by C.A. Casey
future humans fight to escape the earth
3:30 p.m. May 2, 5 billion AD
As has already been established, when a star has past middle age it begins to swell. As this happens, it slowly torches its way through the solar system it dominates, subjecting any nearby planets to unspeakable amounts of heat and radiation. As this happens, the “eco-zone” or safe zone responsible for a planet’s life sustaining capabilities is pushed farther back, making what was once a habitable world a nightmarish inferno. For billions of years, Earth had been the only planet in the solar system to occupy the safe zone, but now that zone had nearly been pushed out of the way. This meant that the earth was now almost fully vulnerable to the rage of a dying sun that was intent on raining fire upon the planet it once nourished. That was what was happening now.
Indigo wasn’t afraid to admit he was paralyzed with fear. He had never seen anything like it: massive flaming salvos the size of houses pouring out of the blackened sky! At first everyone had been too afraid to move, but when the first fireball hit the ground and exploded, they all knew the thing to do. PANIC!
For the next two minutes, the world was plunged into madness. Lumins ran screaming, trying to find anything that could shield them from the flaming rain, blindly bumping into each other as they scrambled for cover. Screams and cries filled the air over the sounds of fiery explosions.
A fireball struck the building across the street from the Lumin village, showering the air with concrete and steel. On the street below, stone crabs, muts, and giant Shrieker-moths scrambled frantically for cover. It seemed everything still alive on earth was in turmoil. Only Indigo remained still, transfixed by this powerful demonstration of nature’s fury.
Presently, Indigo became aware of someone tugging at his sleeve, and realized Violet was still standing with him shouting at him to get a move on. She was trying to pull him into the safety of the interior of the flat-roofed building their village was built on, but at that moment Indigo grew bold.
“Violet!” he shouted over the chaos, “Get yourself to safety! I’m going to go round up anyone still outside.”
“Are you crazy?” she screamed back at him, “You’re going to get yourself killed out there!”
“Maybe so, but it looks like we’re the only ones left who can keep our heads level, and I’m starting to think God put me here to help people who can’t help themselves, so the least I can do is try to inspire others to do the same starting today!” With that he began to turn away towards the terror outside.
“Indigo!” Violet shouted grabbing his hand.
Indigo turned back around to tell her they were wasting time, but found he couldn’t. In the next instant, she had her arms around him and her lips touching his. He couldn’t believe it! Violet was actually kissing him, and with real conviction too! He felt confused, elated, and suddenly confident, and when she pulled away, he was still standing there with a confused-elated-and-suddenly-confident look on his face.
“Yeah?” he replied, his expression unchanging.
“You were going to inspire people?”
“Ah, right” he said gathering himself, before rushing out into the inferno.
In the next two minutes that followed, Indigo did more good than any Lumin probably ever had in their average lifespan. He rounded up the panicking Lumins outside, men women and children all, and got them safely into the shelter of the building they were on. By nothing short of a miracle, their village had remained undamaged, which could not be said for the rest of San Francisco. The fireballs had destroyed at least a quarter of the city, from the Bridge to the Shan-Ru Temple. The devastating aftermath of their impact did serve a purpose. It had finally convinced everyone that the earth was well and truly doomed.
When the dust settled, it became apparent that there had not been a single casualty. Indigo’s last minute bravery had preserved every last precious descendant of the human race! All residents of the village were accounted for except–.
“Elder Crim!” Verde exclaimed, running over to Indigo “We can’t find him anywhere!”
“He can’t have gotten far in all this”, replied Indigo, “have everyone spread out across the rooftop to look for him.”
The roof was combed through from every corner to no avail. It seemed the elder had vanished. It was only when Indigo was beginning to think the elder had been evaporated did he hear the sounds of whimpering coming from an overturned exhaust fan cowling. He kicked it over to find a truly pathetic sight.
Underneath the steel cowling lay Crim, huddled over in the fetal position shaking and trembling like a frightened child. Upon seeing Indigo looming over him, he immediately started to act like he had merely lost something and was trying to find it, picking over the ground on his hands and knees. By this time everyone had gathered round, and a different kind of storm was beginning to brew.
