the mission


the mission

“Systems have been triple-checked and are stable, captain,” Hassan, the system engineer, announced. “We are ready to enter deep-sleep mode.”

“You heard the man,” Yoon, the captain said, smiling to the group, “it’s time for us to take a nap.” The rest of the crew smiled back at her.

Amongst the crew, there is the doctor (of medicine as all members have PhDs), Zhang. The mechanical engineer, Cruzas. The astrophysicist, Siregar. And me, the biologist, Linden. We are on an exploration mission.

In 2132, humanity’s hope of settling on Mars was dashed when it was discovered that the artificial global-warming systems had been set up slightly incorrectly and malfunctioning for decades without our knowledge. Ironically, we were destroying our second planet the same way we did the first.

It was calculated that we had about 100 years or so before we reached Earth’s 2075 levels of CO2. The older scientists insisted that we had to find a new home quickly. They had desperation in their eyes. All of us grew up on Mars. We are all in our late twenties, and the first generation of new scientists (since The Collapse). Many of the older scientists have died. It is up to us.

“Hey, don’t snore okay?” Siregar joked with me as we were walking from the bridge. She is always flippant in tense moments like these. I knew that the reality is that she is just as nervous as I am. “Everyone, make sure to empty your bowels before entering the sleeping chambers,” Zhang called out to us. I guess nobody would want to clean that up.

It is now 2145, and this mission is called New Hope. It sounds a bit silly, but the first ship that took scientists to Mars was called Hope. Now, we are moving into the next galaxy. We don’t even have a planet picked out that we are sure we can stay at. We are basically stabbing in the dark.

The sleeping chambers are a little bit bigger than what we saw in the movies, but not much bigger. We are able to move around inside but not stand up. Not that we will be doing much moving. There are simple straps with buckles that we attach to ourselves after closing the lid to help ensure that.

Yoon is going from chamber to chamber to check that everybody is ready. We all check our systems and confirm once again through the radios inside the chambers that we are ready to start.

We hear Yoon climb into her chamber and shut the lid. “Okay everyone, I’m going to set the countdown. Remember, the AI systems may wake you up in the case of an error and then you can just try again. Otherwise, I’ll see you guys in a few years.” “See you guys in my dreams,” Siregar jokes. “I hope not, I’m looking forward to a little bit of a rest from your jokes,” Cruzas teases her.

At that moment, a countdown starts. 10… 9… 8… 7…





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I feel groggy. All of my dreams quickly dissipate. I try to move my hands to unstrap myself, and I feel noticeably weaker than I did just a few seconds ago. Was it a few seconds ago? No, I start to remember, it was 15 years ago. The preservation systems slowed down muscle atrophy, but nothing is perfect. I feel like I can’t breathe in here.

I open up my chamber. I can barely stand and try to crawl out of it.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look around. All of the other chambers are closed. I guess I’m the first one up. The beeping continues, but I’m not the systems engineer. I stagger to the main panel and read the output on the screen.


Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I realize now that the AI system must have woken me up. I go to the bridge and check the system. On the panel, it says that the year is 2190. I look at it again. “That’s impossible,” I say. Speaking feels strange.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I tap the screen and stop the alarm. I look up the navigation system data. Yep, we overshot with a shot of anxiety. There is a simple visual which shows that we went past our target years ago. Did the AI system do a detailed scan and find that there was no possibility of life in our initial target? I look again and realize that we are not even in the galaxy that we aimed for.

I tell the AI to open the protection shutters on the windows. Again, speaking feels foreign to me. Looking outside, I see three large planets. One of them looks very close to us, and the other two are off in the distance. It’s possible that one of the other two is a moon. I’m a biologist, not an astrophysicist. I realize I should wake up the others.

I go to Captain Yoon’s chamber first. I press the manual override and start the waking system. It’s strange that it hadn’t started already. After waiting about 5 minutes, I open up the door. She is still not moving. I try to wake her. I check her pulse and realize in horror that she is dead. Her body has been preserved, but her eyes are glazed.

