The results of the quest in Brindabella 2200 shock the planet, and shock is quickly turned to fear by groups who's aim is to undermine The Treaty that has maintained peace for the past century. Mary returns to Arkadel in an attempt to quell the fears. She explores worlds of the secretive cybs, and learns much from their understanding of swarming. There is another wedding. More
Piper at the Gates of Dawn
The latest addition to the Brindabella community was just three days old when Eli, Eric, and the children turned up at Tom's cottage.
'We have a present for you. Eric and I have made our first wraith* presentation that's not a children's story. It's the story of the birth of a child. It's called The Gates of Dawn.' ...
The veranda windows were blanked, and chairs moved, then Eric displayed a dome showing an image of the Milky Way. Eli's voice provided the commentary.
Since the earliest days of our existence on this planet, humans have looked to the night sky with awe. They saw the sun, moon, and planets moving against what appeared to be a fixed pattern of stars. Some eventually realised that even these patterns changed over many human lifespans.
A small blue dot expands slowly into an image of Neptune.
... The development of rocketry enabled us to explore our solar system. By the start of the last century, people realised that the combined developments of PAs, carbon technology, and fusion energy, gave us the opportunity to explore further.
... Tens of thousands of tiny spacecraft - spindles - are assembling in preparation for journeys that may take centuries to millennia to find and explore suitable planets. Others will continue on into the galaxy leaving behind them a chain of communications stations.
... If the planet is found to be suitable for colonisation, the process of industrial development will begin. They will produce plastics to make domes in which experimental ecologies can be tested
... A sadness has accompanied these dreams of galactic exploration and settlement. It came from the realisation that it will
take centuries to many millennia, and that it is unlikely that we will ever be
able to haul our bulky and delicate human bodies out across the galaxy.
... The twenty-third century has brought us to a point where we might hope to achieve the goal of human settlement.
... when a stage of evolution is reached that is equivalent to the Cambrian era on Earth when multicellular life flourished and diversified, it will be possible to release spores of archaeocerebrum*. These could carry an individual human archive.
... Even if further attempts at colonisation fail, there will remain living, self-replicating forms of humanity scattered through the galaxy.
... For flesh and blood human settlement there will be another long wait, till Life has spread from the seas to land, till plants and animals have developed to a stage that makes simple human habitation possible. ...
The commentary paused while the image showed a baby emerging from its balloon womb then being wrapped in cloth by its wraith midwives and placed in a cloth nest.
Mere decades later, the first natural births will occur.
The scene was now the interior of a woven grass hut thatched with palm-like leaves. Two people resembling Clare and Tom are leaning over a new born child.
Tom picked up their tiny, helpless child and held it in his arms, walked over to the door, and surveyed the gully - glistening crisp and green after a shower.
'This is your world, little one. I hope it treats you well.'
As the wonder of bringing a new life into the world overwhelmed him, an image formed in his mind of Mole's brief dawn vision of Pan - his pipes just moving from his lips - the lost baby otter curled up asleep at his feet. The words came out slowly and quietly. 'All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.'
*wraith: a shape-shifting bot self-assembled from milli-bots
*archaeocerebrum: amoebae that can form intelligent multicellular forms
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