Sustainability One: Chapter Two
The world may not be going to hell, but there are days we have to wonder. Herein lies a story of finding a sustainable path. Need to read chapter one? Click here.
Sustainability One: Chapter Two
Francis Compeau opened his eyes and glanced wearily around the room as he rubbed his dirt encrusted eyelids. No one safe from the sandstorms. They deposited tiny granules of dust everywhere, coating cars and houses alike. What few electronics that weren’t secreted away underground or hermetically sealed never lasted long and quickly crackled before going dead in a puff of smoke.
With a fluid motion Francis pushed himself over the naked woman on the bed and dropped down to the floor to complete his morning regiment of exercises. One, two, three…
“Where are you going handsome? ” the blond woman asked as she rolled over to look down at him with her all-too-blue eyes. That had been what attracted Francis to her when he saw her down in the warrens below the city the night before. She was only a one night stand however. He knew better than to create connections before he boarded they shuttle.
Francis shook his head and said, “Work to do, love. ” He stood when he was finished to retrieve his clothing from the chair next to the window. Still clean, he thought as he stopped short of the window and motioned to the eye on the wall to open the blinds.
As the blinds retracted upwards Francis caught sight of the cityscape and grimaced. Disgusting, he thought as the towering buildings were lost in the smoke billowing from the cars below. Even now, on the cusp of the fall of society, humanity was wasting their precious resources. The inner city was teaming with people even in the early hours of the day. Industry and economy dictated that all shifts worked at optimum efficiency fabricating plastic cars, houses, and meal replacements.
Francis finished dressing and turned back to the latrine. At least they gave us one of the deluxe suites, he thought as the door shut behind him. Before Francis used the toilet he poured himself a glass of water. “Tastes like piss,” he said aloud as he swigged the recycled water. Las Vegas was no refuge of fresh water and it was as good as it got.
When Francis was finished, he slid the door back and found the woman sitting in the chair dropping grapes into her mouth. “Oh dear, you must be someone special,” she said as she bit into a grape and then tossed Francis one. It tasted like heaven, juicy and sumptuous.
Francis smiled at the woman. She was beautiful. A rocket scientist too, he thought. She had told him something, whispering in his ear as they danced in the warrens. She didn’t have clearance to know what he did however. In fact, Francis was surprised she hadn’t been escorted away the night before. The grapes would have been as much for her. Fresh grapes were expensive. They had to be shipped over from France, not a cheap matter given the waning oil supplies. Spending money wasn’t the issue Francis supposed. He was going to save the world. Well, he thought, not just me. His team was the best in the world. They were the brightest scientists and fittest humans ever to have lived. They were born to save the world, trained and educated for their task. They were going to Mars to mine the planet’s icy caps and then send the precious water to earth so the farmers could grow their crops again. They would terraform the earth so the windstorms would stop.
Francis knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. For all the water they were going to send back, it was going to take years. The time to get to the planet and then put the harvester together and then build the other half of the bridge above the planet. At least if we build the bridge first they can send us supplies.
The bridge accelerated matter so it would go from one place to another in the blink of an eye. But not people, Francis thought. They couldn’t just send living matter through. Humans and animals would die. Only simple celled organisms had been successfully transported so far.
Wouldn’t matter then, Francis thought as he envisioned the mass exodus as people scrambled to evacuate the crumbling planet. Those who could afford it would buy their tickets off of earth and be gone if they could.
That chaos was why Francis’ mission was top secret. It would be a disaster if anyone discovered the plan and subverted it for their own purpose. Only the fittest could survive the trek. Francis and his crew had trained for the rigours of the trip. They were going to save the world.
Francis bowed low to the woman and cursed himself for not remembering her name. No one used their real names anymore anyway. The caste system that had replaced democracy a decade earlier was great for the upper castes, but those stuck in the lower castes were never exposed to the good stuff. Without using their names, most people figured they might eek out a little more food or perhaps some fresh water as opposed to the recycled crap the government forced on the people. Government, Francis thought as he rolled his eyes. He stopped short of doing physical air quotes as he stepped towards the door to the small room.
The government was a shadow of what it once was. When the food wars started, the federal bureaucracy crumbled. Only the municipalities were able to retain control. They brought the people back from the brink. That was before the money changed hands though, Francis thought. When the dust settled from the first sandstorm there was a redistribution of power. The rich weren’t just rich, they became powerful, erecting massive bastions to live in with impressive greenhouses on top. They were able to feed themselves while the lower castes toiled away. No one had the time to take it back however when they were forced to batten down the hatches every few hours for the sandstorms.
