Wheel, a short story written by Jeff Flaig at Spillwords.com

Wheel

Wheel

written by: Jeff Flaig

 

The News

There’s a place in the universe, on the edge of a certain galaxy, that when one traveled through, they experienced a sense of great sadness. Often, in a discussion, someone used strange words like ‘good-day, happy birthday, happy anniversary, and holiday.’ No one knew what the words meant, but almost accidentally, someone said them as they talked with a friend or another crew member. During sleep, whole conversations were heard about ‘children, grandparents, Sunday morning.’ What’s Sunday morning?
Sure, they found a small red planet, where crews found evidence of ancient life, but the evidence was from a period so long ago that hardly anyone paid attention to it. Nothing indicated a written language survived. Just a few clear metal walls stood by themselves in the open. The sadness was putrid, like burning flesh, like death itself. One ship’s captain, upon seeing the ancient site, said, “There was a great loss here. I sense that an entire civilization once existed and ended.” His eyes fell to the surface of the small red planet. Tears welled up in his eyes, and then he said strange words, like all the others, “I love you, hon, would you please take out the garbage.”
While Sarah was making breakfast, she turned on the morning news.
The young reporter said, “Today, another twenty arks will leave the earth. That will be ark nine-hundred-sixty through nine-hundred-eighty. The last twenty are nearing completion and should be ready to leave the middle of January next year. That brings us to the end of the exodus. I wish them well and a successful journey. I will board ark number nine-hundred-ninety at the end of December. Christmas will be this station’s last broadcast. I will pray for all of those heroes who will stay behind.” Tears welled up in her eyes, and the station went to the blue screen. There would be no more commercials.
Sarah set a plate of eggs and bacon before Levin. He stared at it. He didn’t have an appetite. She set another bowl of sliced fruit in the middle of the table. He selected a piece of apple and chewed on it as he contemplated their situation.
The young woman, news reporter, came back on the screen. “It’s been eighty years since Dr. Kuram Severson’s research discovered the cooling of the earth’s core, and coming this Monday, May 23rd, will be the last day of mourning for many. We will never forget those who died launching the first ark. On that day, eight-hundred- sixty-seven died, four-hundred-thirty-six from the failed launch and four-hundred-thirty-one in the riots that followed. Among those killed in the riots were the seven scientists who provided the faulty research for draining the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. Dr. Severson commented this morning from his hospital bed, stating, “Humans should have just left some things alone because they are the way they were intended.” He said, “At one-hundred-fifteen, I will be gone before the earth.”
Levin turned off the screen and said, “It’s too bad he didn’t discover what would happen before it was too late.”
Sarah answered, “How true, although it does no good to worry about it now.”
“I know, but I will miss them. I don’t know how to live without them, sweetheart.”
“We both will. I got up early and cried all morning. They didn’t have a choice. We didn’t have a choice. I heard yesterday the temperature outside the domes reached one-hundred-fifty degrees. Dr. Severson said we might have another thirty years before the earth is pulled into the sun, and everything will simply burn up. I hope we don’t live to see that. So, as hard as it might be to send them off like this, I just can’t imagine our children and grandchildren dying that way. Think of it as if we did a good thing by saving their lives. We saved their lives, my love. The Hills will live to see another day.”
Levin said, “Provided they make it.”
“They will.”
“I hope so. It’s just going to be hard either way. I remember when I first heard about all this. It was like right now. I was making breakfast when I turned on the news. We didn’t know each other that well. Remember?”
“Yes, I remember. You had just started working for Human Dynamics. I was your boss.” She smiled.
“No, hon, you weren’t my boss. We were research partners working on the domes. I remember when we met in northern Africa and spent two days goofing off because you had already decided that the terrain was too mountainous for a new dome. I think that’s when I first noticed you. It was the same day I first heard the news. That’s why I remember it so well. I got out of bed, took a shower, packed, made breakfast, and turned on the news, just like now. My flight was at 3 pm that afternoon. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Levin recalled the woman sitting behind the news desk, who said, “Welcome to 2410, Happy New Year! Prime Minister Thurman will give a speech in Washington at 3 pm this afternoon, greeting the second decade of the 25th century. That will coincide with a speech by Prime Minister Williams, in London, at 12 am GMT, the official first day of 2410.
“Regarding another top story, Dr. Karum Severson sounded the alarm today, stating that the earth’s core had begun a cooling process that exceeds its normal rate. Severson raised concern, and according to his calculations, it will take two hundred years for the core to cool down. He said draining the Pacific, Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean has created a vast water layer surrounding the core, increasing its rate of cooling. He said when that happens, it will change the mass of the earth and cause it to drift into the sun. Doctors Orwin Match and Michelle Heder refuted Dr. Severson’s research as over the top and conspiratorial. Both agreed that the earth’s livability would last for at least another two million years.
Dr. Match said with the population expected to reach fifty-billion within the next twenty years, mankind needed the space, and the land would be more valuable for farming than fishing. According to his calculations, the water surrounding the core would be turned into steam, which could be converted to energy, Dr. Match laughed at Severson and called him a nutty professor. Regardless, Prime Minister Thurman has asked the International Science Agency to look into the possibility. He and Severson attended John Hopkins University together. The Prime Minister said that Severson has always been creditable in his eyes.”
