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Crisis on Asimov: Fred
Analysis & Commentary by Dr. Sheila Ronis

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Genetic engineering of peoples' personality characteristics was prohibited by global law. However, it was permitted for the elimination of most diseases. The average life expectancy of the general population soared to 115. Since people lived so long, they no longer had the attitude that permitted the "next generation" to solve a problem they created. Generations experienced the consequences of their decisions. People also worked in careers that lasted for eighty years. Because so much knowledge changed continuously, life-long learning was a major activity of most working adults. The formal education of children began at birth, and continued until about the age of 25. Then, the life-long learning process kicked in.

Anna and Peter liked to do their lessons on their own personal schedules, so classes with Jean-Paul, which had to be scheduled, were inconvenient. Even so, Anna and Peter had a great time in his classes. Anna also loved virtual books. Books made of paper were not obsolete. Many people still preferred to read from a printed page, as opposed to an illuminated screen. This was especially true for children. But, most books were not made of paper, but a digitized reality that enabled the reader to read and feel the v-book (virtual) as though it were made of paper. The children had seen real books in the museums on the earth, but they couldn't tell the difference between v-books and the real thing.

The only paper book the Chadwicks owned, was a gift from the Minister of their Zen Judeo-Christian Chapel. He presented them with a Zen Bible of the Old and New Testament and The Reformation Scriptures. It was cherished by all the family.

"Today, we're going to take a trip to Saturn. It will be a lot of fun. Who can tell me something about the planet we're going to visit via VR? Franklin Jones?"

Franklin Jones smiled. He considered himself the best student in the class. All the others moaned as Franklin began to speak.

"Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun. Saturn has the lowest mean density of all the planets, which means it is very light weight. Its rings are famous, and were first really seen by Galileo. The rings are made up of particles, though the rings are very thin. Saturn also has many natural satellites, or moons, and one major man-made satellite, called Maxwell, where scientists are studying the Saturn System. Some of the names of its moons are Phoebe, Iapetus, Hyperion, Titan, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Enceladus, and Mimas. Its revolution period is..."

"Thank you very much, Franklin," Jean-Paul said, "Would anyone else care to add something else?"

Anna's hand went up.

"Yes, Anna?"

"My mother once told me that Saturn was so light that if there were a large enough ocean, you know, like they have on Earth, only bigger, Saturn would float!" she said.

"Your mother is right, Anna. Let's go there, now, and see what it would be like to study Saturn if we were on Maxwell. Professor Satori, are you there? The children would like to ask you some questions. Children, this is Professor Yukio Satori, who will take us on a tour of Maxwell, and show us Saturn, up close."

Professor Satori was pleased that he had been asked to participate in this project. He believed the future of the solar system, and his work in it, depended on the attitude of the next generation toward the kind of work they were doing on Maxwell. For that reason, he took every opportunity to participate in VR interactive presentations.

"Professor Satori," asked Peter, "What would it be like living on the surface of Saturn? Would it be like living on the Moon?"

Professor Satori smiled. "Oh, no, my friend. It would not be like living on Earth's Moon, because we do not believe there is any surface; mainly gases of an atmosphere, mainly hydrogen and helium, the lightest gases of all. But, Saturn has many moons that do have surfaces and where biosphere domes might be built. Let's take a tour of the rings. Stand by."

As Anna and Peter looked out over the vast particle rings, they were very excited. When the VR program ended, the children whined, "Do we have to come home?" It had been a great experience and they had learned a lot.

"Remember, we're not taking a VR trip, but a real one next, to Earth. See you in two days, and remember, the trip will last five days. I have all the necessary permissions from your parents. Peter and Anna's mother, Dr. Yoshiko Chadwick, will be completing an assignment on Asimov and will be joining us as a chaperone, along with Ariel's parents, Drs. Sophocles and Antigone Saris. We are visiting the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States of America. Don't forget your lesson to prepare you." said Jean-Paul.

Anna got to Fred first. "Would you take me to Saturn, Fred?" she asked the PTV console.

"So sorry, Anna. I cannot take you to Saturn. That is an off-Galileo trip, and I am not able to leave our lovely home. But, perhaps, one day, you can catch a cycling space ship there?"

"Then I suppose you must take me home."

"Not without Peter. Ah, here he comes. Travel time, three minutes and twenty-seven seconds," said Fred.

"Think it would be exciting to live on Maxwell, Peter?"

"I think it would be boring. There's no planet close by to stand on. And so far away. I like living where we do. But, if you want to go there and live, I wouldn't mind," said Peter.

"You'd miss me if I left," said Anna.

"No, I wouldn't. But Fred would," said Peter.

"Have a wonderful afternoon," said Fred, as the children left the PTV.

"Good-bye, Fred," said Anna, as she pushed her brother gently.

"Dad...Anna pushed me."

"He started it."

Benson knew the kids were home. He wished he had had more time to work. He still wasn't sure what would need to be done on Asimov. He was leaving on vacation soon, and was hoping somehow it would all be settled by the time he got home.

Chapter Seven : Crisis on Asimov


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