Was Wrong With The Old World?, Rose Wilder Lane
This concept is what Ludwig Von Mises devestated again and again in [i]Human Action[/i]:
Individual man is born into a socially organized environment. In this sense alone we may accept the saying that society is--logically or historically--antecedent to the individual. In every other sense this dictum is either empty or nonsensical. The individual lives and acts within society. But society is nothing but the combination of individuals for cooperative effort. It exists nowhere else than in the actions of individual men. It is a delusion to search for it outside the actions of individuals. To speak of a society's autonomous and independent existence, of its life, its soul, and its actions is a metaphor which can easily lead to crass errors.
-- Human Action Chapter VIII
It's odd that even the most diehard liberal or conservative will agree with Von Mises that society is, at base, the process of individuals interacting. They have to. As RWL astutely observed, to disagree is to 'retreat into fantasy.' If said diehards did indeed disagree, one would merely have to ask them to point to their society. To draw a picture of it. To describe its shape and form and function, to explain its mechanics, in simple descriptive terms.
They can't, of course. Mired as it is in dogmatic political nonsense, society becomes a non-concept -- a mystical concept as blind faith based as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Unlike those harmless conceits, however, the political definition of society is dangerous. It has, in fact, been used for centuries as the big club, the truncheon, in the ongoing devaluation of the individual. When you hear 'for the good of society', beware. It almost always means your individuality -- and your wealth, health, and dignity -- is in danger.
But, if society is the process of individuals interacting, how can it be somehow 'more important' than those same individuals? How can something created by the actions of individuals be used to belittle and harm them?
Because society as defined by the collectivists and powermongers and control freaks is an outright lie. Amusingly (if the bleakest of black humor amuses you), it's not even a well told lie. It is a ridiculous, inept, un-clever, clumsy lie. Loki himself would speak truth before he used such pathetic trickery. Satan would bow before heaven rather than resort to such childish fibbing.
Society, as posited, praised and worshipped by the beehivers and leash-holders, simply does not exist.
Society as it is, however, does exist. It is as real as math and music and logic and language. Far from devaluing individuals, it glorifies them. Rather than being 'more important' than our flickering firefly selves, it is our servent and greatest tool. Instead of beating us down, it raises us up to great heights and allows wondrous achievement.
Because I can point to society. I can draw you a picture of it. I can describe its shape and form and function and explain its mechanics, in simple descriptive terms.
Society is a map.
A map of mankind.
=== Part 2 ===
In any process of interaction, there must -- by definition -- be a common basis for that interaction. How, exactly, do we as individuals interact with each other?
This is an absurdly simple answer: We communicate. Every single peaceful interaction -- from the prosaic to the profound -- requires communication to happen. In fact, the only interaction possible without communication of some sort is brute violence, the thing that society exists to avoid.
Communication, eternal non-interaction, or violence -- those are the three choices.
Society is communication when all mystical notions are stripped away. Lines of communication.
Think on your daily life. Imagine yourself unable to communicate. No conversation, no information gathered or passed along, no trading or sharing of anything.
Daily life becomes literally impossible in such a nightmarish hypothetical.
Eons ago, for some unknown, wonderful reason, two groups of primitive folk met and decided not to fight. Instead, they attempted to figure each other out. They sat down and communicated. How they did this is unknown and probably unknowable. It also doesn't matter -- body language, grunting and pointing, symbols drawn in the dirt. All of those or none. No matter. What matters is that it worked. The two groups not only refrained from conflict, they probably traded. That first message was no doubt something of this nature:
"We need meat. We got lots of berries. You come from rocky place. No bushes there. You give meat, we give berries."
In that transformative, world changing unrecorded moment, civilization was born. The market came to pass. The division of labor reared its head. No longer did all needs and wants have to be provided via direct individual labor. No longer did a shortage in one area mean the hard cold fact of doing without. No longer did desire and need mean the dangerous and tragic necessity of violence.
The map of mankind that is society began to be sketched. Lightly and crudely at first, with a tentative hand. The cartographers of the proto-map had no idea if this map would prove trustworthy in the future. The trade partner of today might be the raider of tomorrow. That they tried nevertheless is something we modern humans owe them thanks for. It was an insightful and prescient risk that makes modern venture capitalists look like scared kids with Topps cards in the schoolyard. To those first map makers, taking a chance on this society racket was risking literally everything: the safety and security of their tribe. To them, those small family clusters were the entire world.
