History speaks of the overview effect, which astronauts feel when seeing earth from space. Carl Sagan, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, they all understood. The earth is a fragile blue dot in the midst of an inexplicable universe. In 2160, this fragile blue dot was coming to an end, and the overview effect Mathew Gozen experienced was layered with dread.
He sat, with a glum expression, sighing. Looking out of the window. All the tired, wrinkled old man could see, was a once great blue planet starting to burn up in flames, as dark clouds exploded into the atmosphere. The image generated a lethal concoction of fear, rage, melancholy and desperation in the man’s brain.
Thoughts composed of sorrow and surrealism were interrupted by the sudden clanking of heavy boots on the metallic floor of the spaceship, as Laxan glided into view. Its features were remarkably human, but its skin was a pale, slightly silver color, and it’s all black eyes gave away its lack of humanity. The android's movements were sleek, it’s uniform as dark as the black holes swirling around the galaxy.
“Why the long face? It’s only the end of the world” Laxan asked, its tone half-serious, half joking, as it handed Mathew a steaming cup of black tea. He gave a weak chuckle, took the tea, and continued to stare out of the ship's round window.
It wasn’t a pretty sight, that was for sure, but it was inevitable. The Earth, or at least the human race, was going to be destroyed one way or another. If nuclear war hadn’t ruined the planet, then overpopulation and climate change would have spelled the end of humanity. And even if, by some miracle, humans didn’t kill their home within the next few hundred years, the inevitable death of the Sun placed a definitive end on the Earth’s existence.
“What’s the expression?” The android thought out loud. “Oh yes. Don’t cry over spilt milk” It recalled, giving a small metallic smile to Mathew, which he thought was supposed to be comforting but was, unfortunately, the opposite. Laxan then left Mathew alone with the shining silver control panel, and spectacularly terrifying view of the Earth, being battered and hounded by nuclear weapons.
He sipped his tea, and attempted not to cry over the destroyed planet. Despite his best efforts, Mathew couldn’t help but think that the destruction of the entire Earth was a little more than spilt milk.
Seeing the Earth so small caused a cognitive shift in most. A sudden realization that the world which people hold dear is not so stable and static as it seems. A feeling that, among divided nations and warring beliefs, each human being is fundamentally linked. Perhaps if the governments of earth could see Mathew's current view, they wouldn't have let nuclear war be it's death.
As he watched his home burn up, he couldn't help but shed a tear. Though it was only a small blue dot, insignificant in the grand scheme of reality, it held his memories, and housed the ones he loved. Its end spelled the end of safety for him, and all of humanity.
Oh, well, the mission had to continue. Mathew had agreed to help with the rescue efforts. The scrambled attempts at retrieving enough people from their dying planet to keep humanity alive. Ships had been built years ago, on the, not so off, chance of the Earth becoming uninhabitable, and they were loaded up at the first signs of nuclear war.
Mathew was one of the only such astronauts, apart from his commander, Tracy Cornell, that wasn't visibly distressed. It wasn't that he wasn't upset, it was that he knew how to compose himself. This was something he had learned early on, from his father, and which had been further reinforced during his brief time in the army.
He found comfort in Commander Cornell's calm but firm demeanor, and endeavored to keep her close. She reminded him of his daughter.
This was the mission Tracy had been preparing for most of her life, though it had come sooner than expected. The mission to fully colonize Mars was in fact planned for twenty years in the future, but with the unexpected death of the Earth, it was decided that the mission should probably be moved forward, you know, to save humanity and all that.
She had been ready for this, though; she was born ready (metaphorically, of course). Non-metaphorically she’d been born in a small council flat in Brighton to a slightly neurotic twenty-year old Linda Cornell.
For this reason, the tanned, black haired girl sat, completely calm and collected, with her deep green eyes fixated on the beautiful view of spiraling galaxies and stars outside the spaceship. Meanwhile, with the exception of the old man beside her, her crew-mates shifted nervously in their seats, and produced an unnecessary amount of heavy breaths.
One particularly nervous astronaut, a pale, freckled young man with curly blonde hair, was tapping his leg loudly, and visibly shaking.
“Will you shut up?” Tracy exclaimed, trying to focus on the details of the horticulture and medical care that would be required, when the crew finally reached the red planet.
Her job was organizing the well-being and survival of the astronauts, which included such fun tasks as calculating how to grow and ration food in the most efficient ways, and how to prioritize medical care. It was a tactical nightmare, with so many known and unknown variables to consider. She needed to think.
Medical resources should only be expended when absolutely necessary, scrapes and bruises could be ignored. It was more important to have preventative measures, so people didn’t get hurt or sick in the first place. Luckily the domes and other buildings, which had already been built on the planet by the previous mission to Mars, were thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis by the androids which had been left behind, and all crew members were, of course, trained to be vigilant and extra-cautious when it came to their safety and hygiene.
Rationing food shouldn’t prove too difficult either, given that the crew on the previous mission to Mars had created small plantations inside greenhouses, which were capable of creating enough food to keep this mission's small crew alive for years ahead. There would be some adjustment needed, though, as the majority of the crew would be going from an all-you-can-eat Western diet, to one of mostly potatoes and tinned beans. Still, they’d be able to survive, so long as nothing destroyed their crops.
The real problem was storms, and making sure the dust from said storms doesn’t get into the equipment, or prevent energy from being produced by solar panels. That would be a bit of a problem, to say the least.
Actually, come to think of it, the real problem was employing a long-term strategy that would allow for true human civilization to exist on Mars. That was something which was still very much in the works, with the main priority being to make sure that humanity wasn’t destroyed by the bombs, and the nuclear winter they caused. At that, it seemed, the human race had been successful, even if the majority of its members had been lost in the process. The many large, glistening silver ships which hurdled through space held the remaining few thousand humans, and would be able to do so for the few years until Mars was ready to start welcoming it’s new carbon-based inhabitants.
Tracy took a momentary break from her calculations to stare out of the ship's window. The Earth she had known was gone, leaving behind a wreck of rubble and rock. She felt such a profound sense of insignificance looking at how easily her home had been destroyed. It had been so beautiful. Her memory held within it images of tall, green trees in luscious forests, and vast expanses of blue ocean. It truly had been spectacular. Within her guts Tracy had a deep sense that humanity was now adrift, exiled from its home, and that it could never be the same again. They would all become Martians, soon enough.