“Another Leap for Mankind”
All rights reserved by the author
In the Earth year 6042 A.D. the lunar refugee colony created thousands of years earlier had finally reached a golden age of technological superiority. The inhabitants thrived and enjoyed a quality of life unknown to them before that time. However, even in light of this prosperity, not everyone was satisfied with their lifestyle. These people craved something more. This is the story of one such person…
* * *
Cleveland prepared for work early that morning. After nearly an entire cycle in mourning, he was eager to get back into the lab. He gathered up his various research diskettes and his digital laboratory assistant, as well as his personal e-journal. He ingested his daily nutritional portion alone as his wives slept peacefully in their respective sleeping quarters. Once finished, Cleveland ascended to the surface level just in time to board the first mass transport of the morning. He took his usual seat at the rear of car twelve as the doors were sealed. The engineer confirmed cabin pressurization and the transport accelerated toward the corporate metropolis.
Cleveland spent the duration of his commute reviewing the research reports from the past fifty-eight annuals. He still could not figure out the error in their calculations, everything should have gone as planned. Before he could consider the issue any further, the transport came to a stop at his destination. From the surface the city looked as barren as the rest of the world, except of course for the airtight transport hub where he now sat. He exited the vehicle and descended to the infamous Al’ Kan Laboratory. As Cleveland passed the workstation labeled Senior Director Al’ Kan, he lowered his head in sorrow. He realized now, more than ever, just how much he missed his father. He swore then and there to finish their initial research, complete the mission, and once again restore his family’s name. With that Cleveland sat down at his own workstation and resumed his research, determined to discover where his father had gone wrong. He worked long into the night until, exhausted, he was forced to return home. He was no further ahead than he had been early that morning.
* * *
This continued day after day for the next thirty-three cycles. Every morning Cleveland made his way to the laboratory determined to find the answers, and every night he returned home in frustration. Late one night, on the transport back to the residential sector, he questioned his efforts in silence:
“Why don’t you just give up,” he thought. “You could be doing research for the mining guild, or even designing new forms of internal environment stabilizers. That’s where all the benefits are anyway…all the council cares about is maintaining and improving living conditions. After all, who cares about the distant Blue Orb? It’s all just legend anyway…there’s no such thing as paradise.”
But Cleveland didn’t believe a word of what he was telling himself. Ever since his father told him the legends, he had always believed that the Blue Orb was something spectacular. As a child he used to dream of journeying there…of walking freely in the ‘fresh air’…of swimming in the ‘oceans,’ that gives the Orb it’s beautiful color. Indeed it would be paradise, but how would he ever see it? He had to find someway to convince the council.
The next morning Cleveland did not return to the laboratory. Instead he took the transport to the government facility to report his progress, or lack there of, to the council. He waited nearly an entire day for his meeting proposal to be approved when finally the clerk informed him that it had been defeated. For four days he submitted proposal after proposal without success.
Again he sat on the transport home desperately wondering how he could ever get approval to speak before the council: Because of his father’s death, the idea of another attempted exploratory mission to the Blue Orb would never be approved. But what if he tried a different approach? That’s it! If he could convince the council that the mission was to harvest the legendary ‘fresh air’ they might actually go for it. After all, half the members of the council were involved with the mining guild; they would love to get their hands on a new cheap source of oxygen.
The next day Cleveland Al’ Kan submitted yet another formal proposal to the council, but this time it was for a harvesting mission to the Blue Orb. Again he was told at the end of the day that the council had refused the proposal, however it had been forwarded to the mining guild for corporate approval. The following day Cleveland received this message:
Assistant Director Al’ Kan,
It is with great reluctance that the Corporate Mining Guild Association accepts your proposal for an experimental harvesting expedition to the Blue Orb. You of all people should realize the inherent risk in such a mission, however as a private enterprise we are willing to allow you to take such a risk to benefit our organization. We are also allowing you the service of two of our most valued engineers to assist in the allocation of this precious resource. We would like to make clear however that all profit and materials derived from this mission will belong to the Corporate Mining Guild Association. You will be rewarded on completion of your task and sufficient benefit to our organization. The mission will commence exactly two cycles from your acceptance of the aforementioned terms and agreements.
The Corporate Mining Guild Association
Cleveland immediately contacted the mining guild to alert them of his acceptance of the mission terms. He rushed to the laboratory and began to prepare for the journey he had always dreamed of.
* * *
Cleveland spent the next two cycles improving and fine-tuning the craft that would carry him to his destiny, perhaps like his father before him. It was a painstaking task: everything had to perfect, for he was not only risking his own life but also those of another two men. Failure in this mission would assuredly mean death, but more importantly to Cleveland, ultimate disgrace of the Al’ Kan name. He had to be absolutely sure he did not follow in his father’s footsteps of failure.
Finally the day of the mission had arrived. Cleveland and his crew met at the newly constructed launch station and completed the last of the finally preparations. Once everything was in order the three men anxiously boarded Cleveland’s Al’ Kan 2, a new and hopefully improved design from that of his father. They fastened themselves in the cockpit and began the ignition sequence. A moment later the ship blasted upward and the three men hurled into space on their way to the mystic Blue Orb.
