Sunday, September 2, 2012

Awaken the Serpents of Eden - Chapter Two


 (Author's note: Just having fun here. If interested here is Chapter One.)



Running through the data storage of the communication system it showed nearly fifty years worth of recorded information with all of it being weak static. Apparently, after that the camouflaged antenna array mounted at the top of the mountain the redoubt was under must have collapsed due to decay and weather. The ever-efficient monitoring system ran for another year after that before turning itself off to save power.

As a kid, I use to have a fascination with old science fiction movies dealing with a post-apocalyptic world. I blame my moribund cinematic interest on the fact my parents died in the flu pandemic of 2054 leaving me to be raised in a series of government orphanages. That flu outbreak alone just about brought down civilization leaving one-hundred million dead worldwide, it was not until scientists developed a cure three years later that it was brought under control. The caregivers did their very best but they were overwhelmed with parentless kids and grabbed anything available to keep us occupied. Movies were an easy option as the adults worked night and day to pick up the pieces.   

My favorite was the first Planet of the Apes movie from the twentieth century. The scene that especially sticks in my head as I sit at the control station is the one where the hero sees the ruins of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand of some future beach. In total shock the hero then falls from his horse onto the wet sand and begins cursing the bastards that destroyed the world he knew. Deep down a part of my mind wanted to do the same thing. So much was becoming possible in the latter half of the twenty-first century. With stabilization of the world’s population, major advances in energy technology, along with successful resource and environmental management there finally seemed a real chance for humanity to conquer the worst aspects of their nature. All of this was aided by a growing global awareness that cut across all national and ethnic boundaries.

Of course, being Homo sapiens there had to be a group that desperately wanted to screw things up. In the twentieth century, it was fascism, communism, and then nihilistic terrorist groups. The fly in the twenty-first century ointment were rich oligarchs that sought to establish a neo-feudalistic order in the Western World. Always a problem because of their constant desire for power and control it took the American Occupy Revolution of 2028 in the United States and establishment of the Second Republic to begin to sweep them away in the West.

However, the oligarchic rats refused to die and they quickly skulked off to other parts of the planet to nations that could not resist their money to establish various types of freeholds based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand. From there the Elites used both covert and terroristic means to infiltrate and destabilize every institution and nation across the planet.                

Somehow, instead of falling to the ground and cursing like the hero from Planet of the Apes movie, I found myself beginning to laugh instead. It was well know that the Elites would do anything to protect their selfish interests and regain whatever power they felt belonged to them. When you boiled away all the nationalistic and conflicting global alliances bullshit that had engulfed the world I had no doubt that a major cause of the final war was the oligarchs petulant desire to burn the world if they could not own it.

Realizing my thoughts were counterproductive to the current situation training and instinct took over and I began running through the various computer systems running the redoubt. First on my agenda was finding out why I was only one awake, even though I already had an idea. A minute late I confirmed my suspicions, I had been picked for scout duty.

Way back during the planning stages of the mission the masterminds of the project realized that after an apocalyptic conflict the planet might be unable to support human life at that moment, or even worse, be completely and permanently sterilized. The planners decided to periodically wake up one of the least valuable individuals and have him or her go outside and evaluate the environment. Of course going into stasis was a complicated process requiring whole teams of expert technical support staff, the poor post-apocalyptic scout was going to be very out of luck if the conditions turned out to be less than favorable for the return of humans. Our trainers said scouts had the option of biting down on an Easy Out pill or taking their chances on the outside.

Much to my surprise I learned the first scout was activated five hundred years earlier and the second a mere fifty. Apparently the situation outside was bad for both because neither had radioed any message to the redoubt computer explaining what they found. The first scout was a navy SEAL and the second an army Ranger, whatever situation or condition on the outside that stopped them did not speak well for my own survival. With the last scout woken up just fifty years ago, it was far too early for me to be activated. That question was answered as the master computer brought up a screen a diagnostic overview of the redoubt’s systems.

The redoubt’s main power came from six plutonium-fueled pebble bed nuclear reactors, supposedly able to supply all electrical needs for a small city for close to five thousand years.  After just twenty-seven hundred years two were shut down because of mechanical failures, a third had degraded to the point that at best it could be brought up only to ten percent of design capacity. The other three were operational but the mission plans we had to reignite human civilization required at least four. The power issue was minor compared to the next problem that popped up on the diagnostic screen.

The computer showed me that of the twenty-two hundred people originally put into stasis a little fewer than seventeen hundred left alive. Even worse, a huge percentage of the survivors were in stasis cylinders that were in danger of failing within a decade. With no other choice, I brought the three remaining nuclear reactors up to full power and activated a total system wakeup for those left alive. If the outside was a total wasteland with Operation Rip Van Winkle just delaying the inevitable human extinction the very least we could do was hang out and party until our supplies ran out.

***

I spent the next three days recovering in the redoubt’s spartan living quarters. The empty and silent halls echoed my every footstep in such a way I expected to see a ghost whenever  I turned a corner. Right from the start, I was so unnerved by the situation that I became eager to begin my scouting mission despite the utter and mysterious failure of the two others before me.

On the fourth day, I collected my supplies and moved them to the main access chamber leading to the outside world. It was there the mystery of the second scout was solved in front of the main hatch.