My breathing begins to become more rapid. It’s hard for me to stay calm I I start to panic.

I stagger quickly to the other chambers. I override their systems.

It’s the same for all of them. Every time I open up the door, one of my colleagues that I’ve been training and living with for years is dead. Some of them have foam in their mouths.

The panic is increasing. I hobble as quickly as I can to the bridge. I fall down a couple of times. I’ve never had such weak muscles.

“AI system, I need to set an alert.” The words feel like sandpaper in my mouth.

“AI system, I need to-” like machinery that has been seized by rust.

“Alert activated. The alert has been sent back to Mars. All astronauts have died except for the biologist, Linden. Mars will receive this message in 7 years, 3 months, 14 days, 6 hours and 19 seconds.”

“AI… what happened?” I get a glass of water.

“There was a chamber error 2 hours and 32 seconds ago. Respiratory systems failed. The reason for the failure is unknown. Possible particle buildup in breathing systems.”

I realize that they all suffocated, and I would have suffocated too if I hadn’t woken up. Why did I wake up?

“AI, why weren’t we woken up at the correct time?” I can feel my voice rising.

“The galaxy that we planned to visit showed no signs of life or potential for life. Mars was notified. I was instructed to conserve fuel and keep going.”

“AI, where are we now?” I feel like a child on the verge of tears.

“We are in galaxy 1728. Scans show that there is potential for life and or living beings already.”

“AI, can we turn the ship back?” I feel the panic increasing.

“No. That would go against the mission. Moving the ship back at the same rate that we came here with the fuel that we have left would cause us to arrive after the fall of Mars. Your mission is to find a livable planet and relay that information.”

I knew that that would be the answer. I’m going to die alone. Before that, I alone have to save humanity.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I look at the screen.


“AI, what is happening, what is going on?” I feel a tightening in my chest.

“The rear hull has been breached. The ship is depressurizing. Something ha entered the ship.”

“What, what do you mean?!” I cry with an atavistic dread.

Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I start to feel like I can’t breathe. It is getting very cold. I know from my training that I likely only have a few minutes to live. I hear a sound. It is something I’ve never heard before. A noise that causes my spine to tingle in a horrible way.

I turn around slowly. I see something… I can’t describe it. There is a shape, moving, but it’s more like a shadow. It moves and jilts and spasms.

I start to scream as the shadow moves towards me. It feels like it is already inside me while being far away at the same time. It enters my mouth as I scream. I can’t scream anymore.





Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.
Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeep.

I hear the chamber door open. I look up groggily. I see Siregar smiling down at me. “Wake up, sleepy head. Wow, you look like you just had a bad dream. I don’t even want to talk about the dreams that I had,” she said while extending her hand to help me up.

the childhood home


the childhood home

She was only back for a short time. By this time, everyone she knew had moved to other cities and even other states. Her parents were up north in a retirement home. Her siblings were out east or out west. In fact, she had only decided to visit her hometown because she had a 24-hour layover in the big city, and she was reading an article on the plane about how “going home is never the same after a trip away.” She didn’t even bother telling her parents. There was not enough time for a visit.

She rented a car at the airport and drove down. She figured she could go visit, maybe take a picture, feel some nostalgia, then drive up in time for dinner and then settle in at the hotel. As she drove down the highway, she thought about how her family had made the reverse trip many times to go to a museum, see some family, or even just to “visit the big city.”

When her car reached the town limits, a rush of nostalgia overtook her. Here was the small-town diner she never ate at but always passed. Here was the car lot where she would cruise around and look at dream cars. Here was her old elementary school, looking much smaller than she remembered. She remembered her teachers. They must be retired now. Or even gone.

She decided to stop at the old grocery store and get some snacks that she could eat in lieu of lunch. The aisles in this store seemed so small compared to how she remembered them. As she drove out of the parking lot, she saw how the city had been renovated, and decorations were up all along the main street. This made her a little sad.

