“In today’s economic news, megaconglomerate Unidynamics declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is reported that the holding company is more than 2 billion dollars in debt to its creditors. The International Reserve Bank is expected to offer a bailout loan to prevent the collapse of this essential economic giant.”
Jack Griffin tapped the control pad to mute the volume of the newscast. “I called it, didn’t I.”
Diane Horton flicked an annoyed glance at her counterpart across the comm channel. “Yes, you did. But are your people ready to go?”
“They’re ready. We’re all aboard, fully fueled and stocked. We just have a small problem with the water reclamation system on board Odyssey, but it’ll be fixed by tomorrow morning.” He made his report while focusing his eyes on the metal scaffold outside the ship’s portal. Directed by a worker in a spacesuit, a portion of the scaffold drifted away into the dark space surrounding them. Dismantling of the support structure allowed the final preparation for launch. In fourteen hours, Odyssey and Prospector would break Earth orbit and begin a one hundred year trek to . . .well, a place he referred to as Hope.
Officially designated Halvor-Sigmund, the binary stars parented a collection of four confirmed planets. Other hypothetical planets shared the stars’ light. One of the confirmed planets fit the criteria of an Earth-like planet, orbiting within the optimal range, and estimated to be within 88 percent of Earth’s size and mass. While they had no direct physical evidence that this planet would support life, the indirect evidence promised a oxygenated and temperate atmosphere. And with the environmental collapse of the previous year, this promise provided sufficient incentive to aim for the distant target.
In light of the imminent economic collapse, Jack believed the political calamity of their petition for spacelane passage would fall into limbo. They long ago planned to make their escape without or without the legal paperwork. There were only a handful of defensive troops on patrol in orbit, and therefore little resistance to stop them. It seemed likely the political powers would abandon the attempt to stop the hopeful pilgrims.
Diane scowled fiercely on his handheld screen. “They aren’t going to just let us push off without a fight. The bluelights’ll show the moment we start to pick up speed. They’ll block us to waste our fuel.”
“They won’t fire. The risk of killing hundreds of innocents will deter harsh actions.”
“They won’t have to fire. They know we only have a slim margin of error for launch,” she pointed out. “We reach 99-sublight speed on the fuel we’ve got, or we don’t reach it. And this trip’ll take three times as long at even a fraction less.”
“A hundred years or 300, any where’s better then here.”
“We can’t take that much longer. The ships aren’t built for it and we’ll run out of space and resources. We’ll be flying tombs.” Diane’s fist banged the table below the screen view. Then both hands came down over her face in a common sign of frustration. “This stress is killing me, ya know. I just can’t take any more of this.”
“It’ll be over soon,” Jack promised, “Then we’ll have a whole new set of problems to stress us out.”
“Good night, Diane.”
“Good night, Jack. Good luck, tomorrow.”
Closing the comm channel, Jack toggled the volume of the news cast to an audible level.
“In other news, members of the Global Summit announced today their unanimous decision to resolve all existing state governments under one unified constitution. They expect to ratify the constitution by next week.”
Behind the reporter’s blonde updo, a still image of a scroll of paper labeled “Constitution” hovered in the virtual air. She spoke the statement with such aloofness, the drama of the historical moment failed to appear. As if a global government was an everyday occurrence. At last, someone’s dream of world domination was realized. One would expect more pomp and circumstance over the matter.
But it was much too late for the unified government to accomplish anything to save the planet Earth. The atmosphere contained just two percent oxygen at this point and fifty-percent poison, so no one could breathe outside without a respirator. There wasn’t anything to see outside, anyway. Plant and animal life practically ceased to exist. Only the hardiest and strangest forms managed to survive. On top of that, the resistance movements against the unified government threatened to blow-up the summit meeting. Maybe it would happen tomorrow. There was always some obstacle to peace.
Jack, and 20,000 people like him, chose to give up on this life. Their kind weren’t wanted and weren’t needed, and he’d just as soon take his hard earned resources elsewhere. There was not point trying to win an old argument.
“Goodbye, Mother,” he whispered to the orb spinning outside his ship. “It is time for your children to leave the nest.”
Human kind was doomed, and these refugees hoped to find a new home, understanding full well they would never be able to come back.
Follow their legacy in Pouring the Cup