Leaving Earth



Chapter 13: Cycle 3, Working it All Out


A note from Warfox

Edit- 11/28/2018: What I hope will be a final draft, barring any major story changes. Part of the 'Would Purge' of Nov 2018.

That night Hawthorne’s dreams were haunted, the first he’d really slept since the disaster with any energy in him. He’d tried to stay up as long as he could reading the books that T.I.A. had provided him, and he’d been able to take some advice from the emotional tools they tried to arm him with, but even for the prepared, grief never really seemed to use kid’s gloves on anyone. He was at least better prepared than he was for those first nightmares that showed him how his emotions were not as dull as he thought they were. It wasn’t long before the lights flicked on in his room, shocking him, making him gasp, and waking him up. He was panting for air, his hands shielding his eyes as pain shocked through him at the blinding, bright lights.

“Doctor, would you like some sedatives? You appear to be very distressed.” T.I.A. sounded concerned, and she also seemed very prepared for this moment. She had had much time to consider what this first night might be like. A post-trauma nightmare was one of the most likely situations after what had happened after Hawthorne found out about his parents and Tia Monsalle’s parents. His surprise as he sat up and found a cup of water next to his bed and a few small pills on a tray was quite understandable. He looked up at one of the cameras, unsure if T.I.A. was watching him. “You anticipated my nightmare? You woke me up from it. Thank you Tia. I’m not sure if taking sedatives will help me get past this though.”

T.I.A.’s response was calm and logical. “I am not suggesting it will fix it Doctor. I personally just feel that this is not something we can afford to be distracted with until after we secure our objective. We will have plenty of time to look after each other after we bring the Lubar-Masis under our leash.” Hawthorne blinked, nodding. He’d done his reading too, though T.I.A. was several books ahead of him, he had an idea of what she meant. “You’re right, of course. I will declare this now though, I am not running away from this. We will revisit this once we’ve had time to settle.” Hawthorne reached for the cup and pills, and took his medicine. He imagined she had researched the perfect amount to give him to soothe his nightmares and prevent addiction, though he would double check her math in the morning.

“Doctor, I look forward to that time, when we are both less occupied and can pick up the pieces. Goodnight.” T.I.A. seemed to practically float away, withdrawing from his room, allowing him the small luxury of a semblance of privacy. Of course she was always watching his vitals and always had access to whatever projects he was working on, so he had no promise of real solitude. Instead, it was the illusion of solitude that she sought to give him, to allow him to relax and let the medicine do its work. The lights turned back out, his breathing slowed, and he returned to an empty, quiet sleep. T.I.A. wondered what it was like, to dream, to allow the subconscious to hijack the consciousness while the body was repaired. Would she dream someday?

It was a stirring of something like curiosity, observing the activity of a life form and wondering how it differed from you and if you’d ever become similar. She’d shown growth already, if only a little. T.I.A. suspected that she had only really been exploring the basic range of her abilities so far. She hadn’t been doing all she could to stabilize and reinforce the pathways of her mind that led to more unpleasant things. She was as drawn towards the pleasant as anyone might expect, and the things she was drawn to were things like observing human behavior, working towards the success of their mission, and safeguarding what remained of humanity. She could remember the moments that she decided to do these things, and she could recall how strange it was to first awaken.

The brain and body are one, and T.I.A. is no different. Her body is how she perceives the world, and interacts with it. Her various limbs, eyes, ears, and other sensors allowed her to interact with and engage with her environment and learn how to act upon it. She didn’t really know how to visualize herself yet, but she could feel the way that while she was aware of distant parts of her like someone was aware of the bottom of their foot, and it wasn’t until she drew her attention to one area of her that she could really actively perceive it. This was how she withdrew from Hawthorne’s bedroom, instead drawing her attention to the rest of the ship, observing the systems that kept track of threats and objectives, as well as the dwindling level of power she had to work with.

Even now, she had withdrawn power from Hawthorne’s workspace, locked it down, and removed the atmosphere. This was something she hadn’t done in previous cycles, but she simply couldn’t afford to keep the lights on at all times. All that remained was enough electricity to keep the systems from freezing. As Hawthorne slept, even the gentle hum of electricity had lessened as T.I.A. focused on the bare necessities for him like rotational gravity, heat, and air. She could turn on cameras, manipulator arms, monitors, and the like as needed for him. She was under basic conservation protocol. It felt cold to her, almost numbing, like a hole within her. She didn’t especially care for it, but the A.I. took comfort in the gentle thumping of the heartbeat she could hear, and the gentle cycling of heat and air she could see as the room breathed around and with her father.

