“After all this time, it’s finally happening.”
“Yep. And it’s all thanks to us. We’re going to single handedly revitalize America. Well, not to mention all of the scientist and engineers who spent over 8 years working to get us up here.”
“Yeah, well I don’t see any of those brainiacs out here, risking their lives orbiting the Earth at five miles per second for some ‘greater cause’-”
“Alright, cut the chatter boys. We’ve got a mission to complete,” said the gruff voice of their captain, buzzing through the intercom.
“Yes, sir,” they replied in unison.
“But first I’d like to tell you that you two are the best men I’ve had the pleasure of training in all of my years of service. I’m counting on you, to fulfil your missions without a hitch. We all are.”
“Thank you, sir. We won’t let you down,” the commander responded. The true scale of the situation finally starting to weigh down on him.
“I’d expect nothing less. Have you begun preparations?”
“Yes, sir. The NGE beam will be ready to launch in T minus three minutes,” he said as he made a few final adjustments to the auto-targeting system.
“Good. We’re right on schedule”
As the commander finished the last calculations, he slowly looked up from his display out towards Earth. What he saw was beautiful. It was so mesmerizing that he was beginning to reconsider what he was about to do. He collected his thoughts, then hesitantly started speaking into his helmet mic. “C-captain, are you sure about this?”
“What’s troubling you, commander?” asked the captain.
“Nothing, sir. It’s just that… it was already crazy enough to launch a nuclear power beam into space, but now they’re proposing that we fire it directly on domestic soil without a single test. Don’t you think that launching any nuclear device, no matter its purpose or intent, could have unpredictable consequences?” the commander asked, hoping that the captain would side with his opinion.
“Look, I’ve had my share of doubts about the likelihood of this project succeeding but, we’ve been over this countless times. We have no opportunity to perform a test because of our inventory being so low stocked on the primary element found in the NGE. And I share your concern about pointing the laser towards home, but many scientists have assured me that the beam will work just as predicted. Either way, you have orders commander. You and your partner are to fulfil your mission no matter the costs. Is that clear?” asked the captain, taking on a more assertive tone. The commander paused and stared at his partner with a questioning look. He nodded.
“Engaging auto-target lock on, initiating power up sequence” stated his partner in a very official manner. “Firing in T minus 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3…
With the end of the countdown came a fantastic flash of green light bursting from the satellite dish at the head of the mechanism. In an instant, the spiralling ray reached the United States, directly on target.
“Well now, all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the show,” said the commander. Just as the feeling of relaxation began to dawn on him, the communication signal between the control base back home and the mic in his helmet began to buzz. The commander held his gloved finger down on the side of his helmet, opening the connection. “What is it, sir?” he asked.
“STOP THE LAUNCH SEQUENCE NOW!” yelled their captain.
The sudden noise sent shock waves screaming through the commander’s skull. He winced, holding his head with both of his hands. After the pain had fled, he quickly spoke into his mic, “Has there been a malfunction?” he inquired.
“Just do whatever you can to stop it, NOW!” he demanded.
The commander paused for a moment, dreading what he had to say next. “We can’t sir.”
“What did you say?”
“I said we can’t! Once the auto-targeting system has been activated, it can’t be stopped.”
The captain halted and stared out at the horizon, his mouth hung open. He watched in horror as the chaos unfolded before his eyes. He thought about all of the people on the ground, and then of the single pair up in orbit. He weighed his options, and after a long moment of thought, he raised the communicator to his head and spoke, “I’m sorry.” He then reached down to the control panel in front of him, lifted the glass cover of a single button, and pressed it.
The explosion that came next was so devastating that it could be felt from the ground, over 5,000 miles away. The captain got up from the display, walked through the crowd of panicked workers, stepped outside and looked up. The immense ball of fire above him was too overwhelmingly blinding to even look at. So he looked out at the disastrous scene in front of him, almost equally as traumatizing as the one above. He shook his head and whispered to himself, “What have we done?”
The little girl ran through forest, bounding from murky puddly to murky puddle, with each splash of water slightly sizzling when in came in contact with her long boots. She skipped without end, stopping to catch her breath every once in a while, but then getting right back to it. As she ran, she rubbed her hands on the ashen trees which caused them to crumble slightly. She trudged through the numerous piles of white leaves. She kicked and rolled in them, and also closely observed them. As she looked them over, she wondered to herself, “What season is it? Why don’t the leaves have any colors? Why do the trees have less and less of these leaves every year?” Her train of thought was cut off by the distant call of a familiar voice:
“Christine, it’s time to come in. Supper’s ready!”
“Coming, Grandma!” She ran back in the direction she came, towards the worry filled beckoning of her grandmother’s voice. She sprinted through the forest, dodging decapitated animal carcases here and there. Her brown ponytail constantly flying in the breeze behind her as she did so. She could detect the smell of fresh fruits and vegetables ready to be harvested, telling her that she was nearing her grandma’s cabin. The sound of the eleven chickens in an endless riot of clucking always seemed to make her giggle. As she got close, she looked down while she was running and watched as the ground slowly transitioned from a smeared shade of brownish-gray, to the fresh green of her grandma’s lawn. She jogged through the open gate and then quickly closed it as her grandma always instructed her to, before rushing inside. Like always, she was met by her grandma with a warm embrace. Her grandma leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.
“Where have you been?” her grandma asked, sounding troubled. “I’ve told you not to go too far out into the forest, you know how dangerous it is out there.”
“I know, Grandma. I didn’t go that far, I just stayed out a little longer than usual. I was completely fine.”
Her grandma sighed, “Alright, just don’t let it happen again. I don’t want to lose you like I did your mother.”
“Grandma, you don’t have to worry about me,” she fussed. “I’m almost fifteen. I’m pretty sure I can take care of myself.”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry,” she said as she ushered Christine towards the prepared meal.
They walked over to the nook and took their usual positions around the small circular table. Christine immediately began to ladle her plate with a variety of different cooked greens, also taking a roll and a small portion of chicken, aware that they had to conserve their low supply of meat. She began to politely eat, taking a bite of this, a spoonful of that. As she ate, she thought about what she had seen while she was exploring and she couldn’t help but feel that everything she noticed wasn’t completely natural. She knew this was true, but she couldn’t put together why. She replayed the events of her life that she could remember in her head over and over again, but she couldn’t recall an event that could’ve caused all of this. Then she realized that the answer to her question that had been crashing around her brain forever, was right in front of her. Christine contemplated the question that she would ask her, but all she could come up with was, “Grandma, what happened?”
“What do you mean, dear?”
“You know, how did the forest become so gray and lifeless. And I’ve seen the pictures all around your house, so I know what a real forest is supposed to look like. And what is it that you’re so afraid of I’ll encounter out there. It always seems like you’re far too fearful of me going out into the woods. All I want to know is why.” She looked deep into her grandma’s sorrowful eyes.
Her grandma sighed, “Do you really want to know?”
“Well I’ll tell you