Q

It used to be considered as a disease. Parents told about abnormalities in the amniotic fluid would weep inconsolably, and consider the option of a late termination, fully supported by the medical world.

Those who believed the presence of life outweighed the ability to endure it bore children into a world they could never truly understand, other than through pain and confusion.

As science, and society grew in strength, and illnesses vanished, and the scope of normal was stretched beyond the narrow confines of the 19th century, which itself was wholly permissive by the standards of the 16th, several discordances remained untouched.

When are you from again?

Oh.

I’m very sorry. I truly am.

Perhaps I should finish my story and let you go. I feel that what I tell you would feed a sadness in you for your own time, rather than give you hope for a future you will never see.

Very Well.

A Discord? They were called many different things in your time. A way of thinking, a physicality, an internal desire. I… yes. I think in your time, they still tended to be dealt with separately, and deaths…deaths occurred because of them.

It was peculiar to think that the science of hate lead to the age of Discordance. When somebody discovered how easily you could stop a man feeling attracted to another man, they also found how easily you could make it happen. When a team of geneticists discovered how to grow back a severed arm, or change an eye colour in less than a day, the effect was astonishing. The culture wanted diversity, and ideas, which had once been the reign of eugenics, had become the playing fields of acquirement.

Elements of race, sexuality, disability, gender (you must understand I have learned these words as history, and have a little trouble assigning them to actual things) became option. Became fashion. It trivialised things, which so many people had fought to protect and destroy, that I believe, the world may have been destroyed by it, had it not come after many years of enlightenment.

In historic dramas, we see miracle cures being created days after the death of a hero’s kin. They would exclaim “if only this cure had come sooner”. I am very happy that the Age of Discordance came no sooner than humanity could accept it.

Not all Discords were under the control of Science.

Some minor items, like green eyes, persisted in dominant genes of the gamete, irrespective of the Discords of the parent. Some incompatibilities of Discord meant that dormant genetics would create a patina on the skin, which could be treated, but would tend to resurface with future Discords.

And some more severe Discords, which began from before birth, could not be treated, without either damaging the parent, or causing a level of pre-birth trauma that was incalculable.

One of these Discords left a newborn with an awareness so acute that they could experience it as nothing else but pain. A sound, a breeze, a detection of heat changing, all so excruciating that they would be pushed to the edge of annihilation from the moment of their birth.

These rare cases, the last vestiges of the human condition not opened to the worlds of science and technology, were the only battlegrounds of our society, and anyone who felt any whim of altruism or justice studied and fought to bring these last elements under our control.

It was a computational physicist who made the first break-through. Studying a suffering child, he was dazzled by the beauty of the nervous system. A double, perhaps even triple density network, with data flowing magnificently between sense organ and mind, but so tightly packed, that rather than the tiny points of stimulus we all feel, tending to ignore all but the most immediate of, the child was being electrocuted by his own body, processing more than a human could have ever been expected to.

Solutions were tried. Such as severing one in three nerves, but the effects were haphazard. We were like blindfolded, untrained mechanics, hacking randomly, by numbers, not understanding exactly what we were doing.

This lead to some deaths. Some very regrettable deaths in a society that had done all it could to make death an appointment-keeping visitor, rather than lord of the realm. Those that survived sat in a torpor-like state, as if they could not experience the world through the reduced senses they had been left with.

The next piece of the puzzle came from a mathematic philosopher, who posited that the Discord was not in the mind, or even the senses of the subject, but wholly in the physical apparatus, and the scale of the problem. He modelled the data of the computational physicist, as close as we could, and in a meeting of peers, and representatives of the Discordant, he projected the model, and dramatically, expanded it to fill the room.

At first, we believed this to simply be magnification, but the projection was growing. Elongating and stretching along hypothetical growth models, and the shimmering exploding bundles of electric energy separated, and slowed. No longer caught in each other’s fields.

The now giant figure’s mind, which had also grown, but to a lesser extent than the body, was no longer an angry white oven of impulses, but seemed to function… like a mind. Faster, more intense perhaps, dancing patterns of experience and reaction, with space left for thought.

There was a ripple of excitement, and hope, examining this fantastic insight and concept, it looked as though the final locked cage of Nature would soon be broken open, its prisoners released. But as these practical people calmed, they examined the preposterous nature of the solution, and fell to silence.

The philosopher’s solution was to take the Discordant child, and grow them to the height of 300 metres.

The philosopher’s notes were duly taken and stored in the great library of the project, and some took the ideas to heart, examining Discords, which would thin the nerves, or slow the passage of impulses, but the base physics of the situation were unchangeable. At best, the combination of research would possibly make a child’s life bearable by making him 50 metres tall.

That is the height of the dinosaur from those old films of yours. Godcilla?

Perhaps six pregnancies were diagnosed this way in five years. I know this seems very few to you, but when they were the greatest sufferers of all of society, even one felt too many. To a world where all choices were available, and reduced to triviality, the parents of these Discordants were not equipped to make the decision. Terminate before the child suffers, or allow your child to be born to experience nothing but pain, in the hope that their experience would help end all suffering.

The next development came from a pair of astronautical engineers, who had come to the project when they had discovered that their soon to be born child had this Discord. Both she and her partner joined the project and read every project file of the last 10 years, in three months. It was two months before their child was born that they reached their conclusions.

Whilst a Discord could be created to allow a child to grow to 300 meters, there would be three major problems. Firstly, the physicality of having a 300-metre tall human was impossible. They would be crushed under their own weight, and even if they were somehow able to reinforce themselves, they would require over 400,000 calories daily. Secondly, growing a human to that size, even using the most advanced of Discords would take a month, and would be excruciating to any human, let alone those suffering this very specific condition. Thirdly, there was no way to actually know, other than practical experimentation, whether this method would actually work.

