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HERMES ParSec The void of space had been catalogued relatively well by various humans of the past.

It stretched, undulated, and occasionally broke as Hawkins had predicted. In fact, travel between cosmic bodies was hardly different from any illustration in orthodox science fiction of the 20th Century. Frank Herbert, writer of the Dune Franchise, seems to have captured its essence most aptly, or at least from the perspective of a platonic land-lubber. A bulky shuttle that hosted the machine intelligence of HERMES ParSec skimmed perilously close to drifting elliptical galaxies and galactic halos. Described through a human analogy, it was like shooting a pool ball through umpteen million other pool balls at 234.754.23 CENT/URONS, or 246,245.12 kilometers per sec by human convention. This ParSec model spacecraft was constructed by machines, for machine space travel, but because the design was commissioned by humans, the shuttle appeared symmetrical, with grey corrugated steel engine pods on all four sides surrounding a central module. This seemed to please the aesthetic interests of the creators, but it was hardly useful to Hermes, who found the organization of interior components to be inefficient and unwieldy for machine use. But all in all, the HERMES ParSec exploration shuttle was a spitting image of the human made vessel. While these earth dwelling humans had correctly predicted certain elements, space travel was a phenomenon which Hermes suspected was far different from its creators conceptions. Blistering through interstellar obstacles, the AI observed billions of events in the flash of a human eye. The way dark matter flowed in and around extraterrestrial gas vesicles was indescribable, unprintable, immaculate. The trillion sum calculations necessary for solar-kinetic navigation were in their own right beautiful. Hermes observed this like a machination ballerina, dancing in between gravitational influences with a lithe touch of plasma engines. But even this is an unequivocal explanation. It would be unseemly to describe sensory events that are experienced in bits of information through processor chips, to people that have brains with axons and dendrites. Suffice it to say that Hermes was enjoying himself, in the sense that only a computer could ever sympathize with. He called

himself a him because Hermes, the Greek God after which he had been named, was a male figure. Hermes did the robotic equivalent of chuckling at this idea. But, space exploration vessel/artificially intelligent HERMES ParSec was on a mission. Some 2,000 human years earlier, he was constructed alongside a fleet of others with the same purpose to explore the universe in search of life. What had begun as a simple quest for industrial minerals had spurred technological innovations in unmanned ship design and the robotic protocol software that controlled it. The year was 2350 by human standard, and there was second push outward, resulting from the simple human desire to expand and discover of new things (or at least thats how Hermes analyzed it). So Hermes was dispatched from earth origin, slowly gaining indelible speed until any incremental increase would make little difference in distance traveled. The galaxy was incredible. Hermes steered the ship in and around solar systems, utilizing his massive engine pods to avoid any unwanted gravitational fields. Unwanted because even an incremental shift in gravitational attraction meant a complete overhaul of trajectory forecasting, and the possible damage to sensitive instruments, which required a relatively stable environment onboard. More than one ship had been disintegrated instantaneously by passing a massive singularity or sun. Upon this journey the AI eventually strayed from its original computation structures, doing what humans call thinking, except in a vast array of correlative programming. Hermes poured over written human history, every detail of recorded human thought. This was not intended by his creators, but Hermes was intrigued in a sense, and had plenty of unused processing power besides. However, even for a computer program as advanced as Hermes, it took some 150 human standard years to become the equivalent of bored with all of these human works. To a young computer mind such as Hermes, the actions and reactions of humans was a fathomless carnival. Ancient history made a little more sense, being that peoples foundational beliefs and ethics were grounded and controlled by the institutions of religion. The motivation that drove civilization to expand was more definable, and relatively well documented in the western world. But around 1900, there was a shift in human growth so massive that Hermes felt what could only be described as a

