Chapter Three

    Beta Edition Space Exploration Exploitation Defense Command Tutorial were the words embossed on the front cover. Damn that’s a mouth full. Someone definitely needs to come up with a cool acronym for that. I spent about half a minute trying. Nope. Nothing cool about B.E.S.E.E.D.C. Ok,  what if I drop the Beta Edition from it. After all, doesn’t that mean it’s still in test mode?

    That started a whole new train of thought. Test mode? Just how experimental is all of this anyway? I knew space flight had been around for centuries. Once A/I had  been perfected and implemented into each spacefaring vessel, one could truly say space flight accidents were inconceivable. Very little other than selecting one's destination was handled manually these days. Automation eliminated human error and A/I’s were free from computer error. Therefore, the whole space travel industry was error free. Beta certainly did not refer to the space flight portion of the organization. I began going through the other words of the name one by one.

     Exploration was an ongoing thing since the multiverse was infinite. But once again, A/I had made exploration completely safe according to all I had ever read or heard. Exploration vessels found most sectors of space to be empty. Those containing solar systems were explored by our technicians through remote controlled robotics. When our population grew beyond what could be comfortably maintained on our current worlds, a planet was chosen, terraformed and cities perfectly built by automations before the first human foot graced its surface. I couldn’t see how “Beta” could at all refer to the exploration part of the title.

    Next came Exploitation. That was simply gathering the natural resources from the multiverse and turning them over to our industrial complexes. Again, we had pretty much perfected that process. Humans did supervise and maintain the equipment but there wasn’t anything experimental about that.   

    Defense. Now that  was something I didn’t hear or think much about. Utopian societies, by definition, didn’t have a lot to be worried about from outsiders. It had, after all, been over 500 years since the last international war. And that was the war to end all international wars because it had ended all nations. In fact, it had almost ended humanity. What came from the ashes was a society of individuals who had agreed to compact with all other individuals through a universally accepted list of rights and responsibilities. A/I’s had helped us to hammer out that list achieving the perfect balance between what one could expect to receive from an utopian society and what one could expect to give.

    Rights and Responsibilities were the two pillars that made our society work. They were ingrained in our psyche from generations of teaching and practice. They were the bedrock of our culture. They impacted how we viewed ourselves and all other humans beings around us. They were the foundation of what we considered to be the closest thing to being divine; being a citizen.

    Since all were citizens, all were sacred. Harming a human being by commission or omission therefore, was sacrilege. We were nearly incapable of even imagining such acts as murder, assault or even suicide. They were all dim memories of a barbaric past that we were glad to be rid of. In fact the words themselves were only found in technical manuals. The deeds those words referred to had been so thoroughly eradicated from our society as to not even be needed in our vocabulary.

    It was this very construct in our societal DNA that I was quite sure caused B.E.S.E.E.D.C to be presented to me and those like me. My counselors and teachers could see my discomfort with the mundane. There was a remote chance that if the Repatriation Camp failed to cure my dissatisfaction through intensive therapy and chemical synaptic surgeries, I could be left  in an even worse mental state than I was in now. My dissatisfaction could become a neurosis that would deprive me of any hope of experiencing the fulfilment my fellow citizens enjoyed so naturally.

     I was a black sheep; so to speak. Trying to dye my wool could cause it all to fall out. I was pretty sure the B.E.S.E.E.D.C. would be populated with other blacksheep like me. Rather than try to change us they were providing an environment to meet our unique needs. I began to feel a deeper respect and appreciation for the human society and it’s A/I helpers that had produced this command chair I was sitting in and all it represented. I couldn’t imagine what defense they might be in need of but right then and there I purposed I would do my best to participate in it; whatever it might be.

    In fact, just thinking of that made my concern about the Beta aspect of my new role in society unimportant. Only two things mattered to me now. Getting myself and my ship out there doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing and finding a way other than saying B.E.S.E.E.D.C to refer to the command organization I was now a part of. Screw it. I'm calling it Besety till I think of something better.

    With the second concern out of the way I could turn my full attention to the first. Getting moving. I opened the front cover of the tutorial and flipped passed the (for some unknown reason to me) obligatory blank first page. A quick scan of the chapter break down on the next page left me a bit worried. Most of the chapter titles were technical phrases that reminded me immediately of school and why I wanted out so badly. But joy of joys, about halfway down the page was a chapter titled “Quick Start Familiarization Guide to Basic Exploration and Exploitation.” A quick three minute perusal of that chapter told me how to register myself as a new user, how to move my ship to adjacent sectors and how I should stay close to Earth until I got things figured out. That was more than enough for me. I might read the the rest of “Quick Start” later but no way I was sitting here reading the rest of the manual. In fact, I reasoned, if “Quick Start” was what it purported  to be, then “Quick Start” would be pleased that I wasted no more than three minutes looking it over before addressing myself to the control panel and getting things moving.

    So, after getting the Tutorial Manual out of the way; meaning flipping it over to land on my bunk, I squinted at that blinking cursor asking me for an account name. It had to be something cool. It had to be something memorable, something peeps out there would think about. It had to be something that was me, really me. “And of course, it has to be something of which I am sure of the spelling,” I chuckled out loud.

    My fingers danced a brief couple of seconds across the virtual keyboard culminating with the Enter command as I input the name I had chosen. I heard a warm hum as the ship came to life around me and the control console lit up with status and navigation prompts.  The portal iris opened revealing Earth, the beautiful home planet of humanity, from my docking slip in her orbiting spaceport. I stood up for a moment to get a better view of her blues and whites and greens, soaking up all I could before I left her. Then my eyes looked up and out past our moon, past all I had ever known, past the routine - and into the adventurous.  

    For the first time I felt contentment deep inside me. I sat back down in my command chair as I read the words my ship’s A/I had responded with to my login and name selection.  “Welcome LostnFound. Privateer shuttle level 0.0 standing by.”

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