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Great Green, Little Green

Aja & the ecophile UFOs

By Edoardo Segato-FigueroaPublished 7 months ago Updated 2 months ago 40 min read
UFO hovering above a city. https://news.gallup.com/

Cape Green

Few things in this world are truly exceptional. One of them is undoubtedly sunset over an archipelago in the middle of the ocean… and Cabo Verde, off the Green Cape peninsula of Dakar in former Senegal, checked all the boxes. However, only those who flew low-altitude with a heliocopter or a small hydrogen plane get the best view: not quite as low on the horizon as a ship, not as high as a fusion craft. Unfortunately, even in 2114 flying private on anything other than a jetpack was still pretty exclusive, which is why two night workers on the oil mega rig of the Russian corporation SeaBear, had the ideal location to witness the show, sitting in the control room of the highest tower of the platform. Dishearteningly, instead of taking advantage of the free entertainment, their faces were glued to the metavision, watching random news broadcasted live from their home nation.

...Hyperborea, the first decentralized eco-luxurious city-nation in the world, spanning across three different continents in the unceded Arctic Circle, declare that… - click! - …citizens of the lunar cosmopolis of Mehnothina still struggling with the challenges of domestic life in hypogravity since the last… - click! - …Humanity+ somatic designers are overflooded with requests for trans-species body augment… - click!

The SeaBear employees had become accustomed to the constant hum of the rig, which had been their home for the past few months. As the sun was finally giving into the Atlantic Ocean, the twilight shone on the company logo on the back of their jackets - an eight-legged polar bear. The man of the pair started speaking in a thick Russian dialect, belittling the fake accent of the synthetic talking heads.

“Have you heard the rumor?”

“Which one?” said the other in a humph that was meant to be a laugh, her voice far too low for a woman. “We hear many things around here.”

The rumor, Khastakh. That SeaBear is going to be sold to a foreign buyer! Do you think we can keep our job?”

“That depends, Itkun. If it stays within the AUBRICSS union then maybe, just maybe, our labor-rights would be protected. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be so sure, especially since I’m nivkh and you’re khakas. Look at what happened after the indigenous revolution in Siberia…”

Tengri, help us…”

“Are you positive that what you heard is true? Who would be so crazy to pay that kind of money for a decrepit company like SeaBear? Look at this place, it’s barely floating. Another one of those Atlantic superstorms and there won’t be anything left to buy, at least here.”

“I know but…” Itkun’s voice got quieter all of a sudden, as if he was afraid of being heard. “...according to the rumor, they have big plans for expansion. They say they’re going to dig a lot deeper to reach the lava under the Cap-Vert volcanic crust, and within ten to twenty years they will shift all our infrastructures to geothermal. If you ask me, it’s all just a pile of greenwashing crap and they’re just going to use that as an excuse to dig faster and deeper and get a lot more oil while they’re at it. And, if I’m going to be honest with you Khas, I’m not necessarily opposed to that. I’m telling you, we’re going to…”

“Shh! You hear that?” Khastakh’s abrupt interruption cut Itkun’s talkative enthusiasm mid-sentence. The hum was loud, as usual. Or was it getting louder? Suddenly, the platform started shaking violently. Immediately, the ghostly holoscreen flickered off. Itkun looked at Khastakh disoriented, wondering if he was finally being punished by Tengri for talking too much. In a flash, a bright light emerged from the ocean depths and shot up towards the rig. All the workers on the platform stood petrified as a massive sphere with rays all around its circumference hovered above them, illuminating the darkening sea below. The object didn't resemble any air or watercraft they had ever seen, not even to those who took part in the top secret aerial missions in the new Siberian Military District Air Forces.

“What the hell is that thing?” whispered Itkun, barely able to utter the sentence.

Before their eyes, in a mesmerizing optical effect the sphere slowly tilted forward, revealing itself as an almost flat disc, its shape asymmetrical due to a slight bump to the right that made it look like a teardrop falling sideways. Its luminescence got even brighter, enveloping the rig, along with all its machinery and workers. Then, without notice, the flying object went completely dark, darker than natural darkness, as if it somehow absorbed all the light around it, then gave off a few intermittent flashes at surprisingly slow intervals. All the workers scrambled towards the emergency exits, some stumbled and fell, most dove head-first into the ocean several tens of meters below, desperate to escape the unidentified threat upon them. When they re-emerged from the cold Atlantic waters, there was no trace of the flying saucer and they couldn't help but notice that in spite of the chaos, the scene was strangely quiet. There had been no explosion, no fire, no spark. But the familiar hum was gone: the oil rig had stopped working.

Aside from salt, Itkun tasted irony on his tongue as he floated further and further away from the platform, soaked wet and still questioning what they had just witnessed. They managed to do their job for twenty four months, even though they knew what SeaBear was doing on the Dark Chain and how much damage they were still causing to the environment. Perhaps this was just karma catching up with them. He just never thought it was going to be aliens.

