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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Pauper's Cosmic Dream: A Science Fiction Story

Daniel Duncan had always had the dream of traveling to a distant planet. The problem was that he didn't have the type of background that fitted in with that dream. His family was dirt poor, and couldn't afford to give Daniel a fancy education. So after finishing high school, Daniel got a low paying menial job. But during the evenings and weekends, he would spend most of his time reading about astronautics and astronomy.

Daniel loved learning about the interstellar mission that was being prepared by the Society of Nations. Mankind's first starship was being built in orbit, a starship that would travel to the nearest star system. The system consisted of three stars, including Alpha Centauri B.

Daniel learned that a leader of the mission lived not far him, a man named Bill Ross. Daniel knocked on the door of Bill. He talked the man into letting him inside, claiming it was a matter of great urgency.

So tell me, what's so important?” said Bill.

It's the interstellar mission you're involved with,” said Daniel. “I've got to go on it. I've just got to.”

What happened, young man?” asked Bill. “Have you got into some kind of trouble you're trying to evade?”

No, no, it's not like that at all,” said Daniel. “It's like this – since when I was a small boy, whenever I looked up at the stars, I've felt this burning urge to find out what's up there in the sky. I've always dreamed of going on a mission to another planet.”

Ah, youthful enthusiasm,” said Bill. “If only we could bottle it. You got a resume?”

Daniel took a resume out of his pocket. Bill chuckled when looking at it.

Is this some kind of joke?” asked Bill. “Did one of my co-workers send you, just to pull my leg? This resume couldn't get you a job cleaning bathrooms on the Staten Island Ferry.”

I know, I don't have the scientific credentials,” said Daniel. “But isn't there some way I can go on the mission? I'll do anything. I've just got to get on that ship.”

Come to think of it, there might be a way,” said Bill. “We have one spot still open on the starship, but it's the worst job there is. It's a job we call 'Chore Boy.' You've got to do all the worst jobs on the ship, like collecting human feces and then extracting water from it. It doesn't require much skill, just the ability to cheerfully do some of the lowest and dullest jobs imaginable. You've also got to basically act like a kind of slave, running around the ship and fetching crew members anything they might want or need.”

I'll take it!” said Daniel, overjoyed.

So Daniel was put on the great interstellar starship, which blasted off towards the nearest star system. For ten years the ship traveled through the great interstellar void. For ten years, Daniel performed his lowly tasks. Everyone called him Chore Boy, and no one called him by his name. If a crew member wanted some food, he would call out Chore Boy, get me some food, and Daniel would have to rapidly fetch it. But Daniel didn't mind. He was fulfilling his dream of traveling to the stars.

Finally the great starship approached Alpha Centauri B. The ship's captain made an announcement.

We've detected an Earth-like planet ahead,” said the Captain. “There's only one problem. To get to it, we'll have to travel through an asteroid belt. It's going to be dangerous.”

As the starship traveled through the asteroid belt, a very small asteroid struck the ship. All of the air sucked out of the ship. All of the crew members died except for Daniel. He was the only one who had put on a spacesuit fast enough.

Daniel thought to himself: what can I do now? He didn't know how to navigate the starship.

But luckily the ship was an autopilot, so it reached orbit around the planet all by itself. Daniel knew he had to act fast. His spacesuit only had one more hour of oxygen. He knew that the starship had a landing craft designed for sending astronauts down to the planet. He went into the landing craft.

Luckily the landing craft had a computer that responded to voice commands. Daniel ordered the landing craft to blast off from the starship, and head towards the planet. The landing craft landed on the planet.

How much oxygen is left?” Daniel asked the computer.

Thirty minutes,” said the computer.

Daniel knew this was the moment of truth, He had to leave the landing craft. If the planet did not have a suitable atmosphere with lots of oxygen, he would die instantly.

Daniel opened the door to the landing craft, and took a whiff. The air smelled a little strange, but it was good breathable air. Joyfully Daniel punched the air with his fist.

Exiting the landing craft, he began walking on the surface of the planet. He walked for miles, and saw nothing but grass and some strange vegetation.

I'll probably starve to death, thought Daniel. But at least I made my dream come true.

But then he saw something in the distance, miles away, in the blueish tinge of the far horizon. At first it looked like a mountain range. But as he drew closer he saw it was not a mountain range. It was a city! The planet had intelligent life. Daniel knew that in the city ahead there would probably be water and food that would allow him to survive.

dream world

Walking towards the city, Daniel wondered what type of strange alien beings he would find in the city ahead. Daniel thought to himself: how strange that the first ambassador of the human race to another planet is me, Daniel, the lowly Chore Boy.