She was happy to see, however, that many of the houses hadn’t changed. Some had been repainted of course, but overall the same “feel” of her old neighborhood had stayed the same. This gave her a bit of comfort. She found a place along the street and parked her car. It wasn’t busy at all. She got out and walked the few meters it took to get to the front of her house. She took a picture. She could hear the birds and the insects. It sounded the same as before.

She looked up at the house and wondered if she could go in. She thought that this would give her childhood some sort of closure and help her to accept the reality of her adulthood. She walked up the sidewalk to the front door and rang the doorbell. Nobody answered. She waited. She turned around and was about to go down the stairs when she noticed someone was watching her from the window. A friendly face. It disappeared again behind the curtain. In a few seconds, the door opened.

It was a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. “I am so sorry, sometimes weirdos walk through our neighborhood. Can I… um what is the reason you rang the doorbell?” She explained about her layover and how this was her old house. She thought that maybe she could come back and see it for the sake of nostalgia. She apologized for bothering the woman and turned around to leave.

“No!” The woman responded, eyeing her in a way that made it seem she was trying to figure out if she could trust her, “of course, it makes sense. Would you like to… come in? You just want to see the inside of the house? If you like, feel free to have a look around.” The woman seemed like she would be a good neighbor.

She followed the woman inside. The front room was the same. The same small door to the right. The same place for a mat for boots during winter. She saw a man looking with a surprised smile from the kitchen. “Oh! Who is this?” “She used to live here.” “Came back to see the old digs eh? No problem. I hope it doesn’t look too different. You can see we kept the wood floors bare. We moved in a few years ago, but we made no major changes.”

She looked around at the bay windows, the small bathroom, the few rooms on the first floor. It was nice, but she felt like it still wasn’t enough. She had to be thorough. Like how she always kept taking her antibiotics after feeling better, because that is the prescription, and she wanted to do it right in order to not have to repeat it. It’s always better to do things right the first time.

“Would you mind if… I went upstairs?” The couple looked at eachother. “Sure, of course! No problem! I will take you up there.” The woman led her up the old wooden stairs to the second-floor room. It was hotter up there. The door to the attic was closed. The woman noticed her looking. “Oh, you don’t want to go in there, it’s all bats and boxes.” She felt an obsessive need to go through the door. She ignored the woman and went for the door. “Excuse me, what are you doing”? The woman asked.

She pushed the door open and went in. Something felt wrong. Off to the right, she thought saw something. It was a bit dark, and her eyes were still adjusting. It was a body. It looked like it had been there for no more than a few days. This is the first time she saw a corpse, and she wasn’t sure how to react. Her body backed away from it.

She turned around, and saw the door shutting behind her. She ran to the door and tried to push it open, but it was locked from the other side. She banged on the door. She pushed. She called out to the woman. There was no response. She started to feel desperate. She heard the woman walking down the stairs.

She took out her phone and dialed 911. It wouldn’t make a connection. She called again. Still nothing. Only one bar. She called again. “911, what’s your emergency?” Suddenly the door opened. The man was standing there. He was holding a gun. He pulled the trigger. The phone fell to the floor. So did she. She could feel wetness around her.She looked down at herself. Her blood was seeping into the cracks between the floorboards. She looked at the man.

He looked like he was scared and embarrassed. Like he knew that he had made a big mistake. “I am so sorry… I… you don’t understand we aren’t monsters… we aren’t… I’m so sorry! This… he…” he gestured to the body, “We didn’t have a choice. He was… and now you… now we … I am sorry it’s just… of course we can’t… it’s just not fair. I know.” He looked at her as if he really was sorry. With this expression, he slowly backed away to the door, opened it, backed through it, and shut it.