Great Green

The seats of the PanPal hub aren’t nearly as comfortable as jungle moss, but there aren’t many things Aja loves more than learning French while chatting with her Pal, so she eats the frog and pushes through. Being francophone isn’t allowed in the new Extended Democracy since the early decolonization campaigns. Even a popular social media like the language learning chat-based program known as PanPal has to comply with the policy enforced by Iningizimu Afrika, the strongest geopolitical power on the continent. But Aja is no stranger to bending the rules so, in order to talk to her Pal in their mother tongue, the clever girl asked the Tekno-góor gi in their tribe to help her trick the Pan computer into thinking she was chatting from elsewhere in the world. Aja briefly rummages her wax backpack and extracts the VPN antenna built from scrap parts, safely secures it on the transmitter plate on top of the silicon totem, following the gòor gi’s instructions while scanning the area around the hub to see if someone’s watching. Behind her, the other pillars of the hub stand tall like a poor imitation of the white stinkwood trees all around, their color worn off like old bark after almost a decade exposed to the Sub-Saharan climate. Seasonal dry scorching winds blowing from Enyakatho and cool wet rain storms from the wide clouds tangled to the shy crowns of the jungle dumping two hundreds centimeters of water every year. This is how life feels in the Great Green Wall of Afrika, the emerald tiara of Alkebu-lan, the royal jewel of the mother continent of the Ubuntu.

Anonymity and untraceability are strictly mandatory for all Pan members, so conversations are somewhat limited if she doesn’t want her account to be suspended. Nevertheless, during their still young epistolary exchange, she was able to learn that her Pal is also a nomad, a ‘digital nomad’ as they like to call themself, namely “a person that travels while working remotely”. She always thought that everyone must travel to work but, hey, she was raised in a nomadic tribe, so… that’s all she knows. Aja logs into the system by scanning the unique pattern of her green retina, fixes her seat one more time and starts typing in French.

Cher Pal, merci for your last message about your travels around the globe. I wish that when I am older like you, I can take some time to do the same, since I already know how to be a nomad.”

She pauses for a few seconds, searching for words, her friends cackling and battling each other with click tongue twisters in Khoisan languages, somewhere above her on the branches of a Baobab tree nearby.

“Life here goes well, our dwelling time is almost over and soon we will start walking again and head East. I was grown in this part of the jungle because I was born here. Our tradition says I must learn the tongue of the land I am born into and join the nomads only when I can walk on my own. I will miss it here.”

Her fingers move fast on the keys. Some of the symbols on the board are barely readable, half scraped off by the many visitors who come to learn other languages and get a taste of the vaster world at the PanPal hub. The machines of this station come from a previous wave of tech innovation across the Extended Democracy. Most upgrades are issued by the Ethnocomputation & Ethnomathematics Department of Cape Peninsula, and although they pride themselves with having state of the art deployment systems, the update patches and hardware replacements always take at least twice as long to reach the Trans-saharan colonies than to the rest of the state. Doesn’t really matter though, as long as she can text her Pal. She stares into the reflection of branches and leaves on the pale screen, waiting for the chat dot to start pulsating, signaling her Pal engaging with her text. But the dot stays a dot, and Aja realizes it’s about time they head back to camp. She’ll have to come back at least once more before they head East but now, as the oldest and caretaker of the group, she must make sure her convoy is reunited with the rest of the tribe before dark. She gazes far in the distance, along the jagged line of the forest’s edge. Everyone must train their feet and endurance for the Yebbi Guddi, the Long Walk, or they’ll fall and lose people along the way. In French the words for ‘trail’ and ‘trial’, ‘piste’ and ‘preuve’ both start with the letter ‘p’ and surely that’s part of what walking is about, isn’t it? A test of natural selection, a rite of passage for the tribe and its members, so if they want to make it East they’ll have to be in perfect shape.

Asambe ñuulalu!” she screams, calling the kids in the modern Zulof hybrid. “Time to head back, we’ll walk along the edge today.”

Kuru, the only other girl in the group, is the first to land on the ground. “What? Why? Skinning is dangerous, Aja, we’re going to be in big trouble if they find out.”

“They won’t find out if you won’t tell them,” she winks. “We need all the exercise we can get if we’re to walk the seven thousand kilometers from here to Xonq Géej, the Red Sea. Plus, aren’t you curious to see how the world looks outside the Green?”

Once the right excuse was decided upon, the caravan of small people starts racing along the jungle border preceded by their chieftain, whistling their nomadic birdsongs to keep track of distance, time and each other’s positions as they swiftly take the long way back to their settlement.

