The Presentation

Submitted into Contest #47 in response to: Suitcase in hand, you head to the station.... view prompt

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Adventure Drama Science Fiction

 

Suitcase in hand, you head to the station. All your possessions are inside that leather box with a handle - all the possessions that you care about, anyway. You’re going to war.

Ever since you were little, you wanted to fly, dreaming of building your own spaceship that could take you to the stars. Now, you’re all grown up. You’re finally ready, your whole life building up to this. Now you’ve got a plan, an idea. And now the fight begins to make that idea a reality.

It feels liberating, as well as daunting, to hold your whole life’s work in your hands. Everything about you, decades of work, and dedication, all boiled down to a simple design printed on paper - done the old fashioned way. Sure, you have many virtual copies stored on flash drives, on the cloud, and even in the TerraNet, but carrying a physical copy gives you a firm sense that this is real. You have done it. 

As you hand over the ticket to the terminal clerk, your mind reminds you of all the people that have helped you along the way. Your friends and family, your spouse and children, colleagues at work, your team of professionals and advisors, your brainstorming group, the physicists, astronomers, engineers, designers, psychologists, biologists, people with a lifetime of experience in their respective field, and your production and testing team, tasked with the grunt work, translating your ideas into concrete manifestations. 

As you nod in thanks to the station clerk for punching your ticket, you nod to all those people on whose shoulders you stand. The feeling is both humbling as well as frightening. You cannot afford to fail, not with so many looking up to you. Not with your dreams on the line.

As you board the spaceship, the flight attendant asks you if they can take your suitcase and store it in the storage compartment. You shake your head. There is no way in hell that you would part with that suitcase and its contents. You’d rather die.

The attendant backs off, surprised by your reaction and you once again immerse yourself in your thoughts. You go over the details of your plans for the millionth time, searching for anything you might have missed. You know it’s just nerves, that you should try and relax, but you can’t. This is too important to be impassive about it. This is not only your life’s work, this is very much the work of all of humanity. Thinking of the implications your plan could have threatens to bring forth a panic attack.

You breathe in deeply, suppressing it down.

You got this, you tell yourself. Your dreams are close to becoming a reality. Having dreamt about them for so long, it hardly seems believable that they’d come true.

The engines ignite. You feel a jolt in your seat and your heart begins to race, your palms sweaty. You close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in the spaceship you designed, taking off for the first time. You can already feel the micro-tremors of space travel, you can picture the solar system disappearing in the rear window, you can taste the champagne of a toast to success.

You can see humanity becoming an interstellar civilization.

The shivers race across your back and neck. The ship’s thrusters blast with full power, forcing you deep into your seat. You clench to the armrest, gripping it tight, nervous as though you hadn’t flown to Mars a dozen times already. Though this time there are important people waiting for you on the red planet. People that can make your dream a reality, or shoot you out of the sky.

The Committee of Humanity’s Resources.

Resources are scarce and you know how important it is to prioritize their usage, to best serve mankind as a whole. And you also know that your plan has the potential to solve the resource problem altogether. Humanity no longer has to stay confined to their solar system. With your plan, they can expand, harness, and harvest the resources from across the galaxy. They can not just survive, but thrive.

You ease on your grip as the last tremor passes, the ship steering clear of the Earth’s atmosphere. You notice your tie floating up towards your chin. You feel weightless.

All the food you ate before leaving home bubbles up in your stomach and you remember how you embarrassed yourself the first time you flew into space. Specks of vomit would not look good on your suit. You wonder if fear is not the strongest of human emotions, it being able to make you sick with nervousness. But no, there is an emotion that is stronger than fear. It is passion, an almost furious determination to follow one’s dreams, to love and enjoy every part and aspect of the journey. You keep your stomach in control.

The trip to Mars takes just a few minutes shy of one hour. You think back in time when it used to be weeks and even months. Technology has progressed so much and so fast in your time. Despite the weight of the task ahead you smile at the irony of it - you can now fly to Mars, to another planet, in about the same time it takes for a pizza to be delivered to your home. What a world you live in. And if they accept your plan, humans will be able to travel to different solar systems, in just a fraction of that time.

You look out the window of the spaceship. The view never grows old, never ceases to amaze you. Earth looks a little less green and a little less blue than it did when you were just a kid, gazing at the night sky with your dad, sipping honey-sweetened tea mom made. You feel a slight sting in your heart, slight guilt for what humanity’s irresponsible way of thinking has done to the planet. It is almost unbelievable to you. Mankind had the means and the know-how to take care of their world for decades but did not use it. At the time it was due to political and economical agenda. Now, with the law on technological transparency accepted worldwide, the past seems like childish stupidity.