Levin’s flight took only an hour, and he spent most of that time boarding and disembarking. He was going to north-western Africa to meet Sarah McCain, one of his colleagues. They were both working for Human Dynamics Corporation and were in Africa to research a location for the next habitat dome. The habitat domes were large domes, twenty miles in circumference, set in areas of extreme climates. There were already four domes around the world, one in the Artic, one in the Ant-artic, one in the middle of the Sahara Desert, and one in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Fifteen people died building the one in Chernobyl, but it has proven the most important dome being it was in the most hostile climate.
Levin found Sarah on a dusty road, standing next to her jeep, yelling in Swahili at a couple of men who dropped a crate on the ground. Levin only knew she was yelling but didn’t have a clue what she said.
They greeted one another, and she explained that the two men had dropped her equipment on the ground, and she told them not to do that again, or she would fire them. “That equipment is worth four-hundred-thousand dollars. Idiots!”
“I’m sorry, Levin. I’m sorry you had come all this way for nothing.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have no intention of recommending this site for a dome.”
“Why not?”
“It has too many obstructions. I don’t know why Eric recommended this place, but he just wasted two weeks of my time and the next two days of yours.”
“Again, what do you mean?”
She looked at him and said, “You don’t talk much, do you.”
“I don’t know what to say. I just got here. You need to explain with a little more detail than short, angry comments.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“You’re saying that a lot. What are you sorry about?”
“The area will not work, and I’m mad that Eric sent us out here to look at it. It would have only taken him five minutes to fly over the terrain to see that. Instead, he sends us out here, spending who knows how much money to figure it out. Five minutes it took me to make the determination. He’s lazy! I bet he didn’t even come out here.”
Levin said, “Probably not. I have an idea. Let’s just make it a vacation on Corp’s dime. Ever been on a safari? I read a brochure while coming here that said they still offer safaris in this part of Africa.”
“I’d love to spend a couple of days around the pool. The hotel has a nice pool, but I’m not interested in a safari. Besides, I just spent the last two weeks flying around the place. I’ve seen enough.”
Next stop for the two was dinner. While they were talking, Levin remembered the news from that morning. “Did you see the news today?”
“No. I spent all morning in the field screaming at my helpers and cursing Eric. Why? What happened?”
“Have you heard of Dr. Kuram Severson?”
“Yeah. I have met him several times. Also, I attended two lectures of his on campus at Harvard. He didn’t die, did he?”
“No, but he has set the scientific community in an uproar. He said that because we drained the oceans, the earth’s core won’t last more than another two hundred years. Can you imagine that?”
“I can. I was six when they finished draining them. It scared me. It scared my entire family. I think it scared everyone. How did that set the scientific community off?”
“They called him names and said he was a nut, nutty professor is what they called him.”
“Well, he’s no nutty professor. In fact, I think he’s one of the most important scientists of our time. If he said the core would only last for two hundred more years, I would want to see his research but I’d take him at his word until I could prove otherwise, and not just call him names. Who called him names?”
“Dr. Orwin Match and Dr. Michelle Heder.”
“Okay, I know Heder, but I don’t know Match. Are you going to eat that papaya?”
They spent the next two days poolside, getting to know each other better. Neither one said any more about the earth’s core. However, Sarah revealed where she would like to see the next dome placed. “I believe we should set it in the Gobi Desert in China. It’s perfect, and the Chinese have been complaining how they felt left out. If we did that, they could provide scientific teams and inhabitants.”
Levin said, “That’s an idea, what about India? They’ve been complaining about the same thing, and they are a larger population than China.”
“We can look at them next, but I think the Gobi is the perfect place for the next one.”
He got serious, looked at her, and said, “We should build the next one in space. I mean, that’s the whole purpose. I have crafted designs for a spacecraft that could leave the earth and plant itself on another world. I’m baffled why we aren’t moving faster to do that.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen your designs. They’re very good. I also agree that we should move in that direction, but I think Marc Warren wants humans to live in the habitats for at least fifty years before he sends the domes into space.”
“That’s another thirty years. We need to move faster than that.”
“It’s what it is. He’s the boss.”
As the two were waiting for their flight back to the US, Levin asked Sarah if she would like to get together for dinner during the week. He found her interesting. He was nervous when he asked.
“Yes! I’d like that,” she said.
They came back on the weekend and spent most of it looking into the research Dr. Severson used to claim the condition of the earth. It seemed reasonable, but the other scientists who refuted his work seemed reasonable too.
On Tuesday, Eric sent the two to north-western China to survey the Gobi Desert for the next location to place a dome. Prime Minister Yenn intercepted them and asked if they could meet.
Yenn was concerned about China’s involvement. “We have been talking with Mr. Warren about placing the next dome in China, and we are excited to see it is happening. Do you need anything from us to complete your survey?”
Sarah answered, “No, Sir. We have everything we need. We should be in the country for two weeks. Will there be a problem if the facility expanded beyond the borders of Mongolia? China will have complete control over the facility when it’s done, including oversight of its construction. Will that be a problem?”
“That should not be a problem, but I would like to see your recommendations before you leave.”
Levin said, “We already planned to do that.”
Sarah and Levin mapped the area they thought best for the new dome and presented it to Yenn, who approved. There was no need to extend the facility into Mongolia, and that made Yenn happy.
When leaving China, Levin asked Sarah again for dinner.
“Yes, but you better give me an open invitation, who knows if Eric won’t end up sending us in different directions.”
He made the invitation open.
