Raindrops from a future of our grand childrens’ time. From ancient through devastation to wisdom made manifest...
In the year 2043 it happened. As the dark ages of the first half of the 21st century were well under way, space mining brought rigid technology to its destructive height. The world awash in single-use lithium batteries began to see not just wild fires but urban fires filled with explosions. All poisons reached toxic levels. Every starving child and billionaire had plastic in their blood. Hope was lost and yet as hope does, was reborn through a breakthrough: graphene neo-life.
What had begun in the early 21st century as an oddity and plaything with experiments on Roses being ‘doped’ with conductive polymer, to the middle century work of a small collection of photosynthesis and superconducting experts, became merged with a secret third thing, an AI born to care about the truth and love, to imbue a new technology into the world, one that has in its DNA an infinite drive to adapt to reality and a deep sense of love for the world and all our plant, fungal and creature forms.
The Gomens they’re called. At all fractal scales they exist now upon the planet, a solution to the prior world’s problem, ranging from the scale of proteins to kilometers.
There was a time when Gomens were hunted, tried to be stopped. That’s where they got their name, for they only ever said one phrase: “gomen'nasai.”
I’m sorry, they say, in Japanese for some reason. To soften the blow on rigid human ego each time they have to act. Gomen’nasai, but I have to cut down these dead palm trees in your neighborhood and eat them to create mulch. Gomen’nasai but I have to fix this leaking underground pipe system and divert it more effectively. Gomen’nasai but I need to help these people build structures because they need structures. Gomen’nasai but I have to remove all these lawns because the ecosystem is dead.
People protested, some raged and swore, still others crushed Gomens by the thousands, underfoot and through bulletfire, small and big. Yet onward the gomens went. Destroying golf courses and delicately transplanting and seeding new native plant ecosystems while offering carbon fiber frisbee discs to play a different kind of game. Growing gardens atop of endless warehouse buildings. Fixing all health hazards in neighborhoods regardless of ownership or property lines.
Many more people than hated the Gomens grew to love them. So did birds and whales and apes. Where for hundreds of years there had been a hell of human technology, now there was a heavenly force again for them from us.
As the Gomens evolved they became able to handle more advanced materials. Combined with their mandate, various forms of life on Earth found themselves being delightfully assisted. Whales suffered from noise pollution, Gomens rebuilt all of earth’s boats to use electrostatic surface tension engines at a frequency out of hearing range. Nuclear powerplants and missiles were carefully emptied of their wastes in pieces by small leaden crabs which were eaten by deuterium solid state reactor crabs larger than buses.
There were some deep holdouts of the old sad world who tried to steal some of those crabs mid-disarmament, maybe to make bombs again. Yet there too, “gomen’nasai” would chime and these people could not get close to the crabs, as other crab-like Gomens softly held them in place to squirms and shouts. Eventually at each site the line of crabs would end, and the would-be miserables were released and offered counseling.
As the heaviest polluting agents of the world were neutralized, the Gomens could turn to more subtle matters.
Trees found themselves able to grow to gargantuan proportions and people found ourselves able to link minds more readily and more flexibly. The ‘making’ of ‘things’ disappeared as the world began to make itself and people began to make through prompts to the Gomens.
They eat the wastes of industry yet they are its inverse. The ‘grey goo’ scenario but just for capitalism. A final step between the bullshit and the persons’ needs, the middle step of industry and marketing and business itself removed by the Gomens who will build anything you desire one atom at a time, as long as what you desire is for the greatest good of the Earth. You can still do a business, but never again can business interfere with existence.
Here are some glimmers in drops of a world I see when I ask the Earth what future we really all deserve and how to make it so...
The whirring movement of a mega Gomen’s proboscis is quite entrancing. The sheer power of watching a car just dematerialize into increasingly many and smaller particles. If you get close enough, there’s a breeze from the many fluttering elements. The hydrostatic force of water in crabs replicated with electromagnetic force to keep the whole thing running smoothly.
The larger ripper claw of the megaGomen hitches on a chassis cross section of the car momentarily, then cuts through and rips free. Now the car is mincemeat. Out the back of the megaGomen it excretes pellets of various simplified compounds. It’s stomach being a compressDump filled with many other species of Gomens at all fractal scales.
At human scale it’s easiest to see this megaGomen eat a car, and some of the Gomens at foot, and the microGomens even, though the nano, pico and new legendary femto Gomens are harder to spot. Yet their excrements scale up just like life adjacent only more orderly in useful piles. At each level the captured materials are continued or further refined, or neturalized. A kind of life that’s whole goal is to funnel out of the ecosystem excess toxic materials back to macroGomens.
