THE PATHFINDER MISSION Part One, a short story by actung. Date added: 2011-11-09. Times viewed: 741.
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- Intro: First part of my NaNoWriMo 2011 entry.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place each and every November. It challenges writers to write a novel length story of at least 50,000 in just one month. 2011 was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. On November 30th my word count stood at 50,055 however with December came time to edit the story, chasing down mistakes and generally attempting to improve the story. For more information on NaNoWriMo visit www.nanowrimo.org
This is Planet Earth, home to over seven billion members of the human race. It is a magnificent world, as far as we know the only world of its kind. It is our home, our place of residence, our small but significant part of the universe and it is being destroyed little by little, piece by piece each and every day. There will come a time, maybe not in our life time, but the time will come where this forever shrinking planet of ours will no longer be able to sustain life of any kind. Sad thing is that it is us, all seven billion of us who are responsible for the daily destruction of a uniquely magical corner of the universe. It is a matter of time, not as much as an if as so to a when that this ticking time bomb will count down to zero and self implode.
Imagine for a moment if you will, that the time has come. The time is now. The end of the world is nigh. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunami’s, floods, volcano eruptions and the like are all common everyday worldwide occurrences. Small countries have been evacuated. For so many, life has resorted to living in make shift shelters relying on the charity of others for survival on a daily basis.
The sickness is terminal. The cancer known as mankind has brought the world to its knees. There is no turning back. There will be no remission. When a tumour is malignant the only course of action is to remove or eradicate it. When the world we live in is the malignant tumour then there is only one thing that can be done. The only treatment, the only course of action is to leave this world behind, leave the only home that mankind has ever known and move on, find a new world on which, if such a world exists, we can get to start all over again.
Diary of Brandon Michaels,
Sunday October 20th 2097.
For the first time since early on in the year I felt a chill in the morning air as I began my day as I usually do with a two hour walk. It actually felt really good, that cool fresh breeze. It wasn’t overly strong and it gave me more of a feeling of being alive than what I have been used to feeling in recent times, at least from what I can remember of those recent times. It is difficult to let my thoughts drift today. I like to day dream when I go out walking but the thoughts of having to go to this meeting this afternoon have thrown me.
The world council wants me to meet with them today, whatever for I don’t know. I highly doubt there is anything in particular that I could help them out with, but we shall soon see what all the fuss is about.
Are they serious? They do know I am sixty seven, right? I am sure they have a copy of my hospital files too. They want me to go on a mission. A space mission, no less. They want me to go into outer space and command a star ship. They must be stuck, mad even. I am too old to get involved with something like this. I am too old to care. My age is irrelevant so I was told. Sure I have command experience being an ex army colonel but I am too old to take something like this on. I just want to relax, take it easy, live out the rest of my life as it is.
So what if the world is dying. It can die and take me with it. Besides there are times where I am already struggling to remember what it is I am doing at that particular moment so how on Earth, or off Earth I should say am I supposed to command a space ship? It’ll only get worse before too long. I know there is no one here to look after me when things do get worse, but I don’t want to become a burden up there. They have asked me to at least take some time and think about it. I will have to give them an answer in the morning.
I might just as well go for it, if I really think about it I have nothing to lose down here, maybe I have something to gain up there. I would not be looking forward to this. It is nuts, madness even, but what the hell. At least I won’t be alone. No need to wait until the morning, I guess, I may as well just go ahead and accept the position right now.
There will be no coming back. It will be the beginning of a worldwide evacuation. I am about to take charge of the lead ship and our mission will be both simple and difficult at the same time. We have to find a new home for mankind, lead humanity to a new world, a new life, a new beginning. More ships will follow our lead, taking what is left from humanities only prior home and move to a new inhabitable planet if such a planet exists. The name of the ship is an apt one. It is THE PATHFINDER. It has its mission, a mission I am to take charge of. Sure life is as it is; when I really do think about it, without this what else do I have to look forward to?
Three days after agreeing to take charge of THE PATHFINDER, Brandon prepares himself to leave his home for the final time. His bags are packed and he stands in front of a full length mirror in his upstairs bedroom half in amazement that his old military uniform still fits him while also wondering what the hell he has let himself in for. To look outside his window it is difficult to imagine that the world is in such disarray. The sun is shining bright. The breeze is light and cool. Things couldn’t appear to be more peaceful.
