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✿ This article was featured in Issue #4 of the Atlantic Bulletin
The Epoch of Rest #
We’ve spent a lot of time in the 21st century — but Tzipora is biologically immortal. Where does she go from here? Well, let’s enjoy a small glimpse at that future together, by winding the clock forward one thousand years.
By 3076, our Solar System is a pleasant place to be. Most of the planets we once gazed at from afar are now habitable and lived on. The Great Epoch of Rest has begun.
There is no great interstellar empire, no rise and fall of spacefaring supernations — a Vekllei way of life is now lived out in multicultural, prosperous clusters of people across our Solar System. The ordinary person is afforded incredible freedoms previously reserved for science fiction through the accessibility of personal light spacecraft, translated literally as “boats”.
This here is the M-7000 APRICOT, manufactured by the Government Aerospace Factories (GAF) of Vekllei. Many companies are contracted by the GAF, including General Reactor S.A., to whom this boat lends most of its flight control systems and all of its power plant. It is a light, personal boat for women built in 2807, making it relatively unique in both its 28th century design language and its gendered marketing. While the personal boat market was growing rapidly by this time, the vast majority of owners and pilots were men. The APRICOT set out to change that, and Tzipora, the world’s oldest living person with a youthful face, was among the first to demonstrate the accessibility and freedoms of space travel for women and girls in the personal boat market. It was her first boat, and despite its orientation for women it was christened with a male name: BARON.
It is a comfortable and pleasant craft that can be lived in for extended periods of time. Tzipora has done just that, travelling to stars in search of water-planets with Micronesian archipelagos, where she likes to spend most of her time. Its glass roof across the entire accessible cabin, including bubbled cockpit, gives it breathtaking visibility in the depths of space and the most scenic of planets alike. Like almost all spacecraft, it is unarmed, save for the pacifying “jazz” electric canon, named for its firing sound reminiscent of a double bass strum.
When she tires of being alone, she returns to her hometown of Montre-Lola in Vekllei frequently. Boats are usually parked at off-world stations, preserving the aerospace and quiet of the Solar System.
Light speed is exceeded through superluminal travel. So-called black boxes require extraordinarily precise programming, since superluminal travel is in all ways but name time travel, and the universe does not tolerate time travel. Coordinates calculated in the universal pyramid system by a pyramid computer ensure that a vessel arrives when it arrives, so to speak. The alternative is going nowhere at all — there is no in-between.
Superluminal systems are affected by gravity, so any person looking to exceed the speed of light and subsequently visit other stars must take the highways beyond our home system’s planetary orbit and launch into so-called free-travel from there. There are only a handful of these highways — the solar system is very, very large, and human construction is very, very small.
There was an instinct among many people that human progress would naturally scale exponentially — these were extrapolated from the remarkable progress in the lifetime of Tzipora’s parents and grandparents, who saw canvas aircraft in their childhood advance to the landing of a man on the moon, and again in her own exaggerated lifetime, in which the provinciality of her youth has simultaneously seen an expansion and exploitation of the planets in our native solar system.
This curve of progress was not to be, however — and it also explains why we had such trouble meeting aliens in the first place. Part of it was simply that there are very few worlds with water that also formed earthlike landmasses nearby — there are many aliens, and Tzipora has seen many herself, but most of them are fish and fish-adjacent. The second is that, if there is civilised life out there, it has most probably encountered the same engineering truths that humanity did, in our great interstellar project of the last thousand years. Namely that, all accounted for, there is no use for wasteful megastructures when a small one will do. People are having less children — on Mars, Mercury and Neptune, the population is actually shrinking. What good is the so-called “ocean liner of the stars,” with a capacity of millions? There are around 12 billion people across the solar system today. Maybe another 8 billion in the Ala system. Maybe a few millions more who have simply given up society for scattered stars in our neighbourhood.
It is likely that if any other civilised races exist, they are simply of our scale, or have destroyed themselves completely in the reckless pursuit of expansion. Humanity is lucky not to count themselves among them.
The APRICOT is one of many models produced by Vekllei’s Government Aerospace Factories. It is now possible for the ordinary person to explore distant stars for themselves, granting freedoms unimaginable in a previous age. Such is life in the Great Epoch of Rest.