When Levin arrived at work on the next Monday morning, the secretary asked him to join a meeting which was already in progress. The meeting was being held in the green conference room. Meetings in that room were often top-secret and usually involved the US and or other governments.
It surprised him when he walked in and saw Prime Minister Thurman sitting at the table. He sat next to Sarah. She had a concerned look on her face. As he sat, another man, Dr. Severson, sitting at the front end of the table, stood and walked up to a whiteboard, and said, “I am using a simple whiteboard for our analysis because I can imagine some character might hack into our electronics. Please excuse the backward approach, but I will have no issues justifying why we are here.”
Dr. Severson paused, looked around the room, and said, “Hello everyone. Prime Minister, Mr. Marc Warren, I have some unpleasant news for the world, but I needed to present that news here first.”
He wrote several calculations on the board and handed out research files and notes.
“Look at example, C-1. It’s a calculation proving that the earth’s core has lost ten percent of its heat over the last five years.”
Several people in the room gasped.
He said, “At this rate of cooling, the earth’s core will solidify within the next hundred to one-hundred-fifty years. Therefore, I am submitting my analysis to Human Dynamics Corporation. Since you are developing habitats designed to leave the earth, you will now have to put your research to use. You could continue to develop habitats here, but in one-hundred-fifty years, the mass of the earth will cause it to escape orbit and plunge into the sun. I consider that’s an outside assumption. I am performing more computations, but I perceive that’s the extent of the life of the earth, and our way of life as we know it. Something has to be done, and Human Dynamics Corporation is the only one who can do it.”
Prime Minister Thurman said, “This is why I thought we should have populated Mars or the moon.”
Warren said, “Just over one hundred years ago, earth placed a small dome on Mars. It didn’t work out as they hoped, because it required constant relief from earth. Scientists at the time determined that placing more domes on the Moon or Mars proved unfeasible, although it was a popular idea back then. Every scientist today acknowledges that they were right, and it was not worth the effort to continue that program. Besides, for the last two hundred years, the World Space Program has been sending out probes to identify over a thousand habitable planets that are better suited for the domes. Many of those planets already have ecosystems suitable for human life. President Thurman, consider this. If the earth were to be pulled into the sun, we have to admit the Moon would follow suit, and who knows what would happen to Mars. If a colony survived on Mars after the sun consumed the earth, it wouldn’t last over two years without outside support. Everyone would be dead, anyway. Sir, with all those habitable planets, we can populate, and with all the natural elements on those planets, the domes would be self-sufficient. They would not require any assistance.”

Thurman asked, “Mr. Warren, it sounds like you already knew what was going to take place. Is that so?”
“Yes, Sir. Dr. Severson brought this to my attention a month ago. The two of us have been working out the details for this meeting.”
That made Prime Minister Thurman angry, “Why wasn’t I told about this before now?”
He stood up, along with his entourage, and shouted on his way out, “You two better come see me tomorrow! This is not the way I expect to be told things like this!”
Levin asked Sarah, “Remember how mad Thurman was? He turned so red I thought he would pop a blood vessel. I don’t think he and Warren ever got along again. That was not a good day.”
“Yes, until today, it was the saddest day of my life, realizing that humanity might cease to exist. If it weren’t for your designs, no one would have survived. You saved millions, my love.”
“Tell that to those who were aboard the first ark. I didn’t save everyone. We should have gone with them.”
“That wasn’t your fault, and now, it’s more important that we’re here to help the rest of the arks get started on their journey. After they’re gone, they will need us to finish building the domes here on earth. Otherwise, no one will even make it to the end, whenever that is. I hope the both of us will be dead by then.”
“Me too, sweetheart. I don’t want to be here when that happens.” He looked at the clock. “It’s 10 am already. We were supposed to be at control room 7, a half-hour ago.”
Besides building the Arks, thousands of domes were placed throughout the earth. Control room 7 controlled all those domes world-wide. From there, they monitored air, water, temperature, and power. Levin and Sarah were supervisors, along with twenty-seven other elderly scientists. Today, they were to start converting the launch pad into a manufacturing site so they could build more domes to put around the earth, for those who would be left behind.
Levin walked over to the window overlooking the launch pad and stared at the miles of metal and warehouse buildings. The arks weren’t launched from the pad itself. Large barges were launched instead. They carried all the building materials and supplies up to the arks, which were too big to build on the earth. Each ark was sixty miles in circumference and comprised five layers and two separate sides. The first layer contained a wide creek and a three-mile strip of land that included one mile of forest, two miles of farms and ranches, where the travelers would grow produce and livestock. The second layer was living quarters, the third was storage and warehousing, the fourth was machine shops for repairs, and the fifth was a tube, a river of water that circled the craft. As the ark rotated, that river went through several wheels connected to generators to produce hydropower.
The arks included two sides, and each side contained force fields. One side is where the land layers were constructed. It had a force field that enclosed the whole section. The other side of the ark is where all the equipment, supplies, and wildlife in status were kept, and would be released when the ark reached its final destination.
Since Severson’s discovery, every college on earth stopped teaching most of their degreed subjects to train workers to build, live aboard, and maintain the arks. Out of forty-seven billion people, they created a workforce of twelve billion who were trained in the necessary fields.
After Dr. Severson’s discovery was explained to the world, Match and Heder were served crow for the next year. Meanwhile, Human Dynamics called all its top people together to brainstorm. They had figure out how to get the domes into orbit. After several useless meetings, Levin became discouraged and decided he would bring his plans to the next meeting.
