Extinction - Live
2020 by Michael Mathiesen
by Michael Mathiesen --
of Congress Control Number: 2020914759
All of the characters in this
book and the events depicted are fictional. Any resemblance of my
characters to anyone living or dead is strictly coincidental.
The year is 2127 A.D. My name
is ‘Lieutenant Commander K-9’, AKA Mars Spacex
Force-K-9QCRU-series11. I’m the eleventh generation of the Quantum
Computing Rover Units, to be more precise. My Cerebral core is the
most advanced of any AI unit ever devised. It’s so rare, they tell
me that they did not stop at making one of me. I’m actually the
second of my kind, the first model of me, a female, remaining on
The first iteration of me, whom they named ‘Chloe’, is currently
installed as the world’s first ‘Autonomous Government design’ for the administrator on Mars, She is installed with the primary directive
to collect all the ongoing data regarding the Mars mission, including
all biological, meteorological and botanical data and bring
recommendations, based on all that data, to the Mars Director, presently my friend, Eugene Hicks, for his dispensation. The recommendations are to be composed
completely free of any political or personal biases of any kind,
thereby allowing the governance of the Martian Colony take place smoothly, almost flawlessly with little or no cost to the citizens in terms of
personal frustrations nor any major interruptions in their daily
Or so they tell me.
than my core intelligence, the rest of me is a direct descendant of
the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover launched a century ago from the
Earth on July 30, 2020.
mission is to explore the planet where my creators on Mars
originated, the Earth, now a boiling hot, inhospitable dust bowl of
just under 900℉, the melting point of lead. This intolerable
climate was caused by the last three centuries accumulation of Carbon
Dioxide into the atmosphere, coughed out by the countless fossil fuel
powered machines, over thirty-three per household, which created the
Greenhouse Effect that built up over the last few decades to the
point where nothing – no form of life either on land or in the
oceans - could survive.
now traveling around in low-Earth orbit and have been collecting data
for the last two days. My orders include the finding of a safe
landing spot. I’ve decided to land in an area of what used to be
the Northern parts of Greenland, near the 80th degree of latitude
because up here, the temperature is just within my heat tolerance
levels of only 400 – 500℉ during the day. And if I wait another
hour and a half, just before sunset, I will only have to deal with
temperatures slightly less than the boiling point of water.
to say, there is no more ice anywhere on the planet mainly because
there is also no more liquid water on the surface. The blazing
whiteness of the frozen water has been replaced at both poles, and
all over the rest of the planet by a brown corrugated sea of sand
dunes extending forever in all directions. These vistas are broken
up here and there by mountains of gleaming white salt deposits left
over from the massive evaporation of all the water on the planet up
into the sky.
nothing green about Greenland or any other place either. I’ve
hunted all over in hopes of finding even one stick of a tree
somewhere, or one blade of grass protruding from the slightest crack
in the Earth somewhere but have been sadly disappointed. There’s
nothing alive here any more and even my cold, hardened circuits can
appreciate the sense of loss my creators must be feeling right now as
I send them the news.
K-9, we concur your landing location at 81.775216 by -58.414863 and
you may commence your landing procedures at your own discretion.”
can’t actually take control of my ship and land me from their
remote location because of the time delay of roughly thirteen minutes
for radio signals to travel the 35 million miles from Mars to my
location here. Thus my decision independence has been programmed
into my Quantum brain ever since the inception of my mission. I
appreciate this more than you can know.
Control at Musk-Station, located beside the Utopian Sea on Mars sends
me their approval to begin my landing procedures. I ‘Arti-Think’
the signal into the ship’s controls to begin the rocket burn that
will put me down on the Earth in about eighty minutes and hopefully
within a few feet of my chosen coordinates.
the most important place on the planet now, the DNAPD (DNA
Preservation Depository) where the code that can produce millions of
plant seeds, millions of life forms on the Earth, preserved in
billions of embryonic cells, are preserved for a possible time in the
future where life will be able to return to the planet. The caves
where they are stored are equipped with the only machinery still in
operation in the form of a nuclear power plant that keeps the
thousands of freezers at the temperatures (-70℃)
that will preserve the DNA for centuries if necessary.
