Zero Node: Chapter 26: "Wilbur's Story"
by Jeff Rand
It can be said that all reality is neurological in that it only exists as the perception of a mind. Quantum physics advances this theory through the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, where elementary particles may come into existence by the act of measurement. Another Ten Seconds explores this concept through different perceptions achieved in neural virtual reality. The concept achieves a focus in this chapter, particularly as it closes.
There is some interesting dialog between two characters. It starts with a single one-letter word. This is followed by a pair of two-letter words, then three three-letter words, and so on. It ends with a sequence of ten ten-letter words. This I know to be true: Motivation encourages leadership. Henceforth gracefully appreciate purposeful conclusion postulated regardless.
April 27, 2020
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
Michaela rose from a restful sleep but was not happy to find there was no toilet paper. As a child of the 21st century, she remembered the great panic of 2020 when hoarders emptied store shelves of this precious commodity. She had learned to do without in recent years; however, she much looked forward to finding some now that she returned to a life of real luxury. However, upon an examination of the toilet, she found the control panel. Here there were buttons to control water jets to clean the anus and for bidet functions. One could adjust the temperature of the water and seat, along with the intensity of the blow dryer.
As Wilbur had promised, Doug greeted Michaela and her father to show them some features of their new apartment. He had brought a cart of food to help them establish a means to feed themselves. Nothing was wrapped in plastic or any commercial packaging, yet there was a full array of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Doug provided some eggs and poultry but did not address their desire for beef flesh. He gave them an assortment of spices, sauces, condiments, and other baking needs. There was even some sugar and pure cocoa to meet these cravings. When Keith indicated that he would like to have a cup of piping hot coffee, Doug told him that he would not get his caffeine fix from coffee or a carbonated cola beverage and would have to settle for tea.
Keith and Michaela followed Doug to the elevator where they ascended to the fourth floor. As with their living quarters, there was a walkway around the Great Space with a multitude of rooms around its perimeter. Doug brought them into a complex of rooms which he described as the clothing center. First, he directed them individually to the scanning booth. Once inside, they were instructed to remove all clothing so the laser could determine their measurements.
After taking her measurements, Michaela sat down at a console to make her selections from among possible clothing styles. Doug indicated that dress was typically minimal at the equatorial latitudes, but she would be selecting undergarments and footwear, as well. She would be able to make two sets of clothing today for general wear and would have the opportunity to select some sleepwear and make some clothing for sporting activities. Keith followed and spent a fraction of the time making his selections.
Physical specimens were displayed to be used as the fabrics and other materials. Both Keith and Michaela were surprised that none of the fabrics were made of synthetics of which were quite common when free men roamed the earth. However, they could make selections from raw fabrics and blends of cotton, wool, flax, leather, and rubber. Doug indicated some of the finer undergarments were linen made from flax. Even the shoes were of all-natural materials, having foam insoles made from soap and vinegar.
Large glass cylinders contained the standard classification of dyes - azo, anthraquinone, indigo, phthalocyanine, sulfur, nitro and nitroso. Doug commented that these were extracted from seeds, berries, and other parts of plants. However, the yellow sulfur was the product of a nearby vent in the earth's crust.
When Michaela and Keith completed their selections of designs, fabrics, and colors, they were transfixed by the machinery now at work making their clothing. They had never seen clothing being manufactured, as very little was done in the United States before the shutdown of human society. They were disappointed when Doug told them they would have to finish their clothing by hand with the necessary buttons and buckles. They were not happy to learn that there would be no zippers, but at least elastic was used in the construction of some garments.
Danielle met Ethan and Leu, escorting them to their hike. The elevator took them up several floors before they exited through the rear. Rather than having a view of the Great Space, they found themselves on a running track presumably circling around the Great Space with a wall obstructing an inside view. However, there was a path bisecting the track, and the outer edge of the track had a glass window overlooking two large areas, forming a circle around the track stretching the radius several hundred more feet. The track ran about 20 feet above these spaces, where it looked to be at least 100 feet to the ceiling.
Walking counterclockwise along the track and pointing to the scene on the other side of the glass, Danielle said, "This is the desert. It has conditions suitable for this environment and a selection of plants and animals that are common to the ecosystem. The track forms a complete circle and can be used for running or walking. It can also be set with hurdles and used for pole vaulting. I dare say that my companions have attained some impressive heights."
Ethan and Leu marveled at the complexity of the desert landscape before seeing a glass partition rising to the high ceiling. The next enclosure was a grassland environment, which yielded to the desolation of the tundra. At what Danielle identified as the halfway point, there was another walkway stretching between the tundra and the next enclosure. Leu was quick to recognize the landscape of the boreal forest similar to much they encountered on their trek through Siberia. When they passed the deciduous forest, they had longings for the home they left more than three years ago. Finally, they encountered the tropical rain forest before completing the circle.
Danielle led Leu and Ethan on the path separating the desert from the tropical rain forest. It stretched more than 500 feet before ending at another track making an even larger circle around the environments. It, too, had full glass windows overlooking the various ecosystems. However, it had a hard-paved surface that flared up a bit at its outer edge, and six bicycles were parked at the end of the connecting walkway.
"This is our version of a velodrome," said Danielle. "Although it is circular rather than the classic oval, it does not require the same degree of flaring. By far, it is the largest in the world."
"I would like to ride on it, but the bike frames are way too tall for me," Leu quipped.
"I think Wilbur's bike is at the other entrance. It is much shorter, although a true racing bike with only one speed and no brake."