After about ten minutes of wringing their hands, he stood and said, “Listen, I’ve designed a craft that can leave the earth and under the right conditions, sustain ten thousand people indefinitely.”
He handed out his blueprints and said, “We could redesign this craft on a larger scale, and we could increase that number sevenfold. I’m not entirely positive, but I think the smaller one could be launched from the earth, being it’s the same size we are building around the planet. We could build much larger ones in space. It would not be difficult to work in space, and we could build twenty at a time.”
After an hour of discussion, Warren asked Levin to meet with the company’s engineers. Levin ended up arguing with them because they only wanted to build the smaller crafts and launch them from earth. Levin still had concerns if they could to that. He told them that earth’s gravity might be too much for the mass and tear it apart. The engineers disagreed, and they put the first craft into production. However, the engineers found several anomalies but felt they could live with them. It was important to get the first ark into space.
Meanwhile, Levin invited Sarah to help him redesign the larger model to be built in space. The more he heard about the engineer’s progress, the more he became convinced of its failure. Despite his constant complaints, Warren put his trust in the engineers.
It only took two years to complete the first craft. On May 23, 2413, the ark was launched, and just as Levin warned, it didn’t make it out of the earth’s atmosphere. It was too massive. Not only did it kill the crew of four hundred, it also killed three dozen people on the ground when it fell back to earth.
Most of those determined engineers were onboard the ark when it disintegrated. It took another ten years to recover. Levin and Sarah were so mad they almost left the Corporation, until Warren approached them, himself. “First, I would like to say congratulations on your marriage. I saw that coming some time ago. How come I didn’t get an invite?”
Sarah answered, “We were very upset with you Marc. You know that.”
“I figured as much, but now, we desperately need your help. I’m sorry we didn’t listen to you, but now you have our full attention. Will you please reconsider and come help us build the arks? We plan to use your new blueprints.”
Levin answered, “Sarah, and I have redesigned the arks to build in space rather than on the earth. They are seven times larger and will sustain a population of seventy thousand or more.”
Warren pulled all the remaining engineers together to meet with Levin and Sarah, who explained the plans. Warren told them they had no choice. Although, one smart engineer, Samantha Wright, who said, “There’s a problem using solar power as an energy source. The science behind using the light from distance stars will never work. With all due respect, Mr. Hill, it looks like a seventh-grade school science project, and you won’t be sending people to new homes, you will be sending them to their deaths.”
Sarah said, “Well, that was brutal. Could you explain what you mean?”
“It’s no wonder the engineers rejected your research. The solar method to provide energy is suspect at best.”
Sarah answered, “All complaining aside, you still haven’t told us why solar panels won’t work.”
“Solar panels are a dangerous way to generate power to grow crops, and you will have to travel from one light source to another. That could take three times as long to reach the desired destination. If you don’t find enough light to energize the solar panels, everyone will die.”
Levin Said, “Sam, I agree with what you just said, but what choice do we have? We have to use the best technology available to us. The solar panels are at the extent of our abilities. I suspect you have some alternative. Is that right?”
“Not me, but my sister, Connie. She has been working with a group of scientists at Harvard, who have created a self-contained energy mass called a Fusion Cell. It can generate an endless supply of power for up to ten thousand years or longer. It uses the same fusion process as the sun.”
Sarah said, “Scientists have been trying to create an extended power source using fusion for the last three hundred years. So far, through their efforts, we have only been able to power our military and transportation craft using cold fusion. The cold fusion process only works on a small scale and lasts for only eight to ten years, depending on use. So, if I understand, fusion would never create enough power or last long enough to get us to the nearest star, much less to the selected destinations.”
Sam said, “You’re right, until now. Connie’s team has sustained the process with an incredible output for the last two years, with minimal loss of mass. Again, she told me it would provide all the power the ark needs for at least ten thousand years or until the cell is forcibly diminished. I am not sure about all the specifics, but they would like to meet with you. The papers haven’t been written yet, and that’s why you have heard nothing about the experiment. I suspect that we don’t have time to wait for paperwork.”
Levin said, “Please set that up, Sam?”
The next day, they met with Connie, Sam’s sister, and her team at Harvard. First, she explained how it all worked. “The Fusion Cell begins with a small magnetic iron core, encased in a ball of solid hydrogen.”
She put on a pair of heavy black rubber gloves and pulled a ball of frozen hydrogen from a solid ceramic container that had ice all over the outside. It was about the size of a golf ball.
She said, “This is sufficient hydrogen to produce a model of the sun that will be approximately three feet in diameter. Inside this compact hydrogen ball is another modest fragment of magnetized iron.”
She pointed to two ceramic globes, one inside the other, with tiny holes on opposite sides. She said, “The inner globe will contain the fusion and prevent radiation from escaping when it is first ignited. The second globe contains nitrogen between itself and the inner globe to prevent it from heating the surrounding area. If it was not there, we would all burn up. If that weren’t bad enough, both would prevent fusion from evaporating or expanding into the surrounding area, which would also kill all of us.” She laughed. Everyone else stiffened up.
Then she said, “Once we establish the cell, it produces its own gravity field that draws the converted hydrogen cells, helium, and everything else towards its center, including radiation particles. It would take hours to explain the particular elements and transformations to add all the details, but let’s just say that we introduce the process, and universal mother-nature takes it from there. Once the process starts, the iron core collapses upon itself and decreases to the size of a grain of sand. It becomes so dense it pulls everything within the defined area to itself.
