“Good morning, children.”
Ms. Tanaka swiveled into the command console of her living room class station and turned on the holographic display. The room flickered momentarily as the display connections were routed through the house’s main computer grid.
The console lights for each section of her class lit serially as their students appeared in the classroom behind her.
“Singapore. Five. Online.”
“New York. Three. Online”
“London. One. Online.” Tanaka shook her head sadly. Her student base had dropped off significantly since the Accident.
Her internal Image sensing a change in her blood pressure activated its search mode and related it to recent infonews. “Would you like me to provide search data for the Accident for class today?”
Snapping back to the present, she waved her hand. “No Mei, I don’t need it, today. I may do something on it to commemorate the anniversary but today, we celebrate.”
Each of the children snapped into high resolution focus, most with smiles of anticipation. “Good morning, Ms. Tanaka.” The network adjusted as the bandwidth required for translation was properly allocated. Each child learned in their native language during routine class operation.
“Happy SALT Day.”
Mei adjusted the translation matrices based on her morning downloads with any language updates, regional dialects or specialized phenom databases.
“I guess I don’t have to ask you if you’re ready for today, do I? So, tell me who knows what SALT Day is and why we celebrate it?”
Abayomi, a Nigerian living in the outskirts of London whispered, “We celebrate the day Humaniti was first fully aware and could confirm the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.”
“Why do we call it SALT Day?”
“It’s named after the South African Large Telescope, where the first confirmation of alien intelligence occurred and remains until today.” Yi Ling chirped up in an extremely professional tone. Her parents were also teachers. Her additional exposure to the infogrid meant she was always searching for new things of interest, likely she had been studying the curriculum in advance.
Mei, brought up the infonet images for the SALT and provided the age appropriate data infographics on the specifications of the telescope and its associated satellites. Each of the children received the information they could assimilate based on their intellectual capacity. This particular class was rated mid-tier though their ages varied from eight to eleven.
“I assume you all received your Fragment in the last drone-drops in your region.” Each student held out a sliver of shiny, but impossibly hard glass.
The electronic voice intentionally left quite robotic signaled Marcus’ entrance into the conversation. “Not sure why we should be celebrating extraterrestrials we’re never going to meet?” He was the only student not sitting. He lay back in a medical support pod.
Marcus was borne with a rare bone disease, he was only rarely able to enter the gravity well of a planet for an brief period. Normally, he lived on L2 Station. He returned to Earth to receive his Fragment and to be connected to the SALT. He floated in his biosphere, his gills flicking gentle in support solution. His radiotelepathic implant meant he never spoke verbally.
“No, we won’t ever get to meet the Precursors, Marcus. But what we have learned has given us many opportunities to understand who they were, what they accomplished and if one of us or all of us can further decypher the SALT we have a chance to travel to where the Precursors came from one day.”
Ms. Tanaka picked up her crystalline prop, she was already connected to the SALT, and placed it across her hand. “This is the SALT interface. You have all been selected to interface with our alien benefactors because you have all shown unique intellectual aptitudes. Art, writing, creativity, scientific, exploratory and other learning styles, each allowing you a potentially unique experience into the mind of the SALT.”
“Will it hurt?” Abayomi looked tentatively at the Fragment. “It seems very sharp.”
“No, you won’t feel a thing. I promise.” Ms Tanaka modified her datastream to send comforting subliminals to ease the children’s anxieties. Each of their comm centers triggered each child’s conditioned pheremonal nootropic.
“Stand it on the top of your head. You will feel a tingle when you are near the perfect spot for you. Each of you will have a different emphasis so your location may be slightly different.”
The children each place their Fragment on their heads aided by the feedback system they were assigned while they were growing. Once they were connected to the SALT their previous system would be repurposed by the implant.
Ms. Tanaka checked the data retrieved from each of the children. Her own Image, Mei coordinated the data between Tanaka and the children.
“Okay, let the crystal go and imagine your favorite avatar.” The children each let go tentatively, looking over at the other children to see what was happening by proxy. They saw the crystal stand straight up and then slowly melt into the heads of their classmates. Then each turned back and put their heads down as they thought of one of their favorite interweb avatars.
Each had been told this would become their first Image, their first connection to SALT. It would look and act just like their previous avatars but now when a connection was good, they would be allowed to enter the Flow.
Mei adjusted several of the children’s life signs remotely ensuring the integration into the cerebellum of the students was smooth.
Avatars popped into existence as the children settled on their favorites. Marcus was the last to choose and his was a hyperrealistic horse. No one had seen a horse in fifty years. His avatar was one of the last simulations ever taken from a living specimen.
The others chose more historical visual icons from games they enjoyed. Once icons were chosen, Ms. Tanaka gave an information burst-loaded, “Sleep.”
For twenty four minutes, they dreamed of electric sheep. Fantastic vistas as their neural cortex was rewritten by a technology Humanti in all its varied intellectual forms, still did not truly understand.
“Okay, children. Open your eyes. Welcome to the Flow.” Each child stood up from the ground or the desert they each thought they were standing in.
“This is not like your game virtualities. This is a seamless environment completely integrated into your nervous system. You can experience life here. Hot, cold, wet, dry.”
Mei connected to the children, something new, a part of a network they had never known before. Each child felt it, the strangeness, the scent of something unknown. Never known. Their faces wrinkled.
“That is the smell of the SALT. The air of this place. Look over there.” As if the desert had been filled with a fog, suddenly a towering black line appeared in the distance. It shot from behind what now appeared to be a sky, a mountain range, a treeline, meadows all fading into the distance terminating where the children stood on what they now see as a beach, not a desert.
“What is that?” Marcus was still adjusting to riding his avatar.
Tanaka looked wistfully into the distance. “That is SALT. The Archive of the Precursors. That’s where you will be going. You won’t be going all at once. You will be traveling toward the Black Tower in the distance. We don’t know what you will see. We won’t know what you experience. Each of us sees the journey differently. That’s why when you come back, you have to write down your experience in class. You have to teach us what you learn while you’re in the Flow.”
“We’re the teachers?” Yi Ling looked as if she was suddenly understanding something.
“Everyday you’re able, you will enter the Flow and experience something. As you become more acclimated you will slowly move toward the Tower. Maybe one day you will reach the Archive?”
Abayomi looked back at the shore walked over to and touched the water. “Have you ever been to the Archive, Ms. Tanaka?”
Tanaka bent down next to Abayomi and whispered into her ear. “Can I tell you a secret?”
The child face lit up with the chance to hold a secret from an adult. “Yes, ma’am.”
“No one has. It’s been a hundred years and we have never reached it. We feel it call to us, but no one has ever made it.”
Marcus, ever-listening caused his avatar to rear up and he shouted, “Well, I’ll be the first,” his horse tearing into the beach sand and he fell away into the distance.
Abayomi watched the others as they made their way toward the Tower. “You still have a question, don’t you?"
“If that tower is the destination, what is this shore we’re starting from?”
“That dear child, is the rest of Humaniti, the ones who simply don’t have what it takes to make this journey. This ocean is the best we could do. It is the sum of everything we have ever learned and created on our own. Our singularity.”
“We’re the teachers.”
“Yes, now hurry along. Humaniti’s waiting to learn what you discover. Remember…”
“I know. Take good notes.”
SALT © Thaddeus Howze, 2017, All Rights Reserved