Your plan will hopefully put an end to the resource crisis. No, not hopefully. It will. It has to.

The flight attendant comes to inform you the ship will be landing momentarily. You nod absently and buckle in. This time the attendant doesn’t ask for your suitcase.

The descent to Mars is less bumpy than the takeoff from Earth was, as the atmosphere is much thinner here. The terraforming of Mars never really started, since the many different governments couldn’t come to an agreement on how to divide the planet. Again, the technology was there, but the human factor was in the way. It’s like everywhere you turn you can see how humanity limits itself and it makes you both sad and aggravated. You wonder if your own invention will not meet a similar fate; it’s technological marvel admired and accepted by the scientific community, but its application put on halt for political purposes. Doubts enter your mind. What if they take the invention from you? What if the army sees potential in it and they take it for themselves? Take your dreams?

Use them for war?

Should you not go, after all? But you’re here already.

No, you have to get a hold of yourself. These thoughts are just fear and worry. They are the resistance's last assault on you, to try and bring you down. But you’ve fought resistance so many times already that you can push past it.

The ship lands. The door opens. A team of scientists and politicians come to greet you, offering hands to shake. Members of the press are already waiting in the landing bay, showering you with questions. A member of the medical staff asks you if you’re feeling any nausea. Someone asks you if they can carry the suitcase for you.

You feel like in a trance, losing your thoughts in the swarm of chaos that surrounds you all of a sudden. You shake hands, shake your head to the medical staff and the porter, give short and routine answers to the press, and listen with half an ear to what the excited politicians are telling you.

They lead you from the landing bay to the central part of Colony One on Mars - a United Earth property, with its own laws and regulations, supposed to resemble the future of humanity. A united people. You grip your suitcase firmly, sensing that you carry not just your own dream, but the dream of many with you. 

And with each step of your polished shoes on the bright ceramic tiles, enhanced with artificial gravity, you feel more confident. The thoughts of fear that encompassed you while you were all alone seem to cower away. You realize that the people that are swarming around you - the press, the politicians, colony staff, scientists - are all just as enthusiastic and excited as you are. They too sense that something big is going to happen here today, and you are the one that’s going to make it happen. You realize that these people are not here to obstruct you or try getting in your way but are here to support you. They carry their hopes with you, and the hopes of those whom they represent on Earth. 

Your posture straightens as you walk. Your lips curve in a smile as you listen to the people talking to you. You meet their eyes with a firm and confident gaze, nodding. They nod back.

You feel like an unstoppable force walking towards the meeting room, surrounded by support and acknowledgment. It brings a tear to your eye, and you let it show. You let them all see how much this means to you. 

Your vast escort stops at the double-winged door. Security staff is positioned by the door, to ensure the meeting will be held undisturbed. You notice news cameras and virtual scanners filming you, broadcasting the event back to Earth, to the Moon, all the different space stations, to Io and Europa and all over Mars. You realize that the whole human race is watching you and you feel immense responsibility and pride. You were so busy with your work for the last few months that you didn’t pay that much attention to social media and the news, you had no idea people were so involved with what you were about to do. With what you were working on.

And you feel zero doubt as you enter the meeting room. The security staff moves out of your way and they close the door behind you. The hustle and bustle of your supporters is cut and suddenly it becomes very quiet. In the meeting room, you see there are only a dozen people here, only a dozen that will be making the decision that would affect billions. 

The moment they see you, they all stand up and you shake hands with them. Their faces are serious, some stern, others nervous, a few hopeful. These are men and women from all over Earth and its colonies. They represent the inter-planetary central government, a new united form of leadership. They do not represent countries, but humanity. And as you shake their hands you realize they are sweaty. These people are not your adversaries. They want you to succeed. They want your plan to work. What a liberating realization that is for you.

But you’ll still have to convince them. 

Your plant still has to be perfect, or else it can be a disaster. Humanity can’t waste any more resources on things that are only 90% sure to work. That luxury is gone. Now, nothing short of a 99% success chance is adequate. And these dozen people will be the last scrutinizing factor both for your dream as well as you as a person. 

This meeting is your final battle, to either win or lose the war of your heart. This is where you put all your expertise and all your talking and you make it concrete. Your life was the preparation. This is the result.

You place your suitcase on the table and wait for everyone to sit down. You notice there is also a camera-bot in this room and you wonder if the meeting is being recorded for archive purposes or if it’s actually being broadcasted as well. A media house tag on the bot confirms the latter. So much for your fears of the army seizing your plan.

You take a deep breath and smile.