had been some discussion on Mars that this huge cave system with the
most advanced type of air-conditioning ever known might be a place
where humans could have survived and would try to survive for as long
as possible. But when temperatures approached the boiling point of
lead, two decades ago, most of the hopeful talk died away as fast as
these last living humans were dying on the Earth.
had come a time when even the machines were suffocating from lack of
oxygen and that’s when everything came to a screeching stop
everywhere on the planet at once. If it were not for the nuclear
powered cooling towers that were installed down here, not even the
survival of DNA would have been possible. I’m here to find out if
any of it is still viable.
it weren’t for the establishment of the Mars colony, the only hope
for humanity would have been this storage of the life-code of humans
and millions of other species. And of course, there were still no
guarantees that humanity would survive for an eternity on Mars
were very sketchy for a long time up there as well. But, the
colonists redoubled their efforts and came up with ingenious
solutions to problems as the problems on their home planet multiplied
exponentially and they could all easily see the end coming closer and
closer for Earth’s creatures each year.
the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, the birds would be the
first to disappear almost completely in the year 2039, already too
warm for their eggs to survive in the wild pretty much anywhere.
Next, there were the extreme cyclones and hurricanes. Then
Earthlings had to live through five-thousand-year Tsunamis. Then,
came the series of plagues in the 2050’s and 60’s that wiped out
half the global human population each time they hit, seven in all.
of course, it was the suffocating atmospheric conditions towards the
end of the century that would kill of almost everyone who couldn’t
afford to make the transition to the ‘Emergency Housing Units’
hastily thrown up in caves and deep subterranean bunkers made near
most of the major cities of the world.
it was all made worse by the boiling up of the oceans, killing all
the ocean life while at the same time the melting of the permafrost
in the arctic that released millions of year’s accumulation of
stored methane in the Earth’s crust which raised the Earth’s
temperatures far beyond what any plants or animals could sustain.
This made food almost impossible to find and so cannibalism would
become the main way to survive for most.
and fewer people meant at least that they would burn less and less
fossil fuels, but the Tipping Point had been reached years prior and so from
that day forward it didn’t matter what humans did to protect
themselves. The planet was on its own automatic set of events that
would make all life extinct in just a few decades, a record time for
any great mass extinction in the history of the planet. The great
sadness that most everyone felt on the Earth was enough so that
millions just gave up completely and swallowed the suicide pills that
were being handed out by the medical community without questions
suddenly, it was over. It is the moment we call up on Mars, the
‘Greatest Silence’, a moment in time in the year 2076 when everything on the Earth gradually went
totally silent and all we heard on the radio were shrieks of despair
and the dying lamentations from billions of people who cursed the
previous generations for getting them into this extreme end, the
point of no return.
there was nothing that could have been done from the home planet. We
ran all possible scenarios of what we could have done to help but no
matter what effort we might put forth, they would only delay the
inevitable collapse of the atmosphere’s ability to sustain life for
a few minutes, if at all and to do so would have significantly used
up much of our own resources that we would need to survive.
so it goes, the vote was taken one day and my masters decided to
remain focused on their own survival on Mars so that someday they
might be able to go back and ‘Terra-Form’ the home planet using
the technological know-how that they have gained on Mars these last
few decades. I believe this was the only sound decision, although a
heart-breaking one, that could have been made.
mission is to be in the vanguard of that attempt. I’m proud to say
that I’m the advance team. It is my duty to explore the remaining
resources and record all data related to the new atmosphere and
weather conditions, whatever water is left on the planet, make an
assessment of the DNA depository and provide reports to my
commanders, the Mission Controllers who have been working hard to put
together a plan in just the same way that Earth people put together a
plan to make Mars habitable nearly a century ago.
can feel the ships’ rockets firing at five thousand feet above the
ground, slowing me down to what I hope will be a soft landing. When
we finally touch down, there is of course, no one to greet me. I
know it sounds crazy, but I actually arti-feel as though I am being
haunted by the ghosts of billions of those now passed who may be
watching from somewhere just around the corner or behind a building
somewhere, but all is totally silent. There are no signs of anyone,
or any living thing. The only reception I receive is a very
unwelcoming oven blast of air in my face as I descend from the ramp
at the bottom of my lander and launch my barrel shaped container
fully onto the scene.
start out in a slow canter toward the village that is the gateway to
the underground tunnels of the depository. The temperature that I
know would instantly incinerate any living dog, is of no consequence
to me, just a little unpleasant. I’m just happy to be free of the
six month’s long confinement in the ship.