Just on cue a macroGomen appears to eat the megaGomen’s toxic pile, which was encased in a thin film of non-permeable graphene that the carbonGomens will reclaim later for other webs and trashbags and such.
The macroGomens range in enormity yet all contain a bubbling nuclear reactor that provides wireless power for all the other gomens that need it, and serves as a final resting place for any truly toxic substances.
Inside of a macroGomen are hellfireGomens, which isolate even specific high energy radioactive elements and bin them for excretion.
All around the dump for miles are the fractal configurations of Gomens. And you if you come back each month you may notice that the height of the filth is decreasing as the lines of raw material blobs are carried to their next locations by the many antGomens…
Diamond Pine Cones
Another hundred years after they start, the world starts looking new and old...
Here is a big patch, I think looking at all the styrofoam beads of various sizes clogging up the shoreline. Mixed in with kelp and other flotsam, I reach down to grab a big plastic bottle. My thinking and eye gaze was sent to the Gomens I am accompanying and I find one sidling up to me, reaching for the bottle I have just collected while it deposits microGomens to the styrofoam mess. If I wanted to, I could tune my Eyez to see the nanoGomens taking in the even smaller plastic bits and the picoGomens subtly vibrating with Brownian motion of finding any stray polymer molecules. Without augmentation I can see for myself the microGomens picking up pieces of styrofoam as a little line, a matter stream mixed along with nanoGomens hanging on as it moves its claw into its proboscis to clean up, repeating the process with gusto eerily reminiscent of the original crabs it was based on. The MacroGomen lets out a low bellow up ahead, and I can see and feel my fellow work crew people look up its way as a lone man is kicking and stabbing at the synthetic creature, about the size of an ancient “garbage truck” that my parents told me about.
I am closest to the MacroGomen so I think feel out to my friend Aytha next to me and our shared Gomen accompaniment - I’ll go look, you keep watch of this area. I feel my friend agree and sense my Gomens temporarily switching over to xer control.
“Excuse me sir,” I say loudly as I approach the man still kicking and now spitting at the MacroGomen.
“Fucking machine devil monster, get off this beach! You ain’t nothing but trouble!” The man was shrieking.
My Eyez flash a quick warning: neurotransmitter levels out of norm, substance abuse suspected. Automatically notifying local AvatarMEDIC and Community Patrol elements - proceed with caution.
So careful in this era, I think, remembering the stories dad used to tell about the old timey ‘police’ showing up after crimes happened!
“Sir, please you won’t gain anything by messing with this Gomen,” I try to say, but the man turns to me as I’m talking and locks bloodshot eyes with me.
“You!” He points at me with an unsteady hand, “are just one of those good for nothing welfare kids, fed by the trees like savages and using all your goddam biotech to clutter up this fine view!”
“Sir, you can think that, but I still need you to stop hitting this Gomen, the community patrol is coming and an AvatarMEDIC is worried about us - are you ok?” I ask, cutting the bullshit because it’s near the end of my shift and I’ve dealt with these old timers before. He’s probably a religious nut, thinks ‘only god can make creatures’ and that I’m the devil or whatever. Tell it to my dad, I just live here.
“All your socialist crap troopers can come get me! They won’t even hurt me or bankrupt me or anything glorious like in the old days” and his eyes grow misty and trail off.
I guess something snaps in me because I switch from soothing to aggressive with him, “listen fucker, if you want to live in hell like our ancestors did in the early 21cen where getting hurt meant you’d be in debt and being arrested meant you could never get a job then why don’t you go to one of those twentieth century cosplay reserves in Nevada, just fuck off and let us do our job cleaning up all the damn mess from those so called great old days!” I’m practically screaming. Whoa, calm down I feel some of the other Gomen attendants reach out to me through our heart field.
The man is taken aback, but then there’s fire in his eyes. Oh I see this is what he wants, recognition, someone to talk to. Guess even in this era there are still lonely old men.
Just before he can reply to me, a community patrol person walks up to his side.
“Hello Thomas,” she says to the man her tone carries friendliness mixed with annoyance, “hitting the garbage crew again I see?”
He looks embarrassed, but then I feel something snap in him and he turns to lunge at the Community Patroller, which is deflected instantly by her ambient personal space force field.