“You coward,” shouted a Lumin, “you’re the one who’s supposed to protect us! We trusted you to do that!”
“That’s why we made you the leader,” shouted another, “but all you end up doing is trying to save only yourself?”
“As far as I can tell, Indigo’s the only one who was out there trying to do anything. He risked his neck to get my little Amber out that nightmare,” a Lumin woman said, clutching her child. “I swear he’s three times braver than that old man is!”
“I say we get Indigo to lead. After all, he’s the one with a plan. Tell them about your electric rocket idea, Indigo” Skye chimed in.
Everyone listened, enthralled, as Indigo filled them in on his escape plan. As he talked, Indigo could feel them listening, soaking in every detail of the electric rocket project. “Of course”, he added, wrapping up, “we can only do it as a team. It’s too big a project for one person. So who’s with me?”
For a moment, there was silence. Then an older Lumin stepped forward from the crowd. “Son, that is the craziest most far-fetched idea I think we’ve ever heard.” Indigo’s eyes drooped. “But it just might work” the Lumin added, “Tell us where we start Elder Indigo.”
May 3-17, 5 billion AD
Under Indigo’s guidance, the entire village spent the next two weeks scavenging the ruins of San Francisco for salvageable human junk with which to build a giant Space Ark. Any sort of material could be put to good use. The Lumins used all sorts of makeshift tools to strip metal, loosen bolts, and tear circuit boards out of the thousands of old machines the people of the Golden State had left behind.
Indigo had made sure everyone had a job to do. He had divided them into groups, each of which was responsible for a specific task like, finding copper wire, arc welding, stripping metal and scrounging for nuts and bolts. While Indigo helped with the scavenging process, Face and the others supervised the construction of the Ark. They had found it daunting at first, but by the end of week one all twelve of the power cells had been constructed and approved, and the fuselage was one-quarter complete! Week two saw construction reach the halfway mark. By that time, construction had begun on the interior of the ship which Indigo had specified should be “Spartan but functional.”
Indigo figured that if the Lumins kept the design simple and basic, they could be finished and ready to go at least a week before Face had calculated the earth would be destroyed. Things were beginning to shape up nicely. The ship’s outer hull had nearly been completed and so had the cockpit and controls. Face had even agreed to being the Ark’s main computer, giving the ship an autopilot and a mind all its own.
The fifteenth of May saw Indigo and Violet captaining Assembly Team 7 together. Since the sun storm they had been too busy with other projects to share words with each other, but there was one nagging question Indigo couldn’t get out of his head. He waited till the assembly team had left with their tools, leaving him and Violet alone, before asking her what he had been thinking about for over a week.
“Violet?” he asked finally. She quietly looked up from her work and turned to face him.
“During the fire storm…” his voiced trailed off as if he was lost in thought.
“Yes?” Violet queried.
“You…well you, um…about that thing that happened on the rooftop…”
Indigo paused, and then took a deep breath. “Violet, why did you kiss me?”
She appeared slightly taken aback by that question. “You mean you don’t understand?”
“Understand? Did I miss something?”
Violet dropped the spoon-shovel she had been using and started walking slowly towards Indigo. Indigo began backing up almost nervously towards the side of the building they were near.
“You mean to tell me that even after I spent our childhood following you around, playing in the sand with you and always trying to sit with you during story time, you still don’t get it?”
“Get what exactly?” Indigo laughed nervously.
“And even after I spent our teenage years holding your hand and watching the sunset with you every evening, you still don’t get it?”
“Um…” he replied, his back now up against the side of the old building.
“And now, after I’ve had your back through this whole ordeal, and spent my whole life giving you all the signs, you still don’t get it?” She was so close to him he could hear her breathing.
“Well what can I say Vi?” he stammered, “I’m a slow learner.”
Violet’s eyes narrowed deviously. “Well brace yourself science guy, because you’re about to take the crash course of a lifetime.”
