a fountain pen story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
For the first time in over 40 years I used a fountain pen. I wanted to see how long it would last.

Submitted: September 10, 2012

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Submitted: September 10, 2012

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A fountain pen story.

Once upon a time the human race made it to the stars. What was discovered – or better, invented – was a way to get around the problem of travelling faster than the speed of light. What did they do? They avoided it! How did they do that? I have absolutely no idea! But now, back to my story.

Once upon a time – oh, I’ve already written that, haven’t I?

Mankind went to the stars for various reasons – to find resources that could be mined and brought back to Earth where all the natural resources had already been used up; to find other planets where humans could live and multiply; and finally to make sure that if there were aliens ‘out there’, that Earth had sufficient buffer worlds to avoid a ‘heads on’ confrontation.

Selfish reasons – all of them. There were no noble purposes, no ‘discover new worlds and new lifeforms’ etc, etc. The idea of ‘boldly going where no man has gone before’ didn’t motivate any exploration or invention. If mankind had simply stayed on Earth, then the race would have died out – there were simply too many people on the planet and not enough food, water or room for all of them.

Amongst those who left Earth were engineers, miners, climatologists, ecologists, geologists, stellar cartographers and labourers – male and female. The ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ travelled together, each working for a common purpose. The goal was to find ways to prevent the extinction of the species. Admittedly the latter group didn’t actually see this goal in such lofty terms – they were only concerned in preventing their own lives from becoming ‘extinct’, but I think you can see that all those who left Earth were positively motivated and so worked well with and for each other.

As the years passed and more groups left Earth, the fields of exploration grew to such an extent that ships were made to carry not only the crew, but their children and children’s children. They were hard years, and not a few ships simply disappeared never to be heard from again.

The people of Earth knew that space exploration was dangerous, but they were losing patience. Although there had been no war for over 100 years, the ability to survive was still only possible for the fittest. And the fittest were those in power, those with gifts, talents or abilities worth preserving or using, and those who could beat others into submission. And this last group was gaining influence and control on all continents.

Those ‘in power’ saw the signs of the times for what they were – the beginning of an age of barbarism that would ultimately destroy the human civilization that had taken 1000s of years to mature. So, because they feared this future and believed nothing could prevent its occurrence, they developed giant floating cities that could not be so easily attacked and fled to them. Only people who were in some way valuable could live there.

Barbarism on the continents expanded rapidly as a result. Civil order disappeared when the last police and defence personell were removed to the floating cities. From the billions that had inhabited the planet only 5 or 6 million would survive the carnage of that time. The survivors were in many respects unrecognizable as member of the same species that had produced such figures as da Vinci, Edison or Plato. The survivors had no education or medical knowledge – they lived in the ruins of the old Earth cities, replaced cars and trucks with horses and slave labour and retreated into a world of savagery. The floating cities that occasionally flew over the continents became legendary places where the gods dwelt and where the worthy might go – one day.

Those living in the mighty floating cities watched the devolution that was taking place on the planet with an incredible sense of loss. It was a tragedy of immeasurable proportions.

The leaders who had been the first to leave the surface were long gone and had been replaced by a race of humans very concerned with the preservation of all that was good in Mankind.

Finally, on a day like any other, a ship returned to its planet of birth. Communications with the floating cities had been in operation from the first, so all ships that still communicated with Earth knew of the division within the race.

This ship had found another Earth-like planet! It was without any advanced life forms and could be colonized as soon as the colony ship could be made ready. The technology was ready – but were the colonists?

The floating cities’ (FC for short) inhabitants knew their own limitations and that they had also in a sense ‘devolved’ to a point where such physical trials and challenges were now beyond them.

And the barbarians were, of course, too barbaric! What to do …

Then there came a cry: Reunite the race! Take the best of both and recreate the human species! Mankind is bold, strong and wise! This is what must colonize the galaxy!

The triumph and hope that emanated with these words spurred the people on to achieve the dream. DNA from both branches of humanity were brought together and formed new entities with the best of both coming to the fore. In the hearts of the makers was the prayer that the evil and callous disregard for life would not reappear in future generations – humanity had to improve and evolve into a better species.

The space ship built for the colonists wasn’t designed to take more than a small compliment of people – most of the colonists would be born on the new world after spending the voyage as a collection of cells on a petri dish in a freezer. The colonists would have no memories of Earth or of the last millenia which had seen humanity’s fall. The colonists would only have the future and that which the educational computers would give them. Amongst the advanced technology would also be robotic companions – nurses, mothers, technicians, builders – all necessary to establish a community for the new mankind. When the first generation would reach maturity, then the robots would all cease to function. Not on the one day, of course, but over a period of 1 year. The colonists would then need to fend for themselves – no matter what might happen.