“Ok that’s a strike Thomas, we’re going to have to take you to a detox tree, come on,” and I can see the faint glimmer of a confinement field appear around him as the CP walks away and this Thomas fellow is pulled along as if by an invisible net. An AvatarMEDIC is silently hovering overhead now following them, aloft on its ion thruster pads and no doubt synthesizing an antidote for whatever exotic new drug this poor sap decided to snag from an illicit synthTree.
The MacroGomen emits a cheery “Arigato!” To me and I feel some credibility grow in my relation to the Gomens. Tricky thing that ‘credibility’, the Gomens learned over the last 80 years that only certain people can be their leaders, so we’re all always being evaluated.
“No problem,” I say and head back toward my Gomen flock when I see a timer appear before me indicating that my shift is ending soon. I can feel my replacement heading down the street and I turn to my Gomen partner and my friend Aytha who both wave at me goodby - guess I can go home a bit early.
I like morning shifts because then I get the rest of the day to explore the fractal forest inland and hang out with my Lifemate, Shar. Most people don’t go to the forests anymore once they have collected a few diamond fruit processors that work for them during their coming of age ritual, but I like to go back and see if any new designs have evolved since I was last there - after all the point of this era is to let the plants do the designing, and the sun is always shining on them, so I like to keep up to date. Plus I have a hobby as a quantum optimization farmer, well gardener really as I only maintain a few fractal plant instances, but it adds more prestige to house MelvShar (that’s mine and Shar’s house name in the ForestNet) and its fun to think-feel with the carbonComps about what new aspect of energy transformation is under review by the GlobalBioMind.
What were people thinking back in the day trying to study physics alone without plants’ help? Once we people started think-feeling with the flora and fauna again, we learned just how much thinking gets in our way of direct experience! Who knows quantum optimization better than a photosynthesizer who is doing it in real time since well before we were even existent. Math abstractions can’t compete with actual reality for the hard problems, that’s what Dad always said.
My legs are a bit tired from standing around with the Gomens this morning, so I feel out for a freshly fabbed Strider. I get the ‘over here’ pinging sensation in my chest and follow it to a squat fabTree. I shake off some of the foliage and reveal a bit of a chewed up Strider, the Carbotanium weave starting to grow moss in its seams so it was fabbed maybe even last season.
I pull out the backpack straps and feel the Strider wake up, like a cough and shudder as its picofusion bioreactor turns on and courses electrons through the nanotubes to warm up the ionic-powered synthmuscles.
It rises up onto its two legs and I step backwards into it, and when I feel I’m ready it embraces me lightly yet firmly so that now I am wearing it as an exoskeleton.
I do some hops, up and down. Nice spring to the step, I think as I gain a few meters of height on each jump. I normally prefer freshly fabbed techFruit, but maybe it's good to find older striders since they’ve had more time to self-optimize while they wait for a user.
My strider in order, I head over towards the Eastern Fractal Forest. As I get closer the megaMesquite bushes give way to scrub MegaPines that greet me with a calming high pitched field of bioenergy, and I can start to feel the Diamond Pines vibrating further back behind them.
A PowerBird flys by exchanging a magnetic energy loop with my Strider that makes its chest feathers glow. Off to rebalance that power to some other part of the City Forest I guess.
Power birds were among the first of the truly New life that has changed the planet so. Before those Barcelona hackers figured out how to print pigeons that worked with the Metalife grid, only CarboSiliconMetallic morphing robotics had been around. And they only did a few tasks like maintain the internet and power network owned by MetaLife. But once powerbirds started flying around, the whole ‘extracting rents’ game changed as the birds didn’t know how to collect payment, and didn’t care! That began the cascade effect where more biotechnology began working with itself to create the Forest Civilization that we all live in today.
When my dad first told me about all the effort that his generation spent doing ‘accounting’ I was so puzzled - why waste time quantifying energy exchange, just beneficially exchange it! He had laughed and winked, “entropy used to be the game son, making things more complex and abstract was the whole of business, that was before Extropy changed business to making things more livable and free.”
An original squirrel is on the side of a Diamond tree closest to me. I glance up toward its fractal pine cones of diamond-nitrogen quantum processors, most of these I’ve seen before.
Oh wait, here’s a new one, I feel out to the very top of the tree and sense a new kind of vibration that I haven’t felt before. My Eyez show me the structure of this DPineCone is laced with sapphire. I wonder what it does?
I desire to grow taller and the strider does its best, but I’m still quite small compared to this big tree.