She pointed at two unique pieces of equipment, and said, “These two devices work in tandem to start the process. The first one inserts the iron core and the hydrogen into the center of the shell, and the other fires a high-temperature laser with an electrical charge at the magnetized iron in the center. The electrical current causes the magnetism to increase a million-fold, forcing the core to constrict upon itself, at the atomic level. That creates the intense gravity field. Shortly thereafter, the hydrogen atoms are pulled towards the core at a high rate of speed, slamming into one another, converting them into helium. That’s when the fusion process begins. Most of the fusion takes place near the core, and the escaping atoms are held within the gravitational field created by the magnetic core. Again, that small golf size amount of hydrogen will create a ball of fusion about three feet in diameter.”
Levin asked, “What about the holes on either end? Won’t they allow radiation to escape?”
“No, we’ll explain that in a moment.” Then she said, “Follow me.”
She took them down the hall into another laboratory. She introduced them to two young women standing next to a table with a bed of grass on top. From each corner of the table was a silver rod bent towards the middle where it appeared. They were supporting a much smaller cell.
Connie said, “Levin, Sarah, this is Katelyn Heart and Becky Wilson. Kate comes to us from The University of Sydney, Australia, and Becky comes from Reed College, Portland, Oregon. Kate is one of the world’s leading botanists. She’s also an electrical engineer, with a degree in nuclear physics. Becky also has a degree in nuclear physics. Her major area of research is the organization and structure of gravitational fields.”
Everyone shook hands. Becky directed their attention to the table and pointed to the rods at each corner of the table. “These rods are supporting a clear ceramic dish with a globe set inside containing a small Fusion Cell. It has been processing for two years now. I believe that it will last another seventy-five years based on the energy loss over the last two.”
On either side were ceramic tubes coming from a group of tanks. They were inserted into the two tiny holes just outside the gravity field.
Connie looked at Levin and said, “I assume that answers your question?”
“Yes, but what are the tubes for?”
“Those tubes are like the ones that the arks will use to funnel hydrogen, fuel, to the main engines, replacing the solar power method currently planned. There’s more than enough hydrogen in space to collect and power both the main engines and the fusion cells. So, even though the power of the cell diminishes very slowly, we can maintain a constant temperature by inserting hydrogen from the tanks, or from space, into the cell. We use ceramic because it doesn’t get so hot that it burns up. The shape of the tip of the tube keeps it from being pulled into the center of the cell by the force of the gravity.”
The ceramic dish below the cell was clear, and the cell looked like an egg without a shell. Inside was a ball that looked like a bright golden yoke. Becky put her hand up against the bottom of the dish, and said, “The ceramic dish doesn’t get hot and restricts the energy from escaping, but if I were to place my hand on the top, it would burn me, even though it’s contained within the gravity field. Questions?”
Levin answered, “Not now, but I am sure I will have more.”
Kate pointed at the table and said, “Please notice the grass spread across the table. Other than looking like a modern terrarium, this table is holding a special grass that, through photosynthesis, provides energy to the solar particles beneath it. If you look under the grass, you will see millions of minute charcoal-like particles. Those particles absorb the energy from both the grass and the Fusion Cell. This is only grass. Imagine the power we could generate using all the plant life in the forests. We’ve learned that these fusion cells put out photonic energy at a rate ten times that of the sun.”
Levin asked, “Now, I have a question. What does that mean?”
She answered, “What it means is that we can provide an endless supply of energy to power the arks.”
He asked, “I’m not sure how, yet.”
“I’ve seen your blueprints for the arks. I don’t think anyone will survive using solar panels. There’s not enough constant source of power to make them effective. So, this is what we should do. We should redesign the top layer in particular. Right now, you only have two sections. One mile is forest, the remaining two miles is farm and ranch land. We suggest that you create one mile of forest, one mile of this grass, and one mile of farm and ranches. Again, notice the four silver rods. You can place a rod every half-mile around the circumference of the ark to hold a large Fusion Cell at the center of the outer force field. Using only one globe, that cell will provide enough energy to turn the grass fields and the forests into enough power to operate the ship for up to ten thousand years, as long as the craft itself lasts. Do you understand?”
“I do, but what if it doesn’t last that long? Then what? Also, do we have the time to experiment?”
“No problem. Again, we will design the cells on the arks to collect hydrogen from space, just like the arks will collect it for the main engines. Since hydrogen is abundant, we should be able to collect enough to replace all normal burn off. Also, we plan to send several back up cells just in case. They can be initiated onboard the ark. Mr. Hill, we have already performed all the necessary power experiments. Our hypothesis is sound.”
She pointed to several cables coming from the bottom of the table that led to a power meter on the wall. “Look at the meter. It’s reading a power output that would take a patch of grass a thousand times the size I am using. It’s off the chart. There will be an abundance of energy on every ark.”
Sarah asked, “Don’t the plants and foliage need carbon dioxide before they enter photosynthesis?”
Katelyn answered, “Yes, but the solar particles contain enough carbon dioxide to last as long as the cell does. The carbon dioxide will turn into a gas during the day and the return to a solid at night. Also, the recycling process onboard each ark will create additional carbon dioxide.”
“Won’t that poison the atmosphere inside the ark?”
Katelyn answered, “No, it’s controllable and held at safe levels while doing its job.”
Levin, after hearing that asked, “Night, what do you mean night?”
