Read The Small Print: a short but millennia-expanding story by: GF Willmetts.

August 1, 2021 | By | Reply More

It was the middle of the 22st century that the human genetic code was broken and we could have extended lives. It took many years later to understood what it all meant as we explored all the genetic code. Well, as much as we could in the time. So little of the code was actually used. There was only a few gene differences between Man and the other primates. The thought was that the unused genetic was from the evolution from other species and it is to some extent but most of it is turned off. You would think the unused code would be dropped so not to take up space. Unless evolution was very wasteful then there must have been some reason why it was preserved. A lot of thought was spent on that. Was it left there in case it was needed for some genetic disaster and could be called up again. For what was the question nobody had an answer for.

That was until someone thought to put a quantum computer or three to analyse it. The code-breaker suddenly found it was a code…a language. More than the four chemicals: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. It found a different code by putting them in blocks of 4 base 16 quickly unravelled it and finding the key. It was there to be discovered and we finally found it.

The biggest surprise was a form of English. True, there were some oddities but that was more a vocabulary thing but it could now be read. Years ago, we had some crazy ideas that DNA came from the stars but now here was some real evidence that meant we were closer to the truth than we realised. Had we been able to follow the course it had came from, we would have found our first aliens and they would have been us. Maybe Science Fiction had it right after all. We thought we would one day be spread across the galaxy when in fact we were just one part of the process of already been spread. We might not be able to travel at will across the stars but we could send the DNA that would evolve on another goldilocks planet and someone like me and you would one day evolve and be making similar decisions.

We were on the outer spiral of a galaxy that would cross the Andromeda galaxy that meant at some point, the human genome and that of other species would be able to multiply there as well. Potentially, we could end up being a one species galaxy unless we discovered other species doing that. Maybe there was with us. I mean, octopus are nothing like us but seem to have their own intelligence levels.

That then gave some serious thought about our own disastrous ecology issues and we were still not sure if we could survive. It also meant that if we were following a trend, were our distant ancestors on the worlds before us also had the same problems. Pollution. Fatal viruses. Just duplicating what they have gone through and probably extinction on other worlds. Instead of earlier worlds, no doubt also called Earth or something similar, they could also be failed worlds as well. We are just bad. Would we have changed that much? We might be the next in a long list of failures, sending on our DNA information to try again elsewhere. How many successes were there against how many failures and we were far more likely to be one of the latter.

It was going to take much longer to read all of the messages in the DNA code, let alone understand how they had incorporated it to be rebuilt in the various species, and hope they would give us some clue. Why this method and not any other? Would they give more philosophy? Maybe some ecological solutions we haven’t tried yet? Were they going to proclaim how good they are? Have some form of over-charged ego? I mean, they would have to have one to keep spreading their…our genes over the galaxy. More importantly, seeding our genetic make-up on the next goldilocks planet, would we be preventing another sentient species coming to the fore? Were our forebears that arrogant? Would we be so arrogant about ourselves or just see it as a means to preserve Homo sapiens?

Some of it was messages from our predecessors and explanations for what we deemed religious experience but no evidence on our Earth turns out to be genetic leakage from them. Some of them must have had a deluge. A weird one was the last supper, although whether they were deciding to send or not send genetic information and who was the dissenters was going to send the religiously inclined insane. It also left us back to a similar problem, should we propagate our species across space to the next habitual planet or more? Passing on our destructive habits to planets that might have their own form of life that might finally begat different forms of intelligence?

If the majority were going to leave ruined planets like our own, was mankind the result of a controlled evolution on each planet just a deadly plague that cropped up every couple millennia? Were we stopping the evolution of other sentient species by this process? Maybe on some of these planets, the genome that would one day become us was beaten by the native species or maybe there was a genetic merger? Such questions.

Did my predecessors think similar thoughts to myself? Was I one of the party or the Judas who decided no but was ignored and we continued the cycle. Oh did they or I change my mind? Should we only send to one potential goldilocks planet or more?

Bearing in my the astronomical distances involved, none would arrive in our lifetimes nor would our future generations be able to observe any evolutionary development. The odds of relying on just one planet reduces the odds, there would have to be more than one and the evolutionary chain would vary from planet to planet, if successful.

What would be the chances of over-lapping and any planets getting two evolutionary strains millennia apart. Similar DNA and they would merge. Would that explain ourselves. That meteoroid that took out the dinosaurs and most life would have done better had there been at least one spare sample in orbit for emergencies. If that was true, then there might be another in orbit or even hidden on the planet itself.

Would my counter-parts have thought a similar thing. A scattershot with only one attempt on each planet would have a high number of loses. That would be divided into DNA-ships to those who never arrived to those who did and the DNA chemicals not having the right soup to grow when they arrive. Just because a goldilocks planet looks valid, by the time the DNA-ships arrive, it could already have their own ecologies going, so what happened then. Considering the number of times life has restarted here then the DNA-ship has to be more complex than just a single delivery rocket.

My immediate recommendation was to search the planet and see if we could find our own DNA-ship if for no other reason that our technology wasn’t quite up to interstellar travel. We might be lucky and find there was more than one, although if the others were hidden on any of the moons or planets, that would be an impossible search.

A series of assumptions were carried out. There had to be a time when our predecessors would have thought the same way and assumed there would be someone like me here to carry on that thinking. The clues would have to be in the unused DNA code and the translation continued throughout.

There was also some underlying thought that the reason we hadn’t come across it was because of the age and it might finally have rusted and gone. Then again, with global warming and the succeeding extinction on the cards, was our planet going to be allowed to die or would the DNA-ship just reseed and try again. Some businessmen pointed out that might be the cheapest option. Give another millennia and let another version of mankind make the decision not us. Were we that petty?