To reduce the time the journey would take, the FC scientists had developed a booster system that would reduce the journey’s time by more than one half. The boosters had been tested, but the results had not been processed as yet and wouldn’t be completely understood till long after the colony ship had left Earth’s solar system.

In spite of this, optimism remained high and no-one foresaw any problems.

The ship departed and the people of Earth gave it their blessings. No other ship ever returned to Earth. The inhabitants of the floating cities recognized that the human race on the planet Earth was now coming to an end.

Some 50 years later the Floating Cities were slowly falling to the earth. The barbarians of the planet believed that the conquest of these marvels would result in all the magic of these places becoming their inheritance. Greed guided their choices and when finally the cities came to rest on the continents around the world, the barbarians were ready to fight and kill all who emerged from these magical places.

But none appeared.

Again greed conquered fear (or better judgement) and the barbarians entered the cities, seeking out enemies and booty. Many found food lockers filled with rotten foodstuffs, libraries of books and recordings that they couldn’t read, vehicles that they couldn’t drive and many dead bodies. Greed turned to anger and soon the first fire was started. Some of the more intelligent tried to stop the mayhem but were killed outright. Everything that could be torn to pieces was destroyed and even the corpses were trampled underfoot.

The fires spread rapidly, as if the cities had been waiting for this event. When the cities were fully enveloped by flame and the smoke of the burning could be seen some 100 kilometers away, then occurred that which the FC inhabitants had determined: a plague was released to destroy all humanity left on the planet.

Every burning city – and they were all burning – released a plague. Not the same plague, but different strands so that no immunity from one form would save any one or any community.

The plagues encompassed the globe and the stench of rotting flesh reached the furthest and most hidden places on the planet. And wherever the stench was, there also was death.

Only 10 years later all humanity on the face of the planet was gone. No child, scientist, brute, teacher, no leader or slave, no saint or sinner was left alive.

Another 10 years and the plagues had been eradicated from Earth’s ecology. Were a human to set foot on the planet, he would now continue to live and thrive.

When did the next human set foot on Mankind’s birth planet? The time was practically immeasurable and then the being that saw the planet didn’t look anything like his ancestors. – But that is another story.

What happened to those embryos – the hope of that earlier mankind? Well, as is the way with such things, the ship never found that planet to colonize. The modifications to the ship resulted in a form of transport that transferred the ship and all its occupants not to another solar system, but rather to another galaxy!

The ship hadn’t been travelling for more than a week when the new engines died. The flight crew initially believed that they had arrived at their planned destination but after checking for expected stars and constellations, they realized they were somewhere else entirely.

When they looked out the ship’s portholes they saw what no man had ever seen before: within the blackness of space was a giant ‘cloud’ of soft light. Within this light were planets and more distant points that probably hinted at suns and more planets. But what worried the crew was what was also clearly visible; close to their ship were several space vessels that definitely were not of Earthern design.

The space ship from Earth had no weapons – unless one could call the robots weapons - so they had no way to defend themselves.They also didn’t have any linguists, as Earth had had only one language for over 200 years, so they didn't have any means of communication, either.

Were these aliens a threat – would they help the Earthlings – what could they expect? The crew decided that they would simply wait for a response from the aliens – I mean, what else cold they do?

They waited 2 days. The alien space ships hadn’t moved, there had been no communication from them, but there had also been no attack.

The crew decided to be bold. Really, they had no choice, the Earth ship was now worthless as a means of transport. To save mankind the crew had to go on the offensive.

It took them the better part of a week, but they managed to inch their ship closer to one of the alien vessels. One of the crew ‘suited up’ and went for a space walk over to the other vessels to see what could be seen. The vessel he approached seemed to be intact, there were lights visible through several of the portholes and there was a hatch that looked like it could easily be opened.

The crew member reported to his ship, took a deep breath and tried the hatch. It opened easily. The man’s fear grew – it was all going too easily – was it a trap? He shook his head in an attempt to throw off these nightmarish thoughts and entered the alien vessel.

As he closed the hatch, he heard a hissing noise and knew that the vacuum of space was being replaced by whatever gas the aliens breathed. The man was still fearful of what lay ahead, but he continued further into the alien craft.

He opened the interior door a fraction and stuck his helmeted head through the opening to see what could be seen. No-one was about and all he saw was an empty corridor about 50 meters in length. He ‘boldly went where no man had gone before’ and stepped out into the corridor, closing the interior air lock door behind him.

He knew that his life might only consist of a few more minutes, so he reported back to his ship that he would leave his communicator on, so that whatever happened the ship could respond appropriately.

He tried several of the doors along the passageway – all but one were locked.