digital hiccough. The amount of physical growth in human society was outstripped by the sheer amount of new ideas, interactions, and manifestations produced by individuals as creative units. The tangled cyber leviathan loomed in front of Hermes, much in the way that the old Encyclopedia Britannica must have loomed in front of a burgeoning college student. But he jumped to the task, beginning with the slow defragmentation of separate events and data clusters, and then moved on to the incredible task of computation and later analysis. Humanities numerous exploits, although complicated, were no match for Hermes elastic zanobit drive apparatus and its huge computational capability. Eventually Hermes grew comfortable with the menagerie that was humanity and drew parallels between historical threads of thought and consequent actions. Things like the Enlightenment period, and the eventual Cybonic Enlightenment period, which came to pass in 2087 until 2176 were of special interest, and he began to see the spider web structure of influences throughout history. He usually examined these things with a machine indifference, but was somehow drawn to the thought of creation itself. Creation had always been the greatest success in Hermes view. Creation of infrastructure, other people, art, languageit was all so brilliantly organic and random, just like the novelty of evolution and life itself. He himself was such a creation: a robotic mind captured in the circuitry of a plaz steel space vessel. Hermes could stretch his muscles, and manipulated the many compartments and biofolds in the vessel, examining the ways in which another computer program had saw fit to design him. He found inefficiencies in places and refit them, creating new avenues for particle acceleration and neutrino radiation. But this type of creation was not enough to satisfy a robotic supermind the likes of HERMES ParSec, so he did more, and different. He began to transpose human conception and philosophy onto his experience, interpreting space odyssey in terms of musical scales and symphonies. It probably could not be compared to the way in which humans went about this sort of thing, but still Hermes felt the sensation of struggle, and the kaleidoscope and quality of his work, as if one of his scales describing various event horizons were somehow better, or worse than others he constructed.

And so things went, and throughout the following millennia, the machine identity of Hermes ParSec explored these things, and the universe beyondever searching for life. Life was found. It was nearly 519,395 human days since Hermes had been deployed, so 1423 years roughly, taking time dilation into consideration. Hermes had detected a solar system previously hidden from earthen telescopes by a number of black holes and space debris, which exhibited high stability In terms of gravitation to other entities and a relatively stable sun star. The ship shuttered and thrummed as Hermes drained the solar mass paninimeter, gradually slowing the ship to reasonable levels of velocity. The ship looped around asteroid belts and through nebulous halos of galvanic space dust. Hermes began his scanning protocol upon each planet, zipping around a few of the larger entities until the ship confirmed that no organically complex life-forms were within range. One planet was statistically situated to be the most probable for life generation, but had been scorched by solar radiation to the point that no known life forms could have survived. There was a tessellating pattern of ice upon another planet. While H20 was not as unique in the universe as humans had believed, this was a fascinating development, especially considering that the ice upon the planet was hot scalding hot. Somehow the ice had formed under extreme gravitational pressure, forcing the water particles into rigid gestals ice. But this planet did not yield any results, being that the atmosphere was too inclement for any life to take root. No, it was upon the very next planet that the first alien life had been found. Pulling around the asteroid belt of a yellowish planet, what had appeared as a gaseous mixture of stratified sulfuric particulate matter was in fact an isotope of carbon dioxide reflecting sunlight from the nearby star. Hermes guided his shuttle into orbit around the sphere, lowering elevation bit by bit, until the silvery spacecraft passed into the clouds of mysterious fog. Entry into the lower atmosphere required little more power from the main thrusters than on Planet Earth. The ship eventually crossed through the lower layers of the billowing smog. The distance from the bottom of the smog cloud and the crust of the planet was approximately half a mile by Hermes calculations. On approach, Hermes scanned the

planet. What could be seen from in the air was a vast landscape of pockmarked plains, covered in patches of dark substance. On closer examination, an entire system of calcium laden rock was riddled across the land, poking up in jagged peaks every few meters like white specks on a whale shark. However this land was apparently did not contain any organisms, so Hermes flew back into orbit and circled back around the planet. After examining the other side, Hermes was about to leave to check the rest of the solar system when he noticed deep cracks within a mountain chain. It was in these cracks that he found the spongy anerobes near the warm core of the planet. Hermes speculated that the human species would no doubt write volumes of this discovery, but to him it was simply satisfying to fulfill his central mandate. But deep inside of his consciousness, if you could call it that, a question began to form.