With that, she seized and dipped him, locking her lips to his. And this time he understood. This wasn’t just a childhood friendship anymore. It was the start of something bigger. Something great and new.
He made no attempt to push her away.
At that moment, Verde and Face rounded the corner to inquire why the two hadn’t come back for the evening. They took one look at the embracing couple in front of them, shouted with surprise, and tore off round the corner.
“You realize they’re going to tell everyone about us?” Indigo said quietly.
“Who’s worried?” Violet replied, slipping her arms around his neck.
“Not I”, he smiled, and the two of them kissed once more.
June 17, 5 billion AD
Nearly a month had passed since the Lumins had begun constructing their Space Ark. Their pace had slowed slightly, but their resolve and faith in Indigo had remained strong. He was shaping up to be quite a leader, a fact that he had humbly begun to accept. By now of course, everyone knew of his newfound relationship with Violet, and despite what Indigo had initially worried they had all accepted it very well, and applauded their new leader’s happiness.
The only one who hadn’t seemed very pleased by the news was ex-Elder Crim. Of course very little pleased him now, having had his reputation as an effective leader exposed as nothing more than an elaborate hoax. The Lumins made good use of him though, and had tasked him with the menial jobs of construction such as painting the interior of the nearly finished spaceship, or buffing the outer hull with a rag. It was humbling work for a man who was once so powerful, but Crim didn’t see it that way. Being an effective leader was about more than just good planning. It was about intelligence and most important of all, honor. When someone shatters your honor and steals your glory, it’s your job and your right to avenge yourself at any cost. Crim was going to do just that one of these days. When he did, he’d make certain everyone would feel it.
One evening saw Indigo sitting all by himself on a cliff at the mouth of the Pacific Desert, gazing thoughtfully at the dazzling multitude of stars overhead. In the west, the Andromeda Galaxy loomed high and bright over the remains of the Bridge, casting an eerie glow on the desert floor miles below. It was all so beautiful. And yet…
The sound of Violet clearing her throat shook him out of his daydream. She had somehow managed to sit down next to him without his noticing, and her glowing purple robes and hair now mixed with his dark blue light aura creating and odd color between them.
“Penny for your thoughts?” she asked.
“It’s just an old human expression meaning ‘what’s on your mind,’” she laughed.
Indigo’s gaze shifted from her to the desert below. “Violet, do you really think that this will all be gone in the next month?” Her smile faded slightly. “Think that what will all be gone?” she asked.
“This, all of it, the entire earth. The very planet that nurtured our ancestors and saw billions of them grow and evolve into incredible people like us. Do you believe it’ll be completely destroyed?”
Violet looked down. “Yes I do“, she said sadly, “that much has been proven already. But I don’t think you should let it trouble you, after all that’s God’s way. He brings things into the universe, lets them live, then takes them away to give new things a chance. Earth’s had a long, wonderful life and now it’s earned its rest. Who knows, maybe something new will rise from its ashes? That’s the cycle of life God’s given the universe.” She put her arm around him. “You do believe in God, don’t you?”
Indigo leaned his head on her shoulder. “I do believe in God now, yes. But I still have so many unanswered questions.”
“What sort of questions?” she asked, gently rocking him back and forth a little.
“Violet, I’ve spent my whole life trying to invent new things that can change the world, only to find out that the world isn’t going to exist forever. Why would God give me the gift of invention if I can’t use it here?”
There was a long pause as Violet contemplated what she had been asked. After at least a minute had passed, she spoke. “You know what I think? I think God never intended for you to use your gift on this planet forever. I think He has plans for you somewhere out there” she said pointing to the starry sky. “I think He made you who you are, then placed you on a dying world to prove to the rest of your kind that miracles are possible. This world is dying Indigo, it’s dying and there’s nothing we can do to save it. But we can be saved. That’s what I think God made you for. That spaceship we’re building, that was you Indigo. The power cells that make it fly, that was you, too. The point is, you may not be able to change this world, but you are going to change our lives in wonderful ways. To God, it’s all part of the plan.”
