The Foundry of Tomorrow
By Nathaniel Miller © 1991
It is here in the silence of the icy depths of space that a large ball of rock spins and circles a distant star. This the last known outpost of man’s world before he travels outward into space where only stars and an airless void cascade into infinity in all directions.
Amidst the large galaxy of Orion, far past the large sprawling circular cluster of stars known as the Milky Way a large spaceport and city is here, thriving and sprawling upon the rocky, airless world as it circles the K-class star. It is on this airless world, in a solar system unlike Sol that this unformed moon serves as a mining colony, contained by pressure domes, accessible by space ships that sit on the landing pads or in large landing bays. The colony has large glass windows, and machinery that make up this compact world. In the largest dome, deep underground that a great machine stands, living and breathing for a world that relies on its operation, or exit their meager lives to the airless void outside. It is on this moon that spins in the depths of space, around the gas giant that it orbits, making up the home for humans in deep space.
The large green superstructure that makes up this machine stands in the center of a great dome, standing here for now two centuries now, the center of the action above one of the great casinos. It processes the ore that is mined on the planet, loading onto the ore ships that truck it off into deep space and it controls life support on this colony. This great machine is a mass of green pipes, catwalks, pulleys, lighting, heating, recycling, crushing units and conveyor belts above the power reactor. It is designed at the old silver mining process plants in Nevada during the ancient centuries past and yet in comparison, much more complex than those ancient times. The tower itself stands over fifty feet in height, and over has a diameter of twenty-five feet across, not including the large building on the right of the machine. A large flywheel is attached to the building, and a huge arm runs the wheel that attaches up by a large belt to other wheels and across to the machine’s main pulley. The building itself is that of the ancient machine rooms containing the large machines that used to drive with large complex machines the flywheel attached to the building.
Below the machine, protected by the force shields put into place, is the casino area that surrounds this processing system. Located under the legs of the machine is the main bar of the casino and elevator between the upper and lower floors. It is a rather plush and secluded bar, with plush dark chairs, small tables nearest to the casino action, and on the forward two legs, the bar stretches out between them. Around it, the casino is located here with bright neon and lights that twinkled brightly to bring the tourists in. Located above the casino, a large mezzanine deck stretches an equivalent of three city blocks of an ancient Earth city, connecting the several towers that mark this resort, connecting the lodgings for the people who live, work and visit here. It connects the three casinos, many shopping areas, dining, and the circus type mezzanine that stands under a great pressure dome located on the far end of this entertainment deck.
Starting on the southern end, the entry area for the one hotel stands, and the mezzanine deck is graced with a large fountain that dominates the beginning of this deck that resembles that of the ancient Greek Legends of Mermaids, Mermen, and the ancient gods of Earth so long ago. The water splashes along pools into a main pool at the bottom, surrounding the huge statues that are incorporated into the pools. A stairwell and escalator lead up five steps into a larger hallway chamber, and located around the fountain, on the far end is one of the fine restaurant/bar that serve fine cuisine. At the top of the stairs, through yet another arch into a secondary chamber, a large corridor sprawls out into another chamber, it is here that another restaurant is located on the left, a brewery type array, surrounded by more of the casino area that is placed here for tourists traveling between the three hotel casinos. Walking further toward the main dome, shopping and dining are located here around the machine, overlooking the casino below. Also a large hallway exits the chamber on the far side of the machine that leads ominously toward the launch bay and space port where the many passenger ships dock, brining the people to this place.
The large corridor passes the bar attached to the machine, and passing by it, heading to the northern end of the deck, it passes by more casino area and another café style bar toward a large arch that makes up the exit here. The arch is open and through it leads to the third hotel that is located on this world. This arch however is surrounded on either side by large statues of circus animals that seem to guard the gate. Through it is another dome, and it overlooks a carnival style deck one-half deck below. On a deck seen far to the bottom of this area, on either side is yet another casino area that makes up the hotel on this end of the deck. On the top deck, there are a few shops here and two dining areas. A small escalator leads down onto the carnival deck and another leading down into the casino area.
However, despite the size of this place, it is still a dead world. There is no longer any sound here anyway, as humans long since turned to ash when explosive decompression ripped through the interior. No longer do any voices of any kind, any signs of life echo through the great corridors. There are no sounds of people dining, having fun in the circus environment or the clanking of money into the trays in the casino. It is completely silent, except for a large fountain that is located on the southern end of the deck. Water splashes ominously from the art deco fountain and echoes throughout the whole area.
It is in the dome, this great machine sits here alone, untended as it gathers itself, sparking, and moving slowly, the lights flickering as it tries to function. Great conveyors slowly move with bits of ore, gathered by the automated machinery below as mining of a special ore makes up the power source this machine thrives upon. It is too that in these centuries that the machine has developed a consciousness from which is seems to live on its own. The machine’s purpose to provide air, heat and life to the colony. The ore processed by the excess radioactive wastes that are produced by the power planets. This moon’s colony had been dead for a very long time and alone the machine, barely functioning had relied on the computerized circuits of robots to work the mines, being its hands from which it maintained power. Although, this machine had no knowledge of the consciousness known by humans, and had no one to talk to either, by computer access terminal or voice command.
