Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 3

3.

 

Home was fifty light years from Earth but the most current technology could bend time so that one could land on Earth in the same moment in time that they left Home. They could remain in the present even if the space in time was vast.

He chuckled. Ancient humanity would have claimed that the technology was impossible. But they, his more recent ancestors, had come to realize that nothing was ever impossible. Ancient quantum physics, and ancient astrophysics for that matter, had been rudimentary. Incomplete. Biased enough to ensure that truth seemed to be the impossibility.

Even time travel was accessible now. One could go to almost any point in the past and, remaining beyond the continuum so as not to be seen, observe events of the past. Yet none had attempted it. Not past a few years.

He wondered if he would be given a pass for that as well, once he was done with this mission. He wanted to find out what had really happened. Who had started what? Or had it been a natural disaster?

He also wanted to know what the true origin of the long held religion really was. Had it been a single man? Or had it been something simply made up?

He was full of questions. How did man begin? How did he advance to where he had been when the schism occurred? What had been the origin of that schism? Had it been founded in truth? Or just another lie?

He had so many questions. So many things he wanted to discover. But at the moment, he had to finish the mission the elders had given him. After, he might convince them to allow the other.

“Two minutes until we enter Earth’s atmosphere,” his mother stated, pulling him out of his thoughts.

“Did we remember the rover?” He inquired.

“Yes,” she assured him, “and the packs you were told to bring. I just don’t understand why I have to remain with the ship.”

“The elders talked that they might be transmitting more orders,” he shrugged, “and someone has to be aboard to upload the data I send through com.”

“Oh,” she frowned, “and what was with all those packs?”

“Just something the elders wanted me to do,” he smiled, “nothing to worry about.”

“Not worried,” she sighed, “just seems to be an awful lot of secrecy surrounding this mission.”

“I will probably be gone for a few days, so will have to send data through com,” he explained, “someone is needed here to upload it to the crystals so that it is ready for transmission to Home. No real secrecy. No mystery. 

“I am simply to do my experiments on my own. Nothing more. It was the instructions I was given by the elders.”

“Oh,” she nodded, finally satisfied, “OK.” She paused. “Be careful.”

“I will, mother,” he smiled, “no worries.”

***

What had once been oceans were now deep cavernous deserts. There was no life to be seen. Nothing to hint of the once vibrant world that Earth had once been.

Instead, a swelteringly dry wind met any who entered the desolate world that remained. Billy wondered if the plateaus that had been the continents and islands offered anything cooler. He hoped so.

He would be working up there soon enough. That had been where he had been instructed to plant the seeds. That had also been where he had been told to explore. 

There had been no settlements in the oceans. Nothing but great underwater war machines known as submarines. And even those had their limits where depth was concerned.

He was sure that he would come across some of these strange machines but he doubted if there was any left alive within. After all, there was no food. Nothing to survive on.

At least not where primitive humanity was concerned. Modern humanity no longer needed sustenance. They no longer needed anything remotely resembling food. 

Knowledge fed them. Understanding. Empathy. Wisdom.

Billy studied his surroundings. The trenches were off limits. They were nothing but fiery pits spewing lava.

He smiled. He would travel just out of his mother’s line of sight before making his first test for water. After scratching for water in a few places, he would head for what had once been the Americas.

He was glad that the rover had hover capabilities. It was sort of like a small flying saucer, though not enclosed and mostly empty so that cargo could be stored within. His little cockpit was just big enough for one.

“Am I out of your line of sight yet?” He called back to his mother.

“Yes,” she answered, “and I do not like it. But you have your instructions, so I must accept even if I do not agree.”

“Alright,” He began, “I will do my first scratching here.”

“Alright,” she returned, “ready for data transfer.”

He stopped his rover. He could not see the ship. Good. 

He got out of the rover and dug in the cargo hold for the instruments needed. Finding his core tapper, he walked a short distance and pushed it into the sandy soil as deep as he could. He would be taking six of these cores in his attempt to scratch for water.

***

On the sixth coring, water began to ooze – almost unnoticeably – from the ground. But he had noticed and was thrilled. It meant that the planet wasn’t completely dry. Or completely dead.

He gathered some of the water for analysis. He wanted to see if there were minerals in it. Or if it was completely sterile.

He hoped that this was not a fluke. That would be a horrible thing. It would also mean that this whole trip was for naught.

He hoped to find an answer to what had caused this. Surely humanity hadn’t drank up all the water. Nor had the water simply dried up. Or had it?

So many mysteries. So many strange things that didn’t make sense. He shook his head.

Even with the greenhouse gases that ancient humanity had caused, this was not a plausible end. Poisoned water, yes. Extreme heat, yes. But not total loss of water.

So what had happened? Had their nuclear warfare caused the waters to be stopped up? Had their greed caused all the rivers’ sources to be tapped and capped? 

Nothing here made much sense. There was nothing to indicate exactly what had happened. Not like the colonies on the moon or on Mars.

All on Mars had died from some bacterial plague. The source of the bacteria was unknown. Wherever it had come from, it had spread rather rapidly. 

There was incomplete evidence that the bacteria had been indigenous to the planet. But nothing solid. No evidence could be found to corroborate what the colonists had recorded. 

The catastrophe that had been the lunar colonies was horribly evident. Space debris, most likely a small asteroid, had destroyed the protective bubble and allowed the artificial atmosphere to escape quicker than the machines could create it. Space dust and stellar radiation damaged the machines beyond repair. 

The end result was the death of all within. The investigations into the scene had proven it. He found himself tearing up at the thought.