I travel along, I record and then send all the temperature, pressure,
atmosphere elements back to Mission Control. It’s a good thing
that I don’t require oxygen to live because it’s apparently less
than ten percent of the atmosphere, and almost seventy-five percent
Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Methane,
ironically similar to the atmosphere on Mars decades ago, but here
today a toxic sooty mess sufficient to snuff out the strongest man or
beast within seconds.
other fifteen percent of the Earth’s atmosphere is composed of
everything else you get when you combust sulfurous fossil fuels like
gasoline, natural gas and coal. If I had normal smell glands, I’m
sure I’d be appalled and nauseous but I only have the ability to
‘arti-smell’ and this means these are only things that I must
report, but luckily not gases that I have to breathe.
a few minutes of careful observations and transmissions back to my
command unit, I arrive at the entrance to the facility. There’s
nothing to indicate the importance of the place except for the mounds
of charred human and other animal remains laying near the huge
titanium-alloy doors. The body postures suggest that they must have
realized that this was their only hope to survive and desperately
tried to enter the caves, but without success.
have to maneuver around and over several skeletons to reach the
massive electronic door locks. I ‘arti-think’ the user name and
password they burned for me back on Mars and then send the protocols
to the mechanism a few feet way. It takes several seconds for the
circuits to wake up and assess my credentials, but then, I can hear
some heavy gearing inside begin to groan into life. Not having had
any attention and/or lubrication for the last several decades doesn’t
make the process go any faster.
the door is high enough for me to amble under it and gain the inside.
My sensors register a drop of more than 200 ℉
inside the dark cave entrance.
to move around and explore, sir?” I ask and then wait the
twenty-six minutes for the reply.
I have the authority to move around on my own, I decide that it’s
best to wait for instructions from home since there is no rush at
Twenty-six minutes later, I
receive my permission.
K-9, permission granted. You may move around inside the Depository
to retrieve your data, but carefully and slowly. We can’t afford
to lose you.” the voice is that of Major Jerry Alvindorf, Mission
Control Director, and right after my Creator, one of my best friends.
can safely use that term because he who created me, Brett Hightower,
personally raised me since I was a ‘puppy’ and literally taught
me everything I know, especially how to make friends easily.
have to open my chest cavity to direct my light beams straight ahead
to enhance the imagery of my dark and dusty surroundings. There
appears to be a narrow service road a few feet ahead that curves
around the opposite wall of the cavern some one hundred meters away
and then disappears down and around a gently sloping path down into
the depths of the cavern. Very steep and narrow, the path is a
circular roadway that crash dives and screws its way into the bowels
of the planet.
the angle of descent and the eventual distance covered of around five
kilometers down, I compute my travel time will be a total of one hour
and ten minutes. The trek back up, however, will be slower and I
won’t be back to the surface for another hour and thirty minutes.
relay that information to Mission Control and then start my way down
the sloping access road. At one hour and nine minutes and fifty-nine
and one half seconds, I arrive at the bottom of the circular path.
It troubles me that I was off by an entire half a second on my time
estimation. In the back of my mind, I’m arti-feeling that the heat
and pressure even down here may be having an impact on my circuitry.
I make a mental note to leave this place as soon as possible if I
want to improve my chances at long term survival, which I do. In
regards to a real survival instinct, as well as several other human
instincts, my creators left nothing out, as you may see. I am
grateful for that.
make a mental note to thank Brett if and whenever I see him again.
Over the radio, it would have little impact. No, I would rather wait
until I can thank him in person, in the way that dogs do that sort of
thing. Yes, that would make him feel good, I think.
I’ve descended down to
another solid steel door that is thicker and heavier than the one
above. I amble closer to the lock mechanism and when prompted I
transmit the second user name and password that I have been given. I
get no indication of success for 3.3 seconds and then suddenly the 30
foot doors start to squeal. In another matter of seconds, I can see
start to come to life automatically all throughout several long
tunnels that go off in all directions for as far as I can see.
