Pictures From Prison

We got back from Green today after our long visit with Dad, and I was really glad to get back. Green is like they say - very pretty, but scary. So much violence, disease, and misery. They say that going to Green is an experience you can never forget but I'm doing my best. Let's just say this statement is part of wiping the last six months from my mind. The rest will follow, I guess.

For a start it's impossible to go out and mix with greens without them always staring, pointing, talking about us, or very obviously trying not to. Well, obviously we stand out among the greens. They mostly want to try to sell us stuff, or steal our things. The guys are always making suggestions to us girls. They are kind of interesting but after a while, I really had had enough of the cities, and we went to visit the different mountain ranges. It's quite something, Green has a wild beauty you can't imagine, and then obviously there are all the animals. We saw all sizes and shapes, from as big as a house to too small to see without aids. I collected as many as I could but our luggage was overweight, so a bunch got thrown away at departure.

Mostly the greens just stared at us like we were aliens. I mean, in some ways we are. I made one kind of friend, an tall skinny green who had long hair, visual aids, and a funny unpronounceable name. I eventually just called him Jojo, which means nothing but was easy to remember. He was a doctor, which means he looked after sick greens. Our cook had been sick and Jojo was giving him treatment. I had asked him why greens got ill, and we started talking about how nanophages and stuff like that was way too expensive for your average greens, and then we got onto other topics. He spoke some bits of Xohi, with a passable accent, rare for greens. He said he learned it from the shows.

He asked how come we had kind of the same physique as greens, and I told him we were the same, once. He asked how that was possible, and I explained history to him, since he seemed not to know. He asked if it was true that aliens had visited Green and turned monkeys into greens, and I laughed and told him everyone knows how evolution works, even if they have not seen it happen. No, the Xohi did not turn monkeys into greens, they just took several tens of thousands of our ancestors away from Green as pets, and then gradually we People became part of Xohi society, and one day they decided they wanted to retire, they handed over the keys to us, and next thing we knew, all the Xohi had gone, leaving us alone to expand out into pretty much every interesting part of this particular galaxy. So here we are, the Cosmic Culture of People, doing great, thank you very much.

Green is, of course, where we all came from, so visiting it has become a kind of a special occasion, almost a rite of passage for People growing up and trying to find their feet in the cosmic scheme of things. Green is a kind of holy land, a shrine, the birthplace of our species. I just wish it was cleaner and better organized.

We met quite a few other People, visiting Green. None from our home system, so we kind of crossed paths awkwardly, not really wanting to make new friends in this place. Of course, making friends with greens is easy, they are all desperate for anything we can give them, any scraps of news, any toys, money, or even just attention. I guess they did not expect Green to be just one of a vast number of home places, albeit one that was very far away from anywhere interesting, and so forgotten, and never visited (revisited I should say) until a drunken group of students from C533EF celebrating their coming of age were doing random jumps around the galaxy when suddenly their dashboard said, "unknown planet".

Greens don't like their garden planet being called "unknown planet" but it's a good joke and we used it a lot. On most nav systems that's how Green is now registered, more or less by popular demand.

There is something wild about the greens. Perhaps it's their ability to survive in such a hostile environment. You know that Green has more genes and more languages than all the rest of the galaxy put together? Some People even say it would be great for Green genes to make it into the general galactic mix but honestly, I would not let my brother marry a green. I mean… yuck! It's just wrong in so many ways.

For example, Green is filled with diseases. Before we could travel we had to have a full blood check and injection of god knows how many kinds of nanophages. I did a count of how many lethal diseases I caught (or would have caught except that whatever they put into me did a really good job), and it was in the thousands. Greens are pretty immune to most of these, but they carry them around, and I really felt dirty sometimes just after being too close to too many of them.

I know it's wrong, and at school we were taught that People and greens are technically the same species, even though green culture is so primitive and backwards that they need to be seen as a kind of sub-People, something in between animals and us. We can interbreed, in fact mixed couples are more likely to be fertile and able to have natural births, which makes greens kind of sexy to some People. I know it's weird and revolting but that's the best explanation I have. The saying goes, "once you go to Green, you never come back". Of course that can be interpreted both ways, back home or back to Green. In my case, once was enough, thank you very much.