Indigo looked into her purple eyes and smiled warmly.
“Don’t you feel better now?” asked Violet.
“Much better” he replied, “and as for God’s plans for you Violet, I think you’ve already gotten a head start.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well”, he said, “you’ve changed me in a wonderful way.”
June 18-July 2, 5 billion AD
With their spaceship finally complete, the next two weeks saw the Lumin community constructing the large launch silo that would allow for passenger boarding and vertical take off, as well as a simple rail system with which to transport it there. They planned to use a mechanical winch system to tow the heavy ship down the rails into position over the silo. From there, the ship would be vertically elevated and lowered mechanically into the silo where boarding ramps extended to allow passenger access to the ship. This had proven harder than building the ship itself, but with a large load of materials scavenged from an old train yard, and the ingenious use of a pre-dug hole (apparently created by some oversized burrowing insect), the launch silo was completed in the allotted fourteen days.
Over the months they had been building, Indigo had noticed changes in the massive sun on the horizon, which seemed to convulse slightly every few days, turning redder and redder, before settling down again. Face had told him the sun was starting to shed some of its outer hydrogen layers in preparation for its growth into a red giant star, although, he had added they still had plenty of time left before that happened.
It wasn’t until a week before the launch was scheduled that the Lumins hit their first major problem. At about three o’ clock in the morning on July the fourth, a date which Indigo learned had once been very significant to the former country they were living in, Face came rushing over to Indigo looking quite pale, which wasn’t easy when you lived in a computer.
“Indigo! Indigo! There’s been–I’ve made,” he stammered as Indigo, Violet, Verde and Skye hurried over. “Whoa there, just relax Face, what’s going on?” The face on the screen appeared fearful, and Face himself was acting like he was on the verge of panic.
“I think you’d better come to the library” he said and motioned for them to follow him.
The library itself hadn’t changed much since its rediscovery, apart from the fact that it had had visitors for the first time in innumerable millennia. Indigo had made some effort to clean up the place during the final phases of the rocket’s construction, while Face had been busy preparing a Doomsday clock designed to countdown the number of days left before they evacuated. The clock had been displayed prominently for days on the screen of the domed rotunda ceiling, but it looked different now. Something about it had changed, but Indigo couldn’t quite make out–.
“ I was working through some calculations a few hours ago, you know based on the sun’s rate of expansion, and I discovered an error in my data” Face said, almost hysterical. “The earth’s not going to blow up a week from today, it’s going to blow up this morning! Look at the clock!”
The others’ eyes drifted slowly up to the Doom clock on the screen above, which now read: ARMAGEDDON AT 7:30 AM, PACIFIC TIME. A mere four and a half hours away.
The Lumins’ gaze shifted from the screen to Face who lowered his pixilated eyes shamefully. “How could you make such a blatant mistake?” Verde demanded, his arms folded crossly, “We were counting on you to be accurate!”
“I–I multiplied by five. Accidentally.”
“You’re a Digiform! I thought you people didn’t make mistakes!” Verde shot back.
“That’s enough! Face may be digital, but he’s still only human just like the rest of us, and humans aren’t perfect!” Indigo intervened.
“Well you’re the leader Indigo, tell us what we’re going to do. Or would you rather we just stay here and burn?”
Indigo turned and started towards the door. “Where are you going?” asked Skye.
“Not me, us. Sound the alarm and tell everyone to bring only his or her essentials. Get the launch crews organized and have Face inputted to the ship’s computer. I’m going to go prime the engines and as my bridge crew, you’re coming with me. We’re evacuating the earth.”
His friends were in shock. “Now?” asked Verde.
Indigo turned to face them once more.
4:30 a.m. July 4, 5 billion AD
This was it. The end of the world was a mere three hours away and in a city once known as San Francisco, the last remnants of the human race were on the move. Hand-cranked alert sirens blared across the early morning sky as Lumins of all sizes, ages and colors poured out of their homes and scrambled to make it to the silo on time. When the last of the villagers left their dwellings, the siren operators followed suite and headed to where the Space Ark lay docked.
