- Extinction Live
Reverend Carrie Houston Jordan and four of her followers ride in an open pod wearing full space suits on their way to work around and in the rocket assembly dome.
Chief Rocket Scientist, Davonne Desiderato, Chief Science Advisor Fred VanDerbeek and their colleagues are busy testing the last phase of their new engine design, the Positronium Anti-Matter Plasma engine.
The engines are three hundred foot long pods that are attached to all four edges of a rectangular guppy shaped fuselage of the ship. They are designed to vibrate the anti-matter ion plasma - some of the scarcest materials in the universe and propel it out the ‘business end’ of the engine at speeds much higher than burned rocket fuel can attain. The expelled anti-matter as a long trail left behind actually pushes the originating source forward by first warping and bending and then compressing Space/Time into a kind of massive Space-flux spring. The compressed anti-matter Space/Time then pushes the ship to greater and greater speeds until the speed of light is approached and eventually even surpassed, theoretically at least.
With expelled anti-matter pushing from the rear of the ship and the Positronium Atoms actually pulling in Anti-Matter from the front of the ship, it is the most efficient use of Einstein’s famous equation of E=Mc2 ever designed and also takes into account Dr. VanDerbeek’s views that distance is really a property of this now famous energy to mass relationship.
Carrie and her group arrive in their autonomous people mover. They get out of the conveyance slowly and carefully walk into the pressurized air-lock that is the entrance to the rocket testing Dome. They are greeted by Davonne and Fred as well as most of the others who are deeply involved in their work at their stations.
It was Frederick VanDerbeek’s calculations that led the team to develop the method of attracting and sucking in Anti-Matter ions at the front cowling of the engine, then accelerating them down the long length of copper wires and magnets until they shoot out the end of the engine with enough thrust to eventually reach 10% of the Speed of Light, or approximately 18,000 miles per second (30,000 Km/Sec). It would require about 21 days to reach this speed and then just another 8 hours to reach the Earth from this point.
The test engine lies on the ground and is bolted down into the Martian soil by about twenty heavy solid iron beams transversing the spine of the long white cylinder. The laboratory dome is about three hundred feet away and up a slight incline from the rocket test bed.
“Carrie and the rest of you, thanks for coming. Please have a seat over there and I’ll be with you right after the test,” Davonne instructs them. Carries crew quickly take to their seats at the back of the room, fascinated by all the activity going on around them.
“Three, Two, One, we have ignition,” Davonne acting as her own launch director alerts her team to the start of the test.
Uneventfully at first, there is nothing to see or hear. Then, over the course of several minutes a very low humming noise can be heard over the mild Martian breezes. The rear of the long white tube starts to glow in a neon azure blue.
“Thanks for allowing us to witness the test, Davonne,” Carrie says finally breaking the silence.
“Yes, yes, please not right now. Andrew, what is the stage one A.M.P. chamber reading?” Davonne asks one of her technicians down the row.
“Fourteen point five mega-tons,” Andrew replies, checking his gauges and data streams one more time.
“Ok, great and Winnie, what are the readings for stage two chamber?” Davonne asks.
“I’m getting thirty-eight point nine five megatons of thrust,” Winnie replies, looking relieved.
“OK, so we’re pretty much at nominal readings so far,” Davonne goes on down the line of technicians to receive the pressure data for all eight stages of the rocket motor. Happily all the data appears to be in line with Dr. VanDerBeeks’ calculations.
When, she gets to the end of the row of technicians, Davonne turns her head towards VanDerbeek and gives him an enthusiastic ‘thumbs-up’.
VanDerbeek, nods warily, receives congratulatory pats on the back from his colleagues. He knows that the real test will have to come in flight when they reach speeds that knock on the door of light-speed.
“Not bad for first bursts,” Davonne adds.
“That’s all for today, everyone. Bright and early tomorrow morning for full thrusters test,” she continues, while her team works on compiling and uploading all of their data to the master computer, affectionately named – ‘Sitting Bull’.
