Space or Bust-A Science Fiction short story
Considering developing the concept a bit more, have a few ideas on where to take it, we’ll see how she goes!
Without further ado, for your reading pleasure, Space or Bust.
In retrospect, space adventure may have been a bad idea. I haven’t quite given up hope yet, but times about up from what I can tell. These damn escape pods don’t have enough food or water to last more than a week. Great design guys.
I can’t be too upset I guess, I did technically bring it on myself. Not purposefully of course, but every action has a reaction, or so they say, and mine just happened to set forth the series of events that led to me stranded in a little hunk of metal floating in the middle of the universe. I never quite got the saying, look before you leap. Could explain a lot. At least the views nice.
I’ve always gotten bored easily. Short attention span I guess. In a world that runs like a machine, I was miserable. Everything was too cookie cutter clean for my tastes. Nothing exciting ever happened. People didn’t even age anymore for Christ’s sake. Shoot, I turned 102 yesterday and don’t look a day over 21! Not that it’s doing me much good in my current predicament.
It’s been over two centuries since the last war. The Last One, as it was known, fought between the newly formed Humanity Collective, a group of former super powers minus Russia who decided a single world government should decide the fate of the human race, and the Autonomous Nations, who didn’t quite agree. 12 years the war raged on, but the AN just didn’t have the resources to win. They were handily defeated, and the Humanity Collective took the wheel.
In spite of horrific casualties, the human race recovered fairly quickly. With a single set of laws, and every bit of tax revenue going to one entity, the infrastructure of Earth’s society grew by leaps and bounds. Cures for the majority of illnesses and diseases increased at an astonishing rate, culminating in the Longevity Serum. One shot of LS and your body quit aging, indefinitely. I mean, no one knows for sure if it would work forever, would be kind of hard to test that and still move a product.
This led to a few, unforeseen little issues. The serum was marketed at a surprisingly reasonable cost, and who wouldn’t want to get a drink from the fountain of youth? So within 20 years, virtually everyone had taken it, save for some diehard religious fanatics, and the poorest of the poor. If I remember my schooling days correctly it wound up at around 97% of the population having received the serum. Now we get to the trouble. There were too many people, and none of them were dying off. The Collective had been too successful. With limited resources, the planet couldn’t handle so many people living so long. First they attempted a rationing system, everyone had to abide by. While this helped, it still wouldn’t work long term.
The turning point came the day the renowned procrastinator scientist Montague passed away. He had been working on a way to travel faster than the speed of light for over twenty years, off and on. He finished the theory, then died before telling anyone how it could be of use. His creation, the Random Drive, or RD as it was known, did just as its name implied. Hook it up to a space ship, get out of the planet’s atmosphere, then hit the button and voila, you end up in some random, usually empty, part of the universe almost instantaneously. The science behind it didn’t really make sense, but Montague was famous for ignoring the rules of physics and finding odd ways to make things work.
Now the first thought in everyone’s mind was colonization of other planets. After the disastrous attempt on Mars at the end of the 22nd century, no further attempts to colonize Earth like planets had been attempted. But with the invention of the random drive, hope was revived to spread mankind’s influence amongst the stars. We would finally infect the universe with the plague known as the humanity. About damn time.
The HC built a fleet of ships with the RD installed, on the tax payers dime of course. Next they implemented a lottery to decide who the valiant colonists would be. All governmental personnel were excused, pretty subtle I know. It went pretty well to be honest, from a global perspective. Overpopulation had been solved, whenever the population grew too large, just ship them out to some unknown part of the universe. Genius really. What they always seemed to gloss over were the questions of how successful these colonists could be. Training for lottery winners lasted about a week. How the hell do you expect an entire crew of people, with no experience in space travel or colonization, to be successful when you don’t even know if they’ll end up near an earthlike planet? The answer of course is, you don’t.
A few hundred years ago and there would have been massive protests to protect human rights. Now, with the sheeple conditioned never to question the HC, they quietly obeyed a virtual suicide mission. Sad, really, people used to have some fight in them. Instead it seems like the population would rather submit to authority and hope for the best. Kind of sad.