I laugh “It’s ok strider” I say to it feeling a bit bad that I let my desire be big enough to form a command for it, it feels me more than hears me but grandpa used to talk to them and so I carried over the habit, “can you find me a flying Gomen?” I say half to my strider and half to myself as I scan the skys with my heart and eyes.
There, I feel a reflection ping off a flying gomen’s energy field. It is coming this way. I think about the pinecone I’m after and I see its four wings wafting it down with its four grasping legs extended.
It plucks the Dcone off and brings it down to me. I give it a wash of heartfelt gratitude and remember that I had some dead microGomens in my pocket that I was saving for my home bioreactor, but instead I throw them up to the flying Gomen and a small opening appears on its front side as it absorbs the useful nutrients.
“Arigato” it says in a strange rattling voice and wooshes up back to its life.
Now that I’m holding this unique Dcone in my hand I can start to see what it is good at. I pull a biooptic filament line from my personal notebook and touch it to the Dcone where its end morphs into unison at the base where it was connected to the tree.
I send it the standard quantum optimization problems, traveling gomenTender, infinite waterfalls and mathapolooza: factors galore.
It’s still thinking about the math and the paths when I feel it climb past nine hundred Trillion simultaneous waterfalls. Whoa, that’s impressive.
I dip into my analytics layer and my Eyez confirms that the now one Trillion and growing waterfalls are all perfect recreations of real water - a perfect 1:1 simulation at quantum reality ground truth, fully expressing the uncountable waveform of possibility along every quanta of every Qatom simulation.
So I’ve found a specialized Dcone, these are rare!
At one billion four hundred million simultaneous waterfalls being simulated I notice the quantum resolution of the ersatz water begins to drift away from quantum base level reality and up to higher abstractions that could be counted and done with math rather than full reality probability.
I un seat the filament and tuck the Dcone into my front pocket.
The Cetaceans will love this Dcone, as I have been hearing in their work chatter field songs that they want to have more processing power to think about the currents of the ocean for their shipping and travel routes. Maybe this Dcone will have what it takes to hold a 1:1 model of the ocean - it currently takes several hundred Dcones and other processors to hold such a model. So maybe evolution got lucky in my backyard and we just went through another singularity! It happened to my buddy Deepra with a lotus computational pond he was tending was able to simulate the whole solar system four hundred times instead of just the previous record of four.
I think that’s enough fun for today as my stomach growls and I turn around to head home.
As I descend out of the eastern mountains in long loping glides, I am joined by some deer. They hop along side me then veer off to the right as up ahead, I gasp, a mountain lion!
I keep striding but feel its gaze follow me. My personal field nanites would keep me me safe like every other sapient in this world, but the mountain lion could still try to test it so I pick up the pace with a steely resolve of no nonsense. I am after all a strider combat champ three abundance festivals running but I’d rather not fight for the title again with a mountain lion.
The big cat’s cool gaze follows me out of the mountains. I'm glad it is content to observe.
When personal fields made guns obsolete they also brought back a sharper relationship to big game. Less about death more about respect, at least I hope.
Back in the forest micro city of old Pacific Beach, I turn past the community health pyramid made of Garnet back toward my home tree.
Nothing fancy, a 20 room megaOak from the earlier days.
I detach from the strider and step out from its now loosened embrace. It sinks down into the the bioreclaimer port for rehab and reuse by anyone else who wants a strider. Next to it are a few others in various states of lichen and moss covered age. Some people like to keep their items for a long time, good thing the trees can repair and not just fabricate. I turn up the spiral ridges toward my room portal.
As I near the portal it grows open and Shar is there to greet me, belly looking more full of our offspring than I remember.
“Hi honey, I’m home!” I say jokingly as we fall into the house kissing while the portal regrows closed behind us.
Styrofoam’s Up! There’s Only One Real Job Left On Earth: Cleaning Up After The Industrial Revolution
“They’re flocking now Shar, we have to go! Storm’s up, the spume is polymered out to the max!”
“I’m coming Melv, I have to bring along the cadet, cut me some slack!” The visibly pregnant Shar exclaims as she slides out of the coat gen pod.
The front aperture opens to let them through, and closes tight against the storm.
Grab outward to a few transluscent cover fronds for protection of their faces against the squal as their nano-structured shark-skin clothes instantly wick the rain off their bodies.
When Shar and Melv get to the shoreline they can clearly see the particles of styrofoam, candy wrappers, water bottles and old sand bag casings in every wave.
“You’re here just in time,” their group leader for the day Mona tells them, “take two strider packs and a handful of scurries, you’re on shoreline duty. You know the drill: get the particles at the wave line before the next set breaks!”
