DECEMBER 20, 6891 AD
Ramen Longwind sighed as his ship crashed to the Earth in the simulation. This was his twelfth attempt, and he could only fail one more time before he was rejected as Ship’s Pilot in the evacuation ship line up. He was fifteenth in line to fly the only ship left in the fleet of forty. They were massive saucer shaped ships. Each had been tested by pilots who’d breezed through the simulations within five tries. He could see them through the tall narrow window next to his simulation station. They hovered in the air, one above another, waiting for the day the humans would escape from their home before annihilation.
In less than a year those ships would depart New Angeles and fly to various locations all over the globe to be boarded. Only six million people would make it off the Earth to safety on those ships. That was only a quarter of the two hundred, forty billion people that called Earth home. He shuddered when he thought of all the people that would be left behind to die. In truth the entire idea of the world exploding from the core made him sick to his stomach.
He handed his computer prism to the five foot tall silver and black android with the blue and white breastplate of NA Space Center. There were three hundred of these androids stationed at NA Space Center. Ramen wasn't sure why the constables didn't insist that the androids fly the evacuation ships. He supposed it was because of the solar power intakes. No sunlight could be found on a ship.
"Training Pilot Ramen Longwind, simulations station twenty-five Alpha," the android said after inserting the prism in its arm. "Simulation twelve. Simulation station twenty-five Alpha reports failure to navigate. You have one chance left, Training Pilot Ramen Longwind. Your next scheduled simulation test is set for Friday, December thirty."
"Thank you," Ramen said with a controlled voice. He waited for the android to walk away before he sighed. He had to pass the final test. He thought about it as he left the building to meet Toz.
Toz Saunders was Ramen’s best friend. Ramen was happy for his friend, but he was also a little jealous. Toz’s family had been pre-selected for planet evacuation. Toz’s mother, Viv, was one of the world’s foremost anthropologists. His father, Davin, was considered the leader in genetic research and interspecies genetics. The girl that Ramen loved with all of his heart was Toz’s twin sister, Manda. The Saunders family was like his very own extended family. He loved each and every one of them, and he was happy that they wouldn't be left behind to die when the breach occurred.
But if he didn't get a spot on an evacuation ship his family, his real family, would be left behind to die. This was their only chance. He had to pass the simulation. He didn't have to be named pilot to be given a cabin aboard one of the huge ships. He only needed to be able to fly it if anything went wrong with the pilot. He had to pass the simulation test. He had to.
"So how'd you do?" Toz asked as Ramen exited the Space Center. He grinned excitedly at his friend, absently raking a hand through his dark hair.
"I crashed and burned," replied Ramen with a sigh. "Like always."
"You need more practice," insisted Toz. "Come to my house tonight and we'll use my dad's simulator again."
"Thanks, Toz," Ramen said, perking up at the thought. "Will Manda be there?"
"Ha!" laughed Toz. "No. She'll be out with Laken I'm sure."
"Well how long will your dad let us use the simulator?"
"As long as we need," replied Toz. "Trust me, Ray. We'll have you flight ready before your final test."
* * *
The two young men headed for the transport vehicles laughing and shoving each other playfully. The sight of the two dark haired young men's playful banter as they walked through the lot wasn't unnoticed. To some it was a sad sight; a vision of what was about to be lost. For others it was comforting and confusing at the same time. For how could anything be wrong with the world when two healthy and happy young men were having such a relaxed and easy time? For the people who found comfort it took only the nearly constant rumbling of the earth beneath their feet to remind them that the time was coming when all would be lost.
The rumbling began ten short months after the geologists began to dig into the Earth's crust to find a new power source to keep the constantly growing population living in a world where technology ruled. Fleets of cybernetic androids walked the Earth, and their creation had nearly drained the world of the precious fuel they'd come to depend on once the oil was gone. Of course now that they needed a new power source the androids had been refitted with solar intakes to keep them going.
The androids were designed to make life easier for everyone. What they had done was doom the world. Most still accepted the help the androids offered, but a lot of people blamed them for the catastrophic end that was fast approaching. For Petar Mellard the androids were a personal failure. He'd designed them. It was his mind that had conceived of the prototype and it's hateful power draining body. It was from his prototype that the scores of Mark I Droids were fashioned. He was responsible for murdering the Earth.
Petar Mellard lived alone on the two hundredth floor of the Nokatomi Tower. The Tower had two thousand apartments and stood four hundred stories tall. It was constructed just across the transport way from NA Space Center. From his balcony, Petar watched Ramen and Toz's playful trek through the transport lot until they reached the black transport vehicle with the Saunders Family crest emblazoned on the doors. The pair disappeared inside the vehicle and Petar watched it pull away, programmed for the Saunders Tower no doubt.
