The End of Everything

“So we’re what’s left, huh? I guess humanity could’ve done worse.”

“Do you seriously think now is the right time to joke about something like, Connor?”

“Who’s joking? I was 100% serious.”

The news had just reached them: an asteroid had just slammed into the Earth and the only people left were those who were off planet on the handful of colonies that floated through the solar system. In an instant the total human population had gone from about eight billion, to just five hundred.

“Connor, you need to knock it the fuck off. Elizabeth, I need you to keep it together. I’ve been in contact with the other colonies and we’ve come up with a plan.” Malcolm’s tone told them he was serious. They were relieved to know that someone was able to take the apocalypse with a level head.

“My bad boss. Just tried to lighten the mood a little with a little gallows humor is all. Clearly inappropriate. So what’s the plan?”

“If we want our species to survive, at the end of the day we need a planet to live on. We have no idea what living on a planet with weaker gravity than Earth would do to our bodies long term and what complications might arise, so we only have one choice…”

“Venus.” Elizabeth finished Malcolm’s sentence for him. She knew it was the only logical choice.

“And how the hell are we gonna pull that off? Venus is about the closest thing to Hell that we’ve ever found.” Connor’s cynicism dripped from voice like venom. He knew that to try and colonize that world with the full backing of every government on Earth would have been next to impossible, so trying to accomplish that with a couple of colonies and only 500 people was nothing more than a dream.

“It won’t be easy, but it can be done. We have enough of a semblance of infrastructure between all the colonies that we should be able to pull it off. Carpathia’s made huge breakthroughs on engineering new, lightweight materials that can be used in construction and Albion massive seed and DNA banks with the cloning facilities to take advantage of them, add to that our drone fleet and we’ll be able to get the first structures built by next year.”

Malcolm’s optimism came through in every word, but all the optimism in the galaxy wasn’t going to make what he was proposing any less of Herculean feat. Carpathia, Albion and Concord were the three leading colonies, but they were also on completely different ends of the solar system: Carpathia orbited close to Earth at one of the Lagrange points, Albion had it’s own orbit on the same plane as Earth, but on the opposite end of the sun, and Concord floated through the asteroid belt mining for precious materials. It would take over a year for them to just reach Venus, much less build anything on its surface.

“I’m trying to look at this positively, Malcolm, I really am, but there is no way we could possibly have structures built on the surface of Venus at any point in the near future. Hell, we’ll run out oxygen before we make it there.” Try as she might, Elizabeth was beginning to lose her calm and was starting to have a panic attack. She had only signed a two year contract and was supposed to heading back to Earth next a month. Now, she would never get to feel the sun on her skin on a warm summer day or experience the smell of the ocean while vacationing at her beach house in Maine.

“She’s right boss,”said Connor, “Any way you look at it, we’re a dead species.”

“No. I refuse to accept that. Humans have survived for tens of thousands of years and every time we’ve come out on top. This isn’t the first time our species has been nearly wiped out and it probably won’t be the last, but this sure as hell isn’t going to be the thing that kills us.” The angry tone in his voice made no attempt to hide itself. Anything short of one-hundred percent effort from here on out was tantamount to sedition.

“Please, Malcolm, enlighten us then on how we’re going to pull through this. I hate to be the Connor in this situation but let’s look at the facts: none of the colonies are built for speed, we’re all scattered randomly throughout the solar system, and without a constant resupply from Earth, none of us are designed to last more than a year at self-sustaining levels!” Elizabeth was almost to tears by this point. She ran through the scenarios a thousand different ways and all of them ended in humanity’s extinction.

“Project Yggdrasil,” said Malcolm.

“What?” Asked Elizabeth and Connor at the same time.

“Project Yggdrasil is how we save the human race. It’s an experimental drive developed by the scientists at colony Hephaestus capable of traveling at about a tenth the speed of light.”

“How come this is the first we’ve heard of this Project Yggdrasil? And how exactly does it achieve these insane speeds?” By this point Elizabeth was angry. Why would Malcolm fill them with false hope like this? Just tell them the truth and let them move on with what was left of their now shortened lives.

“Think of the universe as a giant sheet of flexible material, like a trampoline. Stars, planets, and other celestial bodies all make an indent on this sheet, like people standing on the trampoline, and just like people standing on the trampoline, there are high spots and low spots. Project Yggdrasil can see these high and low spots and rides them like a roller coaster using an electromagnetic drive to build up thrust the entire way. Because it’s sticking to the spots in the fabric of spacetime where gravity is weakest and using the spots where it’s strongest to help propel it forward, it can traverse from one end of the solar system to another in an extremely short amount of time.”

“I thought the EM drive was just a theory though. I remember they were talking about assigning me to the project but switched me at the last minute because they couldn’t get the math to work.” Connor’s usual cynicism was replaced with optimism. What Malcolm described had been a theory for space travel since before humans had permanent space settlements, but try as they might they could never get the prototypes to work.

“It was theory, until about six months ago. The ship has been on one long shakedown cruise, working on getting all the bugs out of the system and pushing it to its limits. The plan is for the ship housing the EM drive to act as a tug and drag us to Venus where we can begin work on the surface colony.”

“Does this ship have a name?” Asked Elizabeth.

“Daedalus.”

The command crew of the Concord colony ship stood and stared at each other. They knew that the road ahead was not going to be easy, and that they would more than likely lose several people in the coming struggle, but they were more than willing to do whatever it took to make sure the species survived.

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