“We are very pleased with you, Billy,” the head elder praised, “you have restored water to our planet of origin and possibly life.”
“Sirs,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “if I may be permitted to speak.”
“Go ahead,” the elder nodded.
“I hesitate to agree with your desire to recolonize the planet,” he responded, “as the risk of there being a repeat of all that came to pass there is too great.”
“Oh?” The elder was now intrigued. “Is there evidence of the incident not being unique?”
“In many ways,” he nodded, “yes. Not that I have definite proof, but…”
“But you saw something that made you believe,” the elder finished for him.
“Yes,” he nodded again, “there is a massive wall like structure, something that looks man made, that stretches the length of the ocean basin we were first in.”
“An interesting anomaly,” the elder agreed, “one that makes me inclined to agree that mass resettlement may not be a viable option.” the elder peered at him. “So what is your solution?”
“We make Earth an animal sanctuary where wildlife can roam free,” he voiced, “and place a small scientific crew to oversee the sanctuary.”
“Interesting idea,” the elder smiled, “and is there more to this?”
“Yes,” he admitted, “we can clean up the lunar colony, tear down the original as it would be…unusable….then build a hostel or resort in its place where visitors who go to view animals in the wild can stay while there.”
“This is your project, Billy,” the elder announced, “we grant you permission to do all that you have suggested. But you must wait for at least eight days.”
“That is eighty Earth years,” he beamed, “correct?”
“Well,” the elder chuckled, “close enough to. It is about 400 Earth years. Long enough for the forests you planted to grow. Long enough for the climate to return to as close to normal as possible.”
“Thank you, sirs,” he bowed.
“You’re welcome, Billy,” the elder answered, then bent closer, “and you will be placed as management of this new sanctuary.”
“So what did they say?” His mother asked.
“They loved the sanctuary suggestion,” he bubbled happily, “and I am to be manager!”
“I am proud of you, son,” she smiled, “you have finally become an adult. Being given a charge is a sign that the elders see you as an adult. I believe the mission you were given was their test for you.”
“So I am to pick the science team?” He looked at her.
“Yes, son,” she nodded, a tear coming to her eye, “choose well.”
“What about those who have been caring for the animals in the preservation zoo?” He inquired.
“You will have to ask them if they would be interested,” she suggested, “but they would do as a starting point.”
“And you?” He pressed.
“I can only offer technical support,” she responded, “nothing more.”
“But we work so well together,” he objected.
“Yes,” she nodded, “but you need to find others you can work with. Others not of family.”
“Very well,” he was disappointed, “I shall. Wish you could go.”
“Son,” she began, “I have had my fill of Earth. It was a beautiful planet, but I do not want to live there. This is your destiny. Your opportunity to shine. Go. take hold of it and do not let go.”
“I will miss you,” he sniffed.
“And I, you,” she smiled sadly, “but I always knew that this day would come.”
“You always knew that I would leave?” He was surprised.
“We all must leave at some time,” she nodded, “and I knew that you were marked for greatness. Greatness that would not include me.”
“But,” he objected, “this was never the way I intended it to be!”
“It never is,” she shrugged, “especially when fate takes a hand in things.” She looked at him. “You were always destined to go back. From the first trip we took, that was to be your path. There was nothing I could do to stop it.”
“Couldn’t you have said something?” He inquired.
“No,” she confirmed, “it would have made you want it more. You would have pushed harder. And it would have driven you away from me more violently.
“I had to allow you to do as your destiny demanded. It was more natural. This is what is meant to be. Embrace it.”
“What of you?” He persisted.
“I will still be here,” she affirmed, “and I shall come and visit. Do not worry. And you may have a brother or sister. It is the way these things go.”
Billy selected a team. The conservation team agreed to accompany the animals to Earth and to remain there to study and preserve life in a more natural setting. The conservancy cubes were loaded into the largest ship he had ever seen.
“What shall we call our ship?” Anders, the bug cat overseer, inquired.
“How about The Ark?” He asked, somewhat jokingly.
“The Ark,” the scientist mused, “good enough for me.”
“Let’s get loaded up,” he looked at Anders.
“Yes,” the scientist nodded, “let us.”
Billy entered the ship with the science team. He stopped at the hatch and took one last look around. It would be the last time any of them would see Home.
They lifted off after the last conservancy cube had been loaded. The small loading/offloading crew remained aboard. They would return the ship after all was offloaded.
That had been how he had set things up. They would load and unload the ship, then return Home with the empty ship. He would remain on Earth with the scientists.
He smiled sadly. In a flash, they would be over Earth. There, they would off load the animals according to their original continent. The Americas. Eurasia. Africa. Australia.
The islands would receive their animals last. There would be fewer to offload. Fewer to get mixed up.
Behind them. A second ship lifted off. This one was loaded with a cleaning and colonizing crew. The lunar colony would be small, just enough to maintain the hostel.
Their project would be the most important. It would establish a resort where people could stay while visiting the preserve known as Earth. It would ensure that there was little to no contamination of the preserve.
The Ark lifted off from Earth and vanished. Its departure symbolized the last chance of leaving the planet. Billy blinked away the tears.
What had begun as a research project had become his life’s work. He was now fully invested in returning Earth to its former splendor. There was no turning back.
He turned away from where the ship had been and vanished into the primal jungle. He would roam the forests and jungles from this point on.