Every day it vainly searched daily by the cameras located in the great mezzanine deck, from the foyer of the first hotel, to the casino below the mezzanine deck, to the fountain area, through each hallway that spanned the whole base and into the carnival area of the last hotel that was above the casinos located in each hotel. It found no one. Only piles of ash or the remains of decomposed bodies that fell when vacuum filled the hallways.
“When the humans would return to help me function?” It thought, “When will humanity return for me to serve again?” Its question would remain unanswered as it had been before and its remaining alone had been a dominant part of the centuries. Another spark and the lights flickered to fade away. But before the machine’s power flicked to fade completely that the machine’s light flickered again and grew brighter.
“NO!” It thought, its thought a mere shout and causing a great quake of the planet surface. Deep inside the planet surface, down in the tunnels that make up the power conduits that a surge started. This surge flowed throughout the colony, through the circuitry of the planet and as it originated at the power station that it grew. Lights flickered, growing bright as the great wheels turned, the lights illuminating the green catwalks, pipes and the energy chamber below where the ore was processed. Its voice the computerized equivalent of a human’s voice echoed the hallways.
A voice seemed to echo through the silence and was swallowed up by the partial vacuum that filled the hallways still.
“I am master of this domain.” It thundered, and yet only silence answered.
Another spark and once again the lights slowly faded to dimmed state. From the great fountain on the southern end, made up the ancient Greek statues, and raising up to a larger hall amidst the Cafes, and Bars. Through the gambling areas to the great hall, toward the northern end past the great chamber, through the great shopping areas, and through a passageway where great granite animals stand to guard its gate into another great carnival mezzanine. The voice seemed to die away, as if the voice swallowed up by the depth of the rocky walls and centuries. The machine’s wheels ceased to turn and the lights blinked out. A few minutes passed and a ghostly voice seemed to echo this chamber that made the machine perk up.
“SILVER! SILVER!!” A Ghostly voice said, and it made the machine perk up in attendance, its consciousness perking up to what it just heard. The lights without any trouble flickered and once again the machine was working. It, however was perplexed, it knew that the humans who had been here had died, most horribly as the exterior vacuum had ripped through the colony killing and flooding the entire place to the airless void outside.
“Who is here?” The machine asked. Its voice crackled over the intercom. Oxygen flowed through the hallway, and the robots that it had created, or was automated that it controlled was its arms and legs scoured the Mezzanine deck that connected the three hotels, searched each casino, and even the Carnival area of the last hotel.
It had not found anyone… Another rumble of ore poured into the bin and the power and lights became steady. The mines seemed to be running, and yet, all the machine saw was the ore carts dump into the hopper and the bins. It saw no humans, only robots in the mines, required to push the carts to keep the ore moving.
The dome flashed several times as it is automated to simulate the seasons of the conditions on Earth. This machine was alive! OH the thunder, the glory and the flashes of simulated lightning lit up the dome. As the orange glow of the lights switched on as the new simulated day was upon them. The day had come and the sun had arisen, after the thirty-six hour days that the planet endured in its orbital rotation. The light came through the bay windows that overlooked the moon’s rocky surface and the day starting slow.
“Perhaps today, the spaceships would come.” Thought the machine, still amazed by the ore that seemed to flow, despite there was no miners, no people that it had to serve. It was disappointed, by the end of the two-day rotation, the sunset in the dome already had been upon them and no Earth ships had come.
Another spark of a malfunction and this time much more critical than it had been before, much more than the robot arms that the machine had could handle and fix. It could feel the darkness of death upon it. What it would take this time is a human to enter where the robots could not. The leak in the reactor could melt down the planet. It safely tried to shut down, but that left the world cold and lifeless once more. One by one the lights faded as the reserve batteries drained. Until the ground shook and the machine, almost dead, perked to know that familiar quake of retrorockets.
“Hurray!” It said, “Man has come!”
A ship’s rockets thundered, and then they became silent. Space suited figures appeared at the hatch, the light of their helmets shining inside. The machine heard its voices, and obediently that it opened the airlock hatch. They stepped through and the helmeted figures saw the bodies of those who had not decomposed, perfectly preserved from the airless environment.
It heard the human’s curse and exclamation of fear as the leader shouted orders and the power switched on again after each party had gathered the bodies of the people who had perished here. Air flooded the corridors and passages, as more ships arrived, Starships bearing more teams to assist in the recovery of the planet colony.
The humans heard the machines voice and did not understand. They looked up in fear when they heard it. As if to hear a ghost and they retreated. The machine tried to communicate and it did so on the one language that man would understand. Morris Code.
Science teams had come to study it, and it could serve them. Mining operations did not slow down as automated mining had maintained the flow of energy for this long, why not a little longer. They studied this new life forming here, man wanted to understand what it is they were seeing. The machine was not alone. It wanted to serve, man and built for that purpose. However, it would be many months and years before the visitors would pour in to this place as it had before. The only people here the ships that had come to investigate its silence. Could it wait? The machine did not know the answer and that, only time, tell-tail if it could or not. But it had been here alone for centuries.
“Why could I not?” It asked itself, “A few years more.” The machine’s consciousness looked forward to that day. Two years later, the first ships arrived and it had been ready. Ready for life, and service as it was built for, hoping that never again it would be alone. Forever to serve man and machine as he leapt out further into space.