[Original Novel] Metal Fever II: The Erasure of Asherah, Part 9


Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Nobody lives there full time at the moment, although supposedly that’s the plan. Before prison, I remembered reading about a program to genetically engineer humans able to carry a fetus to term without defects despite the low Lunar gravity, along with a laundry list of other small adaptations to that environment. It’s been six years, I assume they’ve made some progress on that since then but I don’t really care to check.

I would sooner become a conshelfer than transplant my life to a barren, airless rock. I know I’m in the minority in feeling that way, but why do so many want to move further away from life, rather than closer to it?

Life, in the sense of biology. Of diverse, lush ecosystems. Living underwater moves you closer to the Earth, and surrounds you with beautiful living things. Moving further from the Earth, living the rest of your life in an artificial environment is a decision I’ll never understand. Then again, I am on my way to Shenzen.

I disengaged my interface upon hearing over the PA that boarding would soon commence. Everyone around me shifted in their seat, eyeing up everyone around them as if it would be a race. As if the order of boarding hadn’t been decided long in advance.

The fucking dolphin got to go first, to my consternation. It was such a tedious and elaborate ordeal to load his scooter dealie onto the plane that by the time the first set of human passengers were able to begin boarding, I was on the verge of nodding off.

Of course when I found my seat, I was right behind the damned thing. He was strapped in place facing towards the rear of the plane, leaving me little option but to stare him in the face. I couldn’t pretend not to notice him without it being obvious what I was doing, either.

As the rest of the passengers milled about, chatting and bickering, I gave the rolling dolphin carrier a closer look. Mostly because some of the water vapor was getting on my arms. Not that I really cared just then, but it seemed like something that would grow increasingly irritating over the next few hours.

“EEKKEKEEEEK-EK-EK” the marine mammal shrieked, promptly translated into Chinese, then into English after I dialed in that preference. “I can turn the front misters off if you like.” Suddenly flustered by the show of consideration given my uncharitable thoughts up to that point, I assured the streamlined mass of glistening grey flesh before me that it wasn’t a big deal.

“The plastic bag you’re zipped up into contains most of it” I explained. It actually did, about a centimeter worth of accumulated water sloshing gently at the very bottom where suction pumps recirculate it to the misters. But really, just not wanting her to think I was some sort of asshole. Or…him? I can never tell, and often catch myself assuming all dolphins are female just because of their shape.

“I’m not a separatist, if that’s what you’re thinking” it chirped, the synth English voice reading the translation sounding comically formal. I insisted I didn’t think anything in particular and don’t make a habit of assuming shit about strangers. Only partly true.

“I’m more afraid you’re going to spend the whole flight talking my ear off about the prophet Lilly” I muttered, and to my surprise the dolphin laughed. “I’m not a follower of his teachings, I must confess. The name I use with humans is Remble. Not my actual name, but that doesn’t translate to anything in English and it’s painful to the human eardrum.”

I reached out as if to shake its hand before realizing the foolishness of it. Instead I introduced myself and asked why I don’t meet many atheist dolphins. Remble hesitated before answering. “I never said I was an atheist.”

Of all the things I expected getting onto this plane, shooting the shit with a dolphin and enjoying myself to boot was pretty far down the list. Remble turned out to be male, his name taken from a cartoon he liked when very young.

When I asked how dolphins watch cartoons, he described a human conshelfer he was friends with making a point to wheel a little old fashioned television into the moon pool module of the subsea colony she lived in so Remble could surface, flop up on the rim and watch it.

The image of a child and a dolphin watching their favorite show together tickled me, and humanized Remble to the point where I began wondering whether the term “humanize” is appropriate any longer.

I posed the question to Remble, who mulled it over. “The vibe I got from you before we started talking-” I cut in to apologize, but Remble kept going. “-It was hostile. I can tell you don’t talk to many fins. I am sure there have been some who gave you good reasons to suppose it’s a waste of time.

I’m not going to point any fingers at you, so to speak. Fins and humans alike just clam up when you put them on trial like that. I’m also not going to tell you some kind of sob story about what bad shape the ocean is in, that we now rely on the offshore farms you’ve built to feed us when before the concept of paying for our meals was an absurdity.

Besides the Lilly nonsense I imagine that sort of accusatory whinging is what sours people like you to fins. But realize, those are the sounds that insecure, scared people make regardless of species. People who feel powerless to improve their conditions by conventional means, because the opposition is overwhelmingly strong. So, they try to get what they want in a different way.

Think about times in the past when you’ve had the upper hand. It felt good, didn’t it? Felt secure. You didn’t complain, but because there was nothing to complain about. So the complaints of others probably sounded trivial to your ear.

But now, think about times when you were dominated by someone else. When you couldn’t get the better of them however hard you tried. It changed how you thought, didn’t it? From the mindset of a predator to the mindset of prey. It changed your tone, your narrative and rhetoric.

Probably you started noticing every little thing about your opponent that you could find fault with, in order to take them down a peg. Probably you began to nitpick, to look for hypocrisy you could rub their nose in. Not that you imagined these qualities, necessarily. They may well have been real, but you only felt the need to fight that way because it was the only recourse left to you.

This is the difference between how the weak and strong fight their battles. The difference in rhetoric between conquerors and the conquered. When you hear terms like ‘privilege’, ‘micro-aggressions’ and so forth you’re hearing the frustrated cries of the defeated.”

I objected here to the term “conquered”. It seemed a bit harsh to me, given that we’d gone to great lengths not only to bring dolphins close to cognitive parity with humans, but also to integrate them into our society.

Remble snorted. “Only after abducting us by the thousands to perform tricks for the amusement of your children in various theme parks. The ones you didn’t slaughter, I mean.” I cringed and gestured for him to stop, that he’d made his point.

“I’m really not looking to shame you. I know you’re tired of hearing the long list of human atrocities against fins recited to you over and over. But fins do that because it’s the only weapon we know of that seems to work on you.

To say that we’re negotiating from a disadvantaged position is a gross understatement. When you’re pinned beneath the oppressor’s boot, and discover that it has an achilles heel…guilt, in your case…do you really expect us not to leverage it against you? What else can we do to improve our lot?”

I wanted to protest the term “oppressor”, but knew that would just take us back to square one, and I could find very little in his reasoning to dispute anyhow. Not that it saved any time, as he was far from finished with me.

“My point is, you’ve inhabited both roles in your life I’d wager: the victor, and the vanquished. So you know that the world looks very different from either perspective. When you’re losing, you see yourself as the courageous battered underdog fighting for justice with cruel, brutal oppressors against which any amount of treachery is justified.

But then, when you’re winning, you’re simply the hero of your own story attaining the reward which was always richly deserved. You don’t see yourself as one of the brutal oppressors once you’re on top for the same reasons the people who used to have the whip hand over you never did.

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