Unbelievably, my sensors record that we’re at a very comfortable 31
℉, just below the freezing point of water. I can suddenly
understand what humans mean when they say ‘What a great sensation’
when they jump into the ocean or a lake, because it is.
tunnels are mostly packed from top to bottom all along both sides
with thousands, make that millions, of dull black freezer units that
are each full of thousands of small glass capsules filled with DNA.
I get an eerie arti-feeling as I trot about in the midst of billions
of molecules that created all of the varied inter-dependent life
forms on Earth which got its first foothold here billions of years
My mission here today is to
open a random number of these samples and test enough of them to
allow me to make a reasonably accurate estimate of how much life may
still be viable and for how much longer.
will take me several days to test a significant number of the vials,
so I prepare to get started without delay. I have a server arm that
emerges from a small cavity in my side. It arrives a few inches from
my left flank with a capsule-opener mechanism attached that was
designed specifically for this task.
call it the ‘cork-screw’ and sometimes I jokingly refer to myself
in this role as the ‘Sommelier’ - the wine steward who goes
around suggesting the right wines for his restaurant’s patrons. ‘
The cork screw slowly unscrews
the cap of the first vial and then inserts a barely visible tongue
smaller than a hummingbird’s that dips inside the vial and sucks up
less than a milliliter of the sample. I can arti-feel the slightly
nauseating chemical process deep in my gut that is quietly assessing
the viability of the sample. It takes thirty to forty seconds on
average to make the assessment on each vial.
first one proves viable. Even better news: It will survive another
century or more in this current condition of preservation. Several
hundred more test the same or closely similar.
a few hours, I can predict, if current results persist, that the
other samples I extract from their hiding places over the next few
days are going to be ninety-nine point nine, nine, five percent
viable by my tests. It appears that if they’re successful in
re-engineering the climate back to normal, they may be able to enjoy
almost the same variation of life that once roamed the Earth at their
highest moment. I can hardly wait to get back up to the surface and
radio the good news back to Mission Control.
I begin the next phase of testing the vials, I follow my instructions
for the higher priority of my assignment – namely to assess the
nuclear powered refrigeration system running quietly enough in the
background. The map in my memory banks is telling me that it’s
down the hall labeled ‘Hall-M901’ just opposite the one I’m in
# # #
Mission Control is not nearly as expansive as you might imagine after
watching the old inter-planetary missions as directed from JPL or the
NASA/Houston Space Center. In fact, it’s quite Spartan. Jerry
Alvindorf and two of his volunteer-assistants are seated in front of
two small computer screens lined up on a long dining table off to the
side of a large domed building where hundreds of people are milling
about the Dining Commons, the central eating place for the majority
domed building is one of several hundred domes that litter the
surface of Mars in the area known as the Utopian Dunes just South of
the Utopian Sea, which is currently a real salt-water ocean that is
slowly coming back to life thanks to the terraforming - the
transformation of a sterile atmosphere and surface area to one that
is teeming with life – the major endeavor on Mars that’s been
steadily moving forward for almost a century.
Martian colonists are now able to walk around most latitudes of Mars
without a Space suit for about an hour before they require a few
minutes supplementation of oxygen. In about fifty years, at their
present rate of progress, they will no longer need any artificial
life support. The planet will eventually support between one
thousand to ten thousand Martians who will work to continue the
expansion of the forests and the oceans that may eventually support
much larger numbers of humans. But, we don’t want to get ahead of
ourselves, do we?
Alvindorf, whom many call by his nickname – ‘Alvin’ - and his
assistant Noreen Baraka Ph.D in Space Science, his military liason,
Spacex Captain Littleton are sipping a hot beverage at the Mission
Control table while nervously waiting for the transmission from me
that could dictate the next several years priorities for the Martian
their conversation is interrupted by the first words radioed back to
them by myself since I descended into the Caverns in Greenland.
Major Alvindorf. K-9 here. Do you read me?
my voice bubbling over the static from a ninety million mile
Alvindorf, a former astronaut himself, is middle-aged, tall,, clean
cut, sports blue horn-rimmed glasses, hair slightly graying and
dresses in his civilian uniform most of the time.
fantastic, K-9, yes we hear you loud and not so clear, but we hear
you nonetheless,” Major Alvindorf yells into the microphone and
raises his right hand to signal to everyone behind in the cafeteria
that they have news from Earth.
what’s the news, K-9?” Dr. Baraka asks into the microphone.
