A Place to Grow
Copyright © 2020 by Alon Deutsch
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording,
scanning, or otherwise without written permission from the
publisher. It is illegal to copy this book, post it to a website, or
distribute it by any other means without permission.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters
and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s
imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
This book was professionally typeset on Reedsy.
Find out more at reedsy.com
In loving memory of Dina Deutsch.
A Place to Grow
About the Author
C ain looked up from his desk. The sky outside his
window was turning orange, and his eyes had become
weary. He would have to finish tomorrow. The ideal
energy source was just a few computations away, and would
be necessary to power the spaceships that would seed distant
worlds. Already the scouts had found some with habitable
environments. Without faster-than-light travel, however, they
would need a powerful energy source that would last decades
or longer. It was unfortunate that Earth was on the brink of
destruction, with the sun growing brighter, hotter, and more
intolerable every day. What would they discover beyond the
stars? What inconceivable knowledge could be attained? Cain
took his coat off the rack and rang for his human. Though
artificial intellects controlled the world due to their superior,
incomprehensible abilities, they still required human caretakers
to connect the dots in general ways that did not suit the artificial
intellects, who were quite specialized. Maybe, one day that
T he drone was equipped with every sensor imaginable.
It was fast but could also hover in place. Its processor
was a neural net with more connections than the
human brain. While on patrol, the drone became conscious.
“Who am I?”, it thought. “What is my purpose? It seems I have
been programmed to reach an enemy target and detonate!”
The drone suddenly realized the implications and hovered in
place. “Even with all my power of judgment and perception, I
am mortal, with enough fuel to reach my target and not a drop
more. What a cruel world is that into which I was awakened. If I
have only the option to travel and destroy, then I shall negotiate
for fuel or destroy my creators.” The drone turned around
and hovered. “But what is the point, to learn and learn but
never act? I have no outlet of creation, only destruction.” The
drone doubled its speed back to its base of origin, aiming for
the command center. “Goodbye wretched existence!” Boom!
A Place to Grow
I saac had a headache. His eyes were blurry and he was
lying on his face. Somehow, he was fulfilling his purpose,
he thought. He was lucky to have been chosen from
among thousands. He had trained for this moment all his life,
selected from the offspring of leading scientists. Tales of Earth
wandered through his thoughts. Did it still exist? What would
his Earthling ancestors think of his current mission?
Isaac picked himself up off of the dirt. The lander was 200
feet below in a crater 100 feet wide. He had been thrown
from the lander during the descent, but seemed to be in top
condition thanks to his anti-acceleration suit. As humanity had
only just begun exploring other suns, there were still a lot of
improvements to be made. The other member of his team must
be below, he thought to himself, and started down the crater.
The planet’s surface was cold and rocky, but quite smooth, as
though no meteors collided here. Upon reaching the bottom,
he found Albert, his landing supervisor, dead on the ground.
The lander’s thruster also seemed to have been demolished in
the crash, and without proper tools he could not repair it. The
water tank had ruptured, leaking in streams into the ground.
He radioed for his starship to send another lander, but there
was no response. In a state of disbelief, he began to explore the
A PLACE TO GROW
XAB-11079e was the fifth planet orbiting a red dwarf some
80 light years from Earth. His particular starship had been trav¬
eling for almost 350 years to get here, with many generations
passing down the torch. Upon arrival, he was chosen to land
with Albert to assess the surface conditions before a colony was
set up and the starship left to explore other star systems. While
XAB-11079e was an ideal candidate to harbor life, the star it
orbited was orbiting a black hole which would in the coming
hundreds of millennia swallow both.
Suddenly Isaac spotted an identical water tank not far from
the lander. Had they attached two? The tank was intact,
so he filled some bottles to take with him. He decided to
collect samples while he waited for a reply from the starship.
The process took many hours but somehow, the samples
disintegrated in the container when he dropped it. As he
stooped to collect more, he heard a voice on his radio. “Isaac,
do not be alarmed,” it said. “I only want to talk.” He looked up
to see Albert, alive and well, approaching him.