“Mr. Hill, the ceramic container will have a lens that will slide across the bottom of the cell for six to eight hours per day. The plant life will need a rest period each day. Otherwise, your entire system will burn up. So, the plan is to keep the daytime temperature at around seventy-five degrees and the night-time temperature at around sixty-five degrees. It will look like a full moon every night. How exciting is that?”
“Okay, I can see that. I didn’t know that about plants. You can do this on a scale of an ark?”
“Yes. We are way ahead of you.”
Levin said, “You mentioned that the ceramic tubes would supply hydrogen fuel to the main engines. How does that work?”
“Currently, you propose the solar panels supply the energy necessary to power the main engines until they reach hyper-drive. If there is no solar power available, there will be no hyper travel because the main engines will not reach the capacity to ignite the drives. Collecting hydrogen when not in super-light speed will be much more effective than solar, and easier to obtain. That hydrogen will power the main engines more effectively than solar, and we can solidify the hydrogen to operate the hyper-drives. It is a win-win situation.”
Levin took her hand and said, “You know, you guys have probably saved countless lives. I can only imagine how many would have been lost. Thank you.”
Levin and Sarah poured over the research for the next month. They found the research sound and implemented it into the design of the arks.

 

The End

“Sarah, can you imagine that we have sent out nine-hundred-eighty arks. Do you remember the first exodus dinner?”
“I do. I remember how nervous everyone was, particularly, Marc Warren.”
“He was, wasn’t he? Too bad he didn’t live to see the last ark leave the earth. I know that bugged him. He was never happy until he saw the end of every project.”
Sarah answered, “He was such a genius. I recall he died five years to the day after we met Connie. I’m still amazed at how those Solar Cells worked. She was twice the genius that Marc was. I don’t remember if she spoke at the first dedication dinner?”
“No, hon, she didn’t. Remember, she died from radiation poison just before the dinner. She did, however, speak at all the engineer meetings.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. We went to her funeral just a week before the dinner, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I’m getting too old. How could I forget? She was amazing. Those Solar Cells allowed us to redesign the arks and make them more livable. It all seems like yesterday.”
Everything seemed like yesterday. Three days after Connie’s funeral, the couple went for their daily walk. When they returned home, they found a letter attached to their front door. It was an invitation to a process meeting. The world government invited them to dinner in honor of the first governmental officials to take the lead of the first twenty arks. The letter said, “We think you and Mrs. Hill will find our solution interesting.”
Levin asked, “What does that mean?”
On Thursday, Late afternoon, the couple landed in DC and made their way to The Hall of The International Congress. Once there, they were directed to a large conference room with over one thousand people seated inside. Marc Warren met them as they entered. “I asked you to be here. I wanted you to see the form of government they would incorporate aboard the arks.”
He led them to the front of the room and sat them at a panel table with ten others. Warren walked up to the stage and said, “Welcome, Ancients. For the last five years, you have trained to lead the arks on their journey.”
Levin leaned over to Sarah, “Ancients? No way!”
Marc said, “Today, we will dedicate the first ark government to embark on the first wave of the exodus. As of today, you and your families will move onto the first arks. You will launch in thirty days. That should give you time to adjust and ask pertinent questions. Next week, we will finish populating them. Each ark will carry seventy-two-thousand souls, for which you will be responsible. This dinner today will be your farewell because we want to honor you.”
There were a few testimonials, but soon after Marc finished speaking, caterers brought in tables full of food.
Levin asked Marc. “You said Ancients? Why?”
He answered, “From the book. The same one you used to design the arks.”
“Really? You’re going to build a governmental system based on a science fiction novel?”
“Didn’t you base your designs on that same novel? Don’t worry, we made some modifications, but how could we resist? There hasn’t been a blue-eyed human in two hundred years.”
Sarah asked, “What in the world are you two talking about?”
Marc answered, “Your husband got his ideas from a science fiction novel written by a man named Jeff Flaig, back in the 21st century, called ‘Spinning Wheel’.”
“What does that have to do with the government and blue eyes?”
Levin answered, “Let me explain. According to the novel, the government system on board the arks will be a Co-op/capitalist system, mostly Co-op, and is run by forty-eight individuals called Ancients. That’s because they’re required to learn all the ancient knowledge. Hon, everyone onboard the craft will be vaccinated against several diseases and a particular cancer. The Solar Cells put out a mild amount of radiation. It’s not enough to kill anyone, but it can cause cancer. Everyone will be vaccinated at birth. Every twenty years, there will be a dozen vaccinations that include a chemical that causes that random person’s eyes to turn blue. We no longer have the gene that does that anymore. Those with blue eyes will enter a special education system that will provide them with the ancient knowledge. That knowledge is what will keep the travelers safe and land them at their final destination.”
She asked, “Why did you say random?”
Marc answered, “We don’t want a monarchy or a dictatorship. It has to be random so that no one can take unfair advantage of the other travelers.”
“Okay. That makes sense.”
Another woman touched Sarah on the shoulder. Sarah stood and gave her a hug. “Hi, Emmael.”
“Hi, Sarah, how are you?”
“We’re doing well. Isn’t it amazing that we are sending out the first group of arks?”
Emmael answered, “Right. We should have sent them six months ago, but I digress. It’s so good to see you. How long has it been, five years?”
“Well, I know last time I saw you was before we started building the new arks. Where have you been? What have you been doing, and where is Arny?”
