Ganesh had gone through his figures, which, he had been sure, were going to put at least some of the Colloquium asleep; he had predicted who they would be – Floyd Kamyoto, overweight ( a rarity in Outlandt) and dull; Marina Bogbo, who never said a word; Fritz Shmuelson, brilliant but erratic and – again unusual in Outland – lazy. They, at least, he had predicted to himself, would be snoring by now; surely by now the beadle would be prodding them with his titanium rod. But it hadn’t happened! They were alert, Kamyoto with his mouth open, into which he was feeding hydroponic grapes as if he were a machine.
Around them, the curved wall of the elliptical chamber was seemingly solid light, right up into the asymmetrical cone, light like a sun made of minuscule lights, points, of biofluorescence. Nobody, certainly not Ganesh Larsonsdottir, had ever seen the chamber so bright.
‘Let me, then, sum up: a hundred thousand people in all, including the reenactors themselves, the construction crews that will building the “city,” the planners and designers, the costume makers, the administrators, the energy technicians – all the many, many tasks that will have to be carried out both in Outland and on earth. We would face some technological hurdles: how, for example, would we power the “automobiles” that would run on the streets – should we try to create a synthetic flammable oil? Should we try to replicate what was called “internal combustion” or should we seek to power the “cars” by steam? Or electricity, which we should certainly use if we want the “street cars” or “trolleys” that we have seen in the pix from the Shanghai excavatgions?
‘And the problem of water: can we drink the water that we know flows abundantly now on earth, or is it still contaminated? I have pointed out that mammals roam earth in good health – those that are left; many from the period that concerns us are extinct, of course – and the mammals may signal to us that the water is safe. However, we would need to test carefully, very carefully, for which a new, portable, readily replicable technology will be needed.
‘And there would be the problem of air. Is it now breathable? The mammals tell us yes, but their survival may not prove that we can survive down there. Again, an improved means of testing would be needed.
‘And there would be the problem of radioactivity. When the Founders left earth, there was nowhere above ground, so far as we know, that would have allowed a human being to survive for more than three years. Satellite sensors now believe that that risk is much, much reduced, but if we should actually do the reenactment, we would have to find a place or places on the earth where levels of radioactivity are so low as to pose no danger to our people.
‘And there will be the problem of security. Of the animals that comprised a danger to humans before the Century of War, the great proportion are extinct. What the Founders called “nuclear winter” carried off most of the creatures of warm environments; in temperate and cold environments, all the species of animals called “bears,” of which the Foundcers left us accounts and drawings, are gone. So, too, are the seemingly fabulous very large aninmals such as the “elephant” and the “hippopotoamus.” As well as many others. The largest dangerous animals to survive are the various species of cats. As you know, small cats were imported to Moonbase by the post-Founders generation to deal with the rats that apparently came aboard the freighters that brought our forebears from earth; these small cats failed to control the rats, however, and were exterminated because they became a burden to us. The large cats remain on earth, however, and have been sighted from satellites, as have the large “dogs” called “wolves,” which now roam freely over most of earth, with the exception of those warm climates where mostly reptiles have come back in considerable numbers since the Leaving. All these and more – poisonous snakes, disease-bearing insects, toxic plants – would have to be identified and neutralized or physically excluded from the selected site.
‘The task would not be easy. It would, as I have said, demand one-tenth of our entire population for at least three years. It would present us with enormous intellectual challenges. It would not be easy.
‘But we do not want easy!’
Ganesh was startled by actual applause. He looked up; several members of the Colloquium were clapping their hands together, two actually standing to do so. Ganesh lost his place, then scrolled too far up on hie viewer, came back down, found at last where he had been interrupted and said again in a kind of mumble, ‘But we do not want easy.‘
“No, no!’ came several voices. One shouted, ‘Give us difficulty!’
Ganesh smiled. ‘Difficulty, right. I think there would be plenty of difficulty to go ’round.’ There were some chuckles at that. Where was he? What had he been about to say? He found the place again and said, ‘In closing, I return to the point where I began: we are suffering a unique crisis in our history, a self-questioning that has been called “boredom” but that is really a loss of what we took to be our destiny. Now, we must define for ourselves a new destiny. That will be a subject for many colloquia; it may be worthy of a discussion across all of Outland. It may require years.
‘Let us, I suggest, start that discussion. But as we do, let us consider if as a stopgap we might undertake the very large, very demanding project I have outlined. Should we – and I put the question to this Colloquium and to all the people of Outland – should we reenact the life of earth?’
Outlanders were not excitable people. It was remarkable, then, to see them standing to applaud, to see them actually climbing on their couches to applaud, and to see around them the coruscating brilliance of ten thousand winking lights, going on and off, on and off, as they tried to symbolize the overload of their circuits.