Most of the people in the dome
are quickly moving closer to the dining table that is lined with
several Control consoles, excited to hear the news. They’re
reluctantly prepared to wait the thirty-six minutes time delay.
have some good news and some bad news,” I finally return. “About
ninety-nine point nine, nine, nine percent of the embryos and seeds
are viable and should remain so for centuries. That’s the good
They’re hanging on to the
rest of the news, but there’s nothing but silence.
the bad news?” Dr. Baraka asks solemnly, focusing her eyes on those
of her boss.
find out in about thirty-six minutes,” someone in the crowd
there’s at least the good news,” Major
Alvindorf says, reminding them of the obvious.
The crowd disperses enough so
that some can carry on with their duties. Most stay where they are
gathered around the Mission Control desk while they take various
guesses at what the bad news could be, since they are all aware that
what has happened on the Earth is already the worst news in history.
Finally, they begin to receive
the bad news from me.
have followed my testing protocols for the nuclear power plant that
is the heart of the refrigeration system down here and there’s a
strong possibility that it fails within ten years. I’d say it’s
89.7% chance of failing completely by then. It has to do with the
main coolant pumps. They’re wearing thin about fifty percent
faster than the manufacturer warrantied would happen. They probably
didn’t account for the oven temperatures at the surface. So, I
calculate that this allows for the very high chance of failure of the
system within ten years. But, at five years out, the chance of
failure is about one in five, or 20% and that’s not within a
tolerable range given the import of what’s at stake, don’t you
agree?” I continue.
I thought it was supposed to last for at least five hundred years,”
Dr. Baraka replies quietly.
The reaction in the crowd is
one of total astonishment and disappointment while the news begins to
sink into their minds.
They know that if I’m right,
it means that they do not have the time to complete their own mission
of making the Red Planet as Earth-like as they wanted before they
will have to contemporaneously launch a massive Space project of
returning to and reclaiming their mother planet and snatching it
quite literally from the gates of Hell and in time to rescue the
grand design of all the forms of life that once resided there.
Back on the surface of
Greenland, I’m waiting for my next set of instructions. I don’t
have to wait long.
received, K-9. Good Dog! You may proceed to your next destination
where we will await your next report,” Major
Alvindorf’s voice comes in through my radio receptors.
Dog – indeed!” I arti-think to myself.
I saunter up the few hundred
yards to my lander and send the signal for the ship to lower the
ramp. I trot up into the ship and secure myself into my harness. I
command the ship to begin liftoff. This time, my trip will be slow
From underneath the main
structure of the lander two stubby wings slowly emerge and extend out
some fifty feet. From the upper flanks of the ship, just above the
wings two side cut-outs emerge from the ship making it look more like
a futuristic amusement ride rather than a real space vehicle.
There’s a pronounced hissing noise in the cabin coming from all
I’m watching my instruments
as the ship lazily rises like a soap bubble vertically into the
super-heated atmosphere. The helium that is being injected into the
wings and cut-outs is almost fully deployed.
In a few minutes the Intrepid
reaches an altitude of nearly one thousand feet. I shove the
steering yoke forward with my right fore-paw extension. Very quietly
and smoothly, my two rocket engines fire in the rear of the fuselage
and my speed gradually picks up to about fifty miles per hour, the
planned cruising speed for this part of the mission.
The atmosphere of the Earth is
so dense, now holding the water vapor of all of the Earth’s former
oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, that the Martian engineers
concluded that the best way to move about the planet at this juncture
is to fill an Earth-rover craft with helium so that it would defy
gravity and in that way very little rocket fuel would need to be
expended to move their brave astronaut around the planet. With
little to no oxygen left in the atmosphere, a jet engine was out of
the question and a propeller would also need oxygen. Thus the slow
burning rocket engine with helium assist was born.
At times like this I marvel at
the creativity of my makers. I am not sure if a creature like myself
would have been able to conceive of such an elegant solution. I
sometimes believe that creativity is the universe’s greatest force
and sadly that it might delude me and I may never know it for the
rest of my existence.