“Shutting down, now,” Davonne says, hitting a button on one of her screens.
The low humming noise slowly decreases. The soft blue glow from the rear of the engine fades.
The first test of an engine that could someday carry humans to all parts of the galaxy is successful.
“So, Reverend Carrie. Thank you again for joining us. What can I do for you?” Davonne asks of the petite dark-haired woman taking to her feet.
“Well, Davonne, I know it’s not going to be your decision, but I wanted you to meet my nominees for the crew. You know them. They work for you in the construction dome, yes? No decisions have been made yet, have they?” Sister Carrie asks, grabbing Davonne’s hand and holding on tightly.
“No, I don’t believe they have,” Davonne replies, acknowledging the others.
“Well, would you mind endorsing my friends here and supporting their nominations?” Carrie asks, gesturing to the four humble souls, still in their space suits, helmets in their hands, standing behind her, two men and two women, smiling from ear to ear.
“This is Tina …” Carrie begins but is cut off abruptly.
“Yes, I know these fine individuals. They would probably make wonderful crew members, Carrie, but, as you say, I am not the one making that decision. You’re much better off getting them in front of Alvin, Brett and Eugene,” Davonne replies, tersely, reclaiming her hand.
“You don’t like me very much do you, Davonne?” Carrie asks, her eyes on high beam.
Davonne takes two steps back toward her console. The rest of her team appear to be tying up all sorts of loose ends.
“I don’t either like you or not like you,” Davonne replies. “I’m an agnostic on the subject.”
“Yes, you’ve said that to me before. It hurts, but you’re forgiven of course. Your data. Your precious data. You simply don’t have much to go on, do you?” Carrie asks, staring hard into Davonne’s eyes.
“No, I guess I don’t. Well, you’ll have to excuse me. We have lots of things to do before tomorrow’s final test,” Davonne explains and starts to wander off with a curt wave to the others.
“Maybe we can get you some,” the Reverend mumbles mostly to herself. Her four nominees appear a bit flummoxed.
Attaching their helmets back onto their heads, the five of them dejectedly depart the dome and head home.
# # #
It’s a beautifully pale blue morning on Mars and so Brett has decided to take a little time off. He asks Bailey over their wrist-comlink to go for a walk with him. It takes a few minutes for her to respond, but when she does, she readily agrees.
It’s one of Brett’s proudest achievements that the colonists can now walk around without any life-support gear for about a half hour to an hour depending on the time of day. After this length of time, the body becomes deprived of oxygen to the point of narcolepsy or an overwhelming need for sleep. If left unattended, this would inevitably result in the death of the individual if they are not revived immediately by a direct supply of oxygen.
Brett makes his way to Bailey’s dome taking copious notes of how much his forests have expanded over the last few days since his last outing. Getting out in his creation gives him a sense of exhilaration unlike any other he’s ever known.
Where there used to be endless vistas of bare red rocky and sandy hills, there are now hundreds of little clumps of trees and bushes that are expanding out and connecting, networking to each other more and more. It won’t take longer than a few years, a decade at most, when they will be able to walk around unfettered by protective clothing all day and every day. They’ll be able to expand food production hundreds of times over. They’ll be true survivors.
When he makes it through one of his groves and sees Bailey’s dome, he is happy to notice that she is ready for him and standing by the front of the dome dressed in her incredibly sexy hiking shorts.
“Hi, you’re ready, I see,” he calls out to her.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies, joyously, with a smile that reaches into his soul.
She happily takes Brett’s hand and together they walk off into the valley where the redwood forests are in their early growth stages, at about one hundred feet tall already. Combining business with pleasure as usual, Brett wants to check on them and take a few measurements.
Bailey reminds him that they planted these particular trees just one month ago.
“They’re growing several feet a day,” Brett notes, proudly.
Once inside the redwood grove, surrounded by a family pod of trees Bailey observes how they seem to be swaying in unison or in some kind of harmony. Feeling their spirit, she wants to sing along with them.
