|Authors:||Jeffrey C. Jacobs|
Humanity, I've had enough! I've put up with you for a Milankovitch cycle now and quite frankly, you remind me of those sail-backed pests I got rid of back when I had four percent more of that Uranium two thirty-eight stuff. Don't believe me? Well, those stupid blue-green microbes had that attitude. Just like you humans they were polluting my atmosphere with chemicals. Oxygen indeed! I sent them a similar message and you know that they told me? They had the temerity to actually tell *me* to go to get bent! Said they'd curb their ways when hell froze over. I showed them. Covered myself in ice I did. So let this be your wake up call. I've tried calling up one of my asteroid nephews, I've tried covering continents in lava, sucking my oceans into polar caps and even removing the oxygen from my seas. This time, though, I'm taking a hostage, and that's you! So listen up humanity and listen up good. You're now my prisoner and unless you figure out a way to take your sorry ass elsewhere I'm gonna smote you and smote you good! Let this be your warning. I give you 365 years to come up with some way of escape or else. Sincerely, Gaia, Third Planet from Sol.
At first, the people of Earth didn't understand. It was a message encoded in their DNA, in everyone's DNA. And yet, when they searched the tissues of the long dead, they never found it. It was as if it had suddenly appeared and now everyone alive had it. It didn't encode for anything the bio-chemists could discern and they just thought it was new junk DNA. The geneticists thought it was epigenetics but couldn't find either a gene it activated or one that it suppressed.
Eventually the cryptographers threw the series of As, Cs, Gs and Ts into various decryption algorithms. It was a Harvard graduate student from Senegal though that finally deciphered the genetic message. At first he was ridiculed and no-one believed him. And they took his eventual suicide a year later as proof. But then others tested his methods and came to the same conclusion. The Earth had given us an ultimatum, and it had been 31 years since it's initial discovery. Time was wasting!
The governments of the world bickered. The conservative ones said it would cost too much. The liberal ones said we didn't know how. In the end, it was the third generation CEO of the Motorport Industries that put up the money for the first colony ship. After all, the Hubert family was the richest in the world, richer than most nations, all thanks to there non-addictive pleasure drug, Orgasma.
The first refugees were sent to live among the prisoners and astrophysicists of the Moon. The Moon was, after all, well developed by the aspiring nations and was the perfect place to call a new home, if your idea of home was a six by six jail cell or an equally luxurious astronomer's pallet on the dark side of the Earth's only major, natural satellite. But the new inhabitants made due and soon the Moon became as gentrified as Australia.
By contrast, life on Mars was hard for the first pioneers. They came to prefabricated domes which had been build by a fleet of robots which preceded them. They grew genetically engineered crops which thrived in the acidic Martian soil. And soon more came. Domes sprung up everywhere, from the icy poles to the dusty equator.
Eventually, the terraforming began. They couldn't figure out how to protect it with a magnetic shield like Earth but they generated a new atmosphere, full of Oxygen and Nitrogen, just like back home. People left their domes and walked on Martian soil, breathing the fresh Martian air. It was getting crowded, but fortunately that wasn't the only place humanity subdued.
They had started on Ceres around the seventy-seventh year of the message. Then Pallas and Vesta a few years later. They couldn't get those asteroids to hold an atmosphere so they just wrapped the entire celestial body in a contoured shell. They mined the asteroids for minerals and eventually were even able to plant crops. The highest high jump ever recorded was recorded when they held the Olympics on Ceres.
Europa, Ganymede and Callisto were next. They didn't bother with Io―they said it was too volcanic. They found the surfaces of these moons too hostile and prone to Jovian radiation, so they cracked their icy surfaces and created sea colonies that lived off geothermal energy generated by the tidal forces created by Jupiter's massive gravity. Much as they'd hoped and tried in a series of robotic missions to prove, they never found even microbial life in those anoxic waters. They even considered Titan but the robots just couldn't get the place warm enough for humanity's needs.
Cloud City though became their capital. Miles above the scorching Venusian surface lay a fleet of floating pallets. Humanity may not yet have reached the ability to construct a Dyson's Sphere and become a Level Two society, but they were well on their way to Level One. They had painted the lower surfaces of their levitating platforms jet black to absorb the energy from the lead-melting surface and use that heat to power their hovering stabilizers. And the upper surface of the habitable shell was covered in Mylar to reflect the radiant solar energy. Eventually, the whole atmosphere of the planet was covered with these rafts. The planet was beginning to cool, but not in time for all of humanity to escape―they had only one hundred and sixty-six years left.
By the time Mercury One was established in the rim of a crater on that rocky world, the first generation ships were already on their way to distant stars. Each ship carried a billion people and the knowledge of 10,000 years, all in compact storage and Petri dishes full of genetic material. Of all the various planets found by telescopes from Parinal and Kepler to Lunar Seven over the past few centuries had yielded up to 300 new, potential homes for humanity in the extrasolar void. The ships sailed on, alone and voiceless, only to land hundreds of thousands of years hence.
When the time finally came, humanity numbered less than 10,000 on its former home. Those that remained determined to die with their planetary mother. They couldn't be budged. They devolved, becoming barbaric, loosing much of their rich and robust language. They fought with simple tools, and hunted wild game. Their gracile humanity had left them; they were savages. Not quite animal yet, but rapidly they approached just another species on Earth in just a couple generation.
It was a week after the Vernal Equinox when they saw it through the telescopes at Aphrodite, Cloud City. Etched upon the surface of the blue-green marble they'd once called home in every language man still spoke. She taunted them with those 2 words, but by then they didn't care―it was Gaia who really played the fool.