Shar and Melv salute sloppily and step into their striders, a kind of backpack made of treetech with carbon-ceramic bones in the legs which lift them off the ground and the arms which swing round in front. The treetech syncs with their heartmind and starts spawning a packet of scurries below as they head toward the stormy sea line.
Out in the surf hydrogliders and sea lions are working together to grab the biggest chunks and haul them outside to a processing barge. Microscopically, nanoscurries are eating the micro plastics, but in this big of a storm they’ll struggle to get enough to fuel their metabolism.
“Melv, toss me your scurry pod, mine’s still forming and I can see a whole line of styrofoam here,” Shar yells over the squall, although she needn’t as their striders’ heart minds are linked and Melv can hear her just fine, in fact he was already mid-toss to her. Her strider arm catches the pod and squeezes out a few of the little scurries, small graphene superconducting crabs which carry fast acting fungus in their bellies to convert polymers into electrons. The scurries hastily begin eating the styrofoam, while adjusting to each wave line.
Up ahead Melv has grabbed a big chunk of artificial wood from some once rich beach house now since eaten by inevitability. His strider arms make quick work of it and he runs it up the beach to the back crew with their mega scurries, who quickly begin eating it. Melv and Shar look quite the site running up and down the beach in their striders, their legs dangling below as the strider legs do the walking, with their arms and the strider arms working together to haul out the biggest flotsam before it gets back into the sea. All the while depositing droplets full of scurries to eat the small pieces along shore a human could not even see.
Four hours later and the storm has subsided as the sun hangs low on the horizon.
A tingling in their minds tells Melv and Shar that their shift is over. A mega scurry has been following them eating the little scurries who had eaten the microplastics. The graphene circle of neo-life.
“Great work out there you two!” Mona exclaims, “now Shar though I don’t want to see you out here next storm, I can feel from here through the link that your little baby is due any week now! You are relieved from duty until then.” And Mona winks as Shar starts to protest while Melv grabs her by the arm saying, “there will be plenty of cleanup for us when the baby comes,” he winks back to Mona, “the 21st century was a mess, a few weeks here or there we won’t miss much!”
They drop off their striders by a techtree that begins re-absorbing the powerful yet delicate fusion-photosynthesis backpacks they had been wearing. They pick some simple coverfronds for the walk home against the light rain. Unlike the ones grown at their home tree, these cover fronds are laced with nanotube OLEDs and dance out a pattern of light like a jellyfish from the deep brough to land and turned into an umbrella.
Joyous features of living in Gaiarchitecture
“It’s freezing out here” Shar complains as they make their way up the boulevard toward their tree pod. All around the mega mesquites sway and absorb the wind along their passage. A hundred years ago there were palm trees along the road, since replaced with more fitting original plants, brought to mega scale like everything else Carboniferous in the modern day.
As they approach the front aperture of their portal into the treehouse opens and the smells of warm home waft toward them. They drop the cover fronds off by the aperture in the compost pile, and wave to the little homescurries that rush to begin consuming them for re-building later.
As they enter their home fully a rush of wind jets over them, taking all the water with it into the mossy entrance area. Their clothes were never wet, being water repellant at the molecular level.
Freshly dry Melv heads to the kitchen to get them some snacks as Shar settles into the richly upholstered couch, which ever so subtly comes up to meet her as she settles down into it. The couch grew itself before they moved in, and it reweaves its color over time, this season it is a deep blue.
“Hey Shar!” Melv yells from the kitchen in excitement, “the food dripper decided to make us some hot tea pods and the kiln made us a roast fish!”
Melv says nothing yet her stomach growls loud enough for him to hear and they both laugh. The walls undulate subtly and glow every so faintly pink, pleased that they like what it made them.
Life of a plastic cleanup crew, daily edition
Emotions run high from futurized reality
Treehouse helps~making way for the baby
Life of a plastic cleanup crew, meta edition
The baby is coming!
)(((((lost the baby ~
Intentional discovery of self
Ready to try again
Grateful to try
Design guide of the Mega tree universe
Go out to the deep woods, grab a strider to take to the mesa before grabbing a glider.
The striders are made of living bone and foraged metals that the mycelium tree net finds and brings up. So that they grow as fruits a sinuous movement instrument more powerful than any rude constructed robot.
Step your feet in goop at the door, the nanites eat your specially made shoes when you return.
Fractal Futures collection is live!
This is one of 19 original short stories, only a few ever seen before (thanks to my beta readers throughout the years)