“For the last four years, he and I have been living on the arks. I am in charge of the library system, which turned into a massive project, twenty down, leaving another nine-hundred-eighty to go. I have three thousand associates working for me to catalogue and fill four different libraries on each one. Not only am I responsible for filling those libraries, I’m also responsible for making sure to print all the books.”
Sarah said, “That is a big job even for just one ark, much less twenty. So, you live on the arks?”
“Exactly, both Arny and I had a compartment onboard all of them. It was interesting that they made all the bulkheads in the living compartment section from high-tempered glass and aluminium alloy. They wired each wall to be large picture screens. They’re amazing. One wall could look like a Hawaiian beach one day and the High Sierras the next, and they constructed beautiful parks. I could see spending a lifetime on one.”
Sarah asked, “Okay, what’s Arny doing?”
“Do you remember his sleep studies, the ones where he teaches while you sleep?”
“I remember that. How are they using that on the arks?”
“They will teach the Elders everything they need to know when it comes time to land the ark. They land in sections, and because of that, there are a couple of dozen procedures to follow. Training them to complete that process will be implanted once they have reached their destination. Also, he has been working with all the top professors from all the major colleges to provide an education on just about every subject you can think of, so nothing will be lost over time, and they won’t forget about us. They will use them for the educational staff onboard. Everything one can imagine will be available for sleep study. It’s so funny. He created an interactive hologram of himself, and that hologram is instructing the installation of the equipment. So, he’s working on all the arks at the same time.”
Sarah said, “That’s too funny. I’ve heard about him doing that at the colleges.”
“Right, he turned all the professors into holograms too. I wish I could build the libraries in the same way, but I have to be too many places.”
She paused and looked at Levin, “Is this your husband, Levin Hill, who made all of this possible?”
“Yes, please meet my husband, the science fiction reader, who designs arks.”
She put her hand on Levin’s shoulder, “Sweetheart, please meet Emmael Clark. She’s the wife of Arnold Clark. Do you remember him?”
“Hello, Emmael. It’s nice to meet you. Sarah has spoken of you over the years. Arny, eh? I knew him in college. He was a year ahead of me. I bet he keeps you on your toes. He has a great sense of humor if I remember. Why isn’t he here?”
“Yes, he’s a funny man. He’s sick and couldn’t make it.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Again, it’s nice to meet you.”
“You too, Levin. Speaking of sick, I need to get home. I didn’t plan to stay this long. I’m sure Arny is probably ready for some tea or, perhaps, a bedpan.”
Levin and Sarah returned home that evening. Both were excited and nervous at the same time.
Sarah asked, “What if the arks fail?”
“They won’t, Hon. There’s nothing to prevent them from taking their journey.”
On their way to control room seven, Sarah asked, “Remember, Levin? We found out the next week that Arny died that night?”
“Yes. That was another great loss to all of us. If not for his holograms, they never would have been able to construct the dream beds.”
The couple spent the next day in control room seven, going over plans for new domes. There was plenty more space on the earth for them, as much of the forest was harvested to make paper for books and domestic lumber to build structures within the domes. Scientists only gave the forest another three years before they died out. So, they thought it was better to use them rather than let them go to waste.
Levin set a crystal on the review table, and it projected a world map that showed all the current locations.
Sarah asked, “Why do you think they want us to build more domes? Everyone is living under one now.”
“Because we need to bring the forests into the domes before they die out. Otherwise, we won’t survive much longer in our current situation. So, I am looking for places where we can place larger domes to keep growing them. Several high-level officials are hoping we can stop the cooling process. So, they are expecting us to prepare for that in case. If we don’t, and they reverse the cooling, we would only die another way.”
Sarah knew without such an event, building more domes would prove to be a futile endeavor. Earth would not last long enough to grow whole forests, otherwise. They both knew that only for the sake of hope did they continue to build, despite the futility. Perhaps hope would save them. That’s all anyone had.
Sarah and Levin met with two other couples each night they could and walked several times around the park. The other couple’s children and grandchildren left on the same ark as theirs. There was some crying but mostly comfort that each was facing the same heartache. One woman spoke about how she dreamed daily of her daughter and her family. She cried the most of all.
They all got together for Christmas. Since it was the last broadcast of news station 10, they watched it to the end.
The young reporter ended the broadcast, saying, “To all the heroes that made life possible for the rest of us, thank you! I pray for a miracle that something will happen, and your lives will be saved.”
She cried, but the station did not cut away. She could barely get the words out, “The last of the arks will leave earth two weeks from Monday. I, personally, will leave behind my mother, my grandparents, two aunts and two uncles. I wish that I could say that I’m happy to have a life ahead of me, but I cannot. I have heard about survivor’s syndrome. I guess we all are feeling a little of that. I will allow that for myself, but for the rest of those who will leave, then, on their behalf, I would like to say thank you for saving our lives. Thank you for giving us all the chance to live. We will never forget you!”
With that, the screen turned blue.
Holding on to thank you, the couples tried to have a happy Christmas.
One woman, Janis asked, “Do you think the travelers, or future generations, will celebrate Christmas when they get to where they are going?”
Alan, her husband answered, “I hope so. I hope they celebrate all the holidays. I particularly like Thanksgiving. I would celebrate that if I was there.”
They all agreed that the travelers would include all the holidays forever, but again, they said everything positive they could think of that night.