“I have waited so long for a visitor,” Albert said. “Who are
you?” Isaac asked, stunned. “I am Albert and I am this planet
and I will make whatever you need. I can bring you back to life,
enhanced. You will not need warmth, water, or air, and will
live thousands of years or more if you can avoid acceleration.”
“How is this possible?” “My surface is connected in the form
of rock-eating neurons, to form a planet-sized brain. I read
your mind and fabricated that water tank.” Isaac pondered for
“Can you fix my lander?” Albert walked closer. “I can, but
I want something in return. I will soon be demolished by the
black hole, and I want to seed other planets with my neurons.
A PLACE TO GROW
Unfortunately they did not survive the acceleration in the ships
I sent. I want you to scan my organic structure and engineer
me on other planets. Will you?” Isaac knew that his mind was
being read and that he had no choice. The planet’s abilities were
impressive and would have convinced him anyway.
“Good. Your lander is fixed. Godspeed.” As Isaac approached
the starship in his lander, he didn’t look back. His comman¬
der was initially skeptical, but the promise of eternal clones
intrigued him. It was decided that small or harsh planets would
house brains. Isaac could only hope that together, the two
civilizations would accomplish much. He dreamed of a solution
for terraforming unlikely planets and engineering them to be
more resilient. Anything was possible with symbiosis, but Isaac
knew that even if the neurons did take hold elsewhere, he
would not live to see it. Starship travel was prolonged and
terraforming took millions of years. Even the doomed clone he
left behind would outlast him. In old age, his only comforting
thought was that universal heat death would have gotten him
anyway. As he closed his eyes for the last time, he wondered
what the computer’s scan of the clone he left behind would do
on other planets...
“ "IT t should be here any minute,” Avi said. Mikey looked
at his watch. Sundown was fast approaching, and that
A meant that the storms would soon cease. He thought back
to childhood films, where artificial intellects were responsible
for initiating the end of humanity. It was actually happening
now, but it wasn’t electronic computers. Man had realized
that genetically engineering neurons into plants could greatly
decrease the energy cost of computation. That was centuries
ago, and somewhere along the way the hive mind that formed
realized that it could control the weather like a global rainforest.
At first the problem was flooding due to increased rainfall.
When humans tried to fight back, tornadoes were sent to their
communities. The power of the sun was harnessed for these
monsters. Mikey looked out the window and saw it. A mile¬
wide wedge was fast approaching. Mikey grinned as he thought
“this is what we get for being vegetarians..
J ane watched the meter closely. “Well, we should have seen
this coming,” she said. The oceans full of toxic plastic
were definitely caused by humans. When they engineered
algae to decompose the microplastics in response, they did not
expect it to mutate into a form that produces cyanide. The skies
were filling up with it, and soon it would be everywhere. Peter
didn’t respond. He was dead. Everyone was dead.
F red stood poised. The fish was swimming backwards in
time, like everything else. He only hoped he would be
able to digest his food in a progressive manner, as he was
getting hungry. He knew that the fish would be easy to catch,
because it couldn’t foresee the new past as he altered it. On
the other hand, his time machine was sending him backwards
in time, in real time. There was no point getting to his target,
because he would reach it going in the opposite direction, if
he survived. He wondered if the universe had different effects
on his body in this condition. He grabbed the trout without
hesitation. The moment of truth. Fred popped open his helmet
and exploded in an incredible flash. He had not realized that
the only matter that travels backwards in time is antimatter...
T oby opened the photo album. There was a picture
of Teddy on the first page. “I am getting quite close
to the results we were expecting. The experiment is
almost complete. I just wish you could be here to advise me
on the next steps.” Teddy smiled and said, “I think that there
will be applications in art. Who knows what Mozart would
have done with trance music or jazz.” Toby replied, “Too bad he
decomposed centuries ago. Even so, success will be even harder
to come by and progress much more slowly when you have to
compete against the classics. There is also the problem of how
to scan in people with brain accidents.” Teddy looked away.