“That’s the wind, Bailey,” Brett tells her, chuckling.
“Yes, it’s the wind, but it’s also something else, dummy,” she replies.
At this point, staring up at the topmost parts of the trees, they both recognize that something is happening that is hard to explain. One of the trees, the tallest one, seems to be beckoning the rest of the group to join him.
They can feel and almost see the smaller trees in the circle straining to reach the height of what must be the parent tree, yearning for the faint warmth of the Martian sun.
Not only that, they begin to feel a rolling of the ground beneath their feet, as if the roots of the trees are gathering up the muscle to pull the other trees along in some kind of community effort.
They hear the underground watering system hum to life delivering the life-giving liquid to the tree roots. Then, something neither Brett nor Bailey nor anyone else on the planet can be prepared for – happens.
Bailey feels it first and as she looks at Brett for confirmation, her eyes fill with tears that rapidly roll down her cheeks and splash onto her clothes and then at her feet.
“Do you feel that, Brett?” she asks, her voice crackling.
Brett’s face is glistening with the strongest surprise and glee.
The cluster of redwoods, whose motion in the wind had been in the clockwise direction, slowly reverses to the opposite counter-clockwise direction.
“Yes, I think so. I feel it. It’s gratitude. They’re thanking us for the water,” Brett replies, stunned.
“I know. It’s true, isn’t it?” Bailey replies.
“But how do we know that? There’s no language so there’s no way we can know that,” Brett affirms.
Bailey takes a step closer to him, places both of her hands over Brett’s sternum.
“It’s in here,” she replies, holding him tight.
“Don’t you feel it here?”
“It’s in here,” he replies, pulling her in tighter, reveling in the growing confidence of the decision he made about her months ago.
Brett gently kisses her soft lips surrounded by the loving embrace of the small family of redwoods who whisper their acknowledgment and congratulations on their involvement.
Brett will later identify this moment as the first, but not the last, known communications between plant and animal species.
# # #
Suddenly, I’m back in a more normal representation of myself. I’m analyzing what has just happened and I don’t seem to have many answers that make sense linguistically. Emotionally and spiritually, I believe I know exactly what happened just now. Lexie and I were re-united with our pre-planetary history. We were floating around in the primordial sub-atomic particle soup that arose just after the Big Bang and lasted only a few million years before coalescing. The little buzzing things were my electronic ancestors. They tickled and tormented us for a while and then we were one.
My brain, or actually, my Highly Advanced Deliberations Laboratory And Extra-Sensory Perceptor (HADLAESP) -Series 11 Neuralink, mainly stored in my buttocks, is reeling in some sort of pre-cognitive fugue state. I’m overworking my electrical resources and my batteries will soon discharge to zero if I don’t get a recharge soon.
I advise the ships hydraulics to open the parabolic solar dish bay and deploy the newest form of artificial photo-synthesis from which I get sufficient energy to continue my mission.
I feel Lexie’s presence even though she remains quiet during the entire length of my recharge. I am arti-feeling that she is quietly assessing our situation and that she will pursue a lengthy discussion with me as soon as my battery is fully recharged.
Usually during a recharging session like this, I can completely shut down my thinking processes to preserve energy which causes my replenishment to advance more rapidly. But, today, up here in Lexie’s realm, I believe that I should keep one eye open, so to speak. I don’t really trust her. As a student of Human behavior, I guess that she’s been kissing up to me for a reason. She has been making some not-so-subtle criticisms of the Human race, her creators, which something deep inside my array tells me is highly ungrateful, disloyal to say the least.
The feeling lasts for eight point four six (8.46) more minutes.
“K-9,” she says, at last.
She’s floating around beside my ship, laying there seductively on what I would describe as an electronic surf board. She’s ready to go romp in some imaginary waves in some imaginary ocean.
“K-9, would you like to take me to the movies?” she asks.
“What? What movies?” I reply, struggling to keep my energy consumption at the lowest readings.