After a few hours marching, their senses pick up loud unnatural noises and pungent reeks before they can identify their source through the misty undergrowth. When they finally lay eyes on the cause of the stink and the cacophony, the kids stop and stare at the horrific sight. Countless workers, mostly men with some exceptions, are busy cutting down trees with big buzzing circular chainsaws, chopping wood with laser cannons and maneuvering mag-lev machines to stack it in designated areas of the hellish field. “Dragon drones” annihilate small patches of disposable jungle while other employees are busy containing the fire with pressurized wet sand and “dragon-eggs” grenades. Aja and her friends are frozen without moving a single muscle, seemingly hypnotized by the incomprehensible sight of their mother forest being cut to pieces and put up in flames. The devastation hits them like a rhino’s horn against a tree trunk, making all their tears fall like leaves of a deciduous forest. Through her blurry eyesight, Aja notes that all machines are marked with a symbol on the side, a red bird with flames instead of feathers and writing right beneath. On most of them, the word is written in some Far-East script, but a couple of newer-looking units use Roman letters, spelling the word “Fenghuang”. When she sees it, the name and the bird, along with the exotic melody of the Asian tonal speech spoken by the workers, get burnt into her memory, like a scar left by branding iron. By the size of the camp, extending many acres beyond the modular trucks, they get a bitter sense of just how long the operation has been going on.

Finally, Yoro - Aja’s cousin - speaks with a hoarse voice, as if he’s been engulfed in the apocalyptic scene for hours, dehydrated by breathing all that smoke.

“I can’t believe folks haven’t noticed.”

“They never walk this close to the Skin. But we do.” Aja replies, angrier than ever. “I can’t believe we didn’t notice.”

“Why are they doing this?” asks Fili, sounding like she’s addressing the spirits rather than her fellows.

After a long silence, Aja takes the lead. “Let’s go back and tell the Buumu gorëna, they’ll know what to do.”

Elder Yeggul is busy teaching a group of new entries in the tribe the art and science of frugal walking. There’s a collection of items laid on a big flat rock in front of them.

“One of these objects everyone must carry along the journey, which one will it be?” asks the old woman.

“Soap bars!” says one of the men, blonde, ice blue eyes, explorer outfit, clearly one of the fleeting Eurussians from the recent migration after the G8 disaster.

Saabu du foot boppam.” replies Yeggul, failing to hide how happy she was to use one of the many proverbs in her repertoire. “Soap does not do laundry alone, Jep. When it’s time to make the next biodegradable batch, we all forage for the ingredients, one carries the tools, one carries the knowledge and one carries one big bar that everyone can use. If we all carried our own soap, they would make us tired and melt in less than a week.”

As a semi-nomadic multi-ethnic tribe, the a-Wèntu people don’t have many belongings, but the few things they keep during their journey are extremely unique, useful and a memento of their ancestors’ culture. Some possess only a handful of items, others prefer to hoard a few extra ones into small automated traveling carts that require tons of maintenance from the Tekno-góor gi of the tribe. The elders always encourage their people to have as little things as possible, because when you walk, everything has the potential to become trash.

Taking everyone by surprise, Aja and her friends storm into the campsite, screaming the names of their elders. Yeggul fails again to hide her feelings and looks at the kids with disapproval. They don’t like their people being stirred in such a frantic way, especially if the reason is unclear. However, traditions are sacred and at that age children must be encouraged to act like adults and must be included in discussing grown-up matters. Many members of the tribe gather around them and call for the spirits of the ancestors to share space with them as they listen to what they have to say.

“They’re destroying Néck Werta with fire and quick metal! They have a blazing bird tattooed on their machines with inscriptions spelling the word ‘Fenghuang’. They were mostly Toubab, with small thin eyes, but they also had Nit ñi ñuul amongst them! We need to do something before we walk again, we need to tell everyone in the tribe and in the city. Somebody has to do something!”

The circle is a domino chain of eyeballs rolling left and right, up and down, exchanging thoughts, emotions and prayers. Yeggul is the first one to answer.

“Ajaratu, giif, please calm down. This has been going on for a while now, before we even got here from our last migration. There’s nothing we…”

“Wait, Yeggul, you knew?” Asks Aja, incredulous. “Why didn't you tell us? Why aren’t we doing something?!” Her rage and disappointment radiate from her skin like sweat and steam, thickening the already tense atmosphere in the circle. If her friends weren’t there with her, supporting her and giving her courage, she wouldn’t talk that way to a Buumu góor and to all the ancestors who have come to sit along to help them make a decision for the tribe. Whose side are they going to take today, that of the cautious elders or that of a handful of upset kids who ventured too far beyond safety?

“We are very sorry, Aja, but you are clearly too young to understand the risk we all face. If you did, you wouldn’t have gone Skinning with the rest of our children. Be patient, yàgg du sabbu waaye dina fóot.”

Outside the circle, the Dutch man who’s eavesdropping trying to improve his Wolof, whispers in his neighbor’s ear, “Does she always use soap in her proverbs?”

Aja breathes in the pure air of the jungle, then replies:

“There won’t be anything left to clean if we don’t do something. Néck Werta is our future, grammoth.”

“It is everyone’s future, Aja, and everyone’s past. But it is not our place to face the Fenghuang, or it will destroy everyone’s present.”

“There must be something we can do. Are you just going to sit back and wait until the Great Green is gone?”

“These people have power, Aja, a lot of power. They have tontine, resources and connections in high places in their government and ours. The trees grew too fast and invaded the lands they bought before the jungle was even planted. Legally, their hands are clean. What would you have us do?”

“I would fight back and kick them out of the Werta.” says Aja slowly, with resolution.

