Geo the Miner
If Geo were to ever walk on Earth, he would receive strange looks indeed. His core muscles were strong and far bulkier than average, but the muscles on his extremities were smaller, albeit honed. He looked somewhat like a big ball of muscle with tiny, insect-like appendages.
Fortunately for Geo, he never had to worry about visiting Earth. He had never been to Earth, or any planet for that matter. He lived on an asteroid that was on a trajectory towards the sun, but was taking five orbits before that. He grew up on a different, larger asteroid, where his parents still lived. He grew up mining, and was assigned to mine this particular asteroid for the first three of the five orbits, or about ten Earth orbits.
Geo loved the mining life. His bizarre physique was a result of relying on his core muscles to turn his body about in zero gravity and by using his limbs to push and pull. As a child, he spent most of his life in a single room that spun to simulate gravity. On his current asteroid, there was no room for a large centrifuge. Instead, he spent most of his time in a room with a magnetic field wearing metal bracers.
Currently, Geo worked his tools to gather raw minerals from the rock. Later, he would smelt them into bars. At the end of the three orbits, the materials would go to a space station in Earth orbit and Geo would travel back to his home asteroid. It was a very monotonous process, but it gave Geo time to think. He was glad for his work, because he knew that the metals he mined would go to making tools, computers, and other materials.
The drill worked by melting chunks of the asteroid and suctioning them to the spaceship where Geo lived. A slow flow of anti-helium was blasted at the rock face, causing a matter/antimatter reaction that created enough radiation to melt iron, tungsten, copper, ice, salt, and other valuable minerals.
Ever since physicists learned to use short-length particle accelerators to create ionized antimatter to be contained in magnetic fields, antimatter became a staple for any energy needs. It could be used to generate electricity, light, heat, propulsion, or, as occurred still too often on Earth, violence.
Geo chuckled ironically at his own sad thoughts. On one hand, humanity had come so far. Earth, Mars, several moons around Jupiter and Saturn, and many asteroids were all populated. Antimatter and computer technology were almost completely explored, almost as thoroughly described as gravity had been by the end of the twenty-first century. Even on moral grounds, humanity was commendable. Humans managed to design artificial intelligence more capable than the human mind, but managed to keep it humble enough not to take over the world. In fact, Geo lived with an artificial intelligence named Sera who kept him company. Otherwise, Geo lived in solitude.
On the other hand, humanity had many obstacles to overcome. War still happened on Earth and Mars, and while a person’s race was mostly irrelevant, discrimination persisted. By all accounts, there was a certain moon orbiting Jupiter where asteroid dwellers would be murdered on sight.
Geo sighed. For eons, humanity thought that improved ethics would come with improved technology. It was a foolish hope, considering that many technologies are irrelevant in regards to morality. Antimatter could provide the energy needed to precisely kill infections of omni-antibiotic resistant bacteria, but even a few grams of pure antimatter could be used to kill a group of people by sheer explosive force.
“To change the moral standing of humankind, people need to change hearts, not heads,” Geo said aloud.
“It’s funny. Humans have known that hearts are not the source of cognition for hundreds of years, but still you consider it the seat of your emotions,” responded Sera via a headset installed in Geo’s space suit.
“Don’t you make a similar distinction? I might say I know something in my gut, but you say you know things in your wires. Your wires don’t actually have any computing power.”
“Good point,” conceded Sera. “So what’s going on in your head that you bring that up?”
“I’m just thinking of how far we have come as a race, and how far we have to go.”
“Where should your race go?”
That stumped Geo for a second. What would a “good” world look like? Some people suggested everybody should return to Earth and live simply. Others thought humanity simply needed perfect communication. An ideal world had many faces.
“I don’t know. Some things are easy to know. Obviously, if we managed to feed everyone and stop wars, that would be good. In a good world, there would be no diseases if we found a cure. But what would human relationship be like? What technologies should we still have? What allowances do we give to artificial intelligence?”
“Computerized intelligence,” Sera corrected.
“Computerized intelligence. The point is, I don’t know morally where humanity should be. I just know that if we all choose to love each other, we’ll get there.”
“Do you believe I am obligated to act morally?” asked Sera.
“Of course,” replied Geo without hesitation. “You are a thinking thing, so you can choose between right and wrong. Obviously, you ought to make the right choice.”
At that point, there was a gap in the conversation. Geo had to reposition himself in zero gravity to a new position so he could continue mining. As he did, he gazed at the stars with his peripheral vision, as the center of his vision was still seeing the bright drill.
Geo heard that on Earth, the atmosphere and ground based lights made seeing stars difficult. That was just one more reason he never wanted to visit the birthplace of humanity. The stars were full of splendor, and they were not something he took for granted.
After a few hours of mining, Geo returned to his tiny home. He removed his spacesuit that protected him from the vacuum of space and the radiation from his drill. Over the years, he had grown accustomed to the suit, and it no long felt uncomfortable. Still, he was glad to be out of it. He showered and ate before taking a short nap.
On asteroids, schedules were not aligned with Earth days. Geo had a seven hour cycle, not a twenty-four hour cycle. He would spend two hours mining, one hour practicing hygiene and eating, one hour of smelting, one hour of free time, and two hours of sleeping. He didn’t actually keep track of time, but his habits had become somewhat rigid. Other miners had other schedules, but that one was the schedule he preferred.
During his hour of free time, Geo had many options. He might converse with Sera, write, read, study, or send a message to his parents. In his current position in the solar system, messages to his parents wouldn’t be received for almost two days. No matter how far technology got, light speed was still the fastest way to send messages.
For now, Geo chose to study history. He loved learning about the past, because the past gave rise to the present. How did humanity get to where it was now? Only historians could answer that question. Sure, geologists, biologists, and physicists could help, but in that respect, they became historians.
Sera studied along with Geo. Sure, Sera could download the database into his own memory, but he felt like that was cheating. That feeling was written by a programmer, and it was a feeling that made Sera a better companion.
As they studied, they learned many things. Some information came in single studying sessions, such as the events leading up to the colonization of mars. Other information only made itself obvious through many hours of study.
“The solar system is quite different now than it was thousands of years ago. Once upon a time, the only life forms were on earth. Not even a single virus existed outside that one planet,” observed Geo.
“Yes, but many truths are constant throughout history,” countered Sera.
Geo nodded in agreement. “What truth are you thinking about specifically?”
“Discrimination has always existed. Only eighty years ago, and I would not be considered a person simply because my personality was written. Several hundred years ago, the same prejudices existed between people of differing skin colors or patterns of economics. If you traveled to Earth even now, you would be looked down upon.”
“That’s sad, but I have to agree that you are correct,” conceded Geo. “But there are good things that still hold true despite time.”
“What do you have in mind?” inquired Sera.
“Friendship. Love. Faith. Peace. Adventure. Hope. Sex.” Geo couldn’t keep a straight face after listing the last item in his list. Living alone, he was still somewhat immature about the subject. When he got over himself, he went on. “There are lots of simple virtues that you can read in the most ancient of texts. The Bible, the books of Homer, scraps from Greek philosophers, the Upanishads. They all talk about these things.”
Sera had no physical body to nod in agreement with. Instead, he played a short tone that indicated his agreement without words.