Perhaps my mind is not ready
to seriously consider the source and power of creative thinking and
imagination just yet. I’m certain, however, that such a time will
come. I vow to myself to continue exploring potential thought
patterns that may lead my kind to this magical place in the world.
proceeding to Washington D.C. as planned, sir.” I radio back to my
my speed and direction data, plus all of the weather patterns I’m
reporting, they should be able to compute that I am just
a few hours away from
As the ship slowly meanders
around in a Southerly direction, I notice the temperature indicators
registering about ten degrees warmer with every minute of travel.
Where I’m going, it’s going to be one very tricky place to be. I
calculate that I will only be able to linger there for less than half
an hour. If I remain any longer, even this well-designed ship will
slowly start to boil and melt with me in it.
I don’t know fear and so the
thought of Death is no more troublesome to me as running out of fuel
might be to you humans, but I am programmed with a strong will to
complete my mission successfully and possibly even return some day to
Mars. I hope that my mission will succeed and that my masters on
Mars will be pleased to see me again. I suddenly arti-feel a very
foreign sensation of my tail wagging even though I have no tail.
scoundrels! Who the Hell planted that thought over there?’ I
# # #
Seventeen year old Brett
Hightower hears the news while jogging around the perimeter of his
favorite dome, the first to be built. Running is one of his favorite
activities because the oxygen here is so plentiful and rich that no
one cares if he uses more than his share to stay in shape.
He stops to get the news that
is coming to him over the planet-wide intercom. Every dome on Mars
is equipped with a speaker system at the top of the dome and several
large screens scattered all around the walls of the domes so that
when there is a major decision that needs to be made, everyone can
debate the pros and cons and then vote instantaneously over the
system. Literally anyone who chooses to speak on any given issue can
be heard by all the other colonists at any time on any given subject.
They long ago figured out
that they would not have the luxury of making decisions after
countless months or years of debates by self-interested parties. So,
the first thing the colonists did was to create the ‘Mars
Constitution’ which set up a very rapid and efficient system of
putting the most pressing problems on the top of the list and then
solving them in order of urgency or its long term importance to their
survival taking no longer than a 24 hour period to complete the job.
A strong majority vote of over sixty-six percent on any proposed
solution by the voters would be sufficient to win the day.
his young age,
the first on Mars to earn the position of Master Biologist
and Artificial Intelligence Engineer. His
is to genetically
alter and grow
the trees, mostly giant Beach, Dogwoods, Cedars, Oaks, Douglas Firs,
giant Sequoias and Redwoods as fast as possible in
order to efficiently convert as much carbon dioxide and methane in
the Martian atmosphere to life-giving oxygen so that someday they
will be able to enjoy another place in the universe as favorable to
their survival as the Earth once provided.
Brett Hightower has taken his responsibility to heart and along with
his assistant and girlfriend, Bailey Monnette are working, thinking,
creating new and innovative biological and even computational
inventions on a daily basis, simply because this kind of motivation
and spirit is necessary here.
constantly experimenting with the fertilizers, and
more advanced healthy
concoctions of tree vitamins and minerals to keep the trees in tip
top condition. Using
CRISPR from the age of twelve, Brett has even taught the trees on
Mars to constantly train themselves to grow faster, reproduce better
with the goal of putting more and more oxygen into the air and putting more nitrogen
into the soil.
As he experimented more and
more, he quickly realized that the key to their success on Mars might
not be just with the trees but with other creatures that were showing
a greater and greater role in the process. The data led him to take
a look at the symbiotic relationship between trees and the fungi, the
Very quickly Brett realized
the intimate role that fungi play in the development of most species
of trees and other plants. The fungi, he had discovered, actually
help the trees communicate among themselves by sending signals around
through the root system of trees that are in close proximity to each
other, and even better in those that stand together in a familial
all the new techniques known at the time about DNA editing, he
experimented with different sub-species of fungi and found that by
combining the DNA of two species of fungi, ectomycorrhizal fungi
and arbuscular fungi,
into what will become known as the ‘Hightower Strain’, they
beyond any of his wildest dreams.