“Would you, now? And are you going to ask for help from the good Yumboe?

Instigated by the elder’s joke, the whole circle suddenly turns into a pandemonium of laughter and invocations. The tension slacks for a bit, no shallow superstition in their words, no malice or hatred. Everyone is voicing their ancestral respect for the sacred inhabitants of the land who came before them, in concert with the type of sarcasm you’d expect from kids raised across Iningizimu Afrika and transplanted in a nomadic tribe in West Senegámbi. Ode, a boy with skin lighter than Aja who joined the tribe in Benin, gets closer to her and partakes in the choir, even though he was with her when they discovered the wrongdoings of Fenghuang.

Kọja siwaju Aja, are you going to ask for help from Tuuti Werta, the Little Green?”

At once, Aja appears paralyzed. Repentfully, Ode covers his mouth and ears with his fingertips, hugs her awkwardly then looks straight into her eyes.

“Aja, I am sorry. I didn’t mean that. I was just messing with you. You know me, that’s what I do. You’re always wandering the underbrush after the Siyawesi or the Madebele bush spirits, or have your head down an anthill or up a silk-cotton tree hole looking for Aziza people. Isn’t it true?”

Aja squirms herself out of Ode’s grip and attempts to run away, but Yeggul grabs her arm, gently but firmly, her Bazin boubou and Aja’s waist beads shining in the same shade of deep dark emerald green.

“Where are you going, Aja?” she asks amidst the noise of the tribe chanting.

“To ask for Tuuti Werta’s help.”

The Buumu gorëna’s pupils and nostrils dilate imperceptibly. She yields, letting go of her arm, then smiles at her.

“Be back for dinner. They don’t get involved with Ubuntu affairs.”

“Oh but they do.”

And she’s off, walking the familiar way off-camp and leaving behind Ode feeling oblivious, guilty and ashamed. Sounds like the ancestors, as usual, have sided with the cautious elders. She will have to prove her indigenuity by herself.

As she walks the trail, Aja feels bad about her lie to Yeggul. Indeed, she is going to seek Tuuti Werta’s help, only the elder expects her to do that by their tribal totem, near the beginning of their migration trail. However, that’s not where Aja is headed. Hours later, as she logs back into her account at the PanPal hub, she quickly glances at the rising stars in the clear Saharan sky and realizes with a shiver that she misses her parents and her childhood home like never before. Shaking off that alien feeling, she opens her primary chat and starts typing.

Bonsoirée Pal, last week you told me that Little Green is flying with their strange, fast ships all around the world to stop nuclear farming and oil extraction. Can you tell me more?”

To her delight, her Pal’s dot inflates into a puffed round sphere as they begin typing back.

“…If you want to know more about the “little green men”, as you call them, you should read about cryptozoology. It’s an interesting subject, worth looking into.

Intrigued, Aja asks the Pan totem for the meaning of that long, complicated word. A soothing voice answers from behind the fake bark of the pillar.

Cryptozoology is the field of study concerned with researching, identifying and protecting unknown, endangered and extinct species, their impact on human society and their place within Earth’s ecology. A sub-branch of cryptozoology also includes fictional creatures and their influence on human culture.” After a brief pause, the voice adds, “You should know that a cryptozoology conference will take place in two days time at 10am GMT at the DARC institute of Dakar. Do you want me to add it to your calendar?

Maybe someone amongst the ancestors still believes that she can make a difference.

“Thank you, Pan. That’s a yes.”

She walks away from the hub, already planning in her head her first solo trip to the big city.

Little Green

From the window of her commercial fusion-powered plane Dr Nylborn can see the Cabo Verde cluster of islands, which sends a shiver down her spine as she rehearses her speech for the next day. Maybe it’s just her imagination, but the coastal line looks different every year, just like the shape of the Cap-Vert peninsula where Dakar rises tall, shiny and proud, both natural and artificial landmarks eroded by the unquenchable thirst of the sea level rise. If she were to compare the view with the photos of the archipelago from a decade ago, it would probably be like seeing an old friend: she could recognize their face, but she’d also notice their wrinkles.

After a restless night in her hotel room, the next day Dr Nylborn walks up the podium calm and confident, considering that she’s about to address more than five hundred scientists and amateurs from all around the globe.

