goodbye, adelaide! by vyvyan ogma wyverne
the morning sparkled golden, the sun shone resplendent in a perfect blue sky, and the birds sang joyfully in flowery gardens that fine spring day in 3011 when adelaide rose up vertically into the sky, ascended with never a wobble to the outer edge of the atmosphere and left earth forever.
the entire population was ready for the take-off, had been preparing for it for ninety years, ever since the launching of brussels which had followed singapore some forty years earlier, bound for destinations our 21st century astronomers have not yet imagined. many families had gathered on the city beaches where they could watch the changing sea-levels, with their dogs barking gaily and the dolphins playfully barrelling through the surf. crowds gathered on the top floors of the highest buildings in the city where they could see the borders of the metropolis and its surrounding farmlands and forests, and all around to the shallow sea in the west, to observe the slow smooth separation of the city from its mother planet. swarms of spectators darkened the green meadows at the outer edges of the metropolitan dome. huge crowds had gathered in the surrounding countryside to farewell them. all over the city, media supplied images and commentary on the process for those who were interested. millions just held the excitement inside themselves, and went on with their daily work as if it were not a holiday at all!
it was a flawless take-off. diligent, infallible robots had dug their way around and under the city, sealing it from the earth and sea with space-worthy products unknown to present day science, and installing the technological marvels that were now levitating it slowly into the air. elegant little cyber-beasts had spun a clear gel into an impenetrable shield so sheer it was almost invisible. working continuously for decades, they had covered the inner city in a high, skyscraper-accommodating cloche, which corresponded almost symmetrically to the deepest part of the shallow bell-curve beneath it containing the multi-storied underground. both upper and lower bells flared out into wide undulating flanges containing the suburbs and the rolling forested hills and meadows surrounding them. it looked like a flying saucer. by mid-morning the lowest points were visible above land-level and the stay-behinds were already skating in the 50 kilometer basin left below.
she rose serenely, the curve of her outer edge glimmering like a nervous smile. viewed from the earth, the city of adelaide was a gradually diminishing silvery cloud by mid-afternoon, and by nightfall another moon. next morning, she was no longer visible, her meagre reflections dazzled out of sight by the light of the rising sun.
but even by then, in the inner city bowl, workers were already converting the launching pads into landing gear all ready to receive the first city from the planet zwah in the galaxy of xyth which had been in improbability drive for almost an earthly decade and was even now hovering quietly on the outer edge of the solar system waiting for permission to land.
bizarre? not in view of what is already happening under our biggest cities, where strange hidden excavations go deeper and ever deeper underground. we’ve already got the beginnings of the technology and as far as i can see we seem to be taking it more or less in that general direction.
gaia is a strange animal. her cities behave vaguely like glands or ganglia, but it isn’t hard to see them as seeds or ova, beginning as projections from the ground, the planet using highly specialised motile biota (humans) to extract and organise the materials for their hard structures (roads and buildings) and to provide the millions or billions of soft body parts that animate them, which then produce the mechanisms that enable this faultless act of abscission, as described in my flight of fancy above.
if i were incarnate then, would i go or stay? well, it depends. i am an earthling, and i quite like living on this little blue-green planet far from the hustle and bustle of the major space highways of interstellar trade and commerce. i would miss old sol rising and setting and the stars twinkling away in the vault of heaven, with the moon smiling down on soft springtime evenings.
but then i also like evolving radically if it’s in the best interests of the cosmos. i daresay they’ll have gone a bit further with virtual reality than we have yet, and i could bask in an exact replica of an earthly sunbeam complete with birdsong and farmyard fragrance whenever i felt the need – even chat with old friends back home on whatever they’ll be using for chat in 3011. they’ll have come to some agreement about weather conditions and simulated circadian events that we’ll all be content with.
but then, if virtual reality gets that good, why would we bother to launch city after city after city when we could get the same effects sitting in chairs? though of course there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have both options – indeed, all manner of options we haven’t even thought of yet.
i suppose i’d opt for technologically assisted armchair travel in the comfort of my earthly home, with a flower bed and a veggie patch, some chooks, a goat or two and a cat and a dog, and a great big apple tree, full of little sweetly singing birds – and a big friendly compost heap all full of worms and beetles. but i could probably do all that just as well on the galaxy of klurgl as here.
so bring on the future, i say!