April 15, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Julia Lin's story, submitted for the 2021 Sci-fi Writing competition, shows us how the future of science can be interpreted using the prompt 'Spectrum'

By Julia Lin

“The 3rd shipment flight for the 2nd stage of the S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. Act of 241 A.U. will be landing on station UE14 in 10 minutes.”

There was a metallic creaking to Kip’s left as his neighbour unfolded from half-sleep and took a gander at the faces of his fellow passengers.

“What are you looking so down for eh?” He said with a lopsided grin and a prod at Kip’s side. “We are about to go into 60 solar-days of being pampered and fed – everything designed to make us happy and ready!”

“Followed by 16 solar-years of offspring rearing,” Kip answered, whilst remaining faced forwards and intending not to continue the conversation. He had no such luck.

“Guaranteed food and shelter? Fancy doctors to keep you in good health?” The neighbour had fully turned in his chair now. “What is not to like? Plus, everyone knows the solar-3-sapien females are the offspring carers anyways.”

Kip’s eyebrows twitched in annoyance but he didn’t bother to argue.

“Ah the Magistrate is good,” the neighbour continued, with a tone reminiscent of the way the ancient ones would thank their religious idols. “I thought I was a goner after that stingy, selfish bastard of a landlord kicked me out.” He paused, as if waiting for Kip to indicate the slightest bit of interest. “But the very next day,” he continued regardless, “the ministry called saying I had been picked for the –” at his point he started to move his arm in an arc, as if writing the words across an imaginary rainbow – “Spacial Program Encouraging Transplanetary Relations Under the Magistrate…said I would get room, boarding and –” he gave an eyebrow raise and conspiratorial smirk, “a nice Solar3-sapien girl to keep me company. They said that my work and family would be compensated, and that I should prepare for departure in a week!”

I know, thought Kip, everyone in this damn room knows. How does this guy think the rest of us ended up here?

“Hmm S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. eh?” The neighbour said with an aimless chuckle, “lucky they found such a nice way to manage that mouthful.”

Ironic more like, considering the end aim.

“Said they picked me for my ‘standardly representative’ genes.” He stuck his chin up – “always knew I had something special in me.”

Suddenly Kip almost laughed and was sourly tempted to inform the man that ‘standardly representative’ meant that he was among the most average of their species.

One by one, after being scanned for identification and their new addresses ascertained, the disembarking passengers curled up into their transport states and embarked on their journeys.

Kip rolled down the orderly grid of identical cuboid dwellings, sandwiched by the matt white ceiling and ground. Interspersed among them were indoor recreation areas, ‘outdoor’ recreation areas and nutrition outlets.

Over each residence’s entrance were two lines of writing. Kip noticed that the door had been left slightly open, and above it he identified his assigned number. He glanced in curiosity at the sequence of illegible scratchings under the number. He realised she must have read it too before she entered. He gazed upon the ajar door.

This is going to be our first interaction. Would he one day look upon the door with fondness? Remember it as evidence of her cordial nature, or as the first sign of irritating carelessness?

Without any normal clinking of joints which usually accompanied movement for his species, the door swung open.

The first thing he noticed was that she was large. Just above average for her species but at least double his own height. Next was the water content. So full of liquid that it cascaded out of her, comprising the sticky sweat on her palms, the gleam of oil on her soft forehead, nose, and chin. The vapours that escaped with every breath…and her eyes…he had heard about the phenomenon they called tears but hadn’t realised that there would be a constant film of liquid which clung to the spheres. It unsettled him.

Yet, as she fluidly tilted her head around, likely evaluating his own body, they gleamed and glistened in a way he could describe only as enchanting.

The resilience such a pliable body must have! He finally understood the rumoured eerie ability of solar-3-sapiens to survive clearly fatal accidents.

Her entire being was… gloriously different.

He was happy, excited. Though something else appeared as well. It sprouted suddenly but deeply. Contempt for S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M. The Magistrate had pronounced that, under his administration, the aim was to merge gene pools into one supreme species. After this moment, all Kip saw at the end of this road was the collapse of a rainbow into one muddy brown spot.