Note: this story is kind of spoilery for THE SUNDERED, so if you haven’t read that book, you might want to head back to the short stories page and pick something else. 🙂
A burden no one can bear. That’s what this is.
We were tasked with stopping the end of the world, but it’s too late for that. So, failing that, we are tasked with preserving what remains.
Easier said than done.
We inherited a complex legacy, a dead planet and technology nearly advanced enough to save us. It is too late to prevent disaster; this planet died before my birth, its magnetic field reversed and failing, its atmosphere useless for retaining life-giving oxygen or restraining deadly radiation. Nothing grows. Nothing lives outside our walls.
I keep this journal in hopes that someday, you, the future generation, will see what we have done, what we sacrificed, to give you life.
In your gratitude, you may even go so far as to not screw it all up again.
“This will never work,” I say at the numbers flashing on my projection display.
I say it to nobody, and nobody replies. I am alone. The deck attached to the back of my house overlooks what used to be Alpine beauty. Now, there is only the warp and rise of dark terrain, crumbling silhouettes of trees, and darkness beyond. I have photos of what was, what will never be here again. I cannot let that loss distract me. We, as a species, are out of time.
I am alone, but not forgotten. My earpiece rang just now, a colleague similarly searching for a way off this world. I let it go to recording and instead record my thoughts for your sake as well as mine.
The challenges, future generation, are simple:
- Whom to bring. We have a list of eighty-seven human beings proven to be genetically pure and possessed of minds and bodies worth reproducing. Gathering them might be a problem, but small compared to this:
- How to leave. We have reserved fuel for one launch and one controlled entry, assuming the new planet has similar gravity, air speed and pressure, and countless other factors. Once in space, our resonant cavity thruster drive is capable of taking us anywhere without fuel, which is good; unfortunately, that leads to the next problem:
- Where to go. I have no answer for this yet. Some two dozen planets seem able to support life, but we cannot know for certain – and we cannot afford to be wrong. With such limited fuel, we cannot leave again if we choose wrong. And that leads to the final problem:
- Mortality is hell.
The difficulty, future generation, is age. Yes, there are several planets in reach, given our current technology. Unfortunately, by the time we reach them, we’ll all be dead.
If the occupants of this ship remain awake and reproducing on the journey, then yes, someone might be alive by the time of atmospheric entry, but the weight and expense of materials required to feed and water humans for decades in a medically uncertain environment are prohibitive.
Ergo, we must find a way to preserve ourselves for the duration of this journey. Cryogenics is mythology. Quantum stasis fields are too fragile. And it will take many years to reach whichever world we choose.
Do you see the problem, future generation? Do you see the challenge?
For the record, I know that our Great Enemy has powers that could overcome this, but those powers are not scientifically viable. Humans cannot control them. And yes, it has been suggested we invite one of Them along to preserve ourselves.
I will walk myself right into the devil’s asshole before I bring the Enemy onboard. There must be another way.
Calculations give us another four years before the next magnetic field reversal, and this one will be disaster: it will destroy what protections and power sources we have left. I suppose the good news is if we fail, after four years, it will no longer matter.
We will find a way. I will find it.
Future generations, you had better be grateful.
Some days, it is harder to hope.
I sit on my back porch, protected from radiation by the photoelectrochemical walls around my house, while an Enemy ship blusters overhead. Its ion discharge whips arcs of rainbows through the space-walls, rippling, beautiful, and despised.
You have no idea what we’re saving you from. The Enemy’s offer of safety comes at cost, a “salvation” in exchange for freedom, agency, and the purity of our blood – for our #nemy is anything but celibate.
We cannot give in. There are so few of us left, we pure human beings, we evolutionary triumphs, we homo sapiens. To go with these so-called saviors is the end of our species, wholesale.
If we do not find a way, we will all die.
Happily, there are fewer ships these days. I think the Enemy knows those of us who remain will never surrender. Still. On days like this, it’s harder to hope.
My mind wanders to morbid things, future generation. My life is so fragile; I only survive because the clear synthetic structure around my home provides power, oxygen, and a view of all that’s left. Even my own phrasing leeches hope from me! Photoelectrochemical cells are not space-walls. If there were ever proof that we need to cleanse our species, it is this: what hope is there for us when we reduce one of the greatest feats science has ever produced to a name as moronic as “space-walls?”
Future generation, you may end up just as foolish. You may destroy your new world as we did this one. I must cling with religious fervor to the belief that you won’t, for if I truly thought you would ruin yourselves again three or six or twelve generations later, I could not keep going. Maybe I’d let the Enemy take me away, a perfect and underappreciated slave. Maybe I’d just step outside the “space-walls” and let the radiation and poisonous air have me.
I must hope. I must.
For you, future generation.
It is all for you.
We have found it! WE HAVE FOUND IT!
Kim Yoon has finally overcome the barrier of oxygenation and free radicals, of a body that must live and breathe without aging. She’s designed a capsule, one that applies electromagnetic pulses to her unique cocktail of gasses and inert elements to stop our bodies from aging.
Mitochondrial degeneration ceases completely. Unfortunately, this requires a level of inertness barely avoiding active-brain damage and cardio-vascular failure. Good news: I solved that. I have found a way – reliably – to control our Alpha and Theta waves and, in essence, put our brains on pause.
This is as close to stopping time as any human has ever come. With Yoon’s work and mine together, we can preserve our small band of survivors as long as needed to reach our new home world.
There is so much to do. We have one year left before the next magnetic shift and the final failure of our infrastructure. If you read this, future generation, know how close we came to our demise.
There is so much to do. What history should we bring? What things do we need you never to know? What disasters can we prevent later by careful censorship now?
Sykes made the joke that the new planet might be inhabited by elves or dragons or fairies. For the record, that wasn’t funny.
This is our chance. We will start the human race over with the best of chances, with careful knowledge, with perfect tools. Never again will we face extinction!
We call this Launch Day, March 1st, though I doubt that date will ever matter again.
Time as we know it has no more meaning. The planet we chose does not have three hundred and sixty-five days for its year, but three hundred and forty-two. It is a much smaller planet, mostly covered with water. The gravity seems similar; radiation, oxygen, and the presence of growing vegetation indicate it could be survivable. Preliminary probes even suggested native life – something to hunt and eat. There is no technology. It is Eden.
There is so much we don’t know. So much we have no way of knowing. It does not matter. This is Launch Day.
We only saved fifty-three humans. All the others were dead, gone with the Enemy, or unwilling to leave – and while I confess it was tempting to force the latter, unwilling slaves cannot build our future. We must rise beyond such problems – beyond skin color, beyond cultural clashes, beyond even the barrier of language.
This is everything. We fifty-three are the future of the human race.
This will be my final entry before arrival.
The launch was smooth. The EMdrive is working; we should arrive at Kepler 90b in seventy-five years, approximately.
We are shielded from radiation sufficiently. We have enough fuel to land. Yoon’s pods are complete. It’s incredible: we can actually see cellular degeneration cease.
This will work.
Yoon has put everyone else to sleep, and I am next. Future generation, we have done this for you. We have cracked the bounds of human ability and understanding for you. We have left our histories and families and everything behind for you. We have recreated the history of man so you will move forward without misunderstandings and problems, without the confusion of religions and warring passions and foolish fights over natural resources.
We have done it all for you. And I misspoke: we fifty-three are not the future of the human race. You are. We will land on Keppler 90b and overcome whatever we find there. All for you.
You are the future, but we are your hope.
We are the Hope of Humanity, and we will survive.