The trip to the desert took over three hours first through winding streets of the decrepit city and then through the desolate landscape of the Mojave desert. His driver quickly took them past the inner city to the outskirts where no one moved through the dust covered streets except shambling pedestrians trading one hole in the wall bar for another. That far out of the city there were no cars transporting people to the decaying casinos the once glorious buildings of exquisite and curious architecture. When Francis had been a child those towering money pits had lured millions of people in the false hopes of winning it big at blackjack or the slot machines. The house always won.
As Francis and his driver approached the shuttle base deep in the desert, he felt his heart flutter. He looked away to preserve his tears, something his mother would have scolded him for. Don’t you waste that water now dear. You’ll see mom. I’ll make it better. Francis’ mother had been strong, lasting through the food riots because she lived on her own ranch and was able to produce enough for her family. When the sand storms began however, she hadn’t been so lucky. Her lungs weren’t strong enough and she’d succumbed to the monster plaguing the world.
When Francis arrived, he opened the door to the SUV and looked out over the dunes. The driver nodded in respect and drove off, the only person who knew where the place was. Likely off to find another member of the crew, Francis thought. Today was the day. Lift off was in a few short hours.
The wind had blown the sand over the installation, once the property of the Space X Corporation. The space tourist industry dried up when the skies filled up with constant dust clouds and no one had the time to explore the stratosphere when they were all looking for water to feed the world. Even the rich up north in Canada with their great lakes turned away from pleasures that sin city and the space tourism offered.
Francis walked straight towards the hidden doorway and waited as the guards within ran their biometric tests. Just telling them who he was wasn’t enough. They had to be sure. The mission was paramount. If they let in an outsider it would be disastrous. If that outsider was there by subterfuge, he could wreak havoc on everything. I could just imagine what would happen if they let in my brother, Francis thought.
Francis only had one family member, his twin brother Michael. For being identical twins, the two couldn’t be any different. Though no one could tell them apart visually, the second they opened their mouth to speak no one would mistake them. Michael was no fighter. When they were children, Michael would feast on Francis’ portions, stealing his notes in school and wasting everything that was good and proper. Michael was everything that Francis hated about the world. He lived unsustainably by taking what he wanted, cheating whom he cared. If Michael had ruled the world, it would have faltered already.
When Francis passed through the door that slid open in the ground he nodded to the guards pouring through film footage from various feeds across the world. They kept the world at bay, ensuring the mission remained secret. Nothing could interrupt them.
Francis’ installation was but one part of a bigger plan. They were responsible for sending the water team. Once in space, his ship would be on its own. They would finish their mission assuming everyone else accomplished their own. We will do it, Francis thought. We have to.
Francis walked through concrete hallways and down metal grated stairs passing no one as he moved like muscle memory, taking ten steps right, five steps left, fifty yards east, two hundred south.
Francis didn’t know how many people knew of the plan, only that once he and his crew lifted off, the installation would be destroyed. Any technology deemed useful would be salvaged and then any trace of the plan would be expunged. The plan didn’t finish with their departure. Compartmentalized Francis thought. No one knew everything. Half of what he knew was supposition. He assumed they were simultaneously building a bridge port above earth. The machine could have already been built. In fact they could have two or three machines built, all orbiting the planet. The red lights in the sky at night might not be satellites, but bridge ports waiting for Francis and his team to accomplish their mission.
Anything’s possible, Francis thought as he reached the last door to the mission chamber where the shuttle sustainability One waited. He laid his hand on the cold metal door and listened for life within. This will work, he thought.
Everything was perfectly calculated. Within those doors, Francis and his team would be measured, pokes and prodded to make sure they were within the nominal window for departure. Only so much space, Francis thought. There was only so much space on the shuttle. They had to calculate everything; food, air, water. Any miscalculation and they wouldn’t have enough to complete their mission. Of course they couldn’t calculate for everything. That’s why most of the crew would sleep in cryochambers for the entire ride. His bridge crew would be taking the greatest risk. They would be put under extreme psychological, physical and emotional pressure. It was Francis and his two bridge officers that needed to be perfect. They couldn’t be sick or tired. They had to eat only their rations and they had to work when they could and sleep when they had to. They each had their own duties to perform. In short, if they didn’t work like a clock, they would fail. No, Francis thought. Those two will work well together. They knew the consequences. They knew it was likely a one way trip, radiation and other perils trying to stop them. They would go to Mars and never come back. But, they were going to save the earth.
Francis dropped his hand to the metal handle and turned it slowly. The heavy metal door slid aside with a ear shattering creek as light illuminated his path.