Petar sat on the board of New Angeles Constables with Davin Saunders. Davin was one of the few people who treated Petar with any respect. Most called him the father of death and destruction. Davin was different. Perhaps that was why the sight of Toz Saunders walking through the rumbling transport lot made Petar so sad and angry. It was hard to watch, knowing that because of his creations the world had roughly ten months to live.
Petar had been pre-selected to leave Earth on one of the massive evacuation ships. Earth Stars, as they were called by the constables, wouldn't save the world's entire population. Women and children would not go first this time like they had in every other catastrophic event. No, this time it would be the most important of the world's society that survived, and Petar Mellard was thought to be one of the most important men in the world. He didn't understand why they'd pre-selected him for evacuation when he was responsible for the very event that was forcing the evacuation in the first place.
He sat in his lounge chair on the balcony and watched the lot of NA Space Center even after the Saunders Transport Vehicle had left the lot. He began to wonder what would be said about his brains scattered across that lot. Would a transport vehicle break his fall? Would his droid try to stop him? That was the thought that gave him pause. The droids operated on one basic law of existence. Protect and serve all human beings was the law of the droid existence. Petar was sure that law would prevent Tashi, his droid, from letting him heave himself over the railing of his balcony.
* * *
On the top floor of the Saunders Tower, Toz and Ramen were going through the simulation without a clue of the suicide that was being planned back at NA Space Center. Their laughter was replaced by determination, but they were blissfully unaware. Both men knew who Petar Mellard was. Toz's father spoke highly of him every time the man's name made the news circuits. Ramen's mother had worked for Mellard International for twenty years and thought Petar was a great man and fair boss. Ramen wasn't sure what he thought of Mellard. He knew that a lot of people blamed him for what was happening, but Ramen blamed the geologists that had breached the core for what was coming. Sure Mellard had his hand in it as well, but was what he did really as bad as what they had done?
"All right," Toz said, pulling Ramen out of his thoughts about Mellard and geologists. "I'm about to program the simulation."
"It's a good thing your dad has the program in his computer," Ramen replied.
"Ready?" Toz asked, tapping away at the console.
"All set," replied Ramen. "Fire away."
And then he was watching the screen carefully. He saw the earth below him and the controls on the console in front of him. He checked his information banks and made careful corrections for trajectory and hover. He held his breath and carefully ran his finger down the strip on the console that would make the ship rise higher until it left the atmosphere. So far so good, he thought as the ship climbed higher and higher. The ascent was never his problem. It was leveling the ship for forward flight that got him in trouble. When the console informed him that critical mass had been reached he programmed the board for the first jump and each time he was off by a few points on one thing or another. He had to get it together this time.
* * *
"This is an all constable alert," said the android when Davin opened the door. He was expecting a package, and droids usually delivered all packaged correspondences. This droid had no package, but it had the red and gold breast plate of the Law Enforcement Division. "Please state your name and serial number."
"Davin Saunders, Science Officer zero five zero five alpha three six eight one," replied Davin, wondering what the constable's office was sending an alert for.
"Officer Davin Saunders, you are required to report to New Angeles Constable Tower," said the android. "My instructions are to wait for you and accompany you to the tower post haste."
"I'll be just a moment," he said, turning away from the android to get his briefcase.
"You must comply without delay, Officer Davin Saunders," said the android.
"Of course," he replied, grabbing his case. "Lead the way, please."
He followed the android to the lift and they descended to the transport garage without speaking. Once in the transport vehicle and out of the garage, Davin was shocked to see the city in turmoil. People were fighting in the streets. Androids were trying to peacefully resolve the fighting without success. Windows were smashed and transport vehicles were in flames. Davin was reminded of the photographs of war he'd seen on his computer. War wasn't something that the world engaged in anymore, but that's what the streets of New Angeles reminded him of.
Then he noticed the rumbling. It had been happening so much that it was almost unnoticeable in the towers or the transport vehicles. For him to notice it so quickly it had to be worse than before. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach as watched the destruction going on in the streets. He only hoped that Manda and Laken were safe.
There was pandemonium at the NA Space Center. People were gathered around a spot in front of the Nokatomi Tower. As the transport vehicle drew closer Davin saw that someone had either jumped or been thrown from one of the towers many balconies. He asked the android if it knew who the victim was and was shocked at the response.
"Creator Petar Mellard," replied the android. "Suicide, termination of life, death."
When the transport vehicle stopped in front of the space center entrance a fleet of androids walked to the vehicle. They told him that he was being protected. He followed them inside where a sea of people were waiting in rows of chairs. They had suitcases with them, and Davin wondered what was going on.