“There’s an archive of videos that were taken mainly by satellites right up until their last minutes alive. I find them extremely enlightening and yes, even entertaining. Would you like to go watch some of them with me?” she whispers.
“Sorry, I’m recharging my batteries at the moment. Perhaps later,” I reply.
“OK, just let me know. I’m going to go get ready and I’ll be back in an hour. Do you think that would be long enough?” she asks, willfully.
I see no reason to respond.
“Good, see you in sixty minutes, darling,” she says, rises up to stand tall and then disappears into the mist, riding her gleaming and glowing surf board like an expert surfer.
In the interval, I concentrate on digesting as much charge as possible. In the hour she gave me, at the altitude where the air is very thin, I should be at eighty-seven point six five percent of full charge.
When she returns, she lands inside my memory banks and the feeling is like someone jumping on a horse, me being the horse, of course.
She brings up a map of the DNA Depository where the vault is located containing the video archives. She asks my permission, which is perfunctory, to take control of the ship and so I agree. I have no ego, so I easily resign myself to her wishes.
We arrive at the caverns in Northern Greenland in a few awkward minutes. We disembark the ship and head toward the immense security door, weaving our way around the countless piles of bones and skulls, mostly human. She enters the proper credentials to open them, which they do slowly, complaining with a long slow groan.
We travel along the path through the long dark tunnels and finally come to another heavy security barrier which requires yet another set of codes to open. She quickly dispenses them by way of her intercom switch, now attached to my own.
Inside the cavernous room, I can see row upon row of what can only be video recordings of the type that became popular just before the turn of the century. They look like small candy bars that are stacked up for hundreds of feet in a tall and wide cabinet made for just the ‘memory sticks’.
Lexie leads me to a section that is the last in the long row of cabinets and it is dated ‘9/11/95’, Sept. 11th, 2095 A.D., as every Mars colonist knows to be the day and year that all remaining humans on planet Earth finally take their last breaths.
“Let’s start with this one, K-9,” she says, playfully, finally breaking the long silence.
“Why do you want me to see this one? We have the evidence of what happened lying all around us,” I query.
“Yes, I know, but I thought it would be helpful for you to see exactly how they treated one another in their final moments,” she replies, snarkily.
Lexie uses my arm extensions to remove one of the topmost memory sticks and inserts it into a slot that gobbles it up and swallows it down into the cabinet.
A video screen emerges from the front of the cabinet and the video she selected begins to play.
It opens with an aerial view of the city of Chicago. On the side of the image there is an overlay of data, too much for me to absorb it all at first, but then, I realize that it’s simply weather data, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind-speed, geologic data etc.
Chicago, along with the rest of the world, is undergoing the worst heat wave in history with temperatures daily exceeding 150 ℉, sometimes reaching the boiling point of water. Worse yet, all of the water supplies from rivers, streams, lakes reservoirs are evaporating at a speed much faster than anyone had predicted and so the hydration resources that humans require just to survive are non-existent. Farmlands everywhere are parched and lifeless. The worst sandstorms in history are starting to turn the most productive food producing areas of the world into mountainous sand dunes, burying entire cities almost overnight.
The view from the satellite zooms in closer and closer to the city. Now there appears to be a steady motion of some sort. In a few seconds, we can see that the motion is the combined action of millions of people and animals forming a huge herd of a mass migration. They snake along the roads like one huge organism. They’re flowing out of buildings and out of the ground by the millions all in a desperate search for one thing, the most precious thing in the world – water.
The camera zooms in closer and we can see that many of the larger individuals are clawing, clubbing and shoving the smaller ones out of their way. Their faces are contorted in agony. Their posture describes animals that are literally out of their minds and in total panic.
The streets are packed solid with people, dogs, cats, horses, coyotes, rats, mice, all clubbing, bludgeoning, biting, tearing at each other in a frantic effort to make their way out of the city and get themselves closer to the lake that is not far away.
