Short Story: Green Earth Project

by Candice Lim

Reciting the speech for the last of seventy times, I sprawled in the sleeping pod. This auction would be my first live encounter with other New Humans; flesh to flesh, no technological intervention. Ignoring the microdrones in my tummy, I played the footage on the smart mirror. “That should be enough,” I sighed, ignoring the few ‘uhs’ and ‘ums’.

After the three-beep fanfare, Dandelion the AI assistant announced through the PA system, “Doctor Wallis, your first guest, Mister Jheng, will arrive in five minutes.”

I knew all about Sebastian; robopreneur, space travel enthusiast, and father of two daughters. His wife was a virtual educator in a VR playschool. Though we had been cyberfriends for one decade, the idea of seeing him in person made my little heart jump.

“It’s fiftieth century, Doctor Wallis. Why trouble your guests to come over when you could’ve held an online auction and utilised the Wormhole Post Portal?” asked Dandelion.

“It’s a special event for me. I want to meet the buyers.” I fixed the collar of my cold suit. Usually I only wore a cold suit outdoors to fend off heat in the thin atmosphere but the auction was a formal event and I wanted to give a great first impression.

“Perhaps are you looking for a relationship? A trial run with potential targets, Doctor Wallis?”

I snapped my fingers twice to turn off the PA system.

My HoloWatch sprang to life. “So I was right; it’s an undercover matchmaker. Well, Mister Jheng has arrived.”

Excitement propelled me into the vacuum elevator to the lobby. I glided across the spartan guest chamber to the automated door. “Allow access.”

The chromed door slid open; Sebastian Jheng in his gray cold suit smiled and extended a gloved hand to me. He must have been rehearsing. “Pleasure to meet you, Doctor Cady Wallis; star archeobiologist and agropreneur.” His voice sounded robotic through the oxygen mask.

I took his hand. My first human touch in twenty-eight years. As an orphan raised and homeschooled by droids, that was quite an accomplishment. “Uh, welcome to my place. You may remove your oxygen mask now. The dome is oxygen-circulated.”

Removing the translucent device, Sebastian took a deep breath. “Luckily you have an oxygen circulator. My kids and I are allergic to low oxygen.”

“Don’t worry. The oxygen level in every room is regulated by the InTileGent Health Monitoring Flooring System.”

Sebastian nodded. “Where are the rest?”

“You are early, Mister Jheng.” I smiled. “Do you remember the Premodern Greenhouse I told you?”

“Of course I do, Doctor Wallis. It’s genius.”

“Please allow me to show you.” I walked Sebastian through the glass aerobridge to the hanging dome. The greenhouse was my private retreat, even Dandelion had no access to it. Opening the door, minty air brushed into the aerobridge. “Welcome to the thirtieth century.”

Potted archaic plants lined on the seven-tiered shelves, each supplemented with water and artificial nutrients through nanotubes. Only a couple of weeds now became rare gems survived the mass extinction that wiped out the Old Humans. Even in the chilled chamber, we could feel the warmth of the sun that had been a red blotch in the grayish haze.

Illustration by Kong Yink Heay.

“This dandelion for the auction.” I placed the plant on the observatory podium. “Personal favorite.”

“I could tell from your AI.”

“So which one are you taking home?”

“Actually none.”

I stared at him wide-eyed.

“I attended your latest webinar.” Sebastian surveyed the plants. “The one about your Green Earth Project.”

“Oh, what do you think?”

“That idea…is ridiculous. When plants reign the planet, the public will have free access to oxygen and foods. Guess how many industries will go out of business?”

“Is that more important than creating a self-sustaining planet? Didn’t you read about the electricity outage in City P2-5-067? One hundred and twenty-five casualties just because of the oxygen circulator failure. What if that happens to your children?”

“My house has an emergency power system. Too bad they did not follow the regulations. A green world was the idea of the past when the Old Humans had to depend on lower species for survival. We, New Humans, can sustain ourselves with technology. As a friend, I reckon you to leave that primitive idea where it belongs. Do your species a favor.”

The auction commenced in the guest chamber, minus Sebastian Jheng, who left before it started. The dandelion along with four rare weeds were sold for three billion dollars, which would contribute to Green Earth Project. When the last guest left, I returned to the greenhouse.

“InTileGent detected a drop in your serotonin level after the meeting with Mister Jheng, Doctor Wallis,” noted Dandelion through the HoloWatch.

“I don’t know if I am doing the right thing anymore. Sebastian had a point. Green Earth Project is going to hamper the economy. We will fall back to the primitive ways of the Old Humans.”

“That is Mister Jheng’s definition of primitive, Doctor Wallis. What’s yours?”

My mind cleared. Who actually were the primitive ones; the self-sustaining Old Humans or the technologically advanced New Humans? Tapping on my tablet, I projected the blueprint of Green Earth Project into a hologram. “Sebastian was right. It’s time to do my species a favour.”

About the author

Graduated with Biotech degree, CANDICE LIM WAN CHI is a science fiction and fantasy (SFF) writer working to publish her first trilogies and pursue a scientific entrepreneurial venture. Find out more about Candice by visiting her Scientific Malaysian profile at http://www.scientificmalaysian.com/members/candistic/