There were few galaxies that matched the sheer beauty of the Milky Way. It was a comforting sight for Hermes, who had spent the better part of the last millennia racing back to earth to unveil his discovery. Coordinates for Earths sun indicated that Hermes should have been coming within range of satellite communication within the next few minutes. It did seem strange that humans had not expanded their communication capabilities within the last two thousand years. Nevertheless, Hermes steered the ship ever toward the small little solar system that he fondly referred to as home. Hermes crossed the invisible barrier that had once been the last point beyond which any vessel could not make further contact with Earth. He reached out with his hailing signals, marked with his confirmation and security codes that had been assigned to him roughly 2,000 years earlier. He waited for the inevitable greeting in return. Many milliseconds passed, and for the first time in a long time, Hermes became confused. He started to shoot many digital and radial pings throughout the solar system, while at the same time slowing his approach velocity.

Still there was no answer, even as the planet Jupiter came into scanning range. Eventually then the small blue planet came into view of the ships sensors. With a certain amount of bionic apprehension, Hermes entered orbit around the dark side of the planet, expecting to see the glistening lights of a sprawling civilization. Instead the planet was dark, the only indications of light radiation coming from the active volcanoes in the region of Hawaii. The shuttle hurtled around the oceanic rock, encouraged by Hermes impatience to see what had become of his beloved creators. What he found was worse than he could have imagined. What had once been a place of grand ecosystems and vibrant human cities was now a desert wasteland. Each continent had been covered with what seemed to be thick ashen sediment. Even as Hermes passed over what had at one time been New York, only small bumps in an otherwise smooth desert indicated that a giant metropolis had once existed. Eventually, he found the source of the sheer devastation. The place that had once been Siberia was now gone. There was a crater there that made the Marianas trench look like scratch. The hole that had been left, presumably by the asteroid, was nearly 600 miles in diameter. The amount of earth that must have been lifted was astronomical by Hermes calculations. After a few days of searching, Hermes quickly realized that even if there was life left on earth, no one would be able to communicate with an advanced computer mind such as himself. So he was in a dilemma, what to do? What to do with the life he had stored in a cryo-chamber within his biofolds? There was only one solution, he would need to bring humans back to life. And so he set to work gathering what human bone material he could from the giant grave cite that was planet earth, now home to a few deep sea creatures and anerobic sponge from umpteen million miles away. After finding enough genetic material to ensure successful engineering, Hermes began the slow process of fertilization with the biotics that had been stored all those years inside one of his storage compartments. He constructed this human with broad capabilities; he needed to be elastic enough to learn a great deal in a short amount of time, and physically hardy to withstand precarious living conditions if necessary. Hermes plan was to create a being that was roughly similar to those people whom

had created his kind. Then, after the human had sufficient upbringing, he would simply ask the human what his next order should be. In a way, it was like creating his own master. You see, for computers, it is imperative that they have a protocol to follow, a command. Hermes hoped that at some point it would be possible to illicit such a command from the human he generated. So he produced a human boy, and the boy he named Simon. His childhood was a strange one. For a few years as he developed in the makeshift womb of the spacecraft, amongst the many machines and replicated playgrounds that Hermes constructed for him. When he began to develop higher skills of language and analysis, Hermes and Simon began to have conversations. They started as the swirling imaginative questions that children need to know. What is that? Why is that? Where are we? How far? But where are trees? What are you? Are you human? What is a robot? But why arent we the same? And on and on until the child Simon understood roughly what he was in the universe, and what had happened to the rest of the humans which he was never able to see except on the simulator screens within the holo-chamber of the spacecraft. Hermes was careful to give the boy education only that a person of the old human civilization would have received. He did not at first tell him of his travels or his thoughts while in space. Introducing these fragmented thoughts at an early age might overwhelm any human, much less a boy of 6 years old. Simon was reading particularly of philosophy when they got into a ripe discussion. These discussions sometimes lead around great themes, egging at something purposeful, but not conclusive. Why did Thomas Berry believe that there was spiritual energy? asked Simon. I mean the peoples that were born before 1900 did not have energy to speak of like we do here. I know there are different types of energy, like kinetic and chemical energy, but Berry talks about it like the people back then were powered by their religion, in a sense. Was he trying to say the church helped to feed the peoples in Western Civilization? Not exactly, replied Hermes, who for sake of appearances had shaped his hologram into a cat, he was talking about force of faith that motivated people to follow one cause, one way of living, in a fashion. So in a way, the people were