"Officer Saunders," said the chief space officer when Davin had been escorted to his office. "I'm afraid that our timetable was wrong. We have to begin evacuation."
"So soon?" he asked, staggered. "What about my wife and children?"
"Your daughter and her mother are already here," replied Officer Danvers. "We've sent a transport for your son as well. It was important that you get here first."
"Why couldn't my son ride with me?" he asked.
"There simply wasn't time to wait for him," replied Danvers. The gray haired man sighed as he sat down behind his desk. "In twenty-four hours all of the evacuation ships will be in space. Saunders, in thirty-six hours Earth will be a memory."
"But the timetable," he stammered. He couldn't believe it was coming so soon. They'd been told they had nearly a year to prepare.
"We were wrong, Davin," said Danvers. "A plate shifted in just the right way and now we're certain we only have thirty-six hours to evacuate."
"Is that enough time?"
"All but one of the evacuation ships has left NA Space Center, Davin," said Danvers. "I imagine the crowd captured your attention."
* * *
"Toz Saunders," said the android when Toz answered the door with Ramen right beside him. "You must come with me to board the evacuation ship. This is not a drill, Toz Sanders."
"What about Ramen Longwind?" Toz asked instead of trivial questions. The boys had heard the announcement on the news circuits. The time for asking questions was over.
"Ramen Longwind failed his simulation test," replied the android.
"But he passed upstairs just ten minutes ago!" cried Toz. "I have the prism here."
He handed the prism to the android and waited while it was read. Ramen was holding his breath. If they had to evacuate now that meant there wasn't much time. He had to get the android to pick up his mother. She had to be on the evacuation ship. His sister was already at NA Space Center. She worked there. He could find her there.
"Ramen Longwind, you must come with me at once to be certified," said the android.
"We have to get my mother," Ramen said quickly.
"We have no time, Ramen Longwind," said the android. "Another android will be dispatched to retrieve Annon Longwind. Come, Ramen Longwind and Toz Saunders. We must go at once."
The boys didn't argue. They followed the android to the garage and got inside the transport vehicle. They didn't comment on the destruction that was happening outside the tower. They were both scared and could only think of their families. Earth was about to be annihilated.
* * *
Things happened quickly. Ramen was certified and ushered onto the ship without Toz. He didn't know where his mother or sister were. An android took him to a cabin aboard the ship. Seeing the inside of the simulator had done nothing to prepare Ramen for the massive ship. It looked like the inside of any of the towers in the city. There were doors and simulated windows everywhere. He couldn't believe it.
"Ramen!" cried his sister when he was inside the cabin.
"Laken!" he cried, wrapping his arms around her. "Where's Mother?"
"I don't know," she said. "I was so scared, Ramen. I thought I was the only one to make it. We were only selected a few minutes ago!"
"I was certified a few minutes ago," he said quickly. "I passed my simulation test."
"Thank the heavens," she said, hugging him again.
"She'll be here, Ramen," said Laken. "But what about Toz? Weren't you with him?"
"They took him to his family," he replied as the news circuit monitor lit up. "They'll be aboard soon."
"ATTENTION CITIZENS," the computer announced. "PREPARE FOR DEPARTURE."
"We're taking off?" cried Laken, looking at him with wide eyes. "What about Mother?"
"RAMEN LONGWIND REPORT TO THE BRIDGE," came the voice again.
"Ramen, you have to go," said Laken. Tears fell from her eyes.
"I'll find her, Laken," he said, hugging her before he left.
An android was waiting outside his cabin to take him to the bridge. He asked the android about his mother, but there was no information. All the droid told him was that people were still being boarded. Ramen hoped his mother was among them. He was so worried about his mother that he almost didn't notice Toz standing outside a door to one of the cabins.
"Ramen!" cried Toz, getting his attention. "We're leaving?"
"I guess so," replied Ramen. "I have to find my mother."
"I'm sure she's on board, Ramen," said Toz. "She was with my father in Danvers's office."
"Thank the heavens!" cried Ramen as the android tugged at his shirt to get him moving again.
They reached the bridge and Ramen was told to take the secondary pilot station. He sat at the console and noticed that unlike the primary console his didn't have controls. All he had was information. He was fine with that. He was in no shape to fly at that point. As soon as he was strapped in he heard the news circuit computer's voice again.
"ATTENTION BOARDING CITIZENS. PLEASE REPORT TO YOUR CABINS OR STATIONS AND PREPARE FOR DEPARTURE. DEPARTURE IN SIXTY MINUTES. THANK YOU."
Ramen listened to the bridge crew calling off checklists as he waited for departure. His job was to monitor the information bank and let them know if there were any problems. He had green lights across the board and told them so when they asked. It was happening. They were leaving Earth behind.
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