The unlocked door revealed what lookedlike someone’s bedroom – large board (maybe 1 x 2 meters) floated about ½ meter above the floor, a very ordinary-looking mirror hung at just the right height for the man to see a scared, sweaty helmeted face staring back at him, and a bulge in a wall when touched revealed a cupboard full of clothes and footwear. The amazing thing here was that the clothing was designed for a humanoid – 2 legs, 2 arms and a space on top where – presumably – a neck and head would be. The footwear was almost primitive – sole with straps that were threaded through the 5cm thick sole and with the strap ends so long that any sized foot could be strapped into the footwear.

The man knew that it was ‘now or never’ – he would have to try the atmosphere. According to his suit’s readings, the atmosphere was breathable, and he had to preserved the suit’s air supply for the return ‘walk’ – he had no choice. Off came the helmet. He held his breath as long as he could and then he did what all astronauts fear, he breathed alien air. He didn’t die. He felt giddy with relief. He spoke to his ship’s crew – quietly, of course – just in case there were aliens nearby.

But that was enough to alert the interior mechanisms of the vessel. A piercing whistle broke the silence of the corridor and almost caused the man to wet himself. But he managed to keep his composure and decided to stay in the bedroom crouching behind the bed. Here he would wait for whatever or whoever would come through the doorway.

No-one came. And after 30 minutes the whistle stopped. He opened the door to the hallway. Then he heard several clicks. All the other doors along the corridor simultaneously opened. He feared an attack from all sides, but none came. The doors revealed other bedrooms identical to the one he had examined. And they were just as empty.

Again he summoned his courage and walked down the full length of the corridor and opened the last door at the corridor’s end. A small room with 20 buttons along one wall told him what this was, and he took the lift to the top floor which he christened ‘The Penthouse’. It turned out to be the bridge of the vessel – the command centre. And again no-one was there. All the lights were on, the computers were operating, the air was filtered and warm, but there was no-one home.

His crew told him to make his way back. They had to think about this situation before deciding how to proceed. He replied that he would be grateful to be back on board a ship with other people, even though the Earthship was small and cramped in comparison to this very alien – and very comfortable – vessel.

He started for the elevator when he heard a sound. It sounded like someone was clearing their throat, but because it was the first organic sound he had heard on the ship, he again feared for his life.

With a trembling voice he called out: ‘Who’s there? I’m unarmed. We’re looking for help. Is anyone there?’

The throat was cleared again and then a voice spoke: ‘This is the space vessel Versor. You are hearing the voice of the main computer. Versor has been sent here to provide you, your crew and your precious cargo with a sure transport to Hakler, the planet prepared for you for colonization. All further details will be sent to your ship’s computers. Please stand ready for transportation.’

With that the voice ceased and the man from Earth disappeared – literally! Only to reappear on his own ship on his own bed!

It would be an understatement to say that for the following days a crazy sense of fear, hope, helplessness, joy and worry motivated the long talks and studies of the vessel’s ‘details’. Finally the crew accepted what had been obvious from the beginning: they would have to transfer over to the Versor.

As soon as the decision was made, Versor transported every being, every item of clothing, food, medicine, every robot, computer program and information, every terrestrial vehicle, tool, container of fuel, and every fridge with embryos on board and into the places prepared for them.

As Versor began accelerating away from that place, the last remnants of mankind watched the dwindling image of the Earth ship until it could no longer be seen. The final link to old Earth was broken.

Well now.

This ‘once upon a time’ story has reached a climax and an ending. Of course the humans have many more adventures, the colonists many obstacles to surmount, but this story is over.

The remnants of mankind became the fathers and mothers of a totally new, distinct race, with only the memory of where Earth is located in the universe being the link to their past.

I can’t say that they ‘lived happily ever after’: they didn’t live forever and they most definitely weren’t always happy, but the result of the their struggles and triumphs was the creation of an empire that encompassed one galaxy and stretched to others as well.

Unfortunately war didn’t remain a thing of the past; the empire went through times of barbarism and savagery, through self-destruction and mass psychotic hysteria, but it always managed to outlive these times and emerge stronger, better and more hopeful.

When finally the species shook off the confines of the mortal body, strength, hope and unity through mutual respect and love had become the identifying characteristics of the race. Early mankind’s hopes had been achieved.

--

What is wrong with this story?

The entire premise!

Mankind is not far-sighted. It will not spend trillions of dollars (or any other currency) on the possibility that maybe, somewhere, a place might be found that might benefit mankind.

Humanity is not essentially humane but rather the savage has always remained just below the skin. - Scratch a saint, and you will find a devil.

Mankind is not essentially good – in fact it is exceptionally selfish and very, very short-sighted. This story was an example of a very short-sighted writer.

I sincerely hope that mankind will never reach the stars – it would be devastating. You only have to look at what the Spanish did in South America and what the British did to their colonies to know what would happen in the galaxy.

Why did I write the story, then? Well, actually, I had bought a new fountain pen and wanted to see how long the ink cartridge would last. Well, I said we were a selfish, ego-centric race, didn’t I?

(By the way, the ink cartridge is still not empty.)


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