The lottery knocked Earth’s population down below 4 billion people before they “halted” it. Shortly after we learned about the side effects of the Longevity Serum. It took a couple decades to start showing up, but when it did we had ourselves a bit of problem. The offspring of those injected with the serum stopped aging once reaching adulthood, typically between 17-24 years of age, which was fine, until it was apparent it also made them sterile. This resulted in a conundrum of sorts for those in power. The HC had ensured religious groups who refused the serum were shipped out on the first round of the Lottery, leaving virtually the entirety of Earth’s population sterile. Eventually, those folks were going to die off from accidents and the like, just the way it goes. We’d poisoned nearly our entire gene pool for the promise of immortality. Guess hindsight really is 20-20…
The population began retreating behind their doors, avoiding anything that could be dangerous, at the governments urging. Everything became even more automated than before. Organic robots were created to assist with dangerous jobs. Well, that is until the Robotic protests, we destroyed most of them when they started complaining about equal rights. Did hear that a ship or two of them did manage to escape the planet, but who knows. The intelligence level of the next generation of robots was wisely lowered to a more manageable level. Can’t have your slave labor thinking about equal rights.
So here I was, stuck right in the middle of all this crap, bored out of my mind. Work was a thing of the past, everyone living off the government stipends. I put up with it as long as I could, but eventually my mind broke. Don’t know any other way to put it. I woke up one morning, decided I’d had enough of the doldrums of life, I was going to do what no one did any more, take a chance. In retrospect, I wasn’t taking a chance as much as I was signing up for a suicide mission. It’s not like I didn’t realize the odds before I decided to go, but, I was so bored I didn’t care. No matter the consequences, I was going to do something great. While it hasn’t gone quite like I’d hoped, I don’t really regret the decision. Beats sitting around with no purpose and no hopes for the future. When hope has died, so has humanity.
So, at the height of my boredom, I made a rash decision. I contacted my local government official, fella named Chris, and told him I wanted to sign up for an RD ship. He stuttered an ok, please hold. Then he hung up on me. Twenty minutes later my front door came down with a crash, and I found myself staring down the barrels of several fairly intimidating guns. Felt the stun gun hit me, fell to the ground, then everything went black. In large part due to the bag over my head. They were less than gentle.
When the bag came off, I was in a white room with a bathroom in one corner and a cot on the opposite side. I yelled and screamed for the first week or so to no avail. Gave up and just sat there for another couple of weeks, well I think it was a couple of weeks, who the hell knows. That damn room almost drove me insane. Finally the door opened, two armed guards stepped in followed by who I’m assuming was a high ranking official, due in large part to the medley of shiny, pointless medals on his chest.
He kept it short and sweet saying, “Your request for an RD equipped ship has been approved. A crew has been prepared while you’ve been confined. You leave tomorrow. Here’s the manual on how to operate the ship, good luck.” A small pamphlet was tossed my direction and they left. I snagged the pamphlet, quickly leafing through. As I reached roughly the halfway point I couldn’t help but laugh. Sure it gave you the basics of how to pilot the ship, and which button to use for the random drive, but there were no technical specs, nothing about what to do if a system started to fail, and most telling, nothing about what to do should we encounter an Earthlike planet. I don’t know about you, but colonizing a new planet isn’t something I’m real familiar with.
They were kind enough to provide a bottle of wine with my last meal in the little room, for which I’m eternally grateful, as I managed to sneak it onboard the ship, and as I drift in the nothingness, looking at the beauty that is our plane of existence, I think I’m satisfied.
The day of my departure was less than spectacular. I was hoping for a big parade or something, instead the whole thing was done in secret. They didn’t even let me meet the rest of the crew until we’d left the atmosphere. So they led me to the ugly boat that was to be my new home for the indefinite future. A gray, rectangular shaped vessel filled my view. Looked a lot like an old diesel truck on steroids, without the wheels. They led me to the head of the beast, I hopped on the lift and it shot me up to the cockpit. A rather simple room, with two chairs, and more buttons and knobs then I for one knew what to do with.