Then you carefully click open the vintage suitcase locks and open the cover. You take out your printed schematic for the worm-hole engine and unfold it over the metallic table. The committee leans forward, their eyes racing with curiosity over the complex design of your very own spacecraft. You have virtual 3D scans and models with you as well, but there’s nothing like a physical copy. You can’t help it, being nostalgic like that.

As the paper plan rests on the table, you start talking.

And the dream in your mind no longer seems separated from reality. Instead, it seems like the other way around.

Reality begins to shape into the form of your dream.

You give them a speech of a lifetime. You suspected that this meeting would be more like an interrogation, you trying to convince them to accept your plan, but no. They just sit there and listen to you talk. Your voice is filled with refined professionalism and raw passion. You explain your plan with clear detail, showcasing you know every inch and every aspect of the spacecraft you’ve devoted your life to. You explain everything so well, in fact, that they don’t even need to pose any questions to you. 

They simply listen.

And you can see them nodding.

Slowly at first, but the more you talk, the more your passions seems to infect them. Eventually, you pull out your 3D models and holographic projections of your engine and spacecraft. You give them a presentation on how your ship could change humanity for the better. Solve the resource crisis. Solve the overpopulation crisis. Solve the environmental crisis. Humanity could be opening the doors to the cosmos.

You lose yourself in your presentation. It feels like you were made for it and when you finish, after many hours, you know that you nailed it. You’ve said everything you wanted to say and delivered your plan exactly how you envisioned it. And you see that the men and women of the committee understood you perfectly.

They have a few questions at the very end and you answer all of them. They ask them not because they didn’t understand, but more because they felt like they had to ask something.

And then, a silence falls upon the room.

You suddenly feel awfully tired, exhausted. You’ve given your heart and soul out on that table, your hopes and dreams. You can feel fear creeping up again, from the corners of the silence it stalks you, ever vigilant of an opportunity to strike.

And the long silence of the committee only makes the fear grow. But then, one woman nods. She says she is in favor of your proposition. The man sitting next to her agrees. And with that, the rest of them express their favor for your plan, almost unanimously. 

The fear melts away and you feel immense relief. You’re stupefied, unable to comprehend the severity of those nods. 

Your plan’s been approved. You’ve done it. Your dreams just became more real than they have ever been.

Each of the dozen members of the committee steps to you and shakes your hand, congratulating. Dazed, you reply with a simple thank you. Then you fold your schematics and papers, put them back in the suitcase, and walk out the room.

When you step outside the meeting room, a thunderous applause hits you. The people who escorted you are all still there, they have been waiting for hours, and they are clapping, cheering, rooting for you. The press swarms around you, someone comes with a holo-sphere, with your family on the line, wanting to talk to you.

The eyes of everyone are on you and you have never felt so connected to all of humanity as you do in that moment. 

You watch the vortex of emotions raging inside like a storm, but surprisingly, you feel dead calm. Fresh like a breeze. Cool as ice.

A news reporter shouts a question to overpower the cheering. She is asking you what you are going to do next.

You look at her and the cameras and the people. You look at every human being, it feels like. You think of all the work that is going to be needed now that your plan was approved. Now the work begins to construct your spacecraft and make it a reality. You think of the immense pressure that alone will cause, using mankind’s last resources, having one chance to build the worm-hole engine. You think of all these things to say to the reporter, but then you reconsider. And you smile.

“First,” you say, “I’m going to take a shower.”

 

June 25, 2020 21:07

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7 comments

Kelechi Nwokoma
12:23 Jun 26, 2020

Harken, you never fail to amaze me. I totally love this sci-fi and if I could see it turned into a movie of some sort, I'd be more than happy. This is truly incredible. Keep it up!

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Harken Void
12:56 Jun 26, 2020

Thanks Kelechi! Your comments never fail to bring a smile to my face :)

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Kelechi Nwokoma
13:51 Jun 26, 2020

I'm more than happy to leave comments on your stories. I enjoy them so much :D:D

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05:41 Jun 26, 2020

Love it. If only my husband can handle reading English I want to share with him too. The main character remind me of him too. Although he would never participate in wars but he sees space as the solution for humanity. And he also believes in physical back-up than trust anything some seller sells like "the cloud" which he always makes fun of... haha... anyway, I truly love this short scifi.

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Harken Void
07:02 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you, Jessica, for your kind comment :)

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A. Y. R
20:48 Jul 05, 2020

I really hope all this sci-fi becomes a reality someday soon! Your story really reminds me of 2001 A Space Odessy - the descriptiveness being as cinematic as that film!

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Harken Void
06:28 Jul 06, 2020

I've never watched that movie, but since you've mentioned it twice already, I guess I'll have to take a look! And I think it will become a reality - I only wish that NOT before we grow up us a species.

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