An armoured car pulls up outside the house and Brandon watches as two men exit the vehicle and begin to make their way up the garden path to the front of his house. A knock comes to the door but Brandon doesn’t hear it having had his attention caught by the family photo sitting on his dresser. The photo was an old one taken many years earlier with Brandon standing in the centre with his wife Florence standing to his right and their son Andre standing towards the left. Brandon held the photo close as if it is the most important thing that he possesses and he smiled before packing it to bring along with him. A knock comes to the front door once more, ending the distraction the photo had brought. Brandon made his way downstairs.
The two men introduce themselves and inform Brandon that the sooner they leave the better. One of the two men motions towards the car and suggests that the former Colonel should make his way to the car while the other asks if the baggage is to accompany them on their road journey.
All three men spent the next two hours together getting to their destination in the armoured Humvee that had arrived to Brandon’s house while also having a security escort on motorcycles to help them along the way.
‘Is all this necessary?’ asked Brandon.
‘All what sir?’ responded one of the two men.
‘This armoured Humvee and this escort too’.
‘Yes sir. We cannot be too careful with the AEEG around; they will do whatever they can to prevent this mission from going ahead’.
‘The AEEG huh?’ that didn’t particularly mean very much to Brandon and he decided not to question it any further.
Hardly another word was spoken as the journey continued on.
Brandon had yet to be instructed as to what was about to happen. Truth was that he did not know quite what to expect. The car came to a halt at a small air strip. A strange craft was ready and waiting to take him up among the stars and strange craft just may be the right words for it. It definitely looked strange to Brandon with it not being much larger than any average sized road vehicle, and this strange craft not being much larger than any average sized road vehicle did not have any wheels. To Brandon it seemed too small a vehicle to not only be able to take flight but also to be able to make a journey into space. It had no wings and no propellers.
Brandon had been caught by surprise by so many things at that particular moment. The fact he was going straight into space with no hanging around was one thing and the fact that such a small air craft which happened to be in a very remote area would be the means of getting up into space was another.
There had been no space training or anything of the sorts offered to Brandon prior to this moment, and he was expected to take everything in his stride as it happened. The calm weather that he had observed a little while earlier was about to become quite changeable and the small air craft was working against time to make it space bound before a forecasted thunder storm would make its way towards the take off area, a storm which had been predicted to last quite some time and would be expected to create plenty of havoc.
It was also in Brandon’s best interest to wait until he had reached the Pathfinder before eating. If he had very little in his stomach then there would also be very little to come out on the way up to the Pathfinder if such a feeling should take him. He was assured though that once he arrived on board the main vessel there would be a feast waiting for him. Before takeoff Brandon needed to strap himself into his seat, with no gravity control aboard the shuttle, weightlessness may not sit too well once they hit Earth’s outer stratosphere.
As with the car journey the air craft had a few escorts on board, none of whom were to board the ship they were making their way to. It sure seemed to Brandon that the world council really wanted him to command The Pathfinder. The higher the shuttle got the more Brandon could feel the weightlessness. That lack of gravity control meant that the seat belt would do its job to keep Brandon seated. Just as well that he did have an empty stomach, he felt so nauseous that he did heave without there being any vomit.
The shuttle pilot told Brandon that if he looked out the window next to him that he would be able to see The Pathfinder. It took a few seconds for Brandon to compose himself and he did eventually look out that window and he was immediately struck with awe with the sight bestowed upon him while actually thinking out loud ‘I am to command that?’
A very impressive sight, The Pathfinder with twenty three floors or decks, over eight thousand meters long. The multitude of view ports throughout the ship would make it easy for anyone aboard to spend a few hours just staring out into an unending mass of stars and space dust especially out along the wing like walk ways which are five decks high and stretch out three hundred and fifty meters either side of the ship and these wings descend at a slight angle while also falling back slightly. The front of the ship is slightly rounded and the rear of the ship tails off in regards to its width as it is slightly less than three quarters the width of the front of the ship.
The shuttle enters the main ship through the docking bay at the right hand side of the ship close to the rear or ‘stern’. Brandon took a couple of moments to gather himself before exiting the shuttle. He only managed to take a few steps forward onto The Pathfinder when, before he had any sort of opportunity to take in his new surroundings, Brandon had to take a couple of steps backwards. The sight of an approaching lady caught him off guard forcing him to rub his eyes in almost disbelief.