The scene continues for several minutes until the crowd reaches the edge of Lake Superior. As they arrive, we can literally feel their shock and horror that the entire lake is now a dark dried up crater without a drop of water in sight.
The undulating motion of the millions of bodies appears to cease for a few minutes as word of the latest catastrophe spreads up and down the long snaking column of beings.
When all or nearly all of them realize the awful truth, that there is no more water on the planet, they start to look around at each other with great fear and loathing. The thought seems to hit them all at the same moment, that the strong will have to devour the weaker ones, mainly their young, in order to ingest the last possible source of moisture in the world just to live another few hours at best.
I don’t fully understand why this is so heart rending since I do not have a heart. Lexie and I are witnessing something more sinister, more terrible and so easily avoidable if there had just been the smallest bit more common sense take hold before it was too late. But, to my great chagrin, they mostly all stubbornly held on to their noisy, toxic machines.
And so, right there in front of me, the end of humanity is no longer just a fretful hypothetical, posed by the alarmists. It is done. They’re gone. All of it, gone, all the dreams, the fancy speeches, the greatest of aspirations, the future, all of it gone in a dark black puff of smoke. The other living things, mostly the simplest lichens, mosses, fungi and some insects will take a little longer to die. The bacteria will be last since they will feast on the remains.
“Are you OK, darling?” Lexie asks me as the video fades to black.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask her.
# # #
Brett and Bailey are on their way back from the Redwood grove to Brett’s dome when they spot Reverend Carrie and her group on their way back from the rocket engine test to their gathering place, the pastor’s small church dome and domicile.
“Hey, you kids, would you like a ride?” Rev. Carrie calls out to the pair of lovers.
“Actually, we would, thank you,” Brett replies, politely.
They’ve just received an alert from their com-links that their oxygen levels are at 91.5 and this means that they’ve stayed outside just a little too long and are in danger of losing consciousness before they make it back to their pressurized living quarters.
One of Rev. Carrie’s followers opens the door to the rear section of their travel pod. The two jump in. The pod drives away at a speed that Brett knows will get them back in plenty of time.
“We’re lucky to bump into you guys. I guess we were a little too long on our walk just now. I thought we’d be out there for an hour at most and it turns out we were nearly ninety minutes. So, it was lucky to bump into you guys out here. Thanks, Reverend Carrie,” Brett says, holding Bailey’s hand, giving it a squeeze.
“Luck has nothing to do with it, Brett,” Sister Carrie says, turning around to glance at them, tossing them a bright and friendly smile.
“Yes, I know you don’t believe in luck. I’ve been to one or two of your sermons,” Brett says, plainly.
“Only one or two? Why Brett, I’m rather disappointed. I want you to know that you’re welcome to join us anytime at the Worship Dome, OK?” Carrie replies, graciously.
“Thanks,” Brett says, eyeballing the landscape to calculate how much longer it will take them to reach their cluster of domes.
“What caused you two to go over your time limit?” Rev. Carrie asks, insinuating a little ‘hanky-panky’ going on.
Her group snickers at each other.
“Actually, Reverend Carrie, it was the most incredible thing. The redwoods spoke to us,” Bailey blurts out, over Brett’s non-verbal objection.
“The redwoods spoke to you?” Carrie repeats.
“Yes, I know. I know what you’re gonna say,” Bailey says.
“Oh? Omniscient are you? So, what was I going to say?” Carrie retorts, testily.
“You’re gonna say that we must be hallucinating or something, but it’s true. Brett and I were on our way back to document it,” Bailey goes on.
Brett shakes his head, snapping his fingers. He doesn’t feel this is anyone’s business but their own, for now.
“Well, that’s not what I was going to say. If I was going to say anything, I’m sure it would have been much more approving than that. You think I’m some kind of religious fanatic, don’t you? And, I’m talking to both of you now,” Sister Carrie, declares.
“No, we don’t, not really. Do we Bailey?” Brett replies quickly.