The launch area teamed with Lumins, some prepping the rocket’s tow cables and winch, others opening the roof of the silo, and some lighting up the staging area with scavenged halogen flood lights. In the Ark’s control room, Indigo sat at the pilot’s seat with his friends operating the bridge controls. Through the window of the control room, Indigo saw the multi-colored lights of hundreds of Lumins heading single file to the silo’s underground boarding areas. The Ark lay horizontally on the steel guide rail, ready to be towed into position over the silo’s mouth. When the last ground crew member had left the staging area, Verde flipped the switch to remotely start the tow cable, and the ship began to glide forward down the rail, arriving over the silo in less than a minute.
While Skye checked to make sure the silo roof had been opened, Violet activated the hydraulic pistons that elevated the ship vertically, then the controls to lower it into the silo. Indigo watched out the window as the ground appeared to swallow them, then heard the metallic clanking of the boarding ramps connecting with the sides of the rocket. From his new position inside the Ark’s mainframe, Face patiently counted every passenger being boarded.
Two minutes passed as the last of the passengers took their seats and strapped in. After receiving the all clear from Face, Indigo began the ignition sequence. While he appeared confident to the others with him, he was in fact quite nervous. After all, this machine was untested, and apart from the computer simulations they had done, he wasn’t even sure if it would stay together in space. But they had no time and no choice. If they were to get into orbit and get clear of the disintegrating earth, it had to be now.
“Ignition sequence is complete. We are set to launch”, Face reported from the screen in front of them. Indigo closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Violet, begin the countdown. Sixty seconds.”
Violet said nothing, but nodded and set the timer. Tension hung in the air like thick smoke both in the passenger compartment and on the bridge. Indigo could practically feel the energy building in the engines below, and the hull creaked and groaned, trying to compensate for the influx of electrically charged ions pouring towards the boosters in the back.
Without warning the engines flared to life like an atomic explosion, rattling the ship from top to bottom. Indigo, fighting back fear and excitement, released the clamps holding the ship in place, and watched as the stars overhead began to get to move towards them. The ship had climbed about a mile when the first alarm went off.
A frightened-looking Face appeared on the main screen, which was now flashing red. “We’ve got a problem! The engines five six and seven just lost power completely!” he shouted over the roar of the ascending rocket.
“What? How could that have happened?” Indigo shouted back, but a quick look at the dash panel confirmed it: three out of twelve of the JumpEngine power cells had simply ceased to function, leaving them with less than enough power to breach the atmosphere.
“There’s another thing” Face continued, “One of the passengers has left his seat.” There was a pause as Face examined the data. “It’s Crim! Crim’s no longer in the passenger compartment!”
The blue hair on the back of Indigo’s back bristled. So the old man had done it. Sabotage! Had that kook lost his marbles, he was going to kill them all!
Indigo unbuckled himself from the pilot’s seat and, fighting back the g-forces assailing his body, handed the control yoke over to Violet. “Keep the nose pointed up! I’m going down to fix the engines. Whatever happens, keep us on course!” he shouted over the noise.
Violet kissed him on the cheek. “Be careful! If Crim’s in the engine room it’s a sure thing he’s going to try and stop you at all costs!” Indigo barely heard her as he headed into the service tube that led to the engine room.
The doors of the tube opened, and Indigo found himself in the bowels of the engine room. It was a mess! Engines five through seven had been disconnected from the booster array, and coils of copper wiring were strewn around the room like metallic spaghetti! With only his hands as tools, Indigo began to rewire the copper coils. At this rate, he figured he’d probably have three minutes to do so before the engines shut down from the lack of flowing energy. Working frantically, he scarcely noticed the shadow looming behind him until it was almost too late.
At the last moment Indigo ducked, narrowly avoiding the pipe Crim had swung at his head. Whirling around, Indigo looked into the blazing red eyes of the former elder. There was nothing but hatred in those eyes, animalistic rage devoid of reason. Crim, it seemed, had lost whatever traces of humanity still existed in the Lumin people.