‘Hello, you must be Brandon. My name is Maria. It is an honour to finally have you aboard this fine ship’ she spoke outstretching her right hand.
After a brief moment Brandon took Maria’s hand and shook it. It took another moment before he would respond verbally.
‘Thank you kindly’.
It was at this point he wondered what Maria meant by ‘finally’.
Maria introduced Brandon to the other senior members of the crew before leading him to where the feast he had been promised would be served. There was one face from whom Brandon had be introduced to that bore some familiarity, other than of Maria, though Brandon had never met her or even knew of her prior to his arrival. The name which belonged to that face bore not just quite a bit more familiarity to it but also quite a bit of importance to Brandon.
There were a few things about Maria Flores that had really caught Brandon’s attention. For one thing, during the meal he found out that she had studied the earth sciences for many years and that is why she has joined the Pathfinder, but since Earth was being evacuated Brandon didn’t see much use in such studies but these studies as Maria would explain, would not only very much so help in finding a new home, but also make the journey all the smoother.
Another thing that had caught Brandon’s attention about Maria was how she looked, there were some physical similarities between Maria and Brandon’s wife Florence and this is what had thrown him when he first saw Maria approach him. Florence had passed away ten years almost to the day and she died at the age of just fifty one. At thirty seven, to Brandon Maria could pass as a sister to Florence. Transplanting Maria’s short dark hair with the long fiery red hair Florence once had which later turned silver and to Brandon the two ladies could be as close to being the same person that any two people could be without actually being the same person.
Brandon also noticed while the new crew for the Pathfinder sat down to eat that Maria even seemed to have at least one or two mannerisms in common with Florence. One such mannerism was the way Maria held her knife and fork. The angle at which she used them was something with which he had only ever seen done by one other person and that was of course Florence.
During the meal Maria spoke about her passion for the sciences especially the ones known at the Earth sciences, geology, oceanography, meteorology and astronomy. The latter two Brandon thought might just come in handy for their journey through space and maybe the first two would too if a new world would indeed be found so Brandon’s initial impression of Maria’s skills had already been challenged. As conversation progressed Maria thought that she could and should tell a story from her past using it as an ice breaker more than anything else.
The story was of something which happened thirty years earlier and one which had a huge affect on Maria’s life. In actuality Maria is not even her real first name. In 2067, the year that saw a little girl, who would one day become part of the senior team on an interstellar star ship during the all time most important space mission, turn just seven years old.
The world had already been ‘ill’ for quite some time so in 2067 it was quite a common thing to have a natural disaster to be included on news reports around the world on an almost daily basis. Even though at this point in time it was obvious that the planet is in a bad way, war was also still a common thing too and the little seven year old girl would lose her father, her only guardian to war. A long hard fought battle over a territorial dispute took many lives leaving a young child to become an orphan.
The little girl had been staying at a boarding school for girls run by nuns, and after the death of her father the nun who ran the school, a sister Maria Feldman, became the new sole guardian of the seven year old child. Sister Maria had given the young girl a small telescope as a gift and this sparked an interest in astronomy and the other related interests soon followed.
Twelve years passed and Sister Maria lost her life when she became trapped inside the school she ran for many years when it came down during a hurricane and that little seven year old girl who had since become a lady of nineteen years of age took the name Maria in honour of her guardian and mentor.
Upon hearing this story Brandon took on the challenge of finding out what Maria’s original first name was or is, especially since Maria herself refused to tell him what it was. Such a story and the promise to take on such a light-hearted challenge altered the somewhat grim atmosphere, bringing about a lift in mood and it did indeed prove to be an ice breaker not only between Brandon and Maria but also for the others attending the meal, all of whom would go on to be a big part of that team charged with running the incomparable Pathfinder.
At the beginning, when what would be the senior crew, first sat together, things were more than a little uncomfortable, no one knew anyone, well apart from the ships chief engineer and chief pilot, who had already been working together, and the connection between Brandon and the chief medical officer through Brandon’s son. By the end of their first gathering there was a feeling, a sense of a possible comradery, maybe, just maybe the new team may just work well enough together that their mission will move forward with everyone totally committed to the one goal that a whole civilisation depends upon.
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