The risk paid off, though -- paid off so spectacularly that it's no exaggeration to say that all of modern civilization is just a dividend. For the first cartographers, the main payoff was the effect that communication had on their small insular little worlds. They found those worlds expanding and growing in complexity. With communication came a host of new relationships, new ways of existing with others who had -- up until then -- been scary strangers. No longer was it a choice between avoiding and fighting. Now there was the possibility of peaceful interaction and -- even better -- possible gain.
I'm simplifying this to make a point, of course. There was probably no single moment where two groups sat down and initiated society. The more realistic idea is that such things happened repeatedly, again and again, until suddenly some critical mass was reached and humanity found itself with a surprisingly large amount of chattering neighbors.
Things really got interesting when spoken language began to be codified and used over wide areas. Though mutable, spoken language holds its shape far better than body language and symbolic gesturing. Written language came along much later, and decreased the mutation even more.
The big problem -- and it's a problem that exists to this day -- was that language was a geographic/territorial phenomenon. Beyond a certain area the map changed, became written in unknown symbols. This fact slowed the progress of a Greater Society considerably. The logical and near universal ordering of society -- family, community, tribe, etc. -- broke down along geographical boundaries because of this. Instead of an accepted and universal map, the human race was stuck with a collection of regional maps. Only the happy fact that a great many people enjoyed learning and using those other languages made this merely a setback rather than a disaster.
When talk turns to the most influential of human inventions, only rarely is language -- written or spoken -- mentioned along with such things as fire, the wheel, agriculture, etc. I personally think this is because language -- though no less an invented tool than the aforementioned -- is such a basic function that it seems a biological effect. Speech is indeed a biological effect, but language itself (and it's beautiful daughter writing) is a technological artifact through and through.
Using those first proto-maps the human race took the idea of society and ran with it. Society increased quickly and well, the complexity of the communication tools increasing along with the numbers of human minds manipulating them.
The map expanded, became lush with detail. Technology sang and shifted paradigms: radio and cinema and television and telephones. Geographies shrank as the map found new symbols to denote electron warped time space.
And then, one day, the kids found the map and decided to hack it.
=== Part 3 ===
Mercy Please is 4, and today is a school day.
Playtime is over and the world collapses into Naptime.
Refreshed, Mercy allows the annoying but mandatory fact of reality to intrude.
Her room is so bland in The Real. Four walls, a ceiling and a floor. Clumps of dour grey smartmatter that serve as chairs and beds and a million imaginary toys when enlivened by the commands of the signals she outputs.
Mr. Teach, entirely imaginary, clambers from a sudden hole in the floor, grinning at her from a monkey form. Mercy knows that Mr. Teach always chooses a shape that will enhance and illustrate the lesson. Despite this boring, pragmatic function, Mercy can't help but grin at the compact little simian shape. He grins back as the magic hole fills itself.
"Good afternoon, Mercy." He gives a solemn little monkey bow. "did you have a pleasant morning?"
Mercy nods, but pretends annoyance. "Until you came along to spoil it." She glances at him from the corner of her eye. "Can't we do the lesson in Connection today?"
Mr. Teach shakes his head firmly. "No, dear. Stats show that you are spending far too much time in the Flow. You aren't getting enough exercise." He climbs up onto a clump of the smartmatter and gestures broadly. "I thought we might take a walk and see the city."
She sighs. Knowing there is little use in arguing -- Mr. Teach has override rights to her sensorium, after all -- she codes her unisuit to proper hiking attire. She fusses with the color scheme, as little girls are wont to do, but decides quickly enough. The sooner this is over the sooner she can return to play.
They take the lift to street level and walk pleasantly along the broad pedestrian dominated avenue. Above them air traffic hums and flashes noiselessly by.
"Now!" Mr. Teach says, taking a rather un-monkey like interest in the sights and sounds of the human city. His eyes seem happily alive to the people they pass. "Where were we?"
Another sigh, twice as petulant. "The first stage of the Com Revolution was ending." Mercy admitted, grudgingly. "The Overnet..."
"...was becoming established among humanity. The idea of society-as-communication was over and the fact of society-as-communication was becoming increasingly plain." Mr. Teach had his bearings now. "An exciting time, my dear! Dangerous as well."