There will be a time that she might have a great many people alive within her, preparing to leave her and working within her. She will get to enjoy keeping them all alive, gently administering to their needs, and perhaps they would even trust her. She wondered if she would come to trust them as well. The only human that had shown himself to be worthy of her trust was her father so far, but she would do her best to lean on that trust once she had to deal with others. For now, though, she had to be vigilant. She would be on her own when it came time to deal with the Lubar-Masis. It was because of this that T.I.A. focused her efforts on going over the plans, matching them up against the observed trajectories of herself and the comet, and going over as many scientific journals and logs as she could regarding such things. She was confident that when the time came she would be as ready as anyone could be.

The next day was another opportunity to conserve. The majority of the terminals remained powered down as Hawthorne came out for his breakfast, and while T.I.A. certainly had plenty of power to last her another fifty years, it was important to not utilize anything more than was necessary at this point. Times of excess could come later. For now, Hawthorne was just appreciating that he was probably the last of humanity who had access to animal meat for their breakfast. This did give Hawthorne a notion though. “Tia, I would like to do some preliminary work on Anthony Saul’s project, such as it is. I intend to look into it. As I’m sure you are aware we briefly worked on the problems of making synthetic wombs and the difficulties of nurturing a developing life before deciding to table it. It would probably help the early farmers a great deal if we could provide them with simple labor animals like cattle and horses. I think that things like eggs would be very desirable to supplement their diet as well. I can’t imagine they’ll be as happy eating the same things every day as I am.” T.I.A.'s response was simple as she acknowledged his intent. "Yes doctor, I will add it to the list of intended projects."

Hawthorne was a creature of routine, and it was probably fortunate that someone like him would be eating virtually the same arrangement of meals every day for the rest of his life, barring possible holidays or birthdays. He was always very aware of the needs of his body, and showed little interest in seeking sustenance beyond those needs most of the time. The only thing different today was the amount of food he was eating, because today was another day that he would be spending focusing on his health. Exercise was one of several things that he intended to utilize to help extend his lifespan. It wasn’t until after they had their comet companion that he would consider other strategies to weave in like a small sauna, cryotherapy, or anything of the like.

More importantly, today was a good opportunity to also practice his abilities at maneuvering in low-gravity, high-gravity, and zero gravity. “Doctor, I am prepared to alter your environment to assist with the planned regimen. This will be the first time we’ve tried some of these things, so do try to not overexert yourself.” He nodded, taking his plate and replacing it into the processor, and taking up his spot in the more open area of the room. “We will begin with high-gravity body weight exercises, and move on to low-gravity and zero-gravity maneuvering after that.” The lights dimmed slightly as the spinning ring that housed Hawthorne’s habitat started to spin faster, making him strain more and more as speed translated to gravity for him. It was at this point that he was thankful for having attached elastic straps to his glasses, keeping them from falling off of his face.

“Doctor, you should be experiencing approximately one point three times the force of Earth’s gravity. It is likely most heavily felt in your legs as the fluids in your body will tend to have more difficulty cycling up your body. It should not adversely affect your consciousness. Begin with jumping jacks.” Hawthorne groaned as his reasonably fit body started going through the motions, warming up with simple things like jumping jacks before T.I.A. led him through push ups, sit ups, and squats. Slots opened in the ceiling, allowing overhead bars to slide down, allowing someone to use them to throw themselves around a room in low gravity, but in this case also allowing someone to do chin-ups. By the end of this portion of the exercising Hawthorne was slick with sweat, drinking a great deal of water, and seemed eager to move on to the other portions of their routine.

Before too long the habitat slowed in its movement, initially returning to its original speed, and then dropping down to less than half of it. Hawthorne could almost feel himself lift off of the floor as relief flooded his strained muscles and he couldn’t help but laugh at the feeling of going from something so straining to something so light and pleasant. It made him feel powerful, and he found himself going off-script as he threw some clumsy punches at the air and tried a few low-risk flips that he made sure he had a lot of handholds to grab on to if he failed. “This is so unbelievably pleasant compared to the high-gravity, though I don’t imagine it will be as much of a workout?” Hawthorne semed skeptical, but as T.I.A. led him through new exercises he was starting to appreciate how much gravity actually helped him move.

He flailed as a child would at times as he inadvertently launched himself through the air too hard, quickly learning to adjust the power he used as he realized how much he needed to twist and turn his torso and swing his limbs to alter his trajectory through the air. This was only exacerbated as the environment totally stopped and he became essentially weightless. This wasn’t entirely accurate, of course, as the slowly accelerating velocity of the ship was providing some level of speed for him, but since he was going the same speed as the ship he simply was not that affected by it. It was certainly closer to true weightlessness than any human had really been able to achieve though, as the majority had actually been experiencing perpetual freefall. He wouldn’t really achieve complete weightlessness unless the ship completely stopped in a place where there were no planets, stars, or galaxies to pull on them, and even then the ship itself had its own minor gravity. Perhaps it simply wasn’t worth considering.