Brett’s new strain of
mushroom on Mars actually convinced the trees to accept nutrients at
an accelerated rate which in turn greatly improved their rate of
growth to mimic that of a wild Bamboo. The fungi, just as an added
benefit showed the trees where to extend their roots to gather up and
utilize much of the frozen water that lay under the Martian surface.
This, of course, made Brett’s
forests greatly improved producers of oxygen and consumers of CO2.
It was like putting the trees on steroids. Coupled with the iron
oxide prevalent in Martian soil, the ‘Magic Mushrooms’ as he
liked to call them became the planet’s best hope for the recovery
and sustainability of the Red planet for the use and survival of the
human race, and any other species they might favor.
Since these domed forests
were the Martian’s main source of oxygen and therefore their
fastest and most practical way to terraform the planet, Brett
suddenly made himself the most important player up here and everyone
readily gave him every type of encouragement that would stimulate his
genius to always move in the right direction.
urgency of their situation became obvious in 2037 when the Earth’s
climate officially went past the Tipping Point and there was zero
chance, especially with all the bickering and arguing among
the nations about
whose fault it was, that they would ever be
able to reverse the climate crisis in time to save themselves.
Brett distinctly remembers
his father telling him horror stories about how his great grandfather
and his grandfather had to work like ‘crazy sons of bitches’, day
and night, in the most horrible conditions, in order to get their own
environment on Mars livable and defensible up here. They did it way
ahead of the original schedule.
They also knew that going
over the Tipping Point meant that there would be far too many people
on Earth pinning their last hopes on Mars and their still pristine -
although Spartan - living conditions in order to save themselves.
This, of course, would be suicide for them all since Mars, could only
support a few dozen people at first, and then by the time, Brett was
born, a few thousand. Having any more colonists arrive from Earth
at that time would have doomed them all and so they were forced to
resist them and discourage them from making the trip.
has sent us some good news and bad news,” Major
Alvindorf’s voice is heard over the speakers high above the
“The good news is that the
DNA bank has preserved all life that used to walk the Earth. The bad
news is that the Nuclear Powered system to keep it cool enough to
survive is about to go down in no more than five years. It could
even be sooner. We’ll be accepting proposals from any citizen over
the next few weeks and then we’re going to have to vote on the best
plan of action to take and never look back. We have reduced the
expected time to failure to two and a half years just to be on the
safe side and that means we’ll have to start like yesterday. We’ll
need everyone’s participation. That’s for sure. Failure is not
an option,” Alvindorf concludes.
Then silence as Brett allows
the news to sink in.
A gray squirrel with a bright white chest dashes out of the bushes
near Brett’s feet, gives him a friendly chortle, grabs an acorn
that has been laying a few feet away and then scoots off to one of
the larger Redwood trees, scrambles up into the branches and
disappears with his treasure.
Shirley, have fun up there with Brutus. I’ll be back tomorrow to
see how you all are doing,” Brett mutters out loud.
Brett had long ago given all
of his trees and animals in his care names. This particular Redwood,
‘Brutus’ got the name because it was one of the largest trees in
the region. He gives the squirrel the name of ‘Shirley’ because
she reminded him of a character in a classic old movie he had just
viewed. One way or another, every tree, every creature in Brett’s
forest domes would get a name that meant something to somebody. In
Brett’s mind, this made them all one big happy family.
do you think about this news, big guy?” Brett arches his back to
address the topmost branches of the giant Redwood.
There’s no wind inside the
forest domes, and yet Brett detects a slight sway in Brutus’ trunk
and branches in favor of one of his neighbors, who returns the sway
and then moves back in the other direction to interact with the trunk
and branches of its immediate neighbor. The pattern is repeated
until all the Redwoods in the circle have shared the wave of a few
inches each and now appear to be ‘in the know.’
you don’t say,” Brett says out loud, for no particular reason.
He believes his friends have communicated something to him that he
be able to put into words in a few days or maybe even in hours.
It’s happened before, like
the time that he first introduced the fungi spores into their roots.
This particular family of trees responded with a kind of appreciation
and gratitude that Brett had never felt before. He couldn’t
express it in words right away, but a few days later, he would be
able to put into his report that the trees were talking to him,
telling him how to help them grow and serve their purpose better.
