Chapter Six: Choosing sides

 

<<<In the trenches>>>

Six month later, after graduating from MirU, John Foursmoots is meeting with his grant committee on his next "Big Astronomy" project. The committee is headed by Department Head Andrew Boshkov, a heavy-set man in his 50's.

Andrew says, "John, we have reviewed your proposal and we are rejecting it."

John says, "On what grounds? This is a continuation of what I’ve already been working on."

"Think about it, John. Why should we fund any more Big Astronomy? These days, it is all covered in the Mirondian Encyclopedia."

"That is nonsense! Only 1% of what we look at with our telescopes is in Mirondian space. They don’t know any more than we do about the rest of the galaxy or other galaxies. They haven't traveled there. Their knowledge should make no change to our funding."

"Sorry, John, we don’t see it that way. Until we have fully digested what’s in their Encyclopedia on astronomy, we are holding off on the Big Astronomy projects."

John thinks for a moment, can think of nothing to add, and walks out. He is not happy. What he thinks is: It is time for a career change.

<<<*>>>

Not much later John and Jason are back on Myrtle's show.

John says, "The Mirondian cultural systems are alien, and they are dehumanizing. We need to back off and reexamine what we humans want out of this relation. Doing things the blip way needs to be examined carefully."

Jason says, "Doing things the blip way is increasing inequality. It isn’t fair to the poor people of Earth. It isn’t fair to the poor people around the Solar System. If blip can’t increase fairness, we need to abolish it."

Myrtle says, "I understand you have a new book out, John."

John holds up his book, "It’s called The Alienation of Mankind. I go into detail on why Mirondian goods and technology are dehumanizing mankind." he explains more as a video runs behind him, "The highlight of the problem is the communication-intensive aspects of blip techniques. First-time viewers of blip techniques in action always leave with their jaw dropped. To first time viewers blip processing looks a lot like a Betty Boop animation of the 1920’s in which everything is moving, and everything moving is perfectly synchronized with everything else moving.

"Kids seeing a blip process in action for the first time squeal in delight. There are now several children’s museums which put obsolete blip machines on display for just that reason. Getting that kind of coordination requires intensive communication. Much of the communication is machine-to-machine, but MSE’s and humans are also in the loop."

He puts a communicating device on his head. It looks like an early Blackberry, "They get into the loop using one of these. This can open up two or three communications channels simultaneously."

He gives it to Myrtle, "Give it a try."

She listens for just a moment, shakes her head and says, "It’s all gibberish to me."

"To understand this takes training... intensive blip training. Even with that training, only some people can adapt, many can’t.

"My associates and I have done studies: Those who can adapt to this are soulless nerds.

"Conclusion: Humanity be being dehumanized by its adaptation to blip."

Myrtle is speechless hearing this... until she announces, "John, Jason, thanks for your insights. Time for a break."

<<<*>>>

Miro-Robert has another big announcement on the Mirondian News Channel. The preliminary planning for building the next starship is complete.

Miro-Robert says, "We Mirondians have completed planning for the building of
next starship. Once again, I would like to express our gratitude to you humans. If you had not created such a wonderful Solar System here, one so full of humans, and resources and life in general, this project would not be possible.

"Our plan is to construct this new ship on your Earth’s Moon. This is a good place because:" as he ticks off reasons, they show up as bullet items on his screen,

"o It is close to Earth, so moving the hundred thousand, or so, human laborers the project would take will be comparatively easy.

"o There is plenty of resource on the Moon, and on nearby Earth.

"o It is not likely, but if space pirates show up, the Moon has defenses.

"Once again, we Mirondians look forward to this great leap forward in Mirondian and human cooperation."

And he signs off.

The reaction on Earth is huge and unenthusiastic. "Mirondians Plot Moon Trashing" screams a headline on the screen at Myrtle's show. John and Jason are back, and Zeb and Judy are watching the show from their offices.

John says, "To Mirondians the Moon is just another satellite. What they think is important is that 'their baby' -- the ship -- should be gestated somewhere safe and as convenient as possible.

"But for us Earth people, the Moon is something very different. It is the unchanging Goddess of the Night.

"And, I have been going through the details that the Mirondians have released. This project is huge! And the pollution it is going to create is huge! It will create a mountain... no, mountain range! of trash and pollution on the Moon’s surface. Not only would the starship orbiting the Moon be an eyesore for decades, the Moon would develop a dusty atmosphere from all the pollution. The surface scars created would be visible to the next species!!

"This is not a good idea."

It took a month for the Mirondians to realize that the Earthers weren’t kidding -- that this was deeply upsetting. When they do Miro-Robert is back on the air.

