Friday, September 18, 2015

The New Ubbo-Sathla

The New Ubbo-Sathla
Bobby Derie

"It is strange," she thought aloud, "to live in a world among things we cannot unbuild."

A hand swept out to encompass the slow-oozing mound of Ubbo-Sathla, spewing raw glowing nanotech down its slopes. As it steamed and cooled they gained in complexity; rivers of liquid stone became shambling blocks, shiny-metal cubes that twisted on hidden axles, rolling golden globes that themselves slowly accumulated into more complex shapes. By the time they hit the sea the steaming new-born creations assumed more familiar shapes - humanoids, quadrupeds, paddle-wheeled multi-hulled boats, strange skeletal walkers with sails splashed in the surf along the beach, driven by their blind mechanisms. The sand they crushed underfoot was made from the eroded shells of previous, unfinished creations.

She held the time probe high, sending her thoughts through the crystal, back, back through the ages. "Rogue terraformer, final descendant of three-d printer," she intoned the litany, "nestled deep in the warm heart of the world, drawing forth power and raw material, to spew forth the creations of a genetic algorithm. Here is the evolution of man-machine."

The time probe swept around in a panorama shot as she twirled. Strange blind oil-slick segmented worms fattened themselves at the roots of gunmetal trees, their fractal-bladed leaves shiny and black solar collectors, catching every iota of sunlight. Tiny twirling helicopters fell to land in the shiny grey soil, like ash and metal powder. Furnace-stacks lumbered on tank-treads through the forest, feeding fallen branches into their gaping maws, leaving behind them a rich slag of ash and soot, where tiny white plastic squid-things with crystal eyes swam through the liquid filth of the soil in their wake.

"Ia! Behold the principle of Shub-Niggurath, the solemn complexity of self-reproduction. These are the most successful of Ubbo-Sathla's children, the ones that survive, that spread, that transformed their environment to suit their own needs. Broken programming leads to convergent evolution, grim parody of the ancient forms, final scions of this blasted planet."

She turned the time probe towards her, looked into that crystal eye. Her mandibles clicked, pale plastic moving under a mask of pale, dying flesh.

"Parasitism, a path unexplored, unthought of. We are the children of Ubbo-Sathla now, the great unclean ones, an evolutionary dead-end. Our time is almost come."

The time probe scanned down to her bulging belly, the lens rotating and scoping as its sensors penetrated her body, the burning evidence of nuclear batteries, cancerous blood, bones hollow and poisoning themselves. 

"Unintelligent design, blind and undiscerning," she croaked, as the seal broke within her, a pale dribble of fluid running down her legs. "Evolution has no goal, selection...selection..." she coughed and spewed a grey stream "...selection is our lot. did not put in the right parameters. It won't stop, now."

She screamed, a wet racking howl and cough. The internal stresses were too much for her endoskeleton or the thin plastic exoskeleton: her abdomen cracked like an egg, the human part of her falling away like the cocoon of a butterfly, it's purpose served. The time probe clicked through the seconds as it still twitched, systems failing slowly, breathing in ragged gasps on its way to terminal shutdown and death. In the amniotic ruins, something distinctly inhuman beheld the time probe with golden eyes.


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