"Welcome to the 2124 edition of Decrypt, an annual academic gathering organized by RISC, our resilient and respectable Society for Cryptozoology. It is my uttermost honor to be standing here in front of all of you, colleagues, friends and welcomed newcomers. This is the ninth iteration of our annual conference, the very first of which was prompted by a remarkable event less than five hundred kilometers off the coast of this very city, near the Cabo Verde archipelago. I’m sure most of the people in this room still remember it as if it happened yesterday, even though it took place ten years ago. That is now globally recognized as the first recorded account of Phauns, formerly known as UFOs or UAPs - meddling with human matters in a fashion that was undeniably ecophile, namely environmental in nature. Of course, y’all didn’t come here just to talk about flying saucers and foo figthers - we have plenty of other updates that are nothing short of phenomenal: several freshly printed peer-reviewed publications on the link between deforestation around the world and the elusivity of various Sasquatch-like cryptids such as Yeren, Yeti and Yowie; we will partake in an open debate on the possible explanations - including iterative evolution and artificial de-extinction - for the deep time survival of the plesiosaurus species long identified with the cryptids Lukwata, Nessie, the Mokele-mbembe and many others around the globe. That’s just two of the most pressing issues that we are here to discuss. However, since I happen to study Phauns specifically within the frameworks of the cryptoterrestrial hypothesis, and since this very conference was inspired by their sudden and most-welcomed involvement, I would like to urge everybody here today, and listening from anywhere else on Earth or Mehnothina, to embrace the clear message that these flying cryptids conveyed to us with their example; to learn more about the threats posed by climate change to species at risk and unlock the secret of how Cryptozoology can help protect them all, including us. Ngibona kakhulu.”

Dr Nylborn absorbs her applause then joins her colleagues in an informal debate in the high-ceiling halls of the institute. She looks at the small clusters of cryptozoologists - dressed with anachronistic outfits and concerned with things that fewer and fewer people care about. Suddenly, she realizes that to an outsider they must look and sound just like a flock of motley dodos, discussing private affairs in their lost secret language. A bunch of experts on nearly extinct matters, themselves at high risk of extinction. As she formulates that thought, a little girl appears from behind one of her students’ neon lime elegant suit and heads straight towards her.

“Excuse me, are you Dr Nylborn?” she says in lingua franca, with a peculiar mixed accent.

“Guilty as charged!” replies the scientist, trying to tune her answer to her first official interviewee of the day and failing miserably.

“Can I ask you a few questions about UAPs?”

The scientist looks surprised and entertained. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but, why does a beautiful city girl your age want to discuss cryptozoology with a white old bird like me?”

“I’m not from the city, and you are not old. My Grammoth is much older than you.”

“Thank you darling.” then after giving it a thought, “Wait, your grand moth? You mean your grandma?”

“Grammoth, grandma, grandmother… Same same. Moths are ancestral spirits, so now that she’s older she’s much closer to the ancestors than to all of us, that’s why she’s one of the Buumu gorëna, the elders of our tribe.”

“That is perfectly logical and very fascinating. “I recognize your accent.” then more quietly, leaning towards her, “Parlez-vous français?”

The girl blushes, then shivers, as if someone whispered in her ear from behind. She nods, then asks cautiously, “Do you?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. My birth parents are from China but I was adopted and raised by a French-Canadian family. You pronunciation is remarkable, little one.”

Jëre-jëf.” She replies promptly in Wolof. “I practice with my Pal.”

The cryptozoologist looks ever more intrigued.

“What do you call yourself, young lady?”

“Ajaratu. But everyone else calls me Aja.”

“You have a beautiful name, Aja. Mine is Zaharia. So, what did you want to talk to me about?”

“I need to get in touch with the UAP. Do you talk to them?”

Dr Nylborn bursts into a loud single exclamation, then covers her own mouth with her left hand. The girl seems to notice a white tan mark, probably left by a ring worn for a long time. The woman quickly tucks a chunk of hair behind her left ear then sends her hand back into her pocket, blushing. She doesn’t want to disappoint her but the scientist in her cannot lie to a child.

“I tried. Many have before me and still do to this day, but no one is really capable of doing that on purpose. Why do you ask?”

“I need your help, please. I heard that they have visited many places around the globe and stopped teknoloji that ran on fossil fuel, nuclear power or any other source of energy that damages the environment.”

“That is true,” confirms the scientist.

“Then why aren’t they coming to help us in the Néck Werta?”

“And Néck Werta would be…?”

“The Great Green! The sacred forest that our ancestors planted to fight the growing desert of Sahara. My friends and I found a place full of fire by the Skin of the jungle, where people cut down trees, burn the wood, dig out the roots and turn them into dust. Why aren’t the UAP coming to fight them?”

Her voice trembles and her English loses its sharpness as she tries to hold back more tears. Zaharia puts an arm around Aja’s shoulder and walks her away from the hall busy with the flock of dodos.

“What do you know of the UAP, apart from what you heard me say earlier?”

“They’re Tuuti Werta, that’s how Grammoth used to call them, the little green men. Our elders believe that they’re our ancestors too, that when they’re not flying their ships around, they dwell in the forest and in the ocean and that they protect nature at all costs because it’s their home too. I’ve never seen one but every time we walk to a new place we carve a statue of them to leave it as an offering to the Werta. People say they’re aliens but why would they stop bad people and machines from destroying this planet if this wasn’t their planet too.”

“You know, I agree with every word you say. I think that they were here before humanity was even born. And you see, the thing about them is that they are extremely placid people, in other words they don’t want to fight. I believe that our ancestors knew about them and saw them many times in the woods and by the river and gave them different names: fairies, elves, gnomes, little people who loved nature and protected it from strangers who wanted to destroy it or steal its secrets. When we became too many, too curious or aggressive, they retreated deep into the woods or under the mountains and came out less and less, until now. That was our first colonization and they were the first to suffer from it, before our native brothers and indigenous sisters around the world. Now they must have decided that we went too far with our greed and ignorance and have come out again to take action… but they’re still peaceful beings, they never killed anyone all these years, they never destroyed things, only deactivated them. It must be really hard for them to intervene.”