Miro-Robert says, "We have listened. We are changing the construction site to a large as yet unnamed Earth orbit-crossing asteroid. As a bonus, when we are finished this asteroid will no longer be a threat to Earth."

Once selected, the asteroid is visited by many ships. Using blip techniques many "communities" that house humans are built around it. As the project gets fully underway the humans here number in the tens of thousands -- this is by far the Solar System’s largest in-space "city".

And the asteroid itself is being transformed by these humans, plus robots, plus MSE’s, into a new Mirondian Mother Ship, only five times bigger than the existing one! This will be a new Mirondian mother ship, and when it is complete it will carry Mirondians and humans to visit other nearby star systems.

One of the workers on the mother ship is Judy. She is living in one of the "neighborhoods" as the various space settlements are called by the locals. She is on a comm line with Zeb. He is on Earth. Earth and the asteroid are close by each other right now, but they are still far enough apart that there is a several second delay in the transmission due to the distance. (When they are far apart, on opposite sides of the sun, the lag gets up to sixteen minutes.)

Judy says, "Zeb, how goes it?"

Zeb says, "Doing fine here. Did you hear the news? I have a blushing bride now."

"No! Congratulations! Send me some pics and info when you get a chance."

"I’ll do that. What’s up?"

"I’m living and working at Mother Ship City now. Our company has been looking over the design of some of the HVAC components being used in eating areas and we see room for improvement. There have been some significant changes to the surrounding components over the last month. The current fabricators are being, dare I say it, bozos. They are still using pre-blip techniques. Is this something one of your groups can take over? I’m sending the spec’s."

Zeb takes a quick look. "Off-hand, it doesn’t look like anything too difficult.

"But... something to keep in mind, those people at the old place are going to be real unhappy if they lose their jobs. I’m checking the stats on that other company. This looks like this component is a big part of what they do."

"Yeah, but they are selling it to us based on its value as being artisanal crafted. This part has moved up in functional importance. It’s not decorative now, and we don’t need artisanal, we need fully functional and more adaptable. And we need a whole bunch more, about ten times what the previous plan called for."

"We can handle it, no problem. I’m passing your RFP on to the right group.

"I’m just wondering... is there something else this group can be making for you?"

"Artisanal is their forte. Let them make something artisanal for the groundpounders on Earth. The economy is booming, they can find something."

"Booming out in space, not so much so here on Mother Earth."

"It should be! It’s a lot closer to the Mother Ship than anywhere else in the Solar System. Have those artisanals pull their heads out, and Earth can boom just as much."

Zeb just sighs at this.

<<<*>>>

John and Jason are with Myrtle again. The theme this time is being a forum for those unhappy with how the Mirondian Mother Ship project and blip are transforming Earth society.

John starts off, "This Mother Ship project is showing us the dark side of dealing with the Mirondians. They are now squeezing human contractors, particularly those on Earth. They now want things done for a pittance, and it’s do it their way or the highway. They allow no creativity, no humanity, in developing the product."

Jason says, "Look at the millions who are out of work because they won’t conform to doing things this... this... blip way! Blip is dehumanizing. Those people doing it the blip way are turning into robots... who are mind controlled by the Mirondians! Look at how much they have to talk with them to get anything done! Look at how often the Mirondians change their mind about what they ask for, and the humans meekly say, 'Yes, sir. Whatever you say, sir.'

"This is not what we want for Earth! This is zombie apocalypse... with warm zombies!"

John says, "And now we are doing something about this. We are starting a group called PEOPLE FIRST!. The goal of this group is to make sure that Earth stays suitable for humanity... real humanity, not blip humanity. As our cause grows in strength and numbers, we are going to make sure that... Earth, at least... stays suitable for human culture development. We want Earth to be for humans, not some weirdo aliens, or even more weirdo humans who think like aliens."

<<<*>>>

PEOPLE FIRST! starts pulling off some high profile antics. On a big wheatfield in Iowa, they hack a robot harvester so it draws a "crop circle" that spells out "Miro Go Home" that can be seen from the air. That completed, the harvester goes back to its normal duties before any authorities show up.

Next they hack into Myrtle's show. The hacked channel shows an imitation Dr. Evil who says, "Listen to me, you Mirondian aliens. This is your one and only warning. I will unleash upon your Show Room Asteroid an invasion of these..." he holds up a cute kitten, "Cute Ninja Kittens if you don’t pay me..." finger to mouth, "One Million Dollars!" Then the hack ends. It is cutely executed and it goes viral around the Solar System.

These first two were cute, the next one isn't. The next protest happens at the tropical beach where we saw the Mirondians and Eggleston earlier. There are people and Mirondians walking up and down the beach and enjoying themselves.