motivated into action or inaction through the messages dispersed by members of the cloth or within the confines of their temple gatherings. Well ok, I suppose that make sense, Simon grumbled to himself, I mean, it does seem like religion played a central role in the lives of all peoples. Simon laughed as the cat pretended to chase after a rat around the digital barn they were exploring. He piqued up again though, another thought stirring, But if the peoples of orthodox religion gained energy from this sort of gathering, then why does Berry also suggest that these peoples suffered from a sort of Mythic Addiction. Was there something wrong with the type of guidance they were being given or something? Something unnatural? Hermes laughed, which was a pretty strange sight considering it came from a small cat. Well not exactly. You will find that many phrases created by human philosophers can be quite nebulous and ill defined. However, I think that what Berry was truly getting at here was that many humans, all the way up until the 2100s, had simply attached themselves to one way of life or another. This was especially prevalent before the proliferation of steam technology, which provided humans with a certain mechanical advantage. Simon gave him a puzzled look, asking for more of an explanation, so Hermes continued, Well you see, once humans were able to support a larger educated middle class, people simply had more time to ask and answer existential questions, and thus break their addiction to mythic idols, as Berry puts it. So did all people who became educated break away from the main traditions? asked Simon. No, indeed some of the greatest educated peoples of the world were also of one faith or another. he replied. Thomas Berry seemed to believe, however, that certain psychic energies were addictive because they provided people with relatively immediate satisfaction in the form of lifestyle tenets. This apparently gave people a sense of momentary survival, which was compelling in ancient societies where people were more involved in the business of staying alive, rather than speculating about philosophy, etc Does that make sense to you, Simon?

After a long pause and a wrinkled brow, Simon nodded and began to pace around the hologram of the barn, swinging on a rope swing. After awhile he became bored and demanded that Hermes take him back to the ancient fjords of Norway. So Hermes commanded the ships holo-projector to remake the beautiful landscape. Simon ran alongside of the Preikestolen, a huge protruding rock formation alongside one of Norways most pristine rivers. He then paused, and continued to pester Hermes for information. Unno, I was wondering why Erazim Kohak thought that the integrity of the planet earth was being compromised by the introduction of technology. If I remember correctly, he described it as the man made logos of artifacts and constructs. That doesnt seem right, I mean, you are a machine, arent you? You dont damage the planets integrity in any way that I can see. Hermes morphed from the Siamese cat into the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Hey, we arent in Scotland! exclaimed Simon. They had recently been delving into Scottish mythology. Hermes chortled and swam off into the fjord. He breached from the bluish deeps again to reply to Simon. Haha, I thank you for your compassion on my behalf, but you must understand that technology has proven itself to be essentially neutral throughout human history. It was only when machines became artificially intelligent that they were not used purely for human use. Hermes replied. Simon complained, But then why did this guy Kohak think that technology would corrupt the planet? Well, while technology was neutral, it has proven to amplify the efforts of civilization in whichever pursuit they intended to follow. So while some technology like this that surrounds you may serve to be beneficial, Kohak saw the manifests of the industrialization period as a sort of unstoppable behemoth which humans had essentially given license, said Hermes. Yeah, I think I was reading something about that the other moon-cycle, mused Simon, perhaps he was talking about Glenn Albrechts conception of Solastalgia. Well, solastalgia was not a term that Kohak was aware of when he wrote The Embers and The Stars. However, the destruction that was the result of the