Aja takes some moments to think it through in her own words, in her own language. Walking through the long hall of the DARC, their conversation covered the resounding echo of their steps on the arched walls but now in the silence she can hear again the shape of the space and focus for a moment on its beauty. The hall has many windows with multicolored panes made of algae-derived glass and designed to absorb sunlight for energy and cooling purposes. The scattered reflections on the ceiling and the pavement give the institute a sacred appearance, typical of a mosque or a cathedral. Between windows, sections of the austere walls are modified with plasmonic surface pixelation, turning them from solid into vibrant moving scenes and displays such as synchronous fireflies, bioluminescent plankton and deep sea electric fish. Enchanted and distracted by that sight, Aja asks, “Are you going to help me call them?”

“I wish I knew how, Aja. If I did I wouldn’t be here with all these people asking all these questions. If you get to them first though, give me a call.” She hands her a transparent tag with her name and contact information and a symbol composed by two black drops right above them, slightly resembling a goat footprint or two elongated eerie dark eyes.

Suddenly the sound of a mob chanting, cheering and booing penetrates into the halls from the public square outside. Zaharia peeks through a window.

“There’s some kind of protest going on outside. Looks like it’s against a mining operation in the nearby forest. Is this what you were talking about?” She sees the name of the corporation written in crimson red on one of the signs held up in the air. Fenghuang.

“Oh my…” She turns around, but Aja is already gone. Dr Nylborn looks outside a second time and sees the kid running towards the folly of protestors. Without a second thought, she storms outside, calling her name while trying to catch up with her. People push her from all directions, she pushes back, hundreds of faces flash in front of hers, mother-of-pearl tattoos, lip and eyebrow plates with cybernetic inscriptions, technicolor iris contacts with minuscule beeping lights betraying their Reality+ component. A brainstorm of noises and shapes and body odors. She does her best to use her brain’s ability to cancel out the overwhelming saturation of inputs presented to her, scanning the horde for a running girl who she barely knows. She keeps moving, bumps into an older woman - plasma light bulbs and microchips adorning her hybrid hairdo of braids and snakes sheddings, her skin patched with an orderly pattern of darker and paler spots; knocks off a slender Asian supermodel - barely any clothes on, pronounced feline facial features as well as various other animal body augmentations that makes her look like an Egyptian sphinx, hand in hand with a black gangster-looking bodybuilder with floral transplants throughout his entire body, strictly white or yellow flowers. Suddenly she breaks through an opening in the throng and pauses to catch a breath. A small swarm of soft robots zooms on the street in front of them, cleaning the trash left behind by the rabble. She notices that beyond them, the Great Green Wall creeps into the city from the East, bordering with the avenue. By an ancient mud-brick wall nearby, a group of green vandals are busy throwing seed bombs at the flock while completing two impressive moss murals. One says R-evolution in big emerald letters, the other spells Néck Werta lives and is made with aeroponic plants hanging from simple nails. All of a sudden, a movement to the left makes them flee, a dozen men and women wearing red and white shirts with images of birds on it, flames for feathers. They hold double axes and chainsaw pistols and are heading straight towards the trees. Zaharia follows their movement with an aching feeling in her stomach, then sees a familiar dark figure closer to her on the left.

“Aja!” shouts at her, starts running. Then a loud crash and a hot shockwave roasts her skin from the right, all the way from the Skin of the Great Green Wall. The cryptozoologist leaps towards the kid and shields her with her body. Somebody threw an oversize molotov and is now screaming something about prioritizing salary and family over dead trees. Both women are now dizzy and bewildered by the worrisome chain of events. Their eyes burn and their muscles twitch from the shock when suddenly, a bright light overwrites the sunlight and a soft buzz fills the dense afternoon air. The entire crowd freezes in place, while Zharia and Aja rise up on two feet. At once, all devices held by Fenghuang supporters shut down. The chainsaws go silent, the flamethrowers out of juice, the flames engulfing the underbrush suffocate. All eyes follow the noise up in the sky. Two small objects orbit each other right beneath the mantle of clouds, moving in very strange patterns at mind-boggling speed. They’re barely visible, no one in the city has any idea what is happening, apart from the two women. They know they’re not alone anymore, they know no one has ever been alone. They know Tuuti Werta, the little green men, have finally come to the rescue.


(in order of appearance)

Hyperborea: first decentralized city-nation in the world, characterized by advanced eco-lux tech & lifestyle and inhabited solely by people of indigenous heritage from the Arctic Circle. The name comes from the Greek myth of a utopian society residing in a sun-kissed land at the far North of the world (hyper-borea, beyond the Borea wind). For more details, see my 2022 submission to Imagine 2200.

Heliocopter: a solar-powered helicopter that sources its renewable fuel directly from energy-beams from space satellites in orbit.

