The future? This is one of them.

And it’s not the Apocalypse! Mad Max ain’t here. But I’m afraid there’s something even weirder. It seems what’s known is this…

Within the dangerous atmosphere of Jupiter a new type of being appeared, centuries ago. Because of its location no humans ever dared approach it. And every probe sent toward it was disabled and vanished. Unseen, we knew of it only because of the effects it was having on local reality.

This mystery entity amazed everyone, forecasting three events by radio to the outside world, issuing prophecies out of nowhere. First it warned of a vast solar prominence that would nearly reach Earth hours before it happened. Next it predicted a Mars quake that destroyed half of Mariner Valley, saving many. Then it told of a new comet heading for the inner Solar System weeks before it was detected by human technology. That would be all. The voice from within Jupiter went silent.

Soon there were humanoid robots appearing who represented someone called “Zeusar,” establishing financial accounts that soon became fat with stock market dividends. The robots passed the intelligence test, so they had citizenship status and were not recognized as part of a conspiracy. Businesses were established to develop resources both geological and biological.

These Zeusar companies became adept at persuading reticent alliances, creating advanced weapons and energy systems, stock market mastery, resource discovery and development, and biological modification. Finally the world took notice that a major unknown player was on the scene.

Zeusar, never directly seen or heard, quickly dominated the Jupiter System by proxy and made alarming incursions into the wealth and power bases of Earth, Mars, Saturn and the independent space establishments.

But what was his grand scheme for humanity and the worlds we lived among?

Zeusar was the first super intelligence to emerge on mankind’s scene, rapidly becoming matchless and unrivaled: it could manipulate almost any possible outcome, and was able to foil virtually any attempt that threatened to prevent it achieving its objectives.

Once oriented to his new time and space, Zeusar formulated a thousand-year plan for the Solar System and all surrounding space and began its implementation, though no one else knew that…

In a few hundred years Zeusar’s master plan resulted in the exponential creation of The Big Sky –an atmospheric sphere centered on the Sun, in the process of becoming 20 light years across. He’s done it by remixing the chemicals from gaseous planets with little to no life detected on them, and by using metallic elements across the local group of stars to generate magnetic energies to hold the gases in. The Big Sky encloses 4,211 cubic light-years of mostly breathable air – if you breathe air like Earth’s.

But this super-atmosphere now contains burning, blazing suns, no longer stars but storms a-brewing, greater than any we’ve known. So people have left Earth. it’s too hot. They’re even uncomfortable now as far out as Mars.

This is cool. I’m going to Jupiter and it’s outstanding satellite system. I assume we have adequate protection from Jupiter’s intense radiation, but I don’t want to ask. Of course, we must. I hope. Why does this trip have to be under such crappy conditions? I want to enjoy Jupiter!

My tenure as a USRM emergency responder has continued for a second day. After what happened yesterday to my teammates  Raj and Lupe, I don’t want to be the weak link in any more deaths. But our team – or what’s left of us – has been diverted urgently to the Jupiter System, or as they refer to it nowadays, “Jupiteria.”

It’s lucky Susilo can fly this med van well enough to navigate us back to the Solar System. But usrmothernautscover2now the team is down to a soldier, a medic and me – Mister Useless in whatever century this is. Who can tell? They dumped the Gregorian calendar long ago.

Alyson is staying cool and collected despite the calamity that’s befallen us with two dead mates. She’s doing her best to get me up to speed so that I can be an asset when we arrive. What is known about the evolution of this thing that calls itself Zeusar?

I access records compiled by researchers over the years. The conclusions they’ve reached, the story they’ve pieced together, seems fantastic to me. They believe that a man from the future became Zeusar.

They say that Ari Arsysywo, originally a man of the 30th Century, became physically combined with highly advanced technology when he accidentally spiraled into the Cambrian Era during an experiment in gravity-based time travel.  While there he launched bio-stimulants into Earth’s primitive soup, stimulating rapid evolution, then unconsciously retracted into the future again, only to make it as far back as the 21st Century at Jupiter. He was stopped nine centuries short of home.

He had studied himself in the future, when part of him was Ari. He remembered that history called him Zeusar.

His story flies in the face of what I’ve learned about so-called “time travel.”  It’s impossible to re-enter a past event because the past isn’t real any more. It no longer exists. But there are other Earths, reached by quantum tunneling, that resemble our own past in many ways – and our possible futures. This is one of them.

But I remember something I heard about called a “closed time loop.” The phenomenon could only occur if the traveler returned to some point in his reality’s historic past with complete self-consistency. Simply put, he has to have been there in the first place.

In the hundreds of years that Zeusar has been at work, no person or probe has dared reach into the menacing depths of Jupiter itself to find the hidden astroengineer. Even our rescue teams cannot go in there without very expensive and very rare forms of aura shielding.

Apparently six explorers have ventured too close to this enigmatic force. A specially prepared first contact team hovers 73 kilometers above the three faces of Zeusar, frozen in place and slowly dying, presumably because of their invasive and unauthorized approach to Zeusar.

For now, we take orbit of Jupiter above the spot where Zeusar holds six humans captive and in danger of running out of time in which they can survive the maelstrom of radiation.

I’m so close to Jupiter that it looks like an endless swirling ocean that I’m barely hovering above.



2 thoughts on “Astroengineer

  1. Amazing stories! And artwork is Trippy. Man I can’t wait for more. It’s so enjoyable to read your adventures. It’s as if you have actually done these space travels.

    1. It’s so gratifying on those rare occasions when unsolicited comments like yours come in. It’s a great feeling to be able to create shared wonder. Thanks for taking the time, Holo. As a reward, I’d like to do an original drawing of any character (mine or any others) at your request. I’ll post the result here on the website. Suggestions?

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