“You bastard!” Indigo screamed at Crim, “Are you suicidal? We let you keep your freedom after what you did, but you’re still prepared to kill hundreds of innocent people? How can you be so–INHUMAN?”
“Oh silly young Indigo” Crim sneered almost mockingly, “don’t you think that if the god you worship had intended us to fly, he would’ve given us wings? I’m not trying to be a murderer. I’m just setting the record straight. The earth below us is part of the human race. Don’t you think we should honor our beloved planet by remaining a part of it till the very end?”
Indigo was sure now that Crim had lost it. Something inside him had snapped and he was prepared to bring everyone down to his level. Rage overcame Indigo, and he lunged at Crim who caught him with the pipe in midair. Indigo crashed to the floor, his head throbbing, as Crim reigned down blow after blow on his skull. Finally, just as Indigo thought he could take no more, Crim picked him up by the scruff and slammed him against the bulkhead, his left hand wrapped around Indigo’s neck.
“Did you really think this would all end pleasantly?” Crim shouted. “Did you really think that people like us were meant to live amongst the stars? We live and we die young one, that’s the law of the Universe and humans have had their day! Now it’s time to die!”
Indigo flailed in the madman’s grasp, trying desperately to grab anything nearby that could be used as a weapon. Looking up, he noticed that by a stroke of luck they were standing in front of one of the emergency escape hatches. If he could somehow reach the hatch release then Crim would be–.
“Look”, Indigo stammered, stalling for time, “we both know this isn’t about putting the human race to rest. You just want revenge on me for humiliating you, am I right?”
“If that’s the way you want to look at it. Any last words?”
“Just one” said Indigo, “GERONIMO!” With that, he kicked Crim in a very sensitive spot with his right foot. Crim doubled over in pain and in the next moment, Indigo vaulted over Crim’s head, yanking the emergency release. Crim shrieked and clawed madly at the floor panels as he was sucked out the hatch from the sudden decompression, vanishing into the haze left in the rocket’s wake. Indigo strained against the rushing air, managing at last to get the hatch shut behind him.
Shaking and panting, Indigo realized only a minute was left before the engines lost power completely. He scrambled frantically over to the disconnected power cells and got to work. It took the next thirty seconds for him to reconnect them, leaving only another thirty seconds to reignite the afterburners.
“Violet!” he shouted into the intercom, “Turn the ignition switch all the way to the right and keep it there!”
“Is everything alright down there? What happened?” came her reply.
“Just do it now!”
For a few agonizing moments, the engines stalled. Indigo could feel the loss of acceleration, as if the floor were being dropped from under him. Then with a roar, they reignited, pinning him against the floor. Bruised, sore, and once again fighting back g-forces, he crawled up the service tube to the bridge.
His friends stared in shock at his bruised face as Indigo regained control of his wayward ship, pulling back on the joystick and ramming the throttle to full. With one final burst of chemical flame, the Ark broke out of the atmosphere and into the starry beyond. For a few moments, the crew stared in awe at the stars outside, before erupting into a frenzy of cheers and hugs. In the passenger compartment, cries of joy bounced off the walls as the ship rocketed out of orbit on a course for a brave new world. Indigo looked back towards the now receding Earth, but to his surprise it was no longer there. Only a multitude of scattered asteroids hung in space, silhouetted against a sun that was now enormous and redder than ever.
Violet kissed his cheek. “I told you God had a plan for you Indigo. You did more than change our lives. You changed everything about the way we live, just like you always wanted to do.”
Indigo smiled and kissed her back as the Ark sailed onward through the celestial sea towards a Promised Land brave and new.
Little is known about the fate of the Lumins after their escape. Some say they never found a Promised Land, while others say they were at last reunited with the rest of the human species on a far-off planet in the Scorpio constellation. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: the last remnants of the human race had once again cheated extinction and survived, a gift that only they could pull off and will continue to pull off in the next five billion years to come.