Hydrogen plane: an aircraft powered by hydrogen, often in a hybrid form with other forms of energy in case of emergencies or accidents that require extra fuel.

Fusion craft: massive commercial airplane powered by miniature nuclear fusion engines. Like the hybrid hydrogen planes, this aircraft often comes as a hybrid with other forms of supply.

SeaBear: Russian-Canadian energy corporation. The name is a wordplay on the idiom “Siberia” and the outdated origin phrase for polar bear, “sea bear”, etymologically derived by the latin Ursus Maritimus. The company logo, an “eight-legged polar bear” is a variation on the Kokogiak (or Qupqugiaq), a ten-legged cryptid from Inuit mythology, and a nod to the Tardigrade, a 8-legged nearly indestructible microscopic organism known as the water bear.

Khastakh: female Khakas name - means "young, immature, green" in Khakas.

Itkun: male Nivkh name - Derived from Nivkh itt meaning "talkative". This name was traditionally given to male children who talked a lot.

AUBRIECSS: A geopolitical and socioeconomic alliance - oeiginally known as BRIC - formed by the countries of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Russia, India, the Egyptian Emirates, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Nivkh and Khakas: two indigenous ethnic people of Siberia, the first historically inhabiting a coastal region in East Siberia, the second from the republic of Khakassia, in Southern Siberia.

Tengri: the monotheistic Sky Father god of Tengrist shamanic religions in Siberia, worshiped, among others, by Turkik indigenous people of Khakassia, namely the khakas.

Atlantic superstorm: it is hypothesized that the tornado alley of the Atlantic ocean could shift in the near future. If that happened, that would result in an increased risk of Atlantic-borne superstorms heading towards the African continent.

Volcanic crust: A portion of Earth’s crust where is more likely for volcanic activity to occur. The correct term is “volcanic field” but Itkun talks too much to have time left to fact-check his sources.

Dark Chain: the equivalent of the dark web for the blockchain, built by quantum cryptographers and civic rebels. On these particular links of the chain one can find anything one would expect to find on the black market, from nuclear missiles, bioweapons and illegal artificial cyborgans to transcontinental anti-conservationist seed bombs, used by ecosomathic philosophers and dark green environmentalists preaching for an Earth without borders.

PanPal: a global program for learning languages based on anonymous one-on-one chats. Most countries allow voice communication complementary to writing. No pictures or videos are allowed within the system. As of 2133, the Pan Pal tech assistance and software expansions are supported in more than 3000 languages.

Enyakatho: Zulu for “North”. Since Iningizimu Afrika (former South Africa)’s expansion campaign in 2099, during which the nation acquired other Afrikan states in crisis under its geopolitical wing (with a financial, political or technological agreements), many names, words and expressions across the continent have been adopted from the Southern power’s predominant languages, mostly Zulu.

Great Green Wall: a reforestation project started by the former United Nations in the beginning of the XXI° Century to fight desertification of Sub-Saharan countries and the advancement of drought, loss of diversity, etc. Roughly around 2050, an unexpected radical transformation of the local climate across the entire Green Wall took place, often thought to have been triggered by a still-poorly-understood pseudo-symbiosis between many species of the forest and the water and soil of the region. This in turn, resulted in an exponential growth and expansion of the perimeter of the jungle, causing the original scope of the reforestation project to deviate substantially from the anticipated path of development and become an afforestation project instead. Around fifteen years later, it became crystal clear that the process had kickstarted a snowball effect resulting in an actual terraformation and a total reshaping of the Sub-Saharan region, its climate and its biodiversity, which of course impacted the entire planetary climate with more rain but also more distribution of humidity and temperature spikes.

Ubuntu: Banta word and philosophy translatable as “humanity” or “humanity towards others”. It’s often identified with the sentence “I am because you/we are.”

Alkebu-lan: mother of mankind, garden of Eden, ancient indigenous name of the African continent, before it was renamed by the Greeks and the Romans.

Othandekayo: classic Zulu formula to begin a letter in Iningizimu Afrika, equivalent to the English term “dear”.

Iningizimu Afrika: former South Africa, now a self-defined “force for good” amidst their socio-political campaign of expansion focused on “uniting once and for all the many divided regions and ethnic groups of our fractured continent”.

Kuru: short for Kurukemeh, Wolof female name that means “a hundred kola nuts”.

Fili: short for Filije, which literally means ‘leave it there’. Parents would name a child Filijee so the bad spirits will 'leave it there', especially after they have already lost one or more children.

Asambe ñuulalu: hybrid expression in Zulof, a modern mix of Wolof and Zulu tongues. Asambe is Zulu for “let’s go” and ñuulalu is Wolof for “friends”.

Skinning: the closest English translation for “walking by (or on) the edge of the forest” in the self-assembled language of the nomadic à-Wentu people.

Skin: ” English translation for “edge of the forest”.

Buumu gorëna: Wolof for elders, older wise people, worthy of respect.