The wetness was growing. The phone… she tried to reach for it. She could hear the operator asking loudly if she was alright. She didn’t have the strength to pick it up. In her old attic, hot from the summer heat, she heard birds and insects outside, and the tree leaves rustling as the summer breeze blew through them, bringing her the sweet scent of summer flowers from her childhood.

the bicycle


the bicycle

The metal is cold, aluminum or steel.
One item, not needed, yet crucial you feel.
This cold thing, not beating, and yet is your heart.
An organ outside you, that needs you to start.
You move with your legs, and this makes a beat.
You guide with your arms, and drive with your feet.

It’s not very heavy, 10 kilos or so.
And yet such a light frame, is needed to go.
A simple design of, weapons engineering.
That cuts away pieces, of all that you’re fearing.
Anxiety, depression, get sliced away.
Once you get going, you know you can’t stay.

Chemicals needed, they flow through your veins.
Chemicals hated, you’re free from their reigns.
Nature and beauty, it demands to be seen.
In kilometers per hour, it’s best at fifteen.
Now see, you can notice, the way life goes by.
Too slowly or quickly, it won’t meet your eye.

This tool is used best, if it helps you see.
This tool does not rest, until you can be.
Pedaling from others, away from it all.
Pedaling towards something, something that calls.
Don’t leave for too long, as you must then come back.
That which you don’t need, will be at your back.

When you return, you aren’t quite the same.
The world is not different, there’s no one you blame.
Cold steel may bring you, to this revelation.
And yet this sustains, with each revolution.
But soon you will have to, use it again.
So it is there waiting, your true metal friend.

the president


the president

Good morning.

783,692 people were reallocated yesterday. This should balance the equation.

Have a nice day!

The President

This is the message I read while sitting at my table eating my morning oatmeal. It is the most logical food to help fight against starvation. I like oatmeal, but a lot of my colleagues dislike it. The President says it doesn’t really matter what we eat, as long as we have enough to eat. I take my bowl and spoon to the dishwashing machine and turn it on. It is a new model that conserves water and recycles any of the food waste to be used by an energy burner.

I get into the shower. I don’t bother moving, the water just turns on automatically and sprays you in strategic locations. Then a soapy foam comes out and you have 10 seconds to wipe it around you. Then the water sprays in a strategic location again. This water spray was analyzed by complex AI systems, and it is 99.9% guaranteed to wash off any excess soap (though nowadays, the soap doesn’t cause irritation if left on).

I put on a suit. It is the same suit I wear every day. It covers my top and bottom in a professional way. Undergarments are also provided. Everything is comfortable and made from recycled synthetic materials that are also not damaging to the environment. Fashion is considered unnecessary at this point. Everyone wears the same thing.

The bell goes off and I realize that it is time to go. I go to open my door, and it opens into a long corridor. Other doors are also opening. These are my colleagues. I have been working with them for about 3 years. Re-election is coming up soon. We are especially worried about being re-elected with the famine issues. Unfortunately, the world just isn’t like it was when I was born.

At the age of 62, I am nice-looking and respectable. I know just how to wear my hair and glasses. Laser eye surgery was an option, but I haven’t had a prescription change for over 20 years. I still hold onto these old frames and lenses. I protect them and do my best to prolong their life. That is a good metaphor for my job.

In 2040, the world entered the extreme stages of global warming. Of course, some governments prepared and took the science seriously. America did not. American politics permeated all aspects of the culture. Ideas, thought, and education became political. Certain beliefs became political. Certain actions that weren’t political before became political. Your actions were dictated by which political sphere you walked in. Eventually, it wasn’t people who were voting for politicians, but politicians who were molding the thoughts of the people to match their interests.

I started to walk down the hallway, in single file behind the others. Some looked weary, others looked like they still had a bit of “American patriotism” in them. Most were without emotion. Everyone got the same email.

As temperatures rose, the fish in the oceans began to die out. Countries that depended on fishing went to deeper and more contested waters. War broke out in the South China Sea..