"Dangerous?" Mercy asked. Despite herself she was becoming interested. Danger was always interesting.
"What was dangerous about it? People just had to adjust the way they thought about things." No matter how hard she tried, Mercy simply couldn't grasp the idea that learning about something new could be dangerous. It seemed that sometimes she learned a million new things a minute.
Mr. Teach went on. "The old conception of society was that it controlled individuals, Mercy."
She laughed. "That's silly!"
"Not to your ancestors. They had very little control of their own communication."
"I don't understand." This was puzzling. "Why didn't they?"
"Mainly because back then there were people who gained enormous power by keeping people from communicating properly."
"By keeping people confused and misinformed and suspicious of each other. By playing on peoples fear of strangers and society itself!"
Mercy considered. "How could you be afraid of society? Society is just....people talking, and sharing, and trading, and..."
"They didn't realize that then. They didn't have the things you take for granted. Not even the simplest and most basic things."
"Like what?" Mercy barely realized that she had forgotten about playtime and was entirely wrapped up in her lesson. Mr Teach performed his duties well.
He considered. "Let's pretend you were lost. What would you do?"
"I'd call Mum. Or my friend Chee."
Mr. Teach shook his head. "Pretend you couldn't. Pretend there was a sudden outage on output. What would you do?"
Mercy rolled her eyes. "Obviously I'd center."
"But I'm not lost!" Mercy reminded him.
She sighed. Invisible switches flashed, codes pulsed, systems engaged. Mercy's mouth spoke the basic keycode of social engagement:
"You are here."
All systems overrode. Her sensorium lit up like a Christmas birthday. The plain walls of the world became spiraling data structures: every door and detail labelled with sighttouch info triggers.
The web of connection became illustrated. Mercy was suddenly aware that she was the center of a vast spiderweb of people, and from each person she was connected to more people. The familiar program in her head pulled public data into a spell of familiarity, and alerted the entire map of mankind that one small girl in New Chicago was unsure of where she was.
A million eyes and minds turned and asked, helpfully:
"Are you allright, hon?"
"Do you need a hand, luv?"
Mercy apologized, and explained about school. There were indulgent smiles and winks as the map faded into non-necessity.
"Your ancestors did not have that, Mercy." Mr. Teach said quietly. "they thought they were on their own, all the time.
Mercy was quiet, sobered. "How did they survive?" she finally wondered.
"They learned better." Mr. Teach said.
The walk continued, and Mercy -- now all ears -- learned how her great grandparents had insured that she'd never have to be alone...
=== Part 4 ===
In the opening days of the 21st century, the scattered individuals of the human race find themselves at war.
This is not a war of guns and bombs, but of concepts old and new. Of ideas sacred and sacrilegious. Of the right to hold the keys to the kingdom.
Since the beginnings of the State and its unquestioned reign, the power of information has belonged to it and it alone. Uncounted are the tales of the State -- in forms ranging from kings to popes to revolutionary councils -- deciding the truth and worth of information. Religious dogma, scientific theories, the facts of the matter concerning knives in backs and hands washing each other.
In a world where knowledge can save lives or slit throats, those who control the information control everything. The key to keeping a society -- a group of individuals united through communication lines -- in check and under control is to control the information that they receive. It is no coincidence that the most intense era of state solidarity in history coincided with the same era that saw mass communication bottlenecked and heavily regulated by state agencies. When 'media' was a handful of newspapers and three national networks, building a consensus was a simple matter of releasing the proper information. With tight control of the media, governments could wage incredible wars of attempted genocide, burning cities and killing millions, all while presented their actions as a noble struggle of liberation and anti-conquest.
The 'greatest generation' was a generation fed lies and rose colored propaganda in newsreels and big budgeted Hollywood drama.
This facade began to crack during the Cold War, as news gathering technology allowed reporters to operate directly in the field and see things not meant for public consumption. Despite the fact that the eventual broadcast was still sanitized and controlled, the people gathering the news began to talk and tell stories. The proliferation of more and more news outlets -- television, radio and newsprint -- meant that those opposed to the governmental line (even if simply in preference to another governmental faction) had places to sneak their version of the truth into the mix.
From such hairline cracks do great fractures grow. Many are the tales of internal ideological struggle during the 60's and 70's as news outlets debated over covering the rapidly growing protest movement.
