Proxima Terra: Rio, the Exoplanet Hunter

Earth was no more. After centuries of worsening climate, humanity was forced to band together and fund the permanent relocation of their species. This operation was named Venus Fallen, after the venusificiation of Earth past the point of no return. The planet’s surface temperature was that of a wood-fired oven. It’s not normal to cook a pizza on your windowsill in 90-seconds, or for you yourself to be cooked before enjoying a slice. It’s also not normal to live underground in climate controlled dens like a futuristic colony of prairie dogs who invented air conditioning. However, fractions of humankind chose to stay behind for religious reasons and believed their fate was to remain on Earth waiting for their God [or Gods] to save them. I find this reality very ironic as humans have always feared the concept of Hell. Yet, a sliver of Earth’s political world leaders chose to obey religious testaments, dismiss climate change, and in doing so turned their planet into the Hell they’ve always feared. Despite valiant efforts by organizations for the planet’s health, humanity grew too caustic before they grew wise. Thankfully, a smart portion of humans accepted the inevitable downfall brought upon by their leaders and acted in time. These humans, before things got too bad, had launched several missions to explore our solar system and other exo-systems. These humans detached themselves from religious conflicts, unaccepted sexual orientations, and dangerous national pride that caused war among their grandest armies. These humans evolved a social awareness that transcends what once plagued them and acted as the catalyst to get them off-world. For these humans, the frontier is everywhere.

By the time Earth had lost its atmosphere, the last remaining [privatized] space agency had toured nearly hundreds of other worlds and most were settled with a few thousand colonists. The planet’s first trillionaire was the cosmic entrepreneur who financed the survival of humanity.  The father of the cosmic revolution is CEO Adom Abasi of Horus, a space agency specializing in the colonization and terraforming efforts in our galaxy. I’ve worked closely with Adom over the last decade in secret. He became my best friend in all the Milky Way and gave me my name, Venus Fallen, after the operation to save his people. If not for me he says, his kind would have never had the technological capacity to expand its horizons to the stars. I accepted this honor with humility and did not want the humans to know I was helping. He had to be their symbol for hope, their hero. I was too… complicated for that. Only Adom and his two favorite things in the universe know I exist. His daughter Nile and his son Rio. Nile is Director of Engineering at Horus and Rio is the Director of Colonization, the department that deals with the discovery of exoplanets and the strategy behind settling a new world.

This entry is about Rio, a rowdy adventurer with the mind of Einstein and a passion for beer that dwarfs the love most parents conjure up for their own children. I’m serious. He’s a young man with good intentions and loves his father’s company, but lately, he’s been ignoring business and allocating all time and money to one thing. Finding the galaxy’s most elusive lost city, Glitching Gardens, currently rumored to be in the Saturnian system, close to the home of old. For months, Rio has been visiting a countless number of exoplanets and exomoons. Like a space pirate looking for a hidden cove of hoppy treasure, he’s traversed interstellar space and has found himself with sunken spirits. The gardens are home to a metropolis of hops and rivers of ethyl alcohol. All the necessary ingredients Rio needs to start his very own brewery. He dreams of crafting anti-gravity IPA’s and dark matter imperial stouts brewed with asteroid dust. These are only some of the madcap concoctions Rio has in mind. He’s on the hunt for rare hop strains originally manufactured in varying levels of gravity, atmospheric conditions, and matter. The garden’s caretaker is an old man who has protected its secrecy for hundreds of years by transporting the green city to hidden galactic outposts when threatened. No outsider has ever managed to enter the gardens. The old man has senses that have yet to fail his ability to feel external interests closing in. Naturally, I had a gift for Rio that would aid him in this quest.

This morning, I presented him with something I call, The Sight of the Wanderer. A nanochip HUD display upgrade that links the user seamlessly to the natural world. I originally developed this technology for Horus. Adom wanted something to integrate into his ship and eventually into his top field agents. The sight could do seemingly endless tasks such as analyze spectroscopy measurements of planetary atmospheres or run instant time-lapses of terraformed landscapes to predict the feasibility of the job. This would drastically help Horus save money as world’s shown to be statistically risky would not become a funded project. I had a different goal in mind when sharing this technology with Rio, and did so frankly because I wanted to see if he could best the old man. The caretaker was once a high-ranking officer of the Numerati Animo. He was exiled centuries ago for practicing ancient alchemy and executing on questionable experiments with anti-matter and time. His demotion from the council sent the old man’s mind into a cryptic haze, which is when the hive branded him with his current name, Insania Saeculorum or Ages Madness. There’s no telling if Ages is hostile or just prefers to be alone. In the interest of my mission however, I’d rather this garden be under the control of Horus.

Only a few hours later, Rio equipped the sight and began triangulating on the current location of Glitching Gardens. It was on Saturn’s great moon, Titan. The brave astronaut, on his hunt for the best beer ingredients in the galaxy, stood at the basin of a great river valley. He was at the garden’s entrance and the old man was not aware… or was he? Rio configured the sight to read heat signatures given off by mysterious hop strains being boiled off the moon’s surface. With precise readings, Rio entered the time-sphere border created by the garden’s AI. The border marks the city’s boundaries and determines what gets teleported upon feeling a need to escape, and what gets left behind. What is his plan exactly? It’s one man versus an ex-Numerati officer and his mysterious garden chock full of the unknown. Rio could be sent to another dimension all together… or worse, in pieces. I will keep a close eye on him.

Rio is on an adventure.

To be continued.