We walked into the meeting room and took our seats. It was a large round room, with enough seats for the 50 of us. We sat in desks facing each other, and each of us had our own screens as well as a microphone. These screens could pull up information or help us to communicate directly with other members by message. I saw I had a private message. “Can you believe it? I thought this was only supposed to happen once.” I didn’t respond. All messages were read by the President.

After 5 years, most of Asia, the shining beacon of the future, became a wasteland. Surviving nations closed their borders and depended on regional economic trade with their last surviving allies. Famine led to multiple diasporas. Ships filled with starving people entered and overflowed South Korea and Japan, taxing their resources.

An announcement was made. “Thank you for coming in today. All are present. As usual, a vote is held to see if any tweaks will be made. The floor is open for discussion.” Everyone began to speak and fight for their voices to be heard. “A tweak needs to be made!” Said the tweakers. “No tweaks, stay the course!” Said the non-tweakers. It was like this every day. Tweaks were uncommon.

Land that was capable of growing crops shrank while ocean water levels rose. This water perpetuated salination of lands along the coasts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe. Refugees of the crisis fled to Central Asia and Europe. European countries built walls along their borders to slow immigration. Russia welcomed the new potential labor. Those who moved south and survived the trek across the Sahara met with violent hoarding of resources.

“Votes have been tallied. A tweak has been approved.” This made the room hush. Again, tweaks were uncommon. “A new vote will come up, tweak for mercy, or tweak for efficiency.” The floor again rose in volume. Everyone was screaming again. The emotional ones pushed for mercy. The logical ones pushed for efficiency.

In South America, populations along the border fled south. Chile and Argentina became unlikely allies and walled themselves off from the northern countries, dooming many, and forcing others north into Central America. Canada, Mexico, and America joined to make the North American Alliance and walled off any land south of Oaxaca. War ships were placed on all coasts to prevent immigrantion.

“The votes have been tallied. There will be mercy.” The merciful cheered and shook hands with the other mercifuls. The logical ones looked as though something terrible may happen. As though they were in a room full of fools. After the voting took place, the meeting was over. We all filed out. It lasted in total about 30 minutes.

By 2050, the global population had dropped to 8.2 billion people – a 33% drop due to famine, deadly weather patterns, and disease caused by global warming, ballooning populations, and increased CO2 production from unsustainable consumption. The air was almost unbreathable, and the summer temperatures were oppressive.

We returned to our rooms. Some of us looked tired, though there wasn’t much we did besides this. Of course, we met and socialized, but in terms of real importance, these votes were our lives. This is what the Congress did now.

For most Americans, there wasn’t much of a big change. They managed to keep their lifestyles, and went on believing that they lived in the best “country” in the world. But politics continued to divide the populace, and presidents continued to benefit from these problems. That is, until the big change.

After I went to the exercise room, I came back home and turned on my television and computer. I watched the news. More food was being handed out today. Lines as long as 6 miles were stretching outside of warehouses. Here, food was packaged. All food delivery and production was eventually controlled by one organization. This organization was nationalized, and food became politicized.

Illegal immigrants began streaming in over the walls and past the border patrols. Scientists said that the food would run out soon. The government decided to round up a large amount of these immigrants and place them outside the border. Some of the people placed outside were not immigrants. This created outrage, protests, and riots.

By 2048, AI was very advanced. It could make objective decisions that would benefit the greatest number. In 2052, overwhelmed by the climate emergency, the President transferred their power to AI, now the new President, with an executive order. Those in the opposition party were outraged. Those in the now former President’s party hadn’t realized yet that this was what they really wanted and felt conflicted.

The members of Congress sat on their beds at night, and thought again about how they could save more lives. Should they feed more today, or expel more to have more food tomorrow? Life had come down to these two outcomes. It came down to mercy or efficiency. The President would act in the way that it felt best, but it altered its behavior with these tweaks.

Good morning.

458,302 people starved to death yesterday. This should balance the equation.

Have a nice day!

The President