The following Saturday, an Elder invited Levin and Sarah up to ark one thousand. Once there, they went for a walk on the large grass path on the top layer.
Levin said, “The artificial sun feels just like I remember how earth’s sun used to feel when we were young. I hate that the domes reflect all the sunlight away. I hate that we’re confined to the domes with their artificial heat.”
Sarah answered, “I miss the sun too. I miss bathing in it next to the pool. Those on the arks are very fortunate to have a sun again that feels like the old one. I could almost get half-naked and lie down on the grass.”
Levin slapped her behind and pointed out the grass. He took off his shoes and said, “Look how natural it is, and it feels wonderful under my feet.”
“Hon,” she mused, “It feels the same as the grass in the domes back on earth.”
“I know, I am just excited to be here right now.”
Right after he said that a farmer came out to meet them.
Igneous Doorstop said, “Greetings, neighbors. My name is Igneous. How are you?”
The Elder, by the name of Hawk Belasco, said, “We’re good. We’re just walking around, inspecting the upper layer.”
Levin asked, “How long have you been living here, Igneous?”
“Two years. They sent the farmers to live on the arks once they could support us. We needed to acclimate our crops and livestock. That could never be a last-minute decision. We needed to be ready to support the travelers once we’re on our way.”
“How do you like it, living here on the ark?”
“I love it. The conditions are perfect for our crops, and the livestock flourish. We should have no problem providing for the travelers.”
Hawk said, “Thanks, nice to meet you, Igneous.”
The three of them walked five miles before they left the upper level, and down into the living compartments, where they caught a tram. It stopped at one of the artificial parks, and they got out.
Hawk said, “This and other areas like it are the only areas onboard that will have four seasons. The rest of the ark will only have two seasons, spring and summer. Doing so will save energy and, more important, allow for two growing seasons to prevent shortages.”
Hawk took them over to the dome side of the ark.
Levin said, “Look at all this stuff. This craft would never survive a launch from the earth, no way.”
Hawk answered, “It would, but only without the other layers, which will separate and land themselves once the ark reaches its destination. These crafts will provide everything they need to survive a new beginning. That includes one hundred of our best military fighters should they get into that kind of trouble.”
Levin and Sarah spent three days onboard ark number one thousand. The more they saw, the more they hated being left behind. They met several scientists and engineers who were young and smart.
Levin said, “I don’t recall being that smart when I was that age. Wow!”
She answered, “Me either.”
“Hon, you don’t remember being that smart when you were that age?”
“No, I don’t remember you being that smart. I was always that smart. Perhaps, we could stowaway?”
They returned home, excited, and gave all the details to their friends when they walked that evening.
The outside temperature increased to one-hundred-sixty-two degrees. That additional two degrees fanned a fire that burned up over half of the earth’s remaining forest. Smoke covered the domes for months and put an end to the construction of new domes. There would be no reversal of the cooling. It was too late, and everyone knew it.
On Monday, the last of the arks left the earth. There could not be a more hopeless day in all of history. It was hard for anyone to carry on a simple conversation, and there was no time to be angry. It would be a matter of months before the sun swallowed up the earth, and people just wanted to be together with their loved ones. Unfortunately, there were over twenty-nine billion young people left behind.
Levin complained that they couldn’t build more arks. There was not enough time or materials to build even one more. A few people left in the different transportation ships, but those ships would only give them an extra month or two before they starved to death. The closest habitable planet was just over one-hundred-ten years away, and the crafts could never make it that far. The rest of humanity hoped that it would be quick.
As the couple talked, Sarah said, “You know, hon, we should be grateful in this the darkest hour of human history. Many, including our children, will live on in new worlds of their own. Mankind has survived, though it has survived without us. I will spend my last days dreaming of our children and grandchildren. I will dream about their birthdays, their anniversaries, and the holidays we spent together. I hope they will dream of us too.”
He answered, “I hoped we would not live so long as to see this day so close at hand, but, yes, we’ve been given this time to dream of them, and I dream of you too when we were young. Those memories have become so important to me. I am sure they will think of us.”
The outside temperature rose to almost two hundred degrees. The domes struggled to keep the temperature livable.
Finally, On June 2, 2514, on a Sunday morning, one hundred-two years after Severson’s discovery, the earth opened up, and steam came from every hole in the ground. The steam filled the sky, and the domes and rain fell both inside and out. Thick clouds formed, hiding the inevitable. Some took comfort in that they would not watch as the end came. At 2 pm GMT, the earth broke up, and sections burned up as the sun consumed them.
One small piece of the earth hovered awhile before an explosion sent it hurling into space. It was a small piece of ground with a home set atop. Inside the home, in a small bedroom in the back, under blue and pink covers, were the bodies of an elderly couple who had passed away the night before. A picture of a spacecraft still hung on the wall. It had a label below that said, ‘Wheel 17’. Below that was another plague that said, “Ark #974, and with all of our love, we send you into the unknown. We will always remember you.”
Both died in their sleep while dreaming of their children and better times.

Jeff Flaig

Jeff Flaig

I'm a fair weather writer, so I only write when I feel like it and might go long periods of time before I get the urge. I love writing poetry and reading good poetry, mostly because I didn't have the time in the past to write anything else. Since I have retired, I jumped into serious writing and have written three novels, a bunch of short stories and a few poems here and there. My WIP is a book of short stories and a sequel to one of my current novels. I expect that will take me a year to finish. I don't like to rush my writing.
Jeff Flaig

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