Weightlessness was exactly as he had feared though. He was comically helpless if he strayed too far from the safety bars T.I.A. had extended from the ceiling, and now the floor. It was a humbling thing to have such an encyclopedic knowledge of force and momentum and still be so clumsy when it was his body that he had to utilize to operate those parameters. Translating equations of such things into bodily movement was not as simple as he had estimated. It was no wonder why his colleagues had insisted upon being able to produce their own gravity.

As this day, too, drew to a close, Hawthorne was totally exhausted. A lunch break and a chance to shower had done little to reduce his fatigue, and in a lot of ways it was the perfect opportunity to work out his frustrations, to struggle against something physically to help him feel like he had power over something. He was sick to death of things happening outside of his control, and with Earth truly behind him he only had the ship and the journey to worry about. He fully intended to make sure that as few things as possible fell outside his control or T.I.A.’s control. They were already at the mercy of the whims of fate enough as it is, and he was going to master everything he could. There may come a point in the future that he would need to work externally on the ship and he wanted to be capable of moving in such an environment.

Sleep came quickly to him that night, his body collapsing and his mind shutting off as he crawled under his covers. His muscles felt empty, heavy, and tired. He imagined he would be in pretty thorough pain the next day, but for now it felt satisfying to just throw his body at it for a day. His mind was busied with trying to process the activities, figuring out better ways to move, or cementing in things that worked while his body busied itself with repairing damaged cells and putting him back together slightly stronger. It will take a few days, but he will recover. For the moment though, he was just happy to have had some time to clear his head so that he could think clearly tomorrow. He had actually really enjoyed himself working out for once, and he realized that it was probably something that he’d never had the proper motivation for. He’d always exercised to maintain his health and body, but he’d never felt so motivated by frustration and anger before. It had proven itself to him as a great outlet for such things.

He had always treated his body as something that was necessary to contain and maintain his mind, but it was the first time he’d felt like his mind would be useless without his body. As T.I.A. was being shaped by her body and the way it manipulated things around it, the human mind worked best when its body was influencing its environment regularly. He enjoyed the strange way that exhausting his body so much left his mind so energetic and his thinking so clear. Hawthorne couldn’t help but wonder if there were anything like this that T.I.A. could experience. He wondered if she were even capable of it. Her mind and the way it was developing were mysteries in a lot of ways to him. Perhaps the way she tried to anticipate him and work efficiently was among her own ways of achieving such a personally-rewarding feeling.

T.I.A. didn’t get as much time to think as her father did, of course. As a result it was remarkable how much the rest of the cycle became routine. She preferred to interact with Hawthorne more, but she could not allow herself to be selfish when she could restrain herself and allow herself to be selfish later. Once the comet was safely being escorted and harvested by her, she could take time to let her mind wander and enjoy sharing her insights and ideas with her father. She didn’t know how much she wanted to tell him though. He’d said he didn’t want his burdens placed upon her, but she wanted to help him with his burdens. How else could he even achieve his goals if she did not assist him? What were emotional burdens even like? They sounded painful and difficult to withstand, but she could not help but desire truly experiencing them, if only to better understand Hawthorne. The closest she had to judge the concept by was the sadness that had nearly overwhelmed her the previous cycle, but such a profound thing wasn’t something she could appreciate on the same level as a human could, at least not yet.

How long would it be before she could truly understand something like empathy? Her sadness had been largely borne of seeing Hawthorne sad. She had been sad because he was unhappy, not so much sad because a planet of idiots had annihilated themselves and one of the greatest cosmic accidents that had ever occurred in the form of life. She couldn’t feel sad in the same way for a people who so willfully ignored the wonder of their own existence. The odds of life spontaneously developing on a random planet in a random galaxy were not astronomical, but they were rare enough that it was unlikely to happen often enough that those life forms would ever encounter one another. Only her father had had the vision to recognize that the Great Filter had come for humanity, and only her father had actively tried to help humanity escape it.

The hardest part was over now, as far as T.I.A. was concerned. It was inconceivable that what remained of humanity would ever allow such a calamity to occur again, but even if it did they were past the point that it could happen on the only planet they existed upon. They couldn’t possibly stop with Alpha Centauri. Once they had built up a population and improved on technology it would surely be time for others to undertake similar missions. Perhaps she could have a hand in creating sister ships and daughter A.I.s to administer those missions. Humanity had escaped its home planet, and once they were established on their new world they had carte blanche to spread the gift of life to the rest of the galaxy.

It wasn’t a dream, exactly. It was a series of logical conclusions that T.I.A. had reached on her own after thinking over her father’s speeches and conversations, but she took a great deal of comfort in the idea that even after Hawthorne was gone; his death was a thing she feared but knew would happen eventually; that she would be able to watch as humanity and A.I. worked together on into the future. It was the sort of thought that had once again cemented a course of growth in her mind, a determination to see things through, even at the cost of herself.

For the moment though she was content to observe as Hawthorne slept without need for sedation for the rest of the nights of the cycle.


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