Atlas looked out at his world from his new hangar laboratory. He hadn’t spent much time with his world since the Starnet was set up. He needed to check in with the planet now, before things got a little crazy when Trillion’s ship arrived and the war began.
He had turned his hangar into a genetic engineering laboratory. There was now a whole petting zoo of marine animals in tanks. His favourite were the killer whales – he couldn’t wait to release them on the planet below.
It was no longer an ice world. It was a water world. The ice shelves had given way to water. And lots of it. A few mountains poked out from beneath.
He thought about how Earth was basically a water world too. He remembered looking at Earth from space and remembered mostly seeing water. Now New Europa looked the same – mostly water. He wondered if Europa was still the right moon to be naming the planet after. It showed the history of the planet and he still liked the name. “Ship, I can’t believe we have an oxygen-rich environment down there now.”
“I can,” Ship replied in a sarcastic tone. “That was the plan.”
Atlas had printed out a sheet with all the atmosphere make-up on it. It was mostly oxygen. The hydrogen was escaping into space, but the oxygen was sticking around. Humans couldn’t live on the planet, but they were getting close.
“What animal do you think we should seed first?” Atlas asked.
“With the current atmosphere, we are kind of limited. And the waters are still quite clean. So ¼ so it’d have to be a freshwater fish.”
“Exactly. That’s why I was thinking the Siamese algae eater. It’s the perfect fish for the job. It can kick-start the aquatic food pyramid and start eating all this fungus we let grow crazy.”
Atlas’s line of thought was interrupted as the printer suddenly sprang to life, printing out a document. He stared at it, wondering why it was printing something.
“Oh, that’s me,” Ship said, pointing to the printout. “I wanted to give you this research paper to read. It’s on building sustainable fish in aquariums. Basically, it argues for diversity of life.”
Atlas plucked the document from the printer and sat down to read it.
A few minutes later the paper had scribbles and writing all over it. Atlas looked up when he’d finished. “Interesting, Ship. It’s basically saying we need to introduce as much variety into the world as quickly as possible.”
He bit his lower lip, thinking some more. “I don’t want to risk having to start again building the oxygen levels, but I agree with the principle. Lex, can you build a model, predicting which animals we should populate the oceans with and when we should do it? Focus on what will get the planet habitable for humans the quickest.”
Atlas placed the paper on the table and stood up. “This was super useful, Ship. Do you have any other papers on this I should read?”
Ship nodded and the printer fired up again.
While the papers were printing out Atlas cast his mind to sites for a colony. “Lex, can you show me a few potential locations for a settlement? We can’t have everyone living on sailboats.”
The orb flashed purple.
“He doesn’t think any land on the planet is ideal,” Ship answered for him.
Atlas hated Lex’s inability to handle uncertainty. “What do you mean there isn’t any land that is ideal?”
Rather than respond, Ship took over his computer. Showing various locations he cycled through the different options. Atlas noticed that all the rocks were extremely jagged and did not look like what he had imagined. “Hmm … Perhaps we should grab Icarus and Trillion. Let’s see if they have any ideas.”
Almost instantly, Icarus arrived, a portal opening up in front of one of the tanks. The room filled with a smell of sulphur once more.
“Hey, Atlas, Trillion and I were just about to message you,” Icarus said as he walked through the portal, followed by Trillion.
“Yeah, what’s up?” she said.
Atlas pointed at his computer screen. “I’ve got a bit of a problem. My world ‘almost’.” Atlas made sure to enunciate the word slowly. “Almost has a breathable atmosphere. But I haven’t picked a place to build the colony. Can you help me?”
Icarus squinted at the screen. “Old man, you really have to make the most of being a simulation.” Icarus pointed to a portal which opened up on the other side of the room. “Can I show you something?”
“Oh, this is cool,” Trillion said when she saw what was on the other side of the portal.
Atlas had some more data he wanted to show them, but he was intrigued, so he nodded and followed them through the portal.
As they walked through, the room changed. On the other side was Icarus’s hangar, which was empty apart from a large eleph-ANT hanging from wires on the ceiling, lowering the eleph-ANT to the ground.
“While I set up,” Icarus pointed to the lowering eleph-ANT, “Atlas, can you organise your Lex to move an eleph-ANT to all the locations you wanted to show us?”
Atlas gave a thumbs-up signal. “There should be several already there.”
Atlas was still a little confused by what was happening. He could see the large eleph-ANT had now reached the ground, its legs bent in on itself. He hadn’t seen one up close in such a long time. They were much bigger than he remembered.
A large door swung open and a ramp extended out towards them. “Come on inside,” Icarus said. “I’ve adjusted it to fit all three of us.” It was dark inside, and despite the few lights it was difficult to see anything.