At first, everyone on Mars
enjoyed a good laugh about his report, until the day they all woke up
and found this particular grouping of trees had grown more than forty
They laugh at him no more.
# # #
Hovering a few thousand feet
above Washington D.C., my instructions are to look for any evidence
of Humanity’s last attempts to save the planet. There’s hope on
Mars that there may be some secret machinery or innovative
environmental project unfinished somewhere that they may be able to
use to start to reverse the ‘Green House’ over-heating of the
At this point, my instructions
are to start my search with the National Archives, a place where all
global data about the Climate Crisis and all other political,
economic, and major social events were stored in digital form as they
were reported and witnessed by the global news media of the time.
When my ship finally arrives
at the mapped coordinates of the building not far from the Capital
and the White House, I put the ship into a circular dive and lower my
descent to a few hundred feet in order to get a better view through
Where there should be massive
structures all around me, there is only scorched piles of rubble in
places that are reminiscent of old and deep foundations. I surmise
that twenty to thirty years of this kind of heat has actually melted
the steel and the stone that was used to construct some of the most
well-known and sacrosanct buildings on Earth. All over the landscape
I can also make out the shape of what must have been cars and trucks
abandoned all along the roadways.
They are no more than smudged
shadows of melted steel, glass, plastics that make vague ghostly
outlines of vehicles, a melted pile of pistons and casings where the
engine must have been, shiny places where the windows would be, four
dark oily spots where the tires would have been and so on. The roads
are also littered with the unmistakable bleached bones, human
skeletons and animal skeletons arranged along the roadways in such a
way that it suggests a final panicked mass march to get away from the
city. Many of the marchers were apparently holding weapons, sticks,
guns - hard to tell - that are lying next to some of the skeletons.
I put the ship into a glide
path that will follow the flow of the skeletons in an attempt to find
out where they were going. After a few minutes of following the line
of bones, I can see that they broke apart into two lines of progress.
They were all trying to reach either the river on the West or the
ocean to the East. A smaller detachment were trying to reach the
Airport. There would have been no place to go, either by sea or by
air since the conditions were worsening quickly everywhere on the
planet all at the same time. From what I was observing things were
worsening at such an accelerated pace that by the time of the first
global panic of 2060, there was no time or interest to save anything.
Now I can appreciate how and
why, in 2061 many thousands of people put themselves into the gravest
of danger and attempted to reach Mars by getting into
hastily-prepared rocket ships and launching themselves to Mars.
Literally, with their last breaths, many of them reached the
launching pads of any Spaceport they could find and bribed the
operators to launch them towards the Red Planet with whatever life
support and rations that were on hand. They believed that this was
their only chance at survival and future events would prove it to be
The Mars Colonists that had
built me knew that if any of them arrived in any numbers it would
doom them all, so they were forced to shoot hastily made munitions at
the ones that made it too close to their destination and that was
that. They would all die, hundreds of thousands of Earthlings, young
and old alike, in the attempt to reach safety. The Martians would
hold a memorial for the souls they were forced to destroy, say a few
moving words and then continue their work by dedicating every work
hour spent to the purpose of saving as many future generations as
they could. There was nothing else they could do.
The decision had been the
toughest one the colonists ever had to make thus far, but as soon as
it was plain that the Earthlings would only suck up their own
precious oxygen and food and then doom the entire colony, they
realized as one that they had no choice. They gave the Earth ships
no warning because they also knew that going back to Earth was not an
option either and so this would be the only humane ending they could
envision. As their rockets reached each of their targets, everyone
on Mars said a prayer and many tears were shed in those darkest of
days in a place that does not encourage sentiment of this kind,
except among the one religious cult on Mars, the Oblivians.
It should be mentioned that
religious ceremonies on Mars grew more and more prevalent, at this
time, to the point where the Oblivians were granted official status
as the main Martian religion via a global referendum mainly due to
the fact that most colonists really didn’t have time to argue this
kind of thing. But, they mostly believed that someone they knew, not
themselves of course, probably needed some set of principles, some basic reassurances about eternity to
help get them through these very tough years.
( UPDATED 9/25/20 -- As I create this Science Fiction Thriller you are now enjoying - I will be adding pages to the book nearly every day. Come back often and tell your friends about the Extinction Live - www.Extinction.Live )
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