The skeletal remains, still clothed in high-tech fatigues with the name “Garcia” clearly visible over the right cheat pocket, lay slumped to one side directly in front of the huge steel-alloy door. On the bare rock face next the hatch for reasons I could not begin to fathom he had chiseled the words “this is not our world any longer.” I had no idea what he meant but adding to the questions was the pistol clutched in Garcia’s right hand and the missing top of his skull. With so much riding on me getting outside and discovering the condition of the world I felt no qualms about pushing aside what was left of Garcia and getting my supplies into position.

The redoubt computer said it was a little after eight o’clock in the morning on the second day of September in the year 4789 when the hatch unlocked and opened to the surface. Since my sanctuary kept a slight over pressure relative to the outside, it was not until I stepped into the cave that concealed the entrance that I actually began to breathe the fresh air of the wider world. I felt some relief at both not immediately dying from a poisoned atmosphere and seeing blue sky at the mouth of the cave. Setting aside all trepidation, I left the cave behind and stepped out into the sunshine.

When the redoubt was constructed the city of Ashville, North Carolina could be seen off in the distance. The day we entered it to be put into stasis sleep, I clearly remembered the smog that hung over the city framing the skyscrapers and the urban sprawl around them in a brown-grey haze. It was all gone now with a forest stretching as far as I could see interrupted occasionally by serene meadows. It was as if the earth had shrugged off the infection humanity represented and returned to her business of nurturing life. Standing on that rocky plateau looking at all the restored beauty, I felt a small pang of regret for a few seconds at what my appearance and those in the redoubt in the process of being revived meant for this apparently healed planet. 

However, everyone in my group was accepted for this mission because deep down we all had some innate belief that humanity despite its faults had something important to offer. What that justification for our existence might be was both doubtful and debatable but until such time it was disproved I felt I had a mission to perform.

Moving my supplies and equipment from the access chamber into the cave proved to be problematic. So much, that after I was done I decided to wait until the next morning before embarking. It seemed fitting really that I be forced to spend the night in a cave to mark was probably the reappearance of humans on the surface of the earth. I did at least pull out a radiation scanner to check the immediate area. It showed nothing above normal pre-war background levels.

That night I sat on the rocky plateau outside the cave and watched the stars of the Milky Way dance through the heavens. The night was pitch dark due a new moon but I was still astonished at the brilliance of the stars on display until I remembered the blazing artificial lights of humankind were no longer around to dull their spectacle. I spotted Jupiter and Saturn in their eternal wandering through the night oblivious to the missing primates that called the small blue marble home. With my augmented binoculars, I was able to focus in on Jupiter and spotted three of the Galilean moon circling the king of the planets. I could not help but wonder if the American flag the crew of the Discovery planted on Callisto still stood. It along with the Aries landing sites on Mars and the Apollo sites on the moon were fitting memorials to the better angels of human nature.

Despite my best efforts as the hours of darkness passed, I could not find Mars. A quick query to my small handheld computer told me this time of year it was behind the sun and would only be visible for a short time before sunrise. I went to sleep wondering if members of the Pax Consortium ever made it to the Red planet.

***

I spent the next morning readying the biggest and most important piece of my equipment.  Despite extensive training, I was still amazed at the sight of uitralight plane that now rested on the plateau. While it was driven by two very reliable rear facing propellers powered by simple electric motors the electricity for them was generated by the wing made entirely of photovoltaic cells. Besides carrying my weight, it could handle over forty kilograms of supplies. Its one major drawback was that I had to be on the ground before sunset, the onboard batteries were small due to weight limitations. Once the solar cells lost direct input from the sun, I had about thirty minutes to land before I crashed. 

With the weather still very favorable, I saw no reason to stay any longer. I had about two weeks before the medical teams emerged from stasis and immediately begin to revive the others. I wanted to be on the Atlantic coast long before then so I could report possible settlement sites as well as any dangers we might face.

After a final check of the systems, I lifted off the plateau heading toward the southeast. At the time, I thought I understood everything I needed to know about this new earth. Not only did the coming months prove me very wrong but I soon found out my fellow travelers in time and I would still have to settle the old conflicts we thought had died with the old world.

7 comments:

Windsmoke. said...

Its a brave new world but to make it work you have to settle old conflicts of the past that is a big ask. Maybe a better solution would be to wipe the slate clean and start all over again and hope the same conflicts don't rear their ugly heads again.

Pixel Peeper said...

Settle old conflicts? This means that humans survived the nuclear war...and changed to what in the following 2700 years?

You are working on Chapter Three now, right?

Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: I'm writing this one a wing and a prayer, so to speak. My general idea is that the rich oligarchs will have established their own redoubts with my main character having to help defeat them.

The Pax Consortium will also play a roll in this story. After that I have no idea where I will go with this.

Pixel: Both Homo sapiens in the form of stasis sleepers and two other types of humans will have survived. I've got to be careful how I frame one type, the basis idea for my story came from one written by Stephen Baxter.

As for chapter three, if the moons and planets align correctly I'd like to try and start it this weekend. Depends on what plans Dragonwife comes up with for Saturday.

Randal Graves said...

I knew even the apocalypse couldn't diminish the enmity between Browns and Steeler fans.

Good stuff, man.

Red Nomad OZ said...

I always get to the end of reading your stuff - then find myself wanting more!! I see I'm not the only one - doesn't D-wife understand your calling??!!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Outstanding stuff, mister. This isn't my typical reading material, but it certainly held my attention. More, please!

Marja said...

Keep up the great writing and all the best. I am off. I you ever visit NZ let me know! Arohanui marja