Beyond the End of Time: Prologue
By Ben Snyder
Eerie, pulsating blue light illuminated the room, casting twisting patterns across the walls. Pipes and tubes covered almost the entire floor, feeding into capsules like demented beasts bristling with tentacles. An ominous clicking sound echoed around the large, circular chamber. A serrated arm reached forward from the shadows and brushed the condensation off of the nearest capsule. A scaly head inset with huge compound eyes peered through into the bubbling solution separated from the contents by only a thin layer of glass.
Eyes returned the creature’s calculated stare, gazing out of the partially formed head. Spindly arms protruded from a comically miniscule torso and as the insectoid watched, the embryo kicked its legs slightly.
How strange, the creature thought to herself, that human young are so weak for so long. She thought of her kind, the arthrids, and their caches of eggs. Young arthrids were left to fend for themselves; the strongest of each cache would emerge alone, appetite sated and prepared to molt for the first time.
The rigorous education system dominated the next immature phase, controlled directly by the Council. These schools had no need for knowledge--that could be easily uploaded to the brain--but rather cultivated the art of thought itself. Those that excelled continued on to higher echelons before the final molt and transition into adulthood.
Spiny legs clacked against the concrete floor as she continued through the rows of suspended fetuses. The researchers had begun with over fifty engineered eggs, yet fertilization and early growth had left only eleven survivors, and she guessed only half of them would remain by the time experimentation started. She knew it would be twenty years before the humans were developed enough to study behavior in detail, but already, their growth, nerve activity, movement, and hormone levels were carefully monitored to be compiled in comprehensive reports.
For now at least, the project had the public’s full attention. Books such as Those Before Us, populist works composed almost entirely of fiction, had captivated audiences with the sheer weirdness of humans. Coupled with the lucky find of perfectly preserved DNA, the Human Research Project was born. Her organization received lucrative donations from various institutions, including the government, and quickly put together a team to begin the cloning process.
However, she understood that the stream of interested donors and politicians would soon be replaced by auditors clamoring for more results with less funding. The incessant “leaks” from the United Space Program hinted at moon colonization plans--a much more eye-catching project.
Why did you do it? she wondered, glancing back from the doorway at the mysterious creatures held within.