Stardate 6071 point 46. Lancaster Colony. Taurus 5.
The self-serve in Central Pod 3 was huge and garishly lit. It was monumental, unimaginative, a venue for ingesting rather than relishing food. The noise of utensils clumsily appendaged rang forth amid the busy-bee-ness of drones gnashing their mandibles between shifts. Over by the turbolift, lifeforms too simple to have developed taste buds punched credits into stimulant dispensers.
I was new to the solar system, the planet, and the colony, still staggering under the disorienting gravity of my new locale.
The self-serve seemed an unhostile environment, welcoming in an off-hand way. Insinuating oneself here, into the eye of the sociable hurricane, shouldnit be hard. I thought. As my optic receptors adjusted, though, certain complications manifested themselves, and it ultimately became obvious that the seeming disorder was in fact artfully arrayed.
A chart could be digitized of the self-serve, with grids labelled to identify discrete zones. To pick out, for example, the trough at which flickered eternally silent telepatic dialogues. Or the troughs by the floral display from which floated the artless passion of Cassiopeian speech. Or the trough more artfully enclosed by skullcaps and compuscrolls ornamented with the Stellar Mosaic. And there was more.
To approach any of these zones was to interlope on a tribal selectivity. It was to question the unsanctioned yet nominal domain of troughs dealt out so that each species, whether hematologically or theologically classified, could revel in its tiny garrison sheltered by unarticulated rights.
Separate troughs, ideas of identification, inducements to social gatherings that would offer fleeting glimpses of homeworld. Alone on a new planet, I confronted my own unavoidable questions. Questions about my then-ness and my now-ness. About the planet rejected and the planet newly embraced. About the essential characteristics of this environment and my station here. At childhood's end, about to metamorphose, I sensed these were heavy thoughts.
For many at at their feedings, however, these were questions of inconsequence. Their utterings were nigh on bullish in rejecting any unease that they might have felt by ostentatiously displaying the singular administrative plan that appeared to create no ill will: Taurus 5 as an immutable planet. Authoritatively. Judicially. Here, they vowed, one did not have to assimilate. Here one could—zounds, it was one's duty to—stay the same. Fie on this Andromedan absurdity of the crucible, none of this metamorphosing to adapt to one's new environment: one did not have to adapt to the environment; the environment was required to adapt itself to one.
A seductive offering, oh yes, a plan which pardoned much and asked next to no exertion. Here was a vista of interplanetary travel of ultimate ease.
Why then did I find myself not altogether swayed?
The dilemma was that I had arrived in search of a new existence and a new method of perceiving the universe. I had no wish merely to transplant existence as I had known it: this appeared to me gravitationally exaggerated sacking in which to clothe my frame. Moreover, the very fact of interplanetary travel had already metamorphosed me. I was no longer the being I had been when I'd slipped into cybersleep light years away. I had brought to my transport not the beliefs of the recreational traveller but the beliefs of a being setting forth on a journey that would forever alter his existence. This by itself was a form of psychic upheaval.
Immutability, as envisaged by those species at which it was most obviously targeted, left me with more than a modicum of unease. For here was I, a stranger in a strange land which refused to welcome me with open appendages. There was nothing for it but to charge my molecular disintegrator and begin blasting away.
Fie upon these wailing sirens. They will never take me alive. Give me assimilation or give me death!