Green has become big business, and this was the real point of the visit - Dad was visiting an organic extraction plant. They hover up organic material, basically the top layer of soil and everything above it, take out the bulk, and ship it off to places that use it for fertilizer, or making decorative gardens. Good complex organics are precious. I've heard about complaints from greens about this, one of their broadcasts was claiming that we were turning farmlands into deserts, and killing millions of greens, often by sucking them up and mashing them into paste along with the trees, animals, and topsoil.

But obviously that's exaggeration, at the most there are few accidents. I visited one of the plants Dad's firm runs, and they were clearly helping greens to stay away from the extraction areas, even giving them new places to stay in the post-extraction zones. The brochure from the company explains that after extraction, it's possible to create new living areas, because the ground is basically flat and sterilized. The unwanted silicon is turned into building blocks, used to build nice houses for greens, with all modern conveniences, much better than their old slum cities.

My mum said she would just love to teach greens in one of the new schools, but when she says, "would just love", she means, "I'd rather die". It's fashionable to claim to care about the green plight, perhaps adopt a couple of green kids, at least until they get old enough to become hard to handle.

We stopped by the Embassy, and I saw long queues of greens standing and waiting outside, with lots of armed uniformed green guards. I asked what the greens were there for and one of the embassy staff, a Person, said, "visas". She explained that greens need to get a visa before they can travel. I asked how long it takes to get a visa, she laughed and said that very few greens ever get visas, the point is not to let greens travel freely, but to stop them.

My green friend Jojo asked if I would take him home, which was such a sweet request. "You won't be able to find work", I told him. He said he would do any job, but honestly, with his training he would not even qualify for menial labor. Anyhow, a normal ticket off Green, one way, is more than he earns in a year, and of course that's in hard currency.

Apart from staff like Jojo, the only greens we ever see are diplomats and businessmen. Like Dad's green business partners: they seem to be able to travel as much as they like. They are really rich, we visited the ranch of one of them, it was a massive area in what used to be called Ch'in, where he'd cleared out all the slums and restocked the place with animals from other places. That was where I got my large animals. We saw a feline carnivore hunt and kill a horned ruminant three times its size. Life on Green is brutish and short. I recorded the kill and put it up for everyone to watch, by the way.

I was shocked to discover that Dad has a green girlfriend. It's kind of strange, she's very good looking, with her long yellow hair, but at the same time, I can't believe it. Of course he had her totally checked out and cleaned up, and to be honest she does not smell as bad as some of them do. But she's always shopping for imported clothes and jewelry, and I'm sure she sees Dad just as a fat wallet. My mum's even worse. She pretends to not notice Dad's girlfriend, but then she's also trying a lot of new green drugs and getting into green music, and musicians. Her toy boys, I call them.

So what else did I do? I tried some green food, it was horrible. I tried to keep it down but the vegetables made me sick and I vomited it all, luckily I got to a toilet first. The green cook made me some Keki, since thank heavens there are shops here with real food. He tried to make it authentic but I guess the water is different or something, and it tasted strange.

My older brother Popi has been to Green quite a few times. He went first for his ethnosociology studies, because apparently Green is the best place to see how beings of really different cultures mix. He told me that Green was actually really rich in culture, but I think he was just building an excuse to keep coming back, it's a kind of vacation for him. Green is a mess, dirty, poor, chaotic, corrupt, and still way over-populated. I don't see much culture there.

Of course a lot of help goes to Green, since they need it. They're like children, and we're like adults. No-one wants to see green refugees flood the galaxy with their strange languages, cooking, and diseases. People have covered the whole galaxy but very thinly, and someone calculated that greens represent about a fifth of all beings now. There used to be a lot more greens but with the endless wars and famines and uprisings, their numbers keep going down. Greens all dream of one thing: escaping their planet and making it to civilization. But just imagine if your neighbors were greens… people wouldn't stand for it.