After circumnavigating the six ecosystems on the bike track, Danielle led the pair down some stairs to enter the desert enclosure. Here she paused for a moment, "Leu, as an avid hiker I think you will enjoy the trails that wind through these environments. It can take some time to fully explore them. However. I advise you to be careful. Although we do not have large game animals, there are some things that can be hazardous. In this desert habitat, for example, besides the prickly cacti, there are scorpions, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes. Of course, there isn't anything bigger than the javelinas."
Significant to the enclosure was the lack of see-through glass as experienced from the tracks above. Rather, the entire desert habitat was surrounded by scenes of mountain landscapes so real that it was not possible to tell the difference.
"Impressive," remarked Ethan. "I have seen Biosphere II near Tucson, Arizona, but this is much more significant. Are these habitats truly self-contained?"
Danielle answered, "They were operating long before I was born."
When the trio finished their preliminary investigation, Danielle suggested that she could continue hiking with Leu if Ethan wanted to return to his quarters.
"This peaked Leu's interest, as he looked at the very tall, young girl. "I'm 15. Just how old are you?" he asked.
"You are short. But you must be older than 15. I'll be 224 next day," she said.
"That's preposterous. You can't be 224 years old!"
"Who said anything about years. Although I think my parents would be that old in years, if they were still alive. I will have lived for 224 blue moons."
Steve followed Wilbur down the circular staircase to the floor of the Great Space where they entered the node filled with toys. "Are we going to have a chance for play?" he asked.
"Not now," Wilbur responded. "While I can't be sure of your ultimate fate, I am authorized to show you some of what lies outside this Great Space."
"Ocean, I should think."
"No. We are beneath the floor of the ocean," said Wilbur.
"Then we'll be taking a journey to the center of the earth, or will we actually make it to the surface and be outside the earth?" asked Steve, making a subtle reference to a shared theory among some Winter Camp elders."
"I know not of what you speak. But you may find it interesting none-the-less."
Wilbur led Steve to the alcove where they originally entered the Great Space of the Zero Node. Wilbur pressed the button to the doorway opposite to the one through which they had previously passed. There was an elevator straight ahead but to the right there were small trees. Steve realized they were now in an orchard behind the wall surrounding the Great Space.
Taking a path through the orchard, Steve determined it covered several hectares. Many of the trees and shrubs were easily to identify, but Wilbur prided himself in identifying the varieties with their scientific and common names. There were fruit and nut trees, along with grapevines and berry bushes. They approached a grove of bananas, where Steve experienced the automated harvesting equipment. Wilbur pointed out the tracks on the ceiling for equipment to travel to all parts of the orchard. All processes were automated, including planting, fertilizing, trimming, and harvesting. Environmental conditions were controlled for temperature, light, and humidity in different parts of the orchard to meet needs for the most efficient fruit production.
Although the ceiling was high enough to house coconut palms in the orchard, it was not so in the next two levels. As in the orchard, the fields of grains and vegetables covered a vast donut-shaped area around the wall containing the Great Space and its adjoining apartments and chambers. Yet there was no wasted space, as there were sections for cultivating flowers and other ornamentals. The section called "the cave" produced edible mushrooms. An herb garden was maintained on the second level of grains.
Steve was not surprised to discover that the next level above the grains housed livestock. It was divided into "farms" as Wilbur described it, with a suitable outdoor setting separated for each type of animal. There were chickens, turkeys, and even pea fowl. Wilbur led him through a large field of sheep and goats, before entering an area with a few bovines. Wilbur pointed out that cattle required extensive pasture, so they were limited to a few dairy cows and a couple of bulls. However, beef production was a rare occurrence.
Wilbur directed Steve to sit with him on a bench among the chickens, where they could enjoy the smells and sounds of the farm. Of course, he wanted to take the time to answer some of Steve's pressing questions.
Steve, I suspect that you have many questions. Given your experiences of the past year, it is remarkable that you are still alive. Right now, you are guests and will be allowed access to many parts of Zero Node, but understand that you will be monitored. We hope that you will not be exterminated; yet you should know that I have no say in the matter. Once you are deemed worthy by the others you will be granted an experience with the Infinite Wisdom. The fate of you and your fellows will be decided at that time.
I suspect you want to know more about Zero Node and its inhabitants. Suffice it to say that it has been here for a long time. At this time, I can only tell you about myself.
It should not surprise you that I was born here. Last day I did some research to convert to the measurement system you used in the United States where you spent most of your life. Using conversion factors related to your solar days and the position of the sun relative to the surface of the earth, I determined that I was born on December 27, 2006. You may have guessed that I was named after the famed pioneer of powered air flight - Wilbur Wright.
My parents died in 2020 when I was still a child. Like me, my father was born here on May 15, 1970, I believe. His name was Orville, after the youngest Wright brother. Like you, my mother was stranded at sea and brought here in 2001.
My grandfather was born here on December 7, 1941. As I learned from careful study, one could say it was December 8, 1941. Your measurement system is confusing, especially since your International Dateline runs through the center of the Great Space. Therefore, it might be one day in your apartment, but next day across the Great Space where I live. Anyhow, my grandfather was named Charles after another famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh. Of course, it was a bit controversial at the time since Lindbergh was rumored to be a Nazi sympathizer.
Now, my surname stretches all the way back to my great grandfather, who along with my great grandmother, was not born here. Fred Noonan and Amelia Earhart crashed their plane in the ocean not far away in 1937, while trying to get to Howland Island. The remains of the lighthouse where we found you was named after Earhart. They remained here for the rest of their lives, both dying in a freak storm when they returned to the surface on December 27, 1977.