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Jan 5, 2013

Prison of Space

I just reached the end of Chapter Two of Exode and the story has now reached 34,000 words. I had originally planed to call the second chapter "Oib", a chapter about preparing Parthney for a new life on Earth, but then I became aware of an entirely new aspect of the history of human Interventionists, a kind of cultural fossil that adds a new dimension to Parthney's adventure. "Prison of Space" is the new title of Chapter Two.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, Parthney meets a Buld named Pla'va on the way to Oib. Pla'va is a Pla. The Pla are a small subgroup of the Buld Clan that came into existence about 20,000 years ago as a result of Fru'wu intervention into Buld culture.

Sci Fi in the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by Howard Brown;
Science and Invention, August 1924.
The Fru'wu are an alien species from our galaxy with advanced technology. The Fru'wu helped the Pla learn how to use nanites of their own design to prevent pek nanites from infecting Buld brain tissue.

In the ancient Buld language "pla" means "free". Without pek nanites in their brains the Pla were able to develop and use a written language. Buld who have pek nanites in their brains have altered brain function: the parts of the brain that normally allow humans to read, write and efficiently manipulate tools are used for other functions, particularly for producing a kind of nanite-assisted telepathic resonance between Buld individuals.

Double Negative
One model of how light is detected. Double negative.
During the past seven million years the pek have worked to modify the brains of primates. The human species was brought into existence by the pek who wanted

A) a primate with the ability to use written language, make and use tools and function within a technologically advanced civilization.

At the same time, the pek wanted to design a primate that would

B) not misuse technology or destroy itself.

For humans, the desired combination (both A and B, above) has not yet come together, so for most of the past 200,000 years the pek have been placing nanites into human brains. Those nanites prevent humans from efficiently using written language, making and using tools. However, it is a trivial process for the pek to inactivate those nanites and liberate humans from their inhibitory effects on brain function.

The pek were forced to begin allowing such liberation of human mental abilities about 20,000 years ago. By negating the effects of the inhibitory nanites human civilization and written history were begun on Earth. (This is accomplished by making use of special nanites provided by a time traveler from Earth's future.)

Arrival of aliens
How were the pek forced to to allow Earthlings to develop a technological civilization? This is a long story, a story that is is never fully explained within Exode. However, the part of the story that is included in Exode centers on the fact that about 15,000 years ago, with the assistance of the Pla, the Buld Clan was able to send one of their spaceships towards Earth. Buld spaceships cannot travel faster than the speed of light, so the pek knew that it would take nearly 15,000 years for the Buld to reach Earth and make contact with Earthlings. The pek were forced to accept a plan aimed at producing a technological civilization on Earth so that when the Buld arrived the Earthlings would at least be able to understand what was happening.

Fountain of Youth
The Pla discovered that without pek nanites in their brains they suffered from neurodegeneration and senility. However, they found a trick that allowed for rejuvenation of their brains. Normal Buld physiology protects against the possibility of the hermaphroditic Buld experiencing an auto-fertilization. However, the Pla developed the technological means to achieve auto-fertilization. A Buld embryo that is genetically identical to its parent will not completely replace the parental cells with new cells from the embryo. However, the most aged and decrepit cells of the parent are replaced and the presence of new stem cells from the embryo can rejuvenate Pla brain tissue.

When the Pla went through this "partial Change" they were able to retain their protection against having their brains infected by pek nanites. However, there were subtle effects from repeatedly going through the "partial Change" rejuvenation. Most importantly, over time the bodies of the Pla accumulate cells that have lost the extra chromosome that genetically distinguishes the Buld from Earth humans. In effect, the Pla slowly become phenotypically part human. They grow larger than typical Buld and start taking on some human morphological features not seen in Buld. Pla'va is phenotypically intermediate between Buld and human, which initially puzzles Parthney.

Pla'va is something of an outcast, condemned to loneliness on thons spaceship. Pla'va tries to talk Parthney into staying on the spaceship, but Chapter Two ends with Parthney saying goodby to Pla'va and heading for the surface of Oib. Pla'va remains alone, trapped in the prison of space.



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