G8: The à-Wenta tribe welcomes new walkers along the way from anywhere around the world and has already accepted many new members seeking refuge in the world's south after the photopollution catastrophe, or radiation saturation bath after 8G hardware was installed in industrialized countries. This is known as the G8 (pronounced “gate”) migration, or G8 disaster, sarcastically referring to both the infamous telecom network, the political network of countries that deployed the infrastructure for the eighth iteration of the technology, as well as the Venturi effect where a small gate squeezes in more fluid and pushes it further away than in a larger opening, creating in turn something like a pressure funnel.

Yeggul: Short for Yeggul-ngon, Grandmoth’s birth name. In Wolof it is a 'death prevention' name meaning "s/he has not reached the afternoon".

Saabu du foot boppam: Wolof proverb, equivalent to the English expression “it takes a village”. The literal translation “soap does not do laundry alone” implies that the bar of soap by itself does not get clothes clean. It takes other people to get the job done and even to make the soap itself, since it has to be biodegradable and made from ingredients they can forage in the forest.

Tekno-góor gi: Wolof neologism created by the à-Wentu people to refer to sages of the tribe who work together with the shamans to tame and guide the spirits trapped inside cybernetic machines and other animate artifacts to achieve goals and make things work while they travel. Literally, the idiom means “wise about tekne”, with Tekne being one of the two Goddesses of artificial things. Tekne is the gender-swapping protector of the ghosts living inside machines, while her sister Arta is the a-gender deity of analogic artifacts. Tekno-góor gi are instructed on the arts of informatics and programming by their living and past ancestors and they carry their wisdom further by teaching it to other children in the tribe. Often they go off-trail to seek counsel from outsiders who are savvy on the arts of computation and robotics or to find Iningizimu Afrikan totems to access state-wide online libraries and archives on general technology.

Néck Werta: Wolof for “Great Green”, the name people from the à-Wentu tribe use to reverentially refer to their home forest, the Great Green Wall of Afrika. Just like in the English language, the grammar of the Wolof neologism is kept to sound like the color green is the name of a person.

Toubab: Wolof expression originally used to describe Europeans or people with European descent, particularly French people, coming to former West Afrika. At the time of the story, the word is generally used to refer to all “white people”.

Nit ñi ñuul: Wolof for “black people”.

Yàgg du sabbu waaye dina fóot: Wolof proverb, equivalent to “time heals all wounds.” Literally, it can be translated as “time isn’t soap, but it will clean clothes.”

Grammoth: A familiar affectious word the kids of the tribe use to call all the elders. No one knows how it originated.

Tontine: a traditional system of cash savings in Senegal and many other countries in the world, originated in France by an Italian banker. It quickly became synonymous with “money” and “cash” after the introduction to Dakar first and subsequently to all West Afrika of the disrupting fin-tech investment app MaTontine.

Yumboe: supernatural beings in the Wolof mythology in Senegal, akin to the spirits of their ancestors. They stand two feet tall and feast under the moonlight, which makes their silver hair shine like their white bodies. Bakhna Rakhna is another name used for the Yumboe, which literally translates to ‘good people’.

Kọja siwaju: “come on” in the Yoruba language, adopted as the official national language in many West Afrikan countries, including Benin and Nigeria, after the defrancophonization program adopted by Iningizimu Afrika and the rest of the Afrikan Union.

Tuuti Werta: “Little Green” in Wolof. That is the name the tribe uses to affectionately refer to the beings they believe inhabit and pilot the UAP/UFO crafts seen with increasing frequency all over the world.

Aziza: beneficent supernatural race in Dahomey mythology who have given practical and spiritual knowledge to humans (including knowledge of the use of fire). They are often described as little people and are controversially associated with European fairies. They are said to live in silk-cotton trees and anthills.

Indigenuity: neologism, a contraction of the words “indigenous” and “ingenuity”, indicating a savviness for things characteristic of native approaches to problem-solving and life-hacking.

RISC: Royal International Society for Cryptozoologists. The word “royal” is highly debated. In fact, cryptozoologists have a running joke that no one really knows what the R in RISC stands for and if they can’t figure that out then they have zero hopes to find cryptids. It’s not a very funny joke if you’re not a cryptozoologist, though some of them take it very seriously and believe that it reflects the discipline’s philosophy (or some of its practitioners’ interpretation of it) that certain things in life (and scientific investigation) should remain a mystery. As a nod to this view, the website of the organization features an animated logo where the last three words “International Society for Cryptozoologists” (ISC) remain the same, while the first word, starting with R, changes every few seconds, displaying terms like “reignited”, “rendezvous” and “reasonable”. No one knows the exact number of words employed by the system.

science fictionextraterrestrial

About the Creator

Edoardo Segato-Figueroa

Storyteller, Singer-songwriter. Husband and dog dad.

Author of "Countercurrent", Italian biography of Nikola Tesla.

Sci-fi and Cli-fi novellas. Sciencey essays.

Co-founder of NYADO and producer of Mission to Earth music-film.

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock7 months ago

    This is such an amazing second chapter, following on the same theme as the first but from a very different cultural perspective. Thank you for making my day. This was a joy to read.

  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    Wow! Very well written! Good job!

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