Dad says that Green needs to be cleaned up, fixed, so that greens will stay at home and stop dying in huge numbers. So we give lots of money, and aid: to build new clean cities, industrial plants so they can export and earn some hard currency, and so on.

My brother always argues with Dad and says most of the aid goes on weapons and what's left gets diverted to private off-planet bank accounts. Well, obviously weapons are really important - look at what happened in the North Territories. Greens don't have much respect for life, and it took a lot of force to get rid of the terrorists there. My brother says that almost ninety percent of greens in NT were killed. My history book says it was ten percent, and they were all members of a violent sect that had sworn to kill all People on Green. Probably it was somewhere in the middle.

Green money is really funny, people call it "monkey money". You can buy Green stuff with it, of course, like local clothes, but to buy anything imported, which means anything useful, you need suitcases of the stuff. The inflation rate is pretty high, green banks all collapsed pretty soon after People arrived, and green governments seem to be unable to manage their economies. Well, they're all too busy stealing from each other, I think. It's amazing how corrupt greens are. Like, I gave the driver some money to buy a recharge for my handy, and afterwards I discovered he'd taken half the money for himself and bought a cheaper recharge! When I accused him, he gave me some long explanation about his sick mother. If he'd just asked me for money, I could have given him some. But he had to steal it from me.

Anyhow, after he fired the driver, Dad explained that here everyone always asks for money, they don't work and they can't organize themselves. That's why they need foreign businesses to come in and make things happen. Without People to help, Green would be a total disaster, even worse than it is today.

My brother of course disagrees and tells me that the best thing we could do for Green is just never have come here in the first place. I told him that was a stupid idea, how could we change history, and he said I did not understand, and we had a fight. I think he's going native, he wears green clothes like "jeans" and "t-shirts" all the time, he starts to do his hair like a green, and he's even learned some of the local dialects. He's always off to some ghetto to speak with greens. Last time it was a place called Pari, which is listed as 7th Most Dangerous Place on Green.

After we calmed down from the fight he told me that greens had never been able to develop space travel because Green was too far from anywhere. In the center of the galaxy, short hops take you to interesting places, so it was normal that the Xohi spread out, developed the galactic economy and became fabulously wealthy traders with stable government and a proper high level culture. This is how he explained it. I guess they found us interesting enough, we're smart and we learn quickly. The Xohi left us with everything we need, and there is no war, no conflict, no violence, no disease. Just we don't have many babies, and so there are no more than three or four billion People, spread out over a few million home places.

Popi said it's useless for us to tell greens to clean up their politics while we're stripping their planet. I told him we're not stripping anything, just cleaning things up, like Dad says. He got mad and said Dad's business was one of the worst, turning whole regions into deserts and hundreds of millions into starving refugees, and that hadn't I read that Green's population had fallen from seven billion to under one billion in just twenty years? He tried to make it like we were to blame for this, which is ridiculous. Greens are to blame for their own problems. So we had another fight.

Luckily, greens are no longer cut off from the galactic society. They can watch shows from all over, and see just how good life is in the rest of the galaxy. They can earn hard currency. They can save and wait for a visa. It gives them something to aim for. It's ironic: while my brother tries to look green, greens try to imitate People, the way we dress, the way we speak, even putting blue-tint cream on their arms and faces. It's very silly, and fools no-one.

I think the green situation will eventually solve itself: either the greens will all die off, which is frankly the simplest solution, or they will grow up and become proper members of the Cosmic Culture. What they need to do is like Dad says, to adopt economically responsible policies so that foreign investors will come, and so exports can grow. Green needs hard currency, otherwise it will never be able to afford even a small commercial fleet.

So, that's it. I brought Jojo along finally, because we'd done the sex thing and I started to get attached to him. Yes, I know it was wrong. They scanned him on arrival and took him away as "illegal foreign contaminant". Then they scanned me, and put me here. Apparently there is a virus that gets past the nanophages, and he, and now I, have it. I have not heard from Dad or Mum or Popi.

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