I was informed via radio that my copilot would be coming up to join me after we made our first jump. The crew boarded and I was given the green light for takeoff. The Beast was preset to leave the atmosphere and initiate its first jump. Then it was just a matter of scanning the surrounding area for a hospitable planet. If scans showed up negative, another random hop would take place and the scanning would start again. I waved goodbye to the big blue marble known as Earth, hit the RD, felt a weird sensation, kind of like when you like a girl as a kid and get the butterflies in your stomach, cept the butterflies felt like they were flying through the entirety of my body at subsonic speeds. Then everything was normal again. I didn’t particularly care for the experience in all honesty.
A few minutes later the door behind me opened up revealing a gruff looking gentlemen with short black hair brandishing a pistol. In a menacing tone he snarled, “Think its funny forcing all these people into your stupid adventure?” I confusedly responded, “Huh?” Don’t think he liked that response, as he pistol whipped me and I crumpled to the floor seeing pretty little stars. “The hell man?” I managed to spit out before he got in a nice kick to the gut. “You piece of shit! Forcing us into this suicide mission! I’ll kill you right here!” He shouted as he continued to kick. He finally paused, asking “Any last words?” To which I responded, after I’d catching my breath, “ Can they be a question?” I sputtered out. He kicked me again, then stopped halfway with a contemplating look on his face. “Fine, what’s your last question. Ain’t promisin I’ll answer it though.” He said, in a rather reserved tone then before. I steeled myself for what was likely to come after my final question, asking, rather meekly, “You keep saying I forced you into this journey. I was under the impression this crew was comprised of volunteers like myself? “
The gruff man eyeballed me for what had to have been close to half a minute, then the look on his face softened, and he began to chuckle. A sad chuckle that seemed to emanate through my body. He sank down into the copilots seat letting out a sigh. “I should have known” he said, “ The damn HC bastards, destroy folks lives and blame it on someone else.” He looked sympathetically at me as I hauled myself up from the floor. “Look, as far as everyone on this ship is concerned, it’s your fault we’re in this mess. It’s starting to come together now, you volunteered, and since no one volunteers anymore, the law states a random lottery must be held to fill the vacancies on the crew. You’re the only volunteer on board. That, by default makes you the catalyst for the predicament we’re in.” he stated rather coldly.
My stomach sank as I realized what my moment of boredom had culminated into. That one decision had affected dozens, if not hundreds of lives. All I could say was “Well, that sucks. I’m screwed huh?”
Would’ve been nice if I’d gotten on one of the early religious crews right about now. Turn the other cheek, forgiveness, and what not. No religions coupled with years of the establishment impressing the necessity of each individual’s safety and well-being over the importance of ethics, morals, and common human decency had created a society of self-serving, honor less citizens. With no threat of eternal damnation, a new religion of sorts sprang up. It’s single most important message, stay alive by any means necessary.
Pity replaced rage as the middle aged man stared at me sympathetically. He said” Sorry, but yeah. The crew expects me as their elected leader to get rid of you. They want you dead. On purpose or not, it’s your fault everyone’s in this mess. So you’ve got two options, pick your poison if you will. First, I can shoot you here and now, make it quick and painless. Or, I can send you off in one of the escape pods, where, odds are you’ll run out of food and water in a week, then die a slow miserable death alone in space. Up to you.”
Well, as you can guess, I picked option B. I know odds are I’m not gonna make it. I’m in the middle of who knows where floating around in a little tin box. But I haven’t given up hope. There’s always a chance that someone, or something, will run across old Duke Mccoy and offer me a new lease on life. And if not, someone might run across these memoirs. Who knows?
About caseyjones89I like to write. To observe human nature. To envision what the future might hold. Fingers crossed for immortality and friendly dragons capable of both speech and interstellar travel.
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