“The Search”

By Eric Osborn

All rights reserved by the author

 

August 17, 2027   11:58 a.m.Cape Canaveral, FL

     James Merrill was surrounded by thousands of people awaiting a press conference by the President of the United States.  All of them were standing at Kennedy Space Center, the world's only launch site for the Space Shuttle.  Kennedy wasn’t only where he worked, but it was also his home.  He loved the place.  He had spent his entire childhood dreaming of becoming an astronaut.  Now, at 37, he was considered by most to be the most famous astronaut in world history.

     Six years earlier he had become the first person in history to set foot on Mars.  In just the previous 24 months he had led a mission to areas beyond Pluto and took the countless hours to plan another.  His career was spent doing things Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could only dream of doing.

     That was the state of the world 65 years after Armstrong landed on the lunar surface.  Technology that was unthinkable as early as 20 years before was becoming a reality.  Progress was being made at rate never before seen.  But such advancements in science and technology required a great deal of natural resources.  And now, as James Merrill and his fellow astronauts prepared to hear the leader of the free world, the planet was almost void of resources.

     James looked at his watch.  “We’ve still got a couple of minutes until the President comes out,” he informed the others.  “I still don’t know what this is about, but it must be important.”

     “Do you think this might have something to do with what happened in Nevada last week?” asked John Shaw, James’ lifelong friend and fellow astronaut.  John was with James on every major space mission of the past 10 years.  Together, they were changing the way the world looked at the universe.  They had been debunking myths and corroborating facts for over a decade.

     “No one even knows what happened exactly, John,” quipped Kristina Grube, the sole female astronaut of their crew.  “I mean, we know they discovered radio signals but that’s it.  They could have come from anywhere.  For all we know they could have come from…”  Before she could finish her statement, the President took the stage and the crowd fell silent.

II

 

March 29, 2030   3:57 a.m. – Outer Space

     “Is that it?” asked John Shaw as the shuttle neared the planet.

     “Yeah, it has to be.  Everything is in order,” responded James.  “Let’s land this puppy.”

     The 7 person crew had already left the Earth’s solar system.  They now found themselves billions of miles from their home planet.  Below lay a world that was simultaneously unfamiliar and familiar.  Certainly, the planet had never been seen by human eyes.  Yet, it looked like the planet they had lived on their entire lives.  From space one could make out oceans and land masses.  Clouds covered parts of the planet.

     “It looks just like Earth,” observed Kristina Grube in amazement.

     The shuttle landed in a vast open area, but tall buildings could be made out in the distance.  A creek laid off to the right that led to a small waterfall.  Plant life surrounded the crew.

     “Wow, just wow,” said John.

     “This is amazing,” James agreed.  If they didn’t find extraterrestrial life here, the probably wouldn’t find it anywhere.

     The crew left the landing site and headed for the city.  As they neared they began to realize that something was amiss.  There were buildings and automobiles.  There were roads and street signs.  Even the infrastructure was similar to Earth’s.  But one thing was missing.  There were no living beings in sight.

     James and John led the crew through the desolate streets.

     “This is so eerie.”

     “It’s all right, Kristina.  I don’t think there’s anything here,” John replied.

     “Yeah, but if there isn’t anything here then this isn’t where the radio signals came from.”

III

 

August 17, 2027   12:14 p.m.Cape Canaveral, FL

     “This is a day that many thought would eventually come.  It’s a day in which the United States and the rest of the world start a new beginning.  For decades humans have dreamt about the possibility of space travel and even space colonization. As Niklas Järvstråt almost 30 years ago, ‘If you have ever thought about humans in space, the image of cities on other planets and spaceships traveling between them must have flashed through your mind.’  Today our technology has reached the point where this is possible, if not probable. I have ordered that the United States, in conjunction with the United Nations begin colonization of the moon.  We believe that it’s possible to build hundreds of cities on the lunar surface.  We project that the first city will be fully built within two years.  In addition, I’m ordering one other mission.  Last week, a group of SETI scientists based in southern Nevada received radio signals that were of unknown origin.  However, in the past seven days, the scientists have been able to pinpoint where the signals came from.  The scientists believe that this is evidence of extraterrestrial life.  In conjunction with the lunar mission, a crew of the world’s best astronauts will begin a voyage to this area.  The launch in search of the sender of the radio waves will be from the lunar surface and will be shortly following the construction of the first lunar city.  While we are yet to decide precisely which astronauts will be on the mission, we have a few in mind.  I will now take your questions.”

     “Mr. President!”