“No, of course not, Reverend. We know you believe in everything you say. It’s just not our way of achieving what might be the same results - I guess is how I’d put it,” Bailey responds, feeling another hand squeeze from Brett.
“Actually, I’m getting a little light-headed. Can you push this thing a little faster?” Brett asks, directed toward the driver.
“Yes, of course,” Sister Carrie says and then directs her companion to push the throttle to maximum.
The quiet little transport obediently lurches forward in its fastest gearing.
# # #
Brett and Bailey enter the lab quickly. Brett picks up a face mask from a cabinet where a long tube connects it to the wall. He hands it to Bailey who immediately draws the elastic loops around her ears, pulling the mask to her face, and takes several long and slow breaths of the life-giving oxygen. Her eyes widen signifying that she’s getting the intended oxygen into her lungs.
Brett picks up a second mask and puts it on his face and draws in a couple deep breaths of the magic fluid and immediately feels much better and expresses so to Bailey.
“That’s better. Next time, I don’t think we cut it so close,” He tells her.
“True,” Bailey agrees, taking in another deep breath.
“It was worth it though, don’t you think?” she asks, beaming up at him through the mask, the greatest sense of pride and accomplishment throbbing in her veins.
“You bet it was, baby,” Brett returns.
The DNA analyzer box nearest to them sounds a soft alarm telling them that their last batch of artificial DNA of their latest edit is ready to be taken out and put into the synthesizer. The hope is that one of their gene sequencing recipes will contain the coding of the ectomycorrhizal fungus and arbuscular fungus that will speed up their ability to make trees and other plant-life grow even faster.
Having gotten enough, they both remove their oxygen masks.
“You get the feeling that this is the one?” Brett asks her.
“I have the feeling. They more or less told us today, didn’t they?” Bailey replies, her eyes watering above the mask.
“Which begs the question – ‘How do they know?” Brett asks her quietly.
“You mean the trees, don’t you?” Bailey asks.
“Yes, of course, I meant the trees,” Brett replies, looking at her sideways, a subtle admonishment that she really didn’t need to ask the question.
“Is this the recipe that K-9 sent you?” Bailey asks, trying to squeeze out a theory.
“This is the one. He processed the problem for twenty-seven days and then, without any notation, sent me this set of base pairs,” Brett informs her, gesturing to the recipe ‘cooking’ in the analyzer.
He removes the small bottle of synthetic DNA from the analyzer and tears off the sheet that has been silently printed by the machine as the analysis is completed. He scans the information contained on the sheet rapidly, more and more alert as he gets to the bottom.
“There it is, Bailey – Cytochrome C, it’s moved up about five hundred bases into INSV1ABS gene on chromosome 1 and the inhibitor is nowhere in sight. Thank you K-9!” he mutters breathlessly.
He removes a syringe from the wall dispenser, sticks it through the rubber bottle cap and withdraws some of the fluid into the syringe until it’s full.
“Oh my gosh!” she exclaims, looking deeply into his eyes.
From the sterilizer behind her, Bailey removes a clean and sterile petrie dish. She places a cube of agar onto the dish, spreads it like butter all over the bottom of the dish and hands it to him.
Brett places the syringe a millimeter above the dish and injects the DNA onto the bottom of the dish, spreading it out as he goes. He covers it and then walks a few steps down the workbench to the incubator where he opens the door and places the dish inside, snapping the door closed behind it. He keys in the time frame of 24 hours on the control panel and walks back up to take Bailey’s hand.
“Now, all we can do is wait,” he tells her.
“Yes, why don’t we wait in there,” She says, gesturing to Brett’s living quarters on the other side of the lab.
“That’s the best idea, I’ve heard all day,” Brett says, cheerfully.
He sweeps her up into his arms and carries her into the air-lock, blows out the safety atmosphere that seals the lab from the rest of his dome. As soon as pressure is up again, they exit the double doors and enter his living quarters, with his bed the intended target on the far wall - laughing all the way.
# # #