In the end, those debates mattered little. On the horizon were coming technologies that would make the elitist question of 'what should we show the public?' moot.
Cable and satellite increased the number of info sources vastly. Ironically, one of the boons of this was that the citizens of one language society now had access to the often conflicting reports of another language society. The geographical limitation that had caused the expansion of the social world to flounder was a facet in breaking the statist hold on information.
But those static and linear advances paled in comparison to the explosion of the modem and the Internet. When unleashed on the world, the new interactive media was nothing less than a popular revolution. In a few short years the entire world changed. The map of mankind became a truly global phenomenon.
But more than mere numbers was the simple fact that online communication was both individual and non-linear. A dozen conversations could be held at the same time, each participant being anywhere in the world. Connection was instant and ongoing. New contacts were made with chaotic, exponential speed.
No longer would individuals rely on the chosen and groomed purveyors of The Truth to tell them how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Instead, they'd go directly to the angels and query them as to the numbers of their last dance recital.
The dominance of static, official media was broken. Individuals could now range the map themselves, asking eyewitnesses to whatever event took their fancy.
The statist response to this was slow -- and still ongoing. It does not like it but -- due to the speed and decentralized nature of the phenomenon, and it's own glacial pace and hidebound mindset -- there was very little it could do about it.
But the original generation of online cartographers was not the true worry to Those Who Once Controlled The Truth:
Their children were.
=== Part 5 ===
Mercy Please is 104, and today she receives news of a great tragedy.
It's an ordinary day for her. Aboard her craft, drifting along in the Main Belt, hard at work searching for resources to sell to a hungry Earth.
The report arrives at full override, screaming past all polite wait & see and filtersets.
The United Council For Integrated Absolutism has nuked New Chicago. The Free Symbolists refusal to bow to regulated data procedure has led to dire action. The news is reported as tragic but necessary by the UCIA biased medianets.
Her family, and every childhood friend left on Terra. Dead. Burned away in an instant for refusing to comply with what they saw as slavery. Refusing to step backwards into an age of controlled information.
The rage that Mercy feels is indescribable. For long moments she ponders the power at her disposal. The sleek but vital fusion engines that power her craft. The detailed maps of already near proper orbit NEOs. She considers what would be the work of a few spare months: nudging those waiting hammers into proper position. She imagines the havens of the UCIA -- New Washington, Denver, San Francisco and Boston -- destroyed by screaming mass from above.
But she shakes that off, and weeps instead. Such rage induced action would avenge no one, would bring no one back. All it would do, in the end, is place the blood of innocents on her own hands.
Instead, she feels a long put off decision being made.
For the past twenty years Mercy has been separated from the Terran symbolflow by sheer distance and the limitations of light speed. She has become a part of a different grouping. They call themselves the Transreach -- the integrated human presence between Mars and Jupiter. They are the new pioneers, the prospectors of the great solar Reach. They have traded the simple and safe lives of Near Earth connection for the sparse glory of tiny ships with massive engines. They pan the dark troves of the Reach not for riches but for adventure.
And, among them, is a sizable subculture dedicated to moving even further. To crossing the greatest Reach of all: the gap between stars.
"We've seceded, sure." her friend and occasional lover Quire Denis says often. "But it reminds me of kids in a tent in the back yard, pretending that they're camping. We have a minor lag in the symbol flow, but -- as annoying as that is -- it's merely inconvenience. If Terra wants us, it knows where to find us."
Not for long, Mercy thinks. Not any more. She has a great deal of influence among the Transreach.
An hour and a half later she is in connection with over two hundred of her closest compatriots. Her sudden swing towards the Starbound is a shock to many, until they see the vids of devastated New Chicago and realize that everything has changed. That the second Com revolution has begun and the very survival of the Symbolflow might be dependant on their making themselves scarce.
Several important things are agreed to in this initial meeting. A physical conference is called for, and Ceres is chosen as the rendezvous point. A total and complete boycott of Earth is instigated amongst the connected Transreachers. An information embargo is also agreed upon. A mutual defense pact is sworn to. No Transreacher will attack the motherworld, but any ship or fleet sent against the Reach will be destroyed with no lack of prejudice. The Terrans are likely to underestimate the skill and raw power of the Transreach, seeing themselves as the peak of civilization and their far flung cousins as provincial miners and common folk. They had no clue that the Transreachers jolly community had completely overturned the art and science of the fusion engine from sheer necessity. The slowest and simplest Reach boat could out maneuver and outgun the best Terran military vessel by an order of magnitude.
