FICTION: HOME FROM HOME
We were safe now, that was the main thing that occupied most of our minds.
Down below, and beyond to the skyline, all was confusion, chaos and dread.
We represented the last hope for humankind and we respected the motivation behind this venture, even if some of us doubted its wisdom.
We had wrecked this fine planet we had loved for so long. Like any dysfunctional and unbalanced relationship, all parties to it had suffered some loss, and the greatest loss of all was any remaining hope for life on Earth.
We had collectively despoiled the Earth. Our hunger for more and still more of everything had known no limit. Now, in 2035 that hunger still remained across almost all ten billion of us. The various movements advocating the voluntary embrace of simplicity had appealed only to the few and the reduction in demands of those few had made almost no impact at all. The rest carried on within the channel exquisitely designed for them. The worse things got the more effort was assigned to keeping this majority consuming. Everyone had to live, and living was about ever more having. Wasn’t it?
We had arrived at the base in a heavily guarded convoy. There were plenty of people who ironically would give all they had to join us, by any means at their disposal. And some of them had become hugely rich encouraging others to spend, they could afford to hire a mini-army to stop us if they wished. But arrive safely and without hijackers we did. Transferred through the last cleaning and into our suits we now more or less patiently waited for the loading to end.
Two hundred thousand souls already in hibernation were being shipped aboard. Those who had been designated by an interminably debated controversial algorithm to be those best suited to give the human race the best start possible on Teegarden's Star b. Though confusingly named a star it was now well known to be the most favoured exoplanet for a potential Earth-like level of habitation.
We were Crew A. There would be a series of crews on the long journey to Teegarden. It lay 12 light-years away. It would take us several thousand years to reach our destination with successive crews serving their ten-year stint before awakening the next crew, before assuming hibernation. The greater part of those two hundred thousand now being loaded were in fact future crew members. Not that a crew member had onerous duties, they did not. The onboard director of operations, Maya, was, of course, an A.I. unit, the most sophisticated ever constructed. Constructed of course partially by herself. She would take us to Teegarden. The myriad crews would merely do her bidding when necessary.
The loading would take several days. Meanwhile, we occupied ourselves with interminable checks, many of which were unnecessary as Maya insisted on telling us. Still, we needed something to do other than watch movies while waiting for launch day.
This period gave us all time to think. Discussing things with various members of our tight-knit group I surmised many were not thinking much at all and perhaps even avoiding the activity, finding it more harmful to their psyches than beneficial. Once again, as I had found throughout my life, I appeared to be one of the odd ones out. I was thinking constantly about the momentous event that was about to happen. Ten thousand years of known history was about to be wiped out.
Only one or two of us, the most trusted of all, knew what was about to take place and I was one of those selected to have this knowledge and to keep it utterly secret until the moment chosen. This moment had been chosen by those who considered themselves, by one means or another, by status/achievement to be in a position to decide upon this most crucial of decisions.
I held this knowledge within me and examined all else based upon it.
I watched the loading below and marvelled at the sheen of blinding light as it reflected off each of the thousands of pods slowly making their way toward and through the bay. I thought of all those individuals and their families who would also be watching via their Tri-V units across Planet Earth. What were their thoughts now, their longings and pangs of loss as husbands, wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers left them forever?
I knew something of the long trek humankind had made to this moment. From the lost cities of Ur and the Olmec civilization to the ancient Egyptians, Indians and Chinese. Survival had been hard-won all the way until recent times when excess became the keynote feature which had resulted in what we were leaving, a world in increasing crisis where the wars generated by resource psychosis raged.
I knew that just beyond the horizon men and women were dying. I knew also there was no stopping this violent competition to win the last remaining resources that could lay some temporary foundation for what was considered a habitable life. A quarter of nations had steadily become uninhabitable over the last decade and a half. Temperatures had risen to unbearable levels and mass migration (and the resulting interminable wars) had been the result. Humankind was in its last throes of a torment that had been creeping up on it all through the modern, technological age.
The hope of political solutions to the crisis gripping the planet had dissipated then totally disappeared. Things had gone too far, the effects of the unstoppable changes and the desperation of those determined to survive at any cost had come too far to be quelled. No authority was respected to the degree required now. An anarchy was loosed upon the world that could no longer be contained. Every day that dawned another region became infected and no continent was spared the resultant misery as those with power took from those who had none.
My face was grim as I watched on the last day of loading. The final pods were now entering the bay ready to be locked into position. My headset relayed the long countdown which now reached its final hours.
Outside the sun was rapidly setting, a pink glow suffused the western horizon. It was just as beautiful as any sunset since the dawn of time. It was with the same regularity and predictability that our sun, our star, now set. It set upon a world now neither regular, stable nor predictable, a world ungovernable by any universal laws. The heavens may appear unchanging, the stars in their courses and our moon too, still there above, akin to a ghost’s eyeball, implacably watching the torment of humanity below. But though all else appears unchanging we know only one new and desperate path forward now. And one last mission to perform.
As the final acknowledgements and permissions came through on my headset it was time. The countdown reached its end and we began our journey. The Argos was the most massive ship ever manufactured. The level of thrust required to send her skyward was equally massive. Yet rise we did. With a deafening sound and body-quaking reverberation, we climbed into the night.
I now heard several different voices speak to me and the emotion within them they were incapable of disguising. We began to emerge from the traces of Earth’s atmosphere and be released from her gravity pull. Our journey had begun.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, several keys had been turned in secure locks and triggers had been flicked to reveal an array of buttons, all of carmine red. The disembodied voices in my ear wished us well. They came one after another with many accents and dialects among them. Each voice shook with emotion, and tears it was clear were not far away or already running down many cheeks. I acknowledged each sorrowful voice in the same way.
“We will honour you and our common legacy. We will make our future the future you hoped for. Farewell.”
As the last voice trembled to a whispered conclusion I turned my gaze to the aft screen where I sat. The Earth in all its seeming pristine beauty lay before me. It seemed as innocently unified as it had ever looked from out here, the only place such an overview could be achieved.
As I watched the flares began. First in the western world and steadily across all other continents. Steadily the flames of destruction spread to almost unite as one immense furnace of destruction. The decision to end the torment of humanity had been the most difficult decision ever made but ultimately it had been seen that all other outcomes could only prolong the agony of billions.
I switched the screen to black. I couldn’t confront the final moments I knew could only be minutes away.
Our hope lay forward to a new beginning in a new home.
We would remember, but there would be no return to that old scarred Home, now burning as old humanity’s tragic but cleansing, final funeral pyre.