     “President Green!”

     “Mr. President!”

IV

 

March 4, 2030   10:38 p.m. – Lunar Surface

     “Hey! What are you guys doing out here?” snapped James Merrill.  “Just because they’ve begun work on the second city doesn’t mean you can be out here.  Get back to the city.  You should know better then to leave.”

     A man in ragged clothing was on the receiving end of Merrill’s demands.  He didn’t respond but just looked at Merrill as if he didn’t understand.  He then turned to the half dozen people with him and directed them back in the direction of the city.

     “You were a little rough on those folks, James.”

     “Save it, John.  They should have known better.  It’s dangerous away from the city if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

     “I know, but I just thought you could have been a little bit nicer about it.”

    “Whatever.  We need to get to the shuttle anyway.  Liftoff is in about 8 hours.  This is going to be a long, long trip.”

V

 

March 29, 2030   7:24 a.m. – Outer Space

     The crew had scoured the empty city looking for anything they could find.

     “There’s nothing here, James,” remarked John.  “We’ve been looking around for hours and haven’t seen a soul.”

     “Let’s just keep looking.  This is too inexplicable.  We need to find out what happened here.”

     “Well, let’s go in that building over there.”

     The building was made of stone and marble.  Columns lined the front.  It resembled a courthouse.  As they entered they realized that it was indeed an important building.  Walking into the main lobby, they saw hundreds of papers scattered along the floors.  At the end of the hall, James Merrill came across a stone podium with a glass case on top.  Inside of the case lay a handwritten letter, written in a series of primitive symbols with each one representing a particular word.  While the meaning of every symbol was not obvious, James could understand many of them.

     “Guys, come quickly! This appears to be a letter of some sort.” James hollered.

     Everyone immediately came running.

     “Take a look.”

     Their collective surprise was so powerful it made the crew forget about actually reading the letter.  Once they calmed down, James began to interpret the document aloud to the group.

     “From what I can gather, this was their home planet.  They had lived here for… many years?  But then something happened.  I’m not sure what, though.  Anyhow, it looks like they left after that.  I see a picture of some sort of space ship that isn’t much unlike ours.  After this I see a picture of what must be a planet.  Oh, wow… at the end there’s a picture of a cross.  They must have been theistic.”

     “That’s extremely strange.  How would they use a cross as a religious symbol as we do?” Kristina quipped.

     “I have no idea, but I think we need to get back.  We need to inform Houston of everything we’ve found.  John, let’s get this piece of paper and take a couple more pictures.  If you find anything else that you guys think could be useful grab it.  There’s no way people are going to believe us without evidence.” John said.

     Within an hour they were back on the shuttle with the letter, an entire folder full of public records, a set of tools almost as advanced as human tools, a stone cross found on the ground, 5 samples of plant life, and a sample of water.

 

VI

 

April 26, 2030   8:42 p.m.Washington D.C.

     “Tonight I come before you to announce that there is overwhelming evidence that we are not alone in the universe.  James Merrill, John Shaw, and their group of five other astronauts have discovered signs of a civilization outside of our solar system.  While the planet was uninhabited, buildings and cities were present.  In addition, the astronauts found a letter written in English.  The letter details the plans of the planet’s inhabitants to colonize other areas of the universe much like we are doing today.  At this time, I have no further information.  May God bless America.”

VII

 

May 5, 2030   6:28 p.m. – Lunar Surface

     “It feels so good to be back, John.  I can’t believe they built two more cities while we were gone,” James said.

     “I know, I…”

     As John was beginning to respond a man approached the two astronauts.  He was dressed haphazardly and was clearly disheveled.  He wore a fairly long beard that made it impossible to read his facial expressions.  His deep set eyes held a secret that everyone knew was there but couldn’t pinpoint.

     “Hey, you look familiar,” John said

     “Yeah, this is the guy that was wandering around before we left” James agreed.

     “Yes, that was me.  I come to you now because I need to ask you something.  I understand you two men went to a planet outside of this solar system.  May I ask what you know about it?”

     “Well, we don’t know much.  All we know is that its inhabitants left to other areas of the universe,” James told him.

     The man chuckled and began to walk away.

     “What was that about?” John asked.

     “Oh, nothing.  My ancestors were from Margor, what I think is the planet you described.  When they left they landed here, before going to what you people call Earth.  Unfortunately, some were left behind and we have lived under the surface for years.  When my ancestors arrived, Earth was as uninhabited as Margor is now.”

 

© Copyright 2005 by the author

All rights reserved