After connection is broken and new courses plotted, Mercy spends the rest of this awful wakeperiod in solitary mourning for her dead friends and family. It seems the entire planet has died in her heart.
We are here, she reflect, and they are there. The dead. The living. The great trunk of connection and the heart of the Symbolflow. How shameful that we must abandon that connection in order to safeguard it for future generations.
Yes. How shameful, and the tears do not stop for quite a while.
But they do eventually, and a smile replaces them. A smile and the first stirrings of a universal excitement, a deep primitive need for the new and the distant.
How shameful, yes.
But oh, how exciting as well!
=== Part 6 ===
The connection and integration of the human species will not bring about utopia. It will not solve the problems of scarcity or violence. It will not turn human beings into angels. It will, in fact, reveal once and for all that human beings are not, never have been and never will be angels. That human beings are human: fallible, sometimes petty, often irrational, and always surprising.
And, quite often, entirely marvelous.
What connection and integration will do is to allow those marvelous qualities to manifest quicker and with greater regularity than ever before. It will allow those failures and petty actions and surprises to become apparent almost instantly and be dealt with more efficiently. It will allow us to never be separated or alone. It will allow our economy to grow and flourish.
Most importantly, it will make sure that those who demand power can never again separate us and force their will upon us in tiny groups that are easy to control. It will make lying an almost impossible art form. It will make education a simple organic process, available to all for time expended.
The tools to accomplish this exist, though they are currently bulky and rather expensive. The overall framework also exists: in a primitive and ridiculously complex form. Personal computers and the Internet are the beta versions of the integrated connection to come. Eventually we will stop sitting at our computers and communicating over bulky wires. We will no longer rely on centralized servers and third party routing. We will wear those computers and our communication will dance on the melody of invisible waves. Every user will function as their own server, and the routing will be chaotic, ever changing and on the fly.
The true net will be built from the bottom up on an encrypted basis. It will be individual-centric and a beautiful conflicting mass of standards and jury-rigged systems. The eventual protocols will not be administered from on high but will emerge from the vicious natural selection of Darwinian standards: the smallest, cheapest, sleekest and cleanest aps and tech will win.
The open source movement, the crypto-libertarian front, the shadowy fringes of file sharers and cyber bootleggers: these are the people who will build the overnet. They will be the people who first use it to disappear from the radar of the state. These will be the ghosts and phantoms of the coming digital revolution.
These will be the people who integrate human action and bootstrap the overnet. These are the people who will place a copy of the map of mankind into the hands of every soul who wishes for one.
The state is currently allowing this to happen, though they are retarding and slowing it as much as they possibly can. The reason they aren't stopping it directly is that they suffer from the same lack of communication that bedevils the peons: they don't communicate well enough to realize the vast danger it represents to them. By the time they possess the ability to do so, it will be too late. The peons will have it as well.
And the peons outnumber them. And can outthink them.
Once they have it, they will look upon the 'system' with new eyes. They will wonder why they've trusted these foolish control freaks for so long. they'll wonder how they could have ever considered something as nebulous and simple as 'society' as their lord and master. How the excuse of 'bettering' society could ever be achieved through pain and theft and imposed misery. How those rancid objectives helped humans to communicate with each other. How those wars and divisions did anything to build the world.
When that happens, the State will be finished. It may go out with a spasm of violence, but it will indeed go out. The revolution will more than likely be fairly bloodless. What blood is spilled will be those control-freaks who simply refuse to relinquish power. When secession and non-compliance is met with violence, the revolutionaries will be forced to use violence themselves.
Thus freed, human society will become truly global and truly voluntary. The map of mankind will fill every nook and cranny of this planet. Eyes will be cast beyond, towards the other worlds around this sun and out to the stars. The connected human race, like a great choir, will need new arenas to fill with the song of human struggle. With the joy of structure. With the clean new lines of explored places, and adventures worth telling children in hushed voices.
We are the human race. We are the makers of maps. We will not be satisfied with an explored globe. It will be the vast uncharted edges that call to us in siren song. And we shall rush to them, as fools rush. We will die and fail and create legends.
Eventually, we will conquer the vacuum and spread the map of mankind across this galaxy and beyond.
This is our destiny.