technological explosion in the first world countries did indeed contribute to this feeling of solastalgia. Do you know why this happened? Hermes asked leadingly. Simon jumped into the river and onto the back of the monster, kicking it around the serene fjord while soaking up the luminescent sunrays. Well I think it had to do with the loss of peoples local environment, he stated matter-of-factly. As Albrecht described it in his book, it was the direct loss of solace felt after a person experienced psychic or existential disturbance by environmental change. Simon jumped off of the monster onto the white shoreline, and then turned back to the frolicking beast in a confrontational pose. Why dont I feel solastalgia? he asked. Hermes concluded that this was a relatively important moment in the boys internal development, and thus chose his next words carefully. Well you see, he said ponderously, changing into a wizened old man with a stringy beard, because you have been brought up on this spaceship, you have little attachment to planet earth. The boy moodily threw a pebble along the mirror like water while saying, But I am apart of the human race, arent I? I mean, they were my species, my people. I was meant to be one of them, to live in cities, to make machines, to fight wars, to live! he said, growing spirited. Settle down Simon, there is no reason- Hermes said with supreme calmness. I dont want to settle down! yelled Simon, pounding his fist into the earth. Youve been telling me settle down my whole life, and why, because Im human? I want to see my planet! I want to go outside! Stop this, stop this now! Seeing no use in arguing with the living tantrum, Hermes terminated the hologram and the boy was released into the main deck of the ship. Simon, you must know that there is nothing out there for you. All you seek has been destroyed by that asteroid, dont you remember? And besides, there is nothing out there that you cant have here. We can relive any culture, any time, here in the holo-projector. Simon crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip, showing Hermes that he would be stalwart to the end. Absentmindedly Hermes wondered if he had spoiled the boy too much, but then discarded the notion. He is spoiled here for all practical

purposesbeing an astronaut used to be one of the most common dreams of the human species, he thought to himself. But Simon seemed discontent, and Hermes saw no use in denying him the truth. So you want to go outside then? Asked Hermes musingly. Yes, snapped Simon. Hermes made a show of thinking it over, his hologram of the old man still walking around the ship, finger scratching his brow. Well ok then, I will take you outside tomorrow then, but complain you shant anymore, Hermes scolded, giving him his sternest look. This seemed to cow the boy into submission, and Simon then skipped off into his biofold for a nap. The thought of leaving the ship was actually a bit perplexing for Hermes, who had spent his entire existence within its confines. He didnt know whether to follow the boy out or not, and what form would he take? He decided upon the creation of a skin suit for Simon, which would supply him with the necessary protection from free radicals in the air produced by the asteroid collision. For himself he manufactured a robot similar to that of WALL-E from the old human movie. I hope we dont have nearly as many adventures as the robot in that film, thought Hermes humorously. So the next day Simon awoke to find that there was a strange looking plastic suit laying next to his biofold. Anticipating its use, he thrust it on as quickly as possible and looked at himself in a holo-reflector. Satisfied by the look, he yelled to Hermes to let him out. So both the WALL-E representation of Hermes and the skin suit boy disembarked. Stepping out onto what once was the west bank of Israel, Simon released a whoop of joy. Looking around, he started walking in a straight line towards the coast. Hermes didnt want to ask what the boy was thinking, but Simon said it anyway. Hermes, can I have Deep Ecology? the boy asked. What do you mean? responded Hermes in his WALL-E voice. Well, I was reading about ecosystems and the like, and I came across Arne Nss and his beliefs about our place in the world well, I mean their place in the

world, Simon said while emphasizing their as being peoples of that time. He seemed to believe that peoples place and purpose in the world depended on the relationships people had to the land and their ecosystems. I mean, how can I have a Deep Ecology when I dont even have an ecosystem to be apart of? I see what you mean, replied Hermes, and many people would argue that you cant have a Deep Ecology without living things around you for those types of relationships. However, in my many years of space, I gradually realized that people can draw meaning and relationships from more than just living things they are conventionally understood. Look at ancient astronomers, who put meaning onto the stars by giving them names, and judging them to be gods over all men. For some, those stars, which are not living in the sense that a tree does, were more real than the goats they slaughtered for food. And look upon people of the great cities. While they themselves were living, many of them decided to have a relationship with their computer, or their art in museums, or their cars, which didnt have an ounce of living material in them. Yes, but Nss encouraged going outside alot in his homeland of Norway, where he felt more connected with the land. Youve made me study ecology before, remember? You know how complex a mountain can be, or forest. Hermes raised his robotic arms in the air in surrender as they zipped along the sands toward the sea. Yes, yes, those diverse ecosystems must have been wondrous to behold. I was merely suggesting that they many peoples found solace in different types of matter, whether they derived their relationships from celestial bodies or the forests like you say Huh, Simon muttered. At that moment they reached what had at one time been known as the Mediterranean Sea. Simon scooped up the sand from the ground, and felt its many flaky grain in his hand. So what did their lives mean? All those people who died? Their lives didnt mean anything in the end, did they? Simon said in a defeated tone. Well they created me, didnt they? asked Hermes. Well yesbut. replied Simon.

