The first chapter

id: 523

If this were simply a book about climate change I suppose it might work but climate change has already happened and humanity is facing extinction.  I suppose some people might still believe we have a chance, but it’s slim.

Nina put down the tablet and read what she had just written. She had decided to document what they were about to do but she didn’t know if she could write the whole book – any book for that matter. Then she thought about who would read the book and she knew that she would never know any of the readers.

She thought about how quickly climate change had overtaken the population. It was a tsunami which had engulfed Hong Kong and then almost immediately after that there was an unexpected but massive earthquake in Antarctica and that changed everything. The seas rose, not by the five metres or so that would have happened if Antarctica had completely melted, but enough, yes enough.

Nina was born Russian in Saint Petersburg, but the family had left the country soon after she was born. She was a good microbiologist, in fact it turned out that she was brilliant. She had lived most of her life in England. Life had been hard when they first came to England and she’d had to do lots just to get by. She didn’t tend to think about that period in her life too much any more. Now it didn’t seem to matter where she was,  a bunker somewhere but location didn’t matter.

No country could cope. The disasters came too quickly. Within six months, countries had broken down. then someone had set off a nuclear weapon. Not a country because countries didn’t exist  by then, but some sort of military and of course someone hit back. A small nuclear war had started although why people were bombing didn’t seem to matter.

Then a sort of peace, but the World was in ruins and the climate was dangerous. Most people, those that still lived, were simply struggling for existence.

And then there were people like her. She’d been prepared to give up. Nothing seemed worth it anymore. But then I suppose the right way to put it was that she been approached. A man a little older than her had spoken to her when she was on her own. Something about him made her believe him right away. He might have been a priest, although she was sure he wasn’t.

The thing is, he had a plan.

She thought at first that he’d have some sophisticated transport but he just walked and walked and walked. They walked into the countryside where there were no people and then they walked towards the hills. The journey took days but luckily they had enough to eat. He had a small backpack filled with useful things and of course food.

They reached the hills and were walking towards some rocks. Then they were in the bunker and she wasn’t quite sure how she had got there.

She was rather amazed that she trusted her recent companion almost implicitly. She never trusted anyone like that, before now at least. His name was Anthony although he seemed to prefer being called the shortened version, Tony. He had a definite mystery about a lot of his life, not that he talked much anyway.

She thought back to his first approach. He’d known immediately that she was a microbiologist, even though nothing she was doing then had hinted at that. Before she had a chance to ask him how he knew, he was explaining that he’d done some research.

She recalled that conversation almost as if she was there now.

“I get to know all my targets intimately before they are aware of me. Some of them never get approached. It’s easier that way.” Tony spoke calmly. In different circumstances what he’d said would have been wrong and intimidating but things had changed so much in the last year.

“So what do you want?” Nina couldn’t think of anything that she would be good for now.

But Tony had explained, and now in all seemed to make some sort of sense. He’d started with a question. “What is the distance to the first star other than our own that might have a habitable planet?”

Nina had just looked at him blankly. She had no idea of the things in the universe. She wasn’t even sure she could name all the planets in her solar system, and certainly not in the correct order. Earth of course, and there was Mars and Venus but then she was struggling. Mentally she listed them all in her head. She got to nine, including Earth, but the order? Screw that.

Tony seemed to be amused by something. “It’s eight or nine planets it depends what you think of Pluto these days, if you think anything at all of course.” Then he laughed, a genuine honest laugh.

“How did you know I was thinking about the planets?I never said anything.” Nina was mystified.

“You may not have said anything but you were silently mouthing the planets and I think you got the order correct too. Anyway the nearest star that might have a habitable planet is actually our closest star, Alpha Centauri, and it’s about 4.3 light years away. A light year is a vast distance, the distance light can travel in a year.

“If we travelled at even 15% of the speed of light, which is faster at the moment than a human vessel has ever been, it would take about 30 years to reach that star.

“The thing is none of the distances or speeds matter. We’ve only ever traveled in 50 years to our own moon. We can’t get there.”

“So why are you telling me all this then?” Nina was confused but somehow intrigued.

“We can launch a craft but it will be something else. At one time we were here.”

Tony looked at her, perhaps wondering how long it would be before she figured it out. He perhaps thought she needed a clue so he added “you’re a microbiologist, what do we need you for?”

Tony waited for some comprehension in Nina’s face and then went on “we are going to export life, or at least try to. Not living humans, we can’t do that, but small things that if someday they reach the right planet, wherever that is, may be the thing that starts life again. So we need you.”

“So we never actually know if I mission is successful. Is there another catch?” Nina questioned but didn’t care about the answer.

“Well we don’t actually have a rocket at the moment. But we know where we can get one. And we already have another scientist. He says he will be able to tweak DNAs of anything we send to make it a bit better.”