This had to become top secret. The last thing we wanted was to this become a betting game, let along the significance of where the DNA-rocket was found. I doubt if our predecessors would have allowed any thoughts on modern religions on the subject. All we could do was add more computer time in reading the DNA script. Our ability to send out another rocket might become problematic. Some of our thoughts was already directing to whether we can build on its blueprints. After all, if there was a blueprint in the DNA then there might be one in their spaceship.

As it turned out, the information from the DNA matrix pointed out us in the right direction on Earth. The biggest surprise was not a giant rocket but something along the lines of small rockets we had been planning to go near light speed to other star systems. At least there were some advantages of its predecessor technology being made by people similar to ourselves and followed similar logic. We broke its computer code within months, thanks to some smart quantum computers. Then the realisation, there was an assumption we would have been as smart as them and advanced into space before any recession raised the cost. We were still primitive compared to them, Our choice of sending to another star system was going to be luck than judgement. A more primitive word would be appropriate at this time. If there was a scaling system in all of this, we wouldn’t be near the top. We would have to do a scattershot to at least guarantee at least one or more goldilocks planets in the local star groups would take our DNA matrix. That would please some of the lobbyists.

The study of this millennias old DNA-rocket was interesting. We discovered that it still had copies of the DNA matrix so we at least wouldn’t have to make too many ourselves. There was even a cloning facility, explaining how it could clone itself going and why the matrix was always fresh and didn’t degrade in the interm. Our work was being made easier all alone. As the Judas factor, I had to ask was their doing to ensure every new human goldilocks planet kept things going.

Again, the religious comparison came up that maybe the DNA-rocket is thought of as the Ark Of The Covenant. The covert hidden gift from God, even if it was from our predecessors on another planet. We’ve been masking reality as religious artefacts from lack of knowledge. The science directive was building more sense and seeing how much was DNA impregnated and see if it could give any other clues to understanding the translations. Time was running short, both in terms of budget and climate change, let alone the various decisions that had to be made. Even as the Judas killjoy to question everything, I was still subject to committee decisions.

I did argue on one important aspect that if our species went extinct then this DNA-rocket could restart our own genetic set-up and we could leave a message for the next mankind not to make the same mistakes we made and add it to the end of the DNA strand, assuming they could read it faster than we were going. Then again, we really needed to insert a key to this code far earlier than we found it rather than let some future version of us to wade through so much code to find something this important.

I can see you asking what was there a need for speed all of a sudden? It isn’t as though we were going to burn up tomorrow. Global warming wasn’t going to be that quick. We really should have done more space trips. Look up your reference books about the twin Voyager missions. We can save a lot of fuel by weaving in the planets orbits  to get maximum thrust for least fuel. That time was nearly upon us. All right, arriving at other goldilocks planets in our lifetimes wasn’t going to happen but if we were going to do it, the least we could do was have it on our resume.

Speed became the essence. We had to guess much of the translation controls of the DNA-rocket but much of it was for navigation. It would make it easier to key in our version of the rockets to follow it, at least until it was beyond the furthest asteroid belts.

Making sense of the remaining DNA code wasn’t going to be completed before the launch. We would have to hope that sending a message later and then many millennia in the future that they would find the DNA-rocket.

I could raise no further objections, we had to rely on the planetary positions.

People have gotten used to the idea that long distance space travel is slow. With unmanned small rockets, planetary alignment and such, they left the Solar System within two years and a lot of back-patting. The DNA-rocket sent a confirming signal to not only us but something on the edge of the Oort Cloud.

Ever since the twin Voyagers veered off course, we’ve known there was something large out there, ranging from a black hole to an alien spaceship. It looks like it was the latter and it was waking up.

One of our original fears was the original DNA-rocket would come back and re-build its DNA growth here, effectively meaning it could kill us or we find ourselves sharing with a new evolution that could evict us.

What we ended up seeing was this giant spaceship was our predecessors were far more advanced than we were and it began to play with the planets or rather the bigger moons of the gas giants.

We had always thought that our planets had been in different positions. Uranus orbits counter-clockwise. The Asteroid Belt a failed planet. There was a lot of evidence that we assumed was natural and could now be put down to this waiting shark in the wings.

The various committees didn’t seem that worried. It would take centuries to do. It would be someone else’s problem. Not ours, even with extended life-spans. Except it was herding several of the larger moons our way and into the goldilocks range.

Instead of thinking we were extending our own species in a similar way to our predecessors and being near equals, give or take a century, we were actually at the feet of giants. Whatever the message of the original DNA-rocket, it was deemed we were due for an update. Did they think we wouldn’t last or that we could move on ourselves?

We went back to the extra messages from the genetic code, seeing what else it said. Maybe some new science or some code to send to this big spaceship not to shove us out the way. Our saviours could now turn into our destroyers. There had to be something in the small print.

The annoying thing is that I doubt if it sees itself as our destroyer. It’s just going to attempt to create more life by putting some viable planets or large moons in the goldilocks belt.

The scientists say it’ll upset our tides if we’re not affected by their gravity. It might even shift us out the way and we join the dead worlds of Venus and Mars. Had we thought of them as earlier attempts and that came out in our racial memory? A fiery death or insufferable low temperature. Neither looked appetising.

Can we flee and head off towards another star system? Should we contemplate either of these or just wait for our own destruction? The only consolation was our genetic code was being sent to another goldilocks planet. We weren’t totally dead. Maybe a similar thought occurred to the human inhabitants of worlds before us. Keep going long enough and some would succeed.

In the meantime, that giant spacecraft was getting closer with its moons accessories and nothing we had could stop it, other than watch our own world fall apart and hope the next time we were better.


© GF Willmetts 2021

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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