The resultant hypothesis and plan of action ran completely against the standing ideas of the society. If the body given was unable to contain the mind, then the body must be rejected, and the mind re-housed.

The idea of fully rejecting the body, and of such an extreme form of re-creation being applied to a new-born, was rejected out of hand. The engineers understood that even if their plan was approved, no construction could be produced in the short time before their child’s birth. They left the project, and consulted natal doctors with regards the best of existing options for their child. A termination was still possible in this extreme case, but the removal of the remnants would still pose problems.

At a set time, the birth was induced. Instructions needing to be given to both parents via digital text, as they had undergone a Discord of deafness. They held their child between them in seashell silence, knowing that the heat of their bodies burned it, but no more than the passing of the air, or the subtle shifting of its own skin. Its mouth remained open, like a cavern in pink coral, some small red eel thrashing silently. Together, the parents pressed a soft blue patch, against the hot pink skin, like an anemone. And held it as the cave slowly closed up, and the heat of life ebbed away.

When it came to archiving the couple’s notes, they were copious. Far beyond those presented with the original ideas. Blueprints for the new form, references to biomechanical engineers who had never expressed any interest in the project, letters to geostationary platform developers, as well as collected works from Discord creators who had produced hypotheses based on the philosopher’s original premise.

It was long after the passing of all of these people that solutions were actually enacted. Genetic and technological Discords had normalised Disorder, and the history of pain left by the few uncontrollable elements was an all-too-felt shame.

The notes left by the engineers had been near perfect in their details, though the decades of subsequent study had allowed for some fine-tuning. No false hopes were given as the project took shape, first on the great flat disks above the earth, and then between them, when the silver spectacle grew too vast. No mention was made to the parents who were told that their child had the last wild Discord, and was offered simple solutions. Until, at last, as a human fashioned star of steel and ceramic hung in space, cold and bereft of light or life, a simply dressed representative of the project made their way to a doctor’s surgery, to have a very difficult conversation with a very nervous patient.

The contents of that conversation are common knowledge. It had been hard to make the proposal without it sounding like a threat, and the swift acquiescence had been unexpected. The terms were repeated slower and more carefully, with each harrowing element focussed on, not to dissuade the parent, but to make sure they understood every part of the procedure.

The acquiescence continued. With strength and with agency and with conviction. The child would be born, and be made into something entirely new.

The mechanics of the operation were complex. Keeping a newborn child sedated was possible, but carried immense risks, which increased with time, so the parents were bought out of the Earth’s gravity, to the platform closest to the creation. The birth was unremarkable, other than it occurred in zero gravity, and the child was sedated and removed before it made a sound.

The emptiness of the room was palpable, and in that moment, all the resolve and hope that the parent had felt collapsed in on itself like a star having burned so bright, that in its wake, it leaves nothing but the sucking void. The parent screamed so violently, and so mournfully, that the station itself shuddered.

The child was placed in a cradle, or a harness, or perhaps “skull” is a better word. And given its first designed Discord. The process is not publically accessible, in any media, though extensive records were made.

I feel a little less guilty for telling you this story, you ancient ape, yours was not a world where one would ever dream of taking a human newborn, and stretching it over the length of a river, peeling it with lasers to feed its sinews through conduits and bulkheads. Fusing it with machines in order to stimulate its desire for information, even as it half slumbered. 20 engineers and doctors worked in rotation for 28 days, bonding, skinning, treating and wiring, to place something that had once been a human child, into a colossus in space.

After a month of such strenuous Discord, adaptation, and medication, I do not believe any member of the team had the resolve they entered the project with. The skull, which had once held a human child, now held a brain, twice the child’s size. Floating in a suspension of nutrients and monitoring nanotech, it seemed like some placid sea creature, contemplating its own existence. Neuroscientists and paediatricians gathered round the projections of function, comparing them to un-augmented scans, and those of the suffering Discordants. It was obvious that the subject (as it could no longer be called a child) felt no pain, though it was experiencing stimulus. The twitching camera lenses throughout the structure, the automatic shifts in the body’s position, told the team that the brain was receiving messages, and responding to them, and faster than any model had suggested.

Next came the role of the teachers, and the scholars. 10 years of navigation, and ethics and baa-baa-black sheep and stories and history. This 10 year-old child was now a ship. And this ship was now a 10 year-old child.

Centuries on from removing race, creed, gender as elements of human life, creating a world where choice was infinite and trivial, the height of our achievements had been to create a new species, out of necessity, who had unthinkable change committed on them, and would never be able to surpass their function.

The ship mused about these things, but also about these strange two legged things, which cared for them, as any child may do with a dear pet. They also mused about what lay beyond the range of their scanner array, which, I suppose, any ship may do. They never saw their parents again, though I know they went on to have a second, and third child. I have no idea if they ever told them that their elder sibling was a Star-Farer.

That is what these new creatures came to be known as. With the final fitting of deep space engines to the first, who is now known as Grandfather, all the organisations involved began to create further stellar bodies, producing them, I am sad to say, at not quite the rate of the biological components, though any Discordant whose birth did not marry up with the completion of a body was carefully, cryogenically frozen. Perhaps as a spare, or in case production ever exceeds demand.

We are now three generations into this, a new age of Humanity, where we have turned our gaze outwards, and taking our knowledge to build new worlds, carried in the bodies we have created for those who could not enter our revisionary utopia.

I have explained all this to you for one reason. I was parent to such a child, and despite the jubilation of the world that another Star-Farer had been born, I feel in my heart that my sick child is being hurled into the abyss by a tribe who has no place for him.

When this wretchedness has passed, and I have come to terms with my own selfish loss, I will look to the night sky and imagine my Star-Farer, the one with the green eyes.