The men did not sleep during the three-day journey to the Orb. Cleveland landed the ship with minor difficulty in what appeared to be an ancient waste facility. Large buildings stood in ruin, what appeared to be vehicles lay scattered across the ground amongst the rubble, and everywhere they looked destruction met their eyes. They gazed in awe at the disgusting sight before them; this was certainly not the paradise Cleveland had dreamed of.
Having detected sufficient amounts of oxygen in the legendary ‘atmosphere’ Cleveland and the crew decided to exit the Al’ Kan 2 and explore this strange new world. No sooner had they left the craft, however, that they saw something moving amongst the debris. Suddenly hideously deformed creatures surrounded them and began to close in. The creatures appeared to be some form of human life form. They walked upon two legs and had the same basic features as Cleveland and his crew, but there was also something dreadfully wrong with these people. They were much shorter than the three explorers and stood hunched over as they hobbled closer. Their skin was discolored and almost seemed to be peeling from their bodies. As the sickly creatures loomed ever closer nothing could describe the horror felt by the three men.
Terrified, one of the engineers desperately ran for shelter in one of the dilapidated buildings nearby. The mutants immediately followed in a ferocious rage. The screams echoing through the darkness as his companion was torn to shreds haunted Cleveland for the rest of his life. Witnessing this gruesome massacre the second engineer hurried back into the Al’ Kan 2, completely ignoring Cleveland’s calls for help. The engineer powered up the spacecraft and took off for home, leaving Cleveland alone and helpless on that strange world.
Once the monsters had finished desecrating the corpse of their first victim they turned again to Cleveland. There was nothing he could. He was trapped with nowhere to go. The creatures crept closer and closer until Cleveland could feel their breath. He closed his eyes and cried in absolute fear. And then, silence…he opened his eyes and the last of the creatures scurried away into the darkness. Cleveland stared out into the devastated city searching for some clue as to why the creatures had disappeared. Atop a nearby pile of rubble stood a tall, cloaked figure. The person stared back at Cleveland and then rushed toward him. He grabbed Cleveland’s arm and dragged him along as they ran out of the city.
They ran for what seemed an eternity. Cleveland was having trouble keeping up as the intense gravity weighted heavy on his weak body. Finally the two men reached a safe grove of trees where they stopped to rest. As of yet neither man had spoke a word and Cleveland had still not seen his rescuer. Softly the cloaked figure whispered, “rest easy my son, you are safe.” As the man removed his cloak, Cleveland gasped at the familiar voice ringing in his head. It was his father.
“How…what…Father,” Cleveland stammered.
“Yes my son, it is I. Now relax and let me explain.”
Cleveland’s father proceeded to tell the story of his adventures on the Blue Orb. Contrary to what Cleveland was told, his father did in fact complete his mission. However, when he failed to report in, the ground crew assumed that he had been killed. In fact his ship had suffered severe damages while landing and it was impossible to contact the home world, much less return.
Stranded, Cleveland’s father did his best to adapt and survive on the Blue Orb. He slowly grew accustomed to the increased gravity and was able to find means of sustenance. He had also encountered the mutants, but having studied them secretly, he had found their one true fear. A symbol: a black and yellow circle divided into six equal sections. No mutant ever approached this symbol and would immediately run whenever they saw it. For this reason Cleveland’s father now wore the symbol all over his body. That was precisely the reason the mutants had not harmed Cleveland, as soon as they saw his father they ran in fear of the symbol. Cleveland’s father had also studied many of the ancient writings left scattered throughout the city. As far as he could tell the symbol was that of a terrible weapon used by the creatures in warfare. It was this weapon, something called a ‘nu clear missle,’ that had destroyed the Blue Orb and mutilated its inhabitants.
Cleveland stood in awe at the unbelievable tale his father told. “How can this be? The Blue Orb is supposed to be paradise,” Cleveland sobbed.
“Come with me,” his father replied.
Again they began to travel farther from the city, this time at a more moderate pace. The two continued for three days in virtual silence. Cleveland was so devastated to discover that his paradise was nothing more than a nightmare that he could not bring himself to speak. As the forth day dawned Cleveland looked out onto the horizon to see a beautiful seaside. He jumped up and ran toward the ocean. All around him winged creatures sang and flew about. Wonderful green plants bordered the white beaches. His father hurried to catch up.
“You see my son, it is a paradise.”
“It certainly is father, it certainly is.”
* * *
Father and son lived happily along the shores of what was once known as the Atlantic Ocean in a place called Florida for the rest of their lives. They basked in the warm days carefree and content with their beautiful new home. None of their fellow lunar colonists ever returned to the Blue Orb of Earth. The Cleveland Al’ Kan was missed only by his wives, who soon remarried anyway. His memory however was never lost. To this day children are told of the man of the Blue Orb, the man who ventured off in search of paradise never to return.
© Copyright 2004 by the author
All rights reserved