Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
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For Humanity Today and Tomorrow

by Sou Saito

Translation by Toshiya Kamei

At the bottom of an air-tight test tube as large as a bucket, a fetus of Homo rhodesiensis, the ancestor of the human race, woke up. As she sucked on her miniature thumb, she wishfully opened and closed her mouth, but she closed her eyes again, perhaps overcome by drowsiness.

The duration of human pregnancy has not changed so much since the times of primitive man. It had been eight months since cell division began. Now asleep in the test tube, she had already taken on a recognizable human form. The chief scientist fondly petted the surface of the test tube. He felt the warmth of the ancient human transmitted through the glass to his palm.

"We're right on track. Your team's efforts have borne fruit in this test tube."

"Her blood pressure and heart rate are both normal, sir. She has recently begun to move her limbs actively."

As the chief scientist removed his hands from the test tube and stuck them in the pockets of his white lab coat, he looked around with deep emotions at the equipment that kept the small life alive and growing.

"Even so, you have overcome extraordinary hurdles to get to this point. By extracting DNA fragments from poorly preserved fossils and putting them together, making up for missing parts with those of related species, including us humans, you have created a new life. She has grown so far thanks to your skills and constant efforts."

"However, sir, we can hardly call it a success when all we have done is to generate an individual organism. We can celebrate only when she grows up with the ability to reproduce her own offspring, but as for this Homo rhodesiensis, her genes were patched up drastically, so I am not so confident that she will be able to have children."

"You worry too much." The chief scientist patted the assistant's shoulder, as if to dismiss the younger man's concerns. "You are a member of the team that brought back the extremely difficult Australopithecus species. They have been able to breed and are now forming a herd at the other side of the window. You have nothing to worry about."

The chief scientist turned his attention to Monkey Hill where broad-leaved trees had grown thick. They gathered themselves on a flat ground, staring at the researchers through gaps in the trees with stern eyes as if they were foreign enemies. A baby pulled away from his mother's breast and tried to hide behind her.

"The only remaining task is to figure out when they should be released into nature. How is the research on the Homo erectus javensis and Homo floresiensis coming along?"

"Both of them are steadily increasing in number. I am convinced that we can move them to an outdoor test site in the near future."

One monitor showed the Homo erectus javensis. Separated by sex, they were barking in their cages. Another screen showed the Homo floresiensis communicating with each other through what appeared to be an undeveloped language. The chief scientist nodded with vigor, satisfied with the progress of their projects.

"Your team's technical skills are the best in the world. Even if you don't say it aloud, the results so far speak volumes. You're doing great. Let's keep it up."

After giving a pep talk to the team, the chief scientist left the lab with a content look on his face.

It was time to go home. The assistant got into his electric car while thinking of his family. The old battery had no reserve capacity to provide heat. He scraped enough ice off the windshield so he could see the road, and then he slowly stepped on the gas while paying attention to where he was going. The whole road was covered in snow. His tires kicked up snow as he drove home.

Earlier he had learned from watching TV in the lab that it had been a hundred years since Earth entered the current ice age. Looking back over the Earth's history, humans began to use electricity about 10,000 years after the end of the last ice age. Humans living around AD 2000 should have been able to predict that the cyclical return of the ice age was close on the horizon. However, no one paid much attention to this fact back then.

The human ancestors the assistant had raised had survived to the present day, overcoming the last ice age. Surely, they would endure the current one as well. It had been predicted that the ice age would end in 900,000 years. By that time they would also have evolved like human beings today, subdued wild animals again, and built a new civilization.

Modern humans didn't have much time left. Fossil fuels were running out. Alternative energy development had not made much progress of late. Food production continued to decline. Habitable areas became increasingly few and far between. In addition, conflicts were fought over limited underground resources.

"It's been decided that this facility will also be closed in the near future due to energy shortages. I never expected to be creating tomorrow's humans instead of saving today's humans in my last job. Even so, I am surely responsible for the human beings living now."

The assistant opened the front door of his house, his shoulders hunched against the cold. His daughter was eagerly waiting for him. "How was your day, Daddy?" As he heard a cheerful voice, he felt a small bundle of warmth run into his arms.

The assistant embraced his daughter and held her tight.

2019 Sou Saito

A frequent contributor to S-F Magazine, Sou Saito is a multi-award-winning writer who lives in Chiba, to the east of Tokyo, with his family. In addition to writing flash fiction, his hobbies include playing shogi, or Japanese chess, and blogging about it.

Find more by Sou Saito in the Author Index.

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