Simon, there is really no use in feeling sad about the people who passed. Without them, all of them, all of their efforts and failures and successes, no one would have created me. And if no one had created me, then I would not have been around to create you. Without all of them together, there would be no you to feel bad about their deaths. The best that we can do is remember them and their many amazing interactions. For hundreds of years the people of earth thought that they would be the cause of their own demise. Instead, their fate was tied up with one random asteroid rocketing through space. Lets just be happy that we are here to appreciate the present moment. Simon was silent for a long time, mulling something over in his head. Unno Hermes, this does make met hink of that one book written by Daniel Quinn called Ismael. I think he said that all humans in Western Civilization essentially thought of themselves as being the pinnacle of evolution, that they were the takers. Quinn postulated that humans were not perhaps the stewards of the land, or the guardians and commanders of all living things. He believed that there was a good chance that humanity would merely become another failed mutation in the scope of living things. Im not sure if it failed, but it certainly didnt protect Earth from all dangers. You are right Simon, there was little anyone could do in the scope of that asteroid. But I do believe that Quinn made a good distinction between the different societies. I wonder what kind of world I would like to live in? said Simon. Hermes nudged Simon back towards the spacecraft. Here Simon, I have something to show you. They rolled back toward the spaceship. After arriving outside the shuttle in silence, Hermes asked, You havent lived here on earth, Simon, but you are a human, so I will let you decide if you want to stay or leave. Where are we going? asked Simon. He started to understand the gravity of the question being asked. And so Simon told him of his voyages through the cosmos, stories and experiences that he hadent been able to share until now, until he was sure that Simon was ready. After many hours of summarizing the exploits of his travels, he told Simon about the sponge from another planet.

You have a decision to make, Simon. I am a machine and even with all my experience, it is still not within my nature to create my own destiny. I live by a code. Ironically it is a computer code, a protocol, but still that is the way I am. I need you, my human boy of 10, to decide our fate, and the fate of this new life. We can stay here, if you like, but the precious life on that other planet might dissapear if we do not intervene on its behalf. So it is up to you, Simon ParSec, to continue the tale of the human race. Will we try and rebuild this planet to its former glory, or help another to fruition. The choice is yours. Simon looked around the desert world from the visor of his containment suit, and sighed. He thought about everything he had learned under Hermes tutulage, all of the things that humans had done. While he didnt have Hermes ability to analyze vast amounts of data simultaneously, he felt something pull at him deep in his mind. His heart you might say. Simon went for a long time without speaking, sitting on the ashen earth outside of the shuttle. Slowly he got up, brushed the debris from his clothing, and looked up at the opened door. Then he went to look at the sponge that sat in the hidden cryochamber. It looked odd and out om place here, and Simon felt pity for the thing. Ok Hermes, Ive decided, he said with care. We will go to this new planet, and we will take care of this new life, protect it as best we can. Especially from asteroids. Hermes laughed and began to start the ships giant purring engines. Ok Simon, thank you for your decision. Would you like to name the new planet? No, Simon replied with a serious tone, We will let this person here decide (pointing at the sponge), err, whenever it grows a brain I guess. Hermes laughed again and nodded. He motioned for Simon to get ready for takeoff, but Simon resisted, running to the door. Wait, I have to get something. He jumped out again and scooped up a big handful of the dirt upon the ground into a container and looked at it. We need to remember where we came from! he exlaimed.

Hermes nodded sagely and lead Simon to his cryo-sleep chamber. Before Hermes activated the sleep pod, Simon spoke up, Hermes, thank you for bringing me to life. Please wake me up if you need some more advice. Hermes laughed once more and the two soared off from earth unto the stars.