Thursday, May 7, 2009

Daily Story 22: The Long Way Home

My son is nervously pacing the room, a habit he got from his mother. He doesn't know anything other than this arkship, can't remember ever living on Earth. If he could he wouldn't know - the boring sterile hallways of the vault he was born in didn't look much different from this ship. He's turning thirteen tomorrow, and I'm hoping that if everything goes well I'll be able to take him down to the surface as a birthday present. It's hard to believe we've arrived after all this time.

On Earth I had been on the 'Renewal' committee, working on ways to make the world habitable again. I was born into a world of brown skies and black seas but my parents showed me pictures of them camping, playing at the beach... I would take hikes outside and imagine what the mountains would look like covered in plants - that was when we were allowed outside at all. I put everything I had into developing a way to undo the damage, but in the end the numbers just didn't add up and we were absorbed into the Terraforming committee.

The outlook there was even worse. If we had been looking to solve the problem for our eventual descendants we had a million options, but all of us wanted to see clean water and breathable air within our lifetimes, wanted to give something to our children. When the Exploration committee announced they had developed a starship drive that could reach a speed just barely under that of light itself there was a lot of excitement and we found ourselves with more to work with, more planets we could get to.

That excitement died down quickly as we realized that they were no better than Mars - even with our increased reach, we were unable to find anything that could give us what we wanted within our lifetimes.

Depressed, having decided to give up on my dream of having children, of living outside, I sat around in the lab and played with a program one of the other scientists had made that calculated the time it would take to get to different stars or planets. Purely by mistake, fumbling with the unfamiliar system, I found what we needed. The perfect planet. A home in our lifetime.

I think my son was conceived that night, amid a pile of empty containers of alcohol and our entire ration of chocolate. The plan wouldn't go up for a vote for another month, but I knew I had found it. We built the arkships with the incredible engines, prepared everything, and headed out with my two-year-old son waving goodbye to Earth as it shrunk on our monitors - not really comprehending what we were doing.

Now we're here, finally, after more than ten years of travel. My boy is crossing back and forth in front of that same monitor, on which is the image of a beautiful green and blue sphere. I put my hand on my son's shoulder to stop his pacing and we look at the screen together, at the planet that was always destined to be our home. Ten years for us, but well over two hundred for it. Plenty of time for our terraforming to take hold.

"Welcome back to Earth."