It is a good destiny.
=== Part 7 ===
Mercy Please is almost 1200 years old. Today she is a long way from home.
The star is known to humans as CD-75 967. It is part of the constellation of Apus, and is 91 light years from the Sun.
As the first human being to gaze on it with naked eyes, she has the right to give it a more poetic name. She ponders and chooses Helios in a burst of optimism. Helios was the Greek twin of the Roman Sol, and this is the closest to Sol type star that any of the Reach Diaspora have targeted, and is the second leg of her grand mystery walk. The first was a gorgeous blue giant, a way station only. The plentiful resources of that system gave her the means to reach this one, however — and the simple success of continuation had been a thrilling victory.
Mercy had made her journey at 12 percent of light speed, relying on nanotech based suspension techniques to keep her alive and healthy across the great black reaches. They seemed to have functioned fine: both herself and Hansel, her ship, required only minor repairs directly after WakeUp.
She is excited and a little nervous. This will no doubt be the last leg of her journey. She has been phenomenally lucky. The odds of her surviving another long passage are astronomical.
There is, though, chance of sending home some good news: this system is thought to be a near certainty for an Earth analog.
She has a million tasks, both mission based and the requirements of simple survival. As soon as the medcom gives the go ahead, she throws herself into labor.
Weeks pass, and she is nearing the middle of the system, her eye on a particular gas giant for refueling purposes, when the navicomp picks up the signal.
The signal manifests as a series of impossibly regular static interference. The com notes them and informs her of the discrepancy in a weekly maintenance summary.
Excitement strikes her as soon as she investigates. The repeating static bursts are a long message in an archaic form of naval code.
She translates and celebrates. The first line of the cycling news that went seeking her and her fellow loners in the dark is this:
You are no longer alone. We fools have figured out how to talk faster than light.
The rest of the message is a detailed explanation of how to generate tachyonic pulses by modulating the field of any sufficiently powerful fusion core: Hansel’s heart will work well.
She is preparing to do just that when all hell breaks loose — the navicomp demanding her attention.
What it informs her of makes her forget the possibility of conversing with the Earth for several days. Makes even the relief of knowing she wont have to die completely alone mild in comparison.
When she finally does follow the instructions and send out the bursts of static coded in Morse, the first line is triumphant:
Well and good, but this fool has found you all a new home.
She wonders at the celebration that will happen when it is received, and how long that will take.
She is preparing to enter a permanent orbit around the world she has named Gretel, in honor of her steadfast little ship, when the answer comes: two months and two days since she sent it out. And it arrives in a steady stream, since she has been sending every bit of the amazing data she has gathered on her approach to her world. How similar but different from their Home it is, how the atmosphere is probably breathable, the chemical basics of the wild and lusty life that spreads across it perfectly similar to the life they know. How beautiful and promising and patient it waits there in the rapidly filling viewscreen.
And maps of course, maps and maps. And more maps to come now that she is orbiting and charting every square inch with camera and line imager.
Back and forth the conversation flows, on dots and bashes of tachyons bled off the skin of dying hydrogen. News of life and death and love and celebration. News of her fellow Diasporans, tragic and triumphant. Other worlds have been found, some closer some further. None similar, but none impossible to tame. The challenge of life, of expanding into new environments, will not be boring and predictable.
A dozen years pass in her deep study, when the message arrives — the one she had been waiting for.
We are coming. We are coming to see your world and walk it’s face.
And at much closer to the speed of light. The first explorers will arrive in just under a century.
Mercy Please considers, she takes careful inventory and plots careful simulations.
Yes, it’s possible. Quite possible. With the nanotech therapy and her current supplies she may well be able to greet those who walk her Gretel.
Oh, hope, she may be able to walk it herself!
A great satisfaction fills her then, and an even more intense drive to discover every detail about this new home for humanity before its first children arrive.
Her folk are coming, for good or ill or all or nothing. The map has grown vastly and cast its borders out towards infinity. For there will be worlds beyond this, and new galaxies beyond those. And her folk will find them. Long after she is gone, they will be expanding the map of mankind in every direction until the end of time.
But for now she sums it up in the simple words she repeats in tachyonic rythym for her approaching kin. Three words that speak of true facts and destiny fulfilled. Three words that explain the basic truth of every map no matter the size and complexity. The three most important words:
You are here.
You are here.
You are here!