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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Expedition: A Science Fiction Story

I authorize an expedition to the supply center,” said Frank. “Karen and Tom will be the expedition participants.”

Can I go too?” said little Steve. “I've never even been outside our building, least not that I can remember. I'm old enough to go.”

Going on an expedition outside our building is nothing to be taken lightly,” said Frank. “If you don't suit up right, and make all the preparations just right, you may find yourself cooked like a hot dog in the microwave. It's an oven outside this building. Are you ready to face that kind of danger, little boy?”

You bet I am!” said Steve.

Okay, we'll I guess you're finally old enough for something like this,” said Frank. “I guess we can use that expedition suit that your sister first used several years ago. Let me brief you on all the steps you need to execute the expedition successfully.”

Frank retrieved what looked like a space suit.

This is your expedition suit,” said Frank. “It will keep you from dying from all that heat outside.”

I'll put it on,” said Steve.

No, that's not the first step,” said Frank. “First, you strip off your clothes and apply cooling gel all over your body. The cooling gel and the expedition suit work together to stop you from being cooked to death.”

After applying the blue cooling gel all over his body, Steve put on the expedition suit. It fit reasonably well.

So you think you're ready to go outside?” asked Frank.

Sure, I'm ready,” said Steve.

No, you're not ready!” said Frank. “You haven't put on your backpack cooling device. Without that, you'll cook to death out there.”

Frank showed how to set up the backpack cooling device. He had Karen, Tom, and Steve test the radios of the expedition suits. The radios would allow them to talk to each other over the noise of the backpack cooling unit.

So it looks like you're all suited up,” said Frank. “So are you ready to go out the building?”

Sure,” said Steve.

No, you are not!” said Frank. “You didn't make a weather check for dust storms. If one of those things hit while you're outside, it could kill you.” 

After the weather check, and after Karen, Tom and Steve were all suited up, they exited the building. They set out toward their destination a mile away. 

Steve was delighted by all the sights around him. It was a bleak landscape, but for a little boy who could never recall being outside of the building where he lived, everything he saw around him was a source of wonder.

You ever get into trouble on a trip like this?' asked Steve.

Sometimes,” said Tom. “If your expedition suit starts malfunctioning, it can be scary. You may get a sudden dust storm. If you see one of those, then you have to turn around and go back.”

After a mile of walking, they reached the supply center, and went inside.

Okay, you can take off the helmet of your suit,” said Tom. It was nice and cool inside the supply center. After gathering their supplies, Tom asked Steve what they should do before going outside again.

I guess we just have to put on our suit helmets again,” said Steve.

No, it's more complicated than that,” explained Tom. “The cooling gel we put all over our skin got used up during our 1-mile walk over. So we have to take off our expedition suits, and reapply some fresh new cooling gel before we go outside again.”

They all took off their suits, reapplied the cooling gel, and put their expedition suits back on. Before exiting the supply center, Tom had a question for Steve.

So can we go outside now?” asked Tom.

Sure,” said Steve.

No, we haven't done our suit checks yet!” said Tom. “Remember, I told you before: every time before exiting a building, you check all of the indicator lights on your expedition suit to make sure it is functioning perfectly.”

After making the suit checks, Tom asked Steve one more question.

So now are we ready to go outside?” asked Tom.

I guess so,” said Steve.

No,” said Tom. “We didn't make a weather check for approaching dust storms.”

But we already did that when we set out,” said Steve.

I know,” said Tom. “But you've got to make the weather check for dust storms both when you set out, and when you start to come back from your destination.”

After the weather check was made, Tom, Karen, and Steve exited the supply center, and began the one-mile trip back to the building where they lived. The trip back was uneventful. After returning to Frank, they took off their expedition suits, and cleaned off the remainder of the sticky cooling gel on their skin.

Congratulations, kiddo,” said Frank to Steve. “Now that you've made your first expedition outside, I guess we won't think of you as such a little kid any more.”

All that hassle, just to get some food at the grocery store,” said Tom with a sigh.

The four of them were living in Phoenix, Arizona in the southwestern United States in the year 2160. Once populated by more than a million people, the heat-scorched city now had a population of only 4,300, and all of them dressed up like astronauts when they dared to travel outside.