They are interrupted by a noisy mob of protesters shouting "Mirondians Go Home" and similar chants. The police show up and start hauling them away.

<<<*>>>

The complainers are not just on Earth. The media picks up more protesting news. Myrtle is interviewing Charles "Goodtime Charley" Monson, a man of medium build in his 50's wearing nice manager-style clothing.

Myrtle says, "Next on our show we will have the President of the Moon Boosters, Charles "Goodtime Charley" Monson." Monson walks on and sits down, "Mr. Monson, tell us a little about yourself and why you’re here."

Monson says, "I’m the head of Moon Boosters, Myrtle. Ours is an oranization dedicated to building prosperity on the Moon by building business on the Moon. I’m here because, thanks to those Mirondians, it isn’t happening.

"Instead they are turning us into a Solar System park! Christ! There was no one complaining about 'Moon Pollution' or 'Moon Surface Scarring' when the military built MB-10 to protect us from the Mirondians. That was the biggest surface complex ever put on the Moon.

"Now, we can’t sneeze in our space suits without one of these new Pollution Allotment Licenses that Earth government thought up to stop the Mirondians.

"This is deeply silly!

"Worse, this is going to foster those Earth bureaucrats to get into even more influence peddling here on the Moon... Pfft! What little there is left to peddle. And to add insult to injury, those Mirondians aren’t even using The Moon as the Earth-Starship transshipment point, they built a whole new shipping complex at the Earth-Moon L-5 point.

"These Mirondians are taking revenge. They have turned their backs on us Moon People completely. Our brightest and best are leaving. We are soon going to be as much a backwater as Pluto!"

<<<The Big Picture>>>

The Moon Crisis ended the Mirondian-Solar System honeymoon. Before the starship building announcement the Solar System people viewed the trading as clearly beneficial, and ignored the social stresses it was causing as a temporary, necessary evil of gaining the benefits. After the starship announcement, and the following Moon Crisis, Solar System people began paying more attention to the tradeoffs, and some started calling them "the dark side of dealing with Mirondians."

Most of those who could work the new systems saw no tradeoffs. They saw humanity as getting better, a lot better, and they themselves were perfect examples. There were also a lot of wannabe's who were enthusiastic about the new system. They weren't in it yet, but they were hopeful. These were the people taking all sorts of Earthling-sponsored training courses on how to do things the blip way. Some of these courses were authentic and very helpful, some were scams, and in this time frame it was hard for beginners to tell the difference.

Before the Moon Crisis a lot of humanity had no opinion. They watched, but they hadn't made up their mind one way or the other on how "good" all this new stuff was for humanity. After the Moon Crisis, this segment of humanity steadily shrank from a large majority into the minority -- people took sides.

The other side was those who were unhappy -- those who saw no dream coming true. Many were people who tried, but couldn't get with the program -- they just didn't think right. For them adapting to blip was like early Industrial Age people who couldn't get used to using clocks. For those poeple who couldn't develop clock sense, doing shift work at a factory wasn't going to work out, and that form of the Industrial Dream was not for them.

A few of the unhappy ones were malcontents who had been in the program, but then dropped out. They had been in the dream, but saw a nightmare. These were people like Foursmoots, and these people gave a lot of ammunition to those who wanted to slow the change down and make it more "equitable."

Many organizations started with the expressed goal of making the social change more equitable. The one that became the center of the protest movement was the PEOPLE FIRST! group, with Foursmoots as its president. Foursmoots gave the movement philosophic credibility, his two second-in-commands gave it "street cred" and high profile. The organization became famous for its high-profile stunts and its ability to move opinions through a viral network of news seeders who kept Spacenet new sites hopping.

Work generated by the starship project was not evenly spread around the Solar System. Some places got big contracts and forged ahead economically and socially when a huge influx of new people followed the contract. Other places did not, and became backwaters. The Moon became a backwater, much to the dismay of "Moon boosters" -- those promoting the economic development of the Moon. The Mirondians had learned their "Moon Lesson" well. Not only did they not base the starship project on the Moon, they pointedly would not sign into any prime contracts which proposed to use Moon facilities.

The Moon Boosters felt hugely cut out. Not only were they cut out of the starship project, the constant acceleration transportation revolution was passing them by, too. As travel became fast and cheap to everywhere in the Solar System, the Moon lost its special status relative to Earth. Even before the Moon Crisis of Year Five, the Moon community had started into what would become a years-long recession; its brightest and best went elsewhere, and by Year Seven the Moon community became a hotbed for those who chose against the Mirondians.