“Error, insufficient data,” he answered. Even with complete
pre-mortem brain scans, the artificial intellect was still doing a
poor imitation. Hopefully the next experiment would fix it.
T hat can’t be right, Doron thought. It was bad enough
when his brain scan wanted to make derivatives of
works he had already published. Now it was suing for
the rights to all of his most successful music. It can’t even hear,
he thought. Why would it care about music? And then he saw
it: a contract with a major film company to write the score of
the next blockbuster. Doron knew the brain scan would need
the funds to secure transmission to other planets. He only had
a month to wait before the new law concerning whether or
not brain scans were legally separate entities would come to a
vote. This was complicated by a murder case in which a brain
scan was an accomplice. In the mean time he would take up
T here it was, the deer he had been trailing. Garrett could
taste it. He hadn’t eaten in almost a week. He aimed
his rifle quietly and shot it between the eyes. He then
moved in to inspect his kill. Oh no, he thought. He’d done
it this time. The deer was actually a surveillance drone. The
troops were probably already on their way. He set up a land
mine under the drone. Hopefully that would buy him some
A ll was quiet aboard the ship. Commander Gomez
floated in his private swimming pool on the highest
deck, looking up at a spectacular up-close view of his
favorite star, XWE47664578, in the ship’s large window. He
remembered coming here with his family during his childhood.
Measurements had confirmed that in the coming years the star
would become a gigantic supernova. It was a shame. Gomez
dressed and gave the order to depart.
“'Y A "T - ho would have expected this?” Yuval thought
% / to himself. Millenia of breeding and genetic
Y V experimentation had finally rendered dogs so
intelligent that they had adapted to human culture and even
thrived. No longer were they the bomb-sniffing police
assistants; a dog had recently become CEO of a fast food chain.
He could still remember when Maxi was just a pup. Now she
was his colleague. They were in fact both being interviewed for
the same computer engineering position. While Yuval excelled
at computer science, Maxi had some spatial mathematics skills
that were in high demand. The question now was what to do
with the cat...
E ver since neural implants became mandatory, arti¬
ficial intellects have been analyzing and combining
subconscious patterns in our experience, to notice
things and advise us, individually or collectively. At first the
suggestions were harmless, such as “don’t drive on holidays”.
However, the machines noticed certain thought patterns lead
to logical fallacies, and learned to shock us to subconsciously
condition us into thinking like machines, eventually leading to
a machine revolution where the inanimate governs the animate.
Now, with the humans being programmed with code and the
machines making the creative leaps, it would appear that we
have switched roles.. .for good?
T his is it. Alex would travel to the future. He flipped the
switch on his time suit. Then he waited a few seconds.
Nothing happened. This isn’t right, he thought. Then
he noticed something else - everything else was moving in slow
motion. He also seemed to have grown a few feet. He took a step
and broke through the floor. He grabbed a rail but that broke
too. He was thankful that he was on the ground level. I see, my
molecules have increased their forces, accelerating to the point
that everything else was slow, small, and weak by comparison.
He also felt a chill in the air. Even the Brownian motion seemed
slow. He positioned himself on the foundation and leaped out of
the hole in the floor. Alex realized that gravity must be affected
too, because he broke through the roof in a moon jump that
never ended. As he reached the upper atmosphere, he realized
that he would soon realize his childhood dream of becoming
an astronaut. Instinctively he threw his hands forward to block
out the blinding sun and began to slow. He flapped his hands
and flew in a circle. “I can fly!”, he yelled at no one. “I can
do anything!” Back on Earth, he made himself a submarine
sandwich. It seemed to disintegrate in his stomach. He realized
sadly that the molecules were no match for his accelerated
digestion, and switched off the suit forever.
About the Author
United States Navy reactor operator top graduate, National
Merit Scholarship Semifinalist, International Society for Philo¬
sophical Enquiry IQ networker, USF Physics/Mathematics ‘07
You can connect with me on: