Six months later it is September 22, 2016 and the estimated time of arrival on Earth according to BIM is January 11, 2017 and according to OptZ it is January 4, 2017. They had gained a couple days from their original estimates.
Jason was becoming more reserved and isolated, spending most of his time alone in the work room, and the remainder of his time inside his Exciter, rarely coming into the main cabin except to grab what food was left over from the meals Lisa had prepared. Neither Lisa nor George had been back to the work room in several months, and Jason appeared to not want anyone to see what he was working on. He frequently did his work inside the Exciter at night when George and Lisa had already fallen asleep, adding to the mystery of what exactly he was doing inside the small footprint of the secondary spacecraft.
On the surface, George and Lisa didn’t mind his seclusion, but deep down they knew something was brewing, and they only hoped that his intentions were sincere.
Lisa and George spent a great deal of time on ACE, learning more about Earth, and perhaps more interestingly, Earth’s view of the rest of the solar system. They took interest in the past and future space expeditions, wondering why the humans on Earth continued to spend decades building telescopes, when they could put a human into space, like they were, to conduct experiments and report the results back firsthand. They agreed to visit NASA, which appeared to be the biggest space exploration group, to share their findings and knowledge. They knew that it was located in Washington DC, where Miss Palencia also originated.
When George was alone he would post frequently to the facebook directory. It was a secret refuge for him, almost another life that he lived in close relation to the humans on Earth. He now had 2.3 million likes and streams of content and posts that were generating at such a rapid rate, he was unable to keep up. And when he posted, the replies came in even faster. He had a number of friends now, besides jbremer1995. He knew not everyone believed what he was saying but he enjoyed answering their questions about his space travel. The amount of “smart contributors” and “average contributors” in his eyes were growing and he was becoming more comfortable with the conversations he was having.
Many of the contributors began referencing events taking place on Earth, which George was able to search for and read more about. Two countries named Iran and India were embroiled in conflict, and Iran had begun to shoot rockets toward the other country. George found scenes of explosions, building collapsing and people running through the streets in fear, crying. He shared these images and videos with Lisa who was astonished. “It is almost like what we saw happen earlier in the timeline of the Earth. Fighting among everyone. I can’t believe this is happening again right now.”
That night, George and Lisa continued discussing the war and the destruction they saw from the photos and videos over dinner. It was just the two of them. When they finished, they left some food out for Jason as they did every night he didn’t join them. Some days they would notice it was gone before they went to bed, while other days it wasn’t until the following morning.
George logged into ACE that night alone while Lisa slept. The postings about the war were multiplying. George found a news directory on google.com that was updated with the latest information. He learned that Iran had dropped three bombs on India, leading to widespread devastation and the photos he saw could hardly describe it. There seemed to be no signs of life or movement among the broken buildings and charred country sides. It looked like a different place.
The next morning more headlines poured in: “US Alliance Excludes Russia and China.” George and Lisa read the stories together. It appeared a showdown was imminent between the largest superpowers on Earth. The tone of the articles started to show disbelief and promise at first, but soon grew grimmer by the day. Two days later the headline declared: “World War III.” The United States had bombed Iran and then Russia retaliated by bombing Los Angeles, a major city in the United States. The United States President declared an all out war with Russia and China who remained united against the US and their allies. The rest of the world seemed to be part of the US Alliance.
That night Jason joined George and Lisa for dinner, and learned of the war for the first time. He was quiet, reserved and rather unresponsive. “That’s just great. And that’s where we are heading? I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean Jason?” George asked.
“Nevermind. Going to Earth was a mistake from the beginning. We were just fine out there until…all of this,” he threw his arms up and walked back to the work room and shut the door. They could hear Jason continue talking inside the work room but they couldn’t make out what he was saying.
That night George and Lisa continued to monitor the news. Right before they turned in for the evening, the lights flashed and the red lights came on. They froze, then slowly got up without saying a word and walked to the video screen. Jason walked down the hall to join them, just as the Grand Master appeared on the screen.
He looked older, his beard long and white, the hair on the top of head standing up in just a handful of strands. His eyes appeared darker, and his squint seemed even tighter. He was not happy.
“George I don’t know what the hell you are thinking. You think we are dumb here? That we aren’t going to see what you are doing?”
Jason glanced at George with an evil eye.
“We knew you would crack the communication system at some point. Come on. We trained you to be brilliant. We gave you the best education. What we didn’t expect is that you would tell the whole world about yourself and try to become some kind of a celebrity. But that’s exactly what George Burgess wanted to do. Become a celebrity.”
He shifted his position and moved closer to the camera. “We don’t need any more goddamn celebrities. Your job is the mission, and you failed at that. Don’t worry about the repercussions of your inaction. While you’re off telling the world how you’re saving everyone from doom all the way from outer space, we took precautions mind you. George, you are still a boy. You need to listen to what I say now just as you have your whole life. Someday you will become a man.”
The Grand Master swung his hand and knocked the camera to the ground. They caught a quick glimpse of the room around him that appeared to be a command center with lights and maps. And then it went dark.
The hair on the back of George’s neck rose. A sensation took over his body. A tear dropped from his eye.
“George, what is he talking about,” screamed Jason. “What are you doing?”
George had his head down, thoughts clouding his mind and couldn’t answer.
Lisa tried to comfort him. “George, it’s ok. We’ll talk later.”
“Sounds like you really messed something up, but it matters very little at this point really. You can figure out what you want to do. I don’t care anymore,” Jason said and stormed off down the hall.
George fell into Lisa’s arms, fighting the urge to cry. They were silent for several minutes until finally George started telling Lisa about the posts on the facebook directory, the photos he had sent and the interactions he had with people on Earth. She listened intently, and understood his intentions, but was confused as to why he revealed so much information. Her anger grew but she was able to control her outward emotion.
“George, that was why we built the invisibility shield. It is why we were so careful making the communications systems, and manipulated the MANOOLA data. Why did you share all that information?”
“It doesn’t matter now. And no one believed me anyway. Most people thought I was lying, and I wanted to show them that I was telling the truth. They didn’t even know about the Callisto Symphony. Even when it was going on and they could look up to the sky and see it. I’m sorry Lisa. I didn’t mean for it to go this far.”
“I think we are the lucky ones George. The only ones who truly knew what was going on. Think about it. All those people were living their lives every day, doing all the things we saw in the videos, and they had no idea that hundreds of comets were being released in the galaxy. They weren’t going to save themselves. But we were going to. And now they are fighting again. Not because of the Callisto Symphony, or any pending catastrophe, but because of their own ideals. The ideals they invented and the conventions they built to live under. We read about their governments. We read about the issues, and then what? Destruction of everything they built.”
George raised his head, “Yes, Lisa. You are right. Thanks.”
There was no further mention of the Grand Master’s message that night. Jason remained in his room for another three days before they caught a glimpse of him grabbing some food from the Grow Room, only to return immediately to his room without saying a word or acknowledging their presence.
George and Lisa spent a week without logging into ACE. The time away gave them a chance to get the ship into order. Lisa organized the growing schedule for the next few months. George worked on BIM’s programming, bringing in elements of reason that Lisa had worked with OptZ on. BIM was getting smarter, slowly. George still believed an entire rewrite of his programming would be necessary, but for now he needed a project to work on.
When they did finally log into ACE, with George intending to show Lisa the full facebook directory, the system was dead. They couldn’t receive any incoming signals. Even their pings to various directories returned nothing.
“One of these has to work,” said George. He examined their entire history of directories, all the way back to the Lingdao Broadcasting System, hoping to receive a simple message reply, but nothing appeared. George was stumped. They hadn’t changed any piece of equipment. They hadn’t touched anything since George’s last log in a week before.
“Maybe it’s for the better,” said Lisa. “This machine was beginning to impact us in a negative way.”
“Yes, it did, but it was also a key source for information. I feel distant, alone out here without it.”
“Let’s keep working on other projects. I don’t need to see this anyway. I’ve enjoyed our time away, George. It feels like we used to be.”
They sat together for dinner that night and left a plate out for Jason. He came to retrieve it a short time later, and George saw him.
“What did you do that for?” George snapped at him.
“Sabotaging our communications system.”
“I didn’t touch anything. I don’t even know what you are talking about.”
“ACE is dead, done, nothing. And you think that just happens?”
“I didn’t do anything George. I have no idea what you are talking about. And that’s it. I have nothing more to say.” Jason walked away.
George’s anger was building. He wanted to walk down the hallway. He wanted to push Jason into the wall. He wanted to open that work room door. Lisa approached him.
“Leave him alone, George,” she touched his arm.
He shrugged her off. “He did it Lisa. I know he did. He’s the one that causing the problems around here. Not me.”
“Forget about it George. Come in here. Calm down. Remember your breathing.”
George sat down in a chair and put his head in his arms. Lisa touched his back as his breathing steadied. They remained there for thirty minutes without speaking, and finally George went to lay his bed.
They awoke the next morning to the red lights shining again. The cabin lights went dim. George and Lisa sprang from the bed. Jason walked in, “So what did you do this time?” George glared at Jason and didn’t say a word.
The Grand Master came on. His face looked different. He was smiling. His normally thin eyes were open. It reassured George for the moment.
“Hello George. And hello Lisa and Jason.”
The Grand Master paused as the three of them looked around puzzled.
“I didn’t realize that I was speaking to all three of you. I’m really glad you are all together. Isn’t that nice?”
“This isn’t real. Something’s very wrong,” said Jason.
“You’re probably wondering how I know all this, especially since your MANOOLA data tells me the three of you are nice and healthy, and right in the position I sent you for the Callisto Symphony. You can imagine my surprise when all of a sudden a familiar ship appears on my satellite, much much closer than I was expecting. You did an excellent job hiding and deceiving my system. I made you even smarter than expected, so I do take great pride in that.”
“How could he know?” Jason asked. He looked at the window and noticed the forward two invisibility shields were in place. He ran to the rear of the spacecraft and George and Lisa could hear him faintly, “Oh, no.”
He returned, “One of the rear shields snapped off.”
The Grand Master continued, “Well, I’m sure this catches you by surprise too. And that makes me happy. I am also happy that you decided to come visit us. I look forward to your arrival. I’ll be in touch, and of course, feel free to track the origin of this message and communicate back to me.” He smiled. “I know you can do it. And I look forward to hearing from you. And I do hope you enjoyed meeting one another.”
The communication ended. Everyone was speechless for several minutes.
“Well, that changes things,” said Jason.
George waited a moment, then said, “Not really. I thought we talked about this. It doesn’t really matter if they know we’re coming. Especially now the Callisto Symphony is not the catastrophe it was once thought to be.”
“True, but I’m confused. In his last message, it still seemed as though he was still worried about the Callisto Symphony?” said Lisa.
“I’ve thought about that too,” said Jason. “I think he either doesn’t know the full outcome of the Callisto Symphony, which I find to be surprising. Or else, this world war that you have been following is commanding more of their attention.”
“Could be. His tone seemed different to me this time,” said Lisa. “He was sarcastic, almost taunting us to come. He could be setting us up for something.”
“I think he’s confused,” said George. “We surprised him on this one. There is no way they could ever have predicted this decades ago – that the three of us would hack the communications infrastructure, that the Callisto Symphony would be a non-event, and that the three of us would travel together back to Earth?”
“You’re right. Perhaps he’s trying to scare us,” said Jason.
“Precisely,” said George. “I am curious where he is broadcasting from though.”
“Me too. Obviously don’t communicate back to him,” said Jason to which George responded with a deadpan look so as to say “of course, and thanks for your concern.” The distribution of trust aboard Hendrix was fragmented. Jason walked back to his room.
George and Lisa worked on tracking back the signal. It wasn’t hard. The signal wasn’t masked or manipulated in any way. It was a clear shot originating from a small satellite station they could see through the Gamma Scope that was orbiting Earth. For the first time, they knew, and could see, exactly where the Grand Master was. The big blue planet lingering nearby was growing larger as the days went on, the unrest below its surface was undetectable in the quietness, calmness and serenity of space.
It was the evening of December 5, 2016 and George and Lisa were taking turns behind the Gamma Scoop observing the numerous satellites orbiting the Earth. They were one month away from making contact with the planet, and not a lot had changed aboard the ship as they continued their approach.
ACE was still unresponsive. They weren’t able to detect a signal from anything on Earth, or from the nearby satellites. Lisa speculated that the Grand Master had jammed their systems. George still thought Jason had something to do with it. Regardless, they had started to find peace in their routine without ACE but remained on alert that something, or someone, could still be working against them.
Jason was almost non-existent, having permanently established himself in the Work Room and the back bays of the ship. He could be heard talking but there was no sign of who or what he was talking to. Lisa noticed that he had started to grow vegetables and beans in a back corner of the Grow Room, but she had never seen him in the grow room working on them.
The coordinates for their landing on Earth had been decided by George and Lisa, who believed that a location near Washington DC would be best, given its proximity to the US government which seemed to be in charge, along with Miss Palencia’s history in the area and the fact that NASA was located nearby.
George and Lisa were a strong team, agreeing on most every decision and making them unanimously between themselves. They looked forward to making contact on Earth, but were a little reserved with all the fighting that had seemingly been taking place.
They looked out at Earth, now appearing as though it was only an arm’s length away.
“I can’t believe we are actually doing this George.”
“Me either. I would never have guessed it four or five years ago. We were so trapped into a certain way of thinking. The way they wanted us to be.”
“I still do wonder if they would have left us out there like that forever. Even after the mission if we hadn’t taken action.”
“I don’t think we will ever know. And I don’t think if they had those kinds of intentions for us that the Grand Master would ever admit it.”
Lisa felt comforted the more they spoke, even though it was a subject they had covered almost every month since they had met. They went to bed with the excitement of new experiences and interactions with more humans on their mind.
In the middle of the night the alarm sounded and the lights turned on, then went dim. The red lights appeared in the corner of the ship. George and Lisa slowly rose from their beds. Jason walked down the hallway.
The Grand Master appeared to have aged another year or two even though it had only been three months since they last saw him. The skin on his face was heavily wrinkled and his head was nearly bald. In the background they could see maps and satellites with lights shining on and off. It appeared he was on a spaceship with electronics that were more sophisticated than what they had aboard Hendrix.
He didn’t waste any time. “I actually thought you would communicate with me. Come on? We’ve known each other since you were born, yet you have nothing you want to say to me? You don’t have any questions you want me to answer? Nothing?”
“I must say I’m surprised. Perhaps you feel anger. Or perhaps you want to feel anger because you think that’s what you should feel. But you don’t. You feel curious. You feel loyal. You feel a part of me.”
“Whatever you feel, remember one thing. I made you. Everything that is in your brain was put there by me. Everything. Every lesson. Every word. Every thought. If you are happy with yourself, remember who allowed that happiness to exist. Look,” he spread open his arms, “look at you now. Look how far you’ve come, how smart you are. You became everything I wanted you to become, and even more.”
“I’m proud of you. I really am. And I hope you understand that you do have feelings for me. You do care about me. You do know that you were all three abandoned at birth? Your mothers and fathers were unable, or unwilling, to care for you. It wasn’t clear if they even wanted you. So I took you in, when you were still newborns. I saved you when you needed help the most. That’s the truth. What began as a very sad story has now become a grand story.”
“I must share with you a word of caution. My intentions are sincere in every way. Earth is a very different place than you are expecting it to be. You would be best served visiting the space station where I am located first. It is safe and secure. You will learn a great deal more about what you are doing, and who you really are. There are many more secrets I’d like to discuss with you. Many more answers to share.”
“I know you have been watching my location. I know you are curious to meet me. I look forward to hearing back from you. And remember, we have always been counting on you. And we still are. I care about each of you deeply. Good night.”
“It’s a trick,” said George. “He needs us. He’s playing games with us.”
“I agree,” said Lisa. “He’s trying to appeal to us emotionally now. He wouldn’t do that for our benefit. It would only be for his.”
Jason shook his head, “I’m not so sure.”
George and Lisa looked at him bewildered.
“This gives you something to think about.” Jason didn’t look back as he walked down the hall. Lisa called out after him, but he ignored her.
“That was weird,” said Lisa. “What the Grand Master said, and then Jason’s reaction.”
“It was. But don’t worry about it. We are not going to deviate from our plan. We are not going to communicate with him. We are going to proceed as though none of this even took place. We have a plan, and it is the plan we want to execute.”
“BIM, estimated time of arrival on Earth”
“28 days, 6 hours, 32 minutes.”
“We’re almost there.” Lisa and George went back to bed, trying to shake off the lingering influence of the Grand Master’s latest appearance, and Jason’s odd behavior. The Grand Master’s words replayed in their heads, and then were forgotten as they fell asleep.
They didn’t see Jason for another five days, and when they finally did, he quickly grabbed food and water and walked briskly back to his work room. Lisa noticed he had been tending to his plantings in the garden, but she had still never seen him in the Grow Room.
It wasn’t until they were just one week away that Jason’s intentions became known. On December 26, 2016, as Lisa and George were working out with Kang in the morning, Jason entered the room.
“Do not speak. Just listen.” George and Lisa stopped everything.
“I am departing this ship right now. I am taking my Exciter along with equipment that I have prepared in the work room. The materials used to make this equipment were shared amongst us, and you can keep everything I leave behind. I have already disassembled OptZ from the command center and installed him in my Exciter. I have taken the time to plant and grow my own food supply which will be coming with me, as well as my water supply and certain parts of the recycling system. My departure will not impact you in any way. I do not wish to be contacted. Please do not follow me. Just let me go. Thank you.”
He started to walk away but George grabbed him by the shoulder and tried to spin him around. “What are you doing Jason?”
“Leave me be.”
“Where are you going?”
“Away. That is it, now let me go.” George loosened his grip and took a step back. Lisa began to cry. Jason’s eyes made contact with Lisa’s for a second. She could see this was hard for him. He was trying to hide it; to be strong, yet, he turned violently away from the group and walked toward the Exciter.
Lisa and George slowly walked down the hallway toward the back bays. The Work Room door was open and they could see it was rather empty inside where Jason had stored much of the equipment. Everything that was left was wrapped up perfectly and organized in the opposite corner.
They heard the Exciter bay door close. “How is he going to do this?” George said as they raced to the nearby window. The outside bay door opened, and Jason’s Exciter emerged, unrestrained by a power cord. On the outside of the Exciter, they could see an enormous amount of work had been done. It appeared to have large battery packs installed across the bottom of the ship. Above that were 5 large solar panels, expertly installed at different angles. In between were two jet thrusters that lit up as Jason moved forward and away from the ship. He didn’t close the bay door. He didn’t look back at Hendrix. He just slowly drifted off, the light from the thrusters becoming fainter as he pulled away. He appeared to be on a course bound for Earth.
George walked over and closed the bay door. “Did you see that? He has completely turned the Exciter into a mini spaceship?”
“Is he really going to live on that though? It’s tiny. He won’t be able to survive for long?”
“He survived in the Work Room for over a year.”
“I can’t believe this just happened. And now he’s gone?” Lisa said.
“It looks like he’s heading for Earth. I can’t understand why he would depart right now?”
“Me either. He was getting strange to be around. I was never comfortable when he would walk in.”
“I wasn’t either.”
They laid in bed together and speculated all night about what Jason was doing, and why. The ideas ranged from him heading back towards his old ship near Jupiter, to going to Earth’s moon, to being under a spell from the Grand Master. By the end of the night, they agreed that they might never know. Lisa grabbed a jug of juice. It had been several months since they last indulged.
BIM beeped repeatedly the next morning, waking both George and Lisa from the bed they were sharing. He was standing in the center of the room and George, not sure what BIM needed, just plugged him in to the command center and went back to bed. BIM processed data for an hour and then disconnected and walked back into the bedroom and beeped again until George woke up. “What do you want?” BIM was motionless. “What?”
BIM walked back over to the command center.
“George, we have never attempted to enter the immediate atmosphere of another planet before. It is not safe.”
“BIM,” George rested his head in his heads, his head pounding from the previous night. “You do realize I made you smarter. You don’t have to show me all the time.”
“George, I’m not sure what you mean?”
“Alright, just figure out your calculations then.”
“BIM, figure out how we enter Earth’s atmosphere.” George was growing frustrated.
“Ok, will do.”
“Finally,” George muttered under his breath. He was tired and couldn’t fall back asleep. He rested his eyes as he sat in the chair of the command center.
“6.1 degrees is optimal entry inclination.”
“Drag co-efficient upon descent could be a challenge due to significant increases in heat.”
“BIM, we got out of this atmosphere a long time ago. We’ll get back in just fine.”
George reached up and turned BIM off. He rested his head on the command center.
Preparations began that day for reentry. They began locking everything down. The remaining Exciters were proving to be a challenge since they couldn’t be moved easily. George arranged to have them locked down with belts and custom steel fittings that he rigged.
All of the elements in the Grow Room had to be stabilized, and would be one of the last that they do. Lisa took special interest in BIM’s concerns about entry into the atmosphere. She would work with him on the appropriate course of descent.
Each day, they tried ACE but with no luck. There was no further communication as landing day approached. The Earth looked beautiful. They couldn’t wait to see all the water. All the people. All the buildings. Everything they longed for in the videos and photos.
It was determined they would land in the evening on January 3, 2017 in order to catch a favorable position in the Earth’s rotation for reaching Washington DC. That day, they went over final preparations. Everything was secured and latched down. Lisa warned George that it might prove to be a scary ride. She was worried about the heat build up from the atmospheric drag.
Soon they were in orbit of the Earth which they allowed to pull them for a few hours to put them on their desired course. Then they fired up the thrusters and broke free, entering Earth’s gravitational pull. The ship gained speed fast. Lisa and George were strapped in seats by the command center, both fearful. Their eyes were glued to a series of three lights on the satellite control that were mapping their position.
The first light went from red to green, indicating they had entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The ship was beginning to shake. It was hot and George thought he smelled smoke. It began to shake more violently, and Lisa reached over to hold George’s hand. She squeezed it.
The second light changed to green indicating they were almost through. They heard a large crash and felt a jerk as something impacted the ship. They smelled more smoke. George was strapped in so tight that he could barely turn his head in the direction of the crash. He couldn’t see anything.
“What was that?” George shouted as loud as he could.
Lisa said something but he couldn’t hear her. He thought he read her lips to say, “invisibility shield.”
George was breathing intensely. The ship continued shaking. He could hear banging noises behind him, beside him. He clenched Lisa’s hand even tighter. The third light went to green. The noise suddenly changed. Everything was quiet. The shaking subsided. It felt like they were gliding. The blackness outside the windows was replaced by a bright blue. They both smiled.
George sat up and turned on the thrusters to slow down the descent. BIM beeped from the corner of the command center to indicate he was helping control the ship now too.
Lisa sat up as the motion stabilized, her eyes wide darting every direction, trying desperately to take in everything around her. The brightness almost stung, but she kept looking. It was blue and white. No black.
The sun shone through the far side of the ship casting a light down on the control panel.
“Unbelievable,” Lisa said as she held her bare arm up to the light, feeling its gentle warmth.
“BIM, current course?”
The gliding feeling continued for several minutes. The cabin inside Hendrix was silent. Only the humming of the thrusters could be heard behind them.
Hendrix began turning, leaning to one side and changing the viewpoint out the window showing the world below. Lisa and George could see the vastness of the blue water sprinkled with the creases of waves that appeared tiny. They caught a glimpse of where the water met the land, and saw the light brown edges of a beach, where the waves appeared larger and more plentiful.
The ship straightened up. BIM’s lights were dancing on and off. “Looks like BIM has this one,” George said.
“I hope so.”
The ship descended slowly. The scenes out the window changed. They could see buildings, many of which were broken and collapsing. There were thin streams of smoke wiggling up toward the sky. There appeared to be a layer of dust across the entire landscape.
They descended further, flying over a large forest, circular green tree tops as far as the eye could see, intermingled between more clouds of dark black smoke.
“Hold on,” shouted George.
The ship whizzed beyond the forest, its speed decreasing. An open field appeared out the window as the ship moved lower. Soon they were parallel with the ground, and then impact. A loud crash jolts the ship. The landscape continued moving out of the window. Slower and slower until finally the ship rocks to a stop. The infrastructure of the ship creaking as it tilts side to side eventually becoming settled with a slight upwards incline.
George and Lisa remove their safely belts. Lisa takes a look out the window noticing the dust that was kicked up during the landing. She can faintly see the tree line beyond. George walks down the hallway and opens the Exciter bay.
“No spacesuit this time,” he calls out as the door opens. Light shines throughout the inside of the ship, its coverage spreading as the door opens. Lisa holds his hand as they walk toward the open door and jump down to the ground below. They smile and embrace. They jump. They run. They shout out, their voices echoing into the distance.
Lisa runs back inside the ship and into the Grow Room, only to emerge a moment later with a bucket full of her soil, a small shovel and a couple of plants. She bends down and digs a small hole for the plants.
Inside Hendrix, the cabin lights flash, and the red lights turn on. BIM accesses the main video screen as the Grand Master appears. BIM’s red record light turns on as George and Lisa are not aboard the ship.
“George, you and Lisa must come to our ship at once. We are in desperate need of supplies.”
Jason enters the frame, standing next to the Grand Master. “This is the home for the future of humanity, George and Lisa. Trust me. Listen to the Grand Master now, for once.”
The Grand Master continued, “I beg you.”
Outside, George thought he heard a noise inside Hendrix. He started to walk toward the ship but saw Lisa at a distance, bending over. She was throwing up. He ran towards her.
The Grand Master moved away from their screen, and an older woman took his place. Her voice was calm and gentle.
“George, this is Miss Palencia,” she began weeping. “I am your mother George.”
February 16, 2021:
George awakens suddenly in the middle of the night. He sits up in bed and listens to the quiet, gentle creaking of the house trying to determine if it was a noise in his physical surroundings that had awoken him or just thoughts in his dreams. He still wasn’t sure as he glanced at Lisa next to him in the bed, still asleep.
It was summertime and the house was warm as he slid out of bed and began checking all corners of the small structure he had constructed years ago. As he walked into the newer section of the house that he had just finished building last week, he stepped on a board that creaked loudly. He paused. He didn’t want to disturb three year old William in the adjoining room. Getting William back to sleep could prove challenging as it did so many nights. All remained silent.
Perhaps he had heard an animal, one of those land burrowing rodents that occasionally made their way in the house, but more frequently were caught ravaging Lisa’s expansive garden in the front of the house. The sightings of any other life had been slim to none in their years on the desolate planet.
Signs of the previous world could readily be found in the ruins they encountered on their near daily hikes. Their house was constructed based on photos they had found amid the rubble and images they were able to conjure up from memory of the Internet transmissions they had once found. It was sad to know that so much activity existed right on this land where they now made their home, and that the surrounding area was at one time, the epicenter for the entire planet.
George opened the front door, walked down three stairs and sat on a bench he had built the other day that he had not yet moved into the house. He turned and looked toward the right side of the house where Hendrix was docked. Small green shrubs had appeared around its base since it had been stationary for years. Half of the ship’s lights were dimly lit and could be seen through the windows. In between the ship and the house was a myriad of cords and wires connecting the two together. The solar panels and regenerative battery capabilities allowed George and Lisa to power elements in the house.
He knew the Grand Master, Miss Palencia and Jason had likely ran out of resources by now, given their concern over this four years ago. Or perhaps they had driven each other a bit crazy being confined to the small satellite the Grand Master had chosen to orbit the Earth. Either way, every time George looked toward the night sky, he wondered if one of those satellites up there was theirs. Or perhaps they had made landfall back on Earth. He could only wonder where on this large planet they would choose for their landing. Would they be close to him? Would they want to be? Would he even want them to be?
George still felt a longing to be with Miss Palencia. It was a deep desire that burned in him every day. But his desire to be with Lisa burned even deeper.
There had only been one other communications from the Grand Master’s satellite, just a week following the first one, and they again pleaded for help. Miss Palencia appeared scared while the Grand Master seemed more sincere than ever before. Jason continued to exhibit unpredictable signs alternating between warmth and hatred. They were signs no one could interpret for sure but George gathered that Jason was happiest living on his own as he had done almost his entire life.
George and Lisa discussed their options when the second transmission came through. While they cared deeply about Miss Palencia, and wanted to save her from the others, Lisa wasn’t feeling well. Their ship was in need of repairs. And they had found a beautiful expanse of land that appeared to be untouched. It was a large green pasture surrounded by tall trees that hid the smoke and haze of the aftermath of the war they now knew had consumed the entire planet. It was a large beautiful space. They could breathe normally. They could run for miles in any direction. It was bliss for all three of them now.
George heard a loud rustling in the bushes on the left side of the house; several branches snapped on the forest floor. Something was coming towards him.
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