I shuffle around, waiting for square eggs to drop on two metal trays. I am sad about O’Hara. Can’t stop rehashing his crazy stories. I thought we’d have lasted longer.
When we lined up in our sleeping cot, O’Hara never tired of rehashing Point A to Point B. He’d say, when you were a baby, Robots United laws were in place ‘for like eight minutes’ before loopholes got exploited. AI voting rights led to National Parks being de-sapped of homo sapiens which led to softbods wearing miracle clothes.
Slow down and start again, O.
He’d snap snap snap at me. Look at your heat-resistant get-up. Stretch your arm and admire its luster. Do you understand it’s made from the magnetite beaches of Fire Island, the garnet beaches of Cape Nome, and the Olivine beaches of Hawai’i. Hawai’i! O’Hara cracked how Eminent Domain finally hit the one-percent hard.
I’d ask him what he was talking about.
He’d say talking beats crying.
O’d say, while the best human minds could imagine nuclear cruisers of 80 passengers, including a crew of 35, it was hardos that provided the simplest and most effective solution. The key, O’Hara made a downward triangle with pointing fingers, was packaging the meat.
I’d wonder how far along the reversal had gotten, to get him going. O’Hara said AI solved pollution way back when. Not even he knew what the GATE initiative stood for (Gamma Something Something Something) but it began a machine age that sorted dust from sand, silica from granite, feldspar from mica, calcium carbonate from gemstones, remnants of mollusks from residue of plastics.
The tradeoff ? O’Hara said forget that AI exploits deepest softbod secrets like those old postcard beaches. Forget it’s sifting through every line of your DNA. He’d say talking and I’d say beats crying.
I’d let O’Hara wonder why labfacks stayed entrenched in the desert rather than transport to Mars. It seemed, he said, they followed Asimov’s rules. They would do everything possible to get softbods out of danger and safely ensconced on Mars, but then of course assure their own eternal well- being through orderly systems. That was a theory, but what about staving off that white dwarf?
O’Hara would start banging his head and then we’d calm down.
Right now in labfacks situated near the Mojave Skidoo zone, the average nocturnal temperature stayed above 47C. O’Hara said, go ahead and fantasize all you want. You’re delusional to think it a human place anymore. The relentless solar energy, added to the AI’s packet-switch tweaks, cranked production to 27-hour days. He described vast pearlized factories in the Mojave, where hardos planned, welded, balanced, tested and assembled new ships and shuttles, new rovers and pods, new tunnellers with thrashing diamond mole-ends, environments that might keep future softbod transports from deteriorating inside luxe togs. It was too late for us. O’Hara, man. He sure could talk.
It wasn’t just stories of gemstone beaches that upended my picture of life on earth. O said hardos cracked the bedrock of chemistry, producing perfect long-haul fabrics: lightweight, heat-resistant, membranous to permit gas and liquid exchange without impractical mid-century-mod bags, tanks, tubes. He said it was like the lace of a newt, of a geode, of a Thanksgiving turkey netted and sealed in brine. It was supposed to work.
I ate my eggs.
A. E. Weisgerber (1964 – ) was born in Orange, New Jersey to middle-class parents. She is a Frost Place Scholar, and Reynolds Fellow. Her prose, poetry, and essays appear in 3:AM Magazine, DIAGRAM, Yemassee, Berfrois, The Alaska Star, Essaying Daily, and Smokelong Quarterly. She is Assistant Series Editor for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 contest. She is passionate about preserving open space, clean water, and the wood turtle. Follow @aeweisgerber or visit anneweisgerber.com