As they walked up the ramp their eyes adjusted. Inside were four seats near the front. They all sat down, Atlas in the middle.
“You ready?” Icarus said as he held his finger over a button.
“You really like a spectacle, don’t you?” Trillion laughed.
Icarus nodded. “Oh wait – seat belts.”
Three large arms reached over the top of each of them, reminiscent of an amusement park ride.
Atlas found himself pinned down.
Icarus pressed the button and the machine lurched. The screen in front of them turned on, followed by the surrounding screens, giving them a complete360-degree view.
The screen changed to the point of view of one of the eleph-ANTs on New Europa. Atlas studied the view in front of him. He could see the eleph-ANT was standing on top of one of the ice shelves. He was impressed. With the screens all around, it looked like Atlas was sitting in an eleph-ANT that was on New Europa. He could see ice everywhere. He shivered. “Is it cold in here?”
“Yes,” Icarus nodded. “You like it? I wanted it to be an immersive experience.”
Icarus grabbed the control stick in front of him and pressed it forward. The eleph-ANT started running along the ice. It jumped and then turned its engines on. It shot up into the air, and Atlas could feel himself being pressed into his seat.
The view was beautiful. As far as the eye could see there was ice.
The eleph-ANT turned around. Atlas was pressed into Trillion’s shoulder. The eleph-ANT flew higher in the sky. They could see the edge of the ice now. It dropped straight off into the water where hundreds of tiny icebergs were floating out.
Icarus pointed at the ice. “Atlas, what about building a colony on the ice?”
Atlas shook his head. It was beautiful, but it didn’t make sense. “I didn’t go to all that trouble of heating up the planet just to have my people living on the ice.”
“Good point,” agreed Trillion. “Are there any mountains?”
Icarus looked at Atlas who nodded. Icarus held his hand over the button again. “Ship, show us the mountains.” He pressed the button. Their view changed in an instant. Their eleph-ANT was now standing at the base of a mountain – but not just any mountain. Time hadn’t weathered down anything. The rocks were sharp. Atlas looked at a few of the objects. They looked like asteroids that had once hit the planet, obviously frozen in time until the ice melted.
Icarus moved his control stick forward once more. The eleph-ANT started to climb. It was a rough ride, the three of them bumping into each other as the eleph-ANT jumped from side to side. There were creaking sounds each time it took a step.
After about three minutes Atlas had had enough. The ride was getting bumpier by the minute. “I thought eleph-ANTs had shock absorbers.”
Ship was the one who responded. “I think you should stop walking this eleph-ANT. The rocks are ripping into its legs. The back two are basically torn to shreds now.”
Icarus nodded and pressed the button in front of him. Their view changed once more, this time to an eleph-ANT that was flying above the one they had just been in.
Atlas studied the eleph-ANT. Its two back legs were scrap metal. The front four were only slightly better, its wires and insides exposed. One of its legs was stuck between two jagged rocks.
“One more step and I would have ripped that leg clean off,” Icarus said.
“I see what you mean. You don’t want people living on this,” Trillion said.
“Without rain and tectonic movement, the land hasn’t been worn down over time. It’s basically regolith, but made of boulders.”
“Okay, what are the other options you have?” Icarus asked.
Atlas knew he was grasping at straws, but he suggested it anyway. “I could build a floating city. I’ve been thinking about building concrete blocks with a hollow centre. They would float. I could build millions of them and stick them together.”
“Too complicated, Atlas,” Trillion said. “Go basic. You don’t need to invent something new. The maintenance costs after a few thousand years would make it not worth it.”
“What do you suggest then?” Atlas asked.
Trillion smiled. “Build a continent.”
“Isn’t that what I suggested?” Atlas responded.
“No, you suggested making a floating island” Trillion said as she thought through how it might work. “Dig up the dirt and start depositing it on this mountain.”
Atlas thought about it for a second. His mind started ticking over. A major construction project like that would be fun. “Ship, are there any mountains on the equator that have a wide base, even if most of it is under the sea? I’m thinking the size of Australia?”
The eleph-ANT shook and their view changed once more.
This time their eleph-ANT stood, its legs half covered in water. They were surrounded by shallow water with a smattering of sharp jagged rocks across the landscape. The water and rocks were covered in a green film – it was the location of the first fungus seeding.
Atlas pointed at the land they were standing on. “I could send a few thousand eleph-ANTs down here.” He smiled. “I could literally start moving mountains to this location. I could build a continent right here.”
“Just don’t call it ‘New America’,” Icarus said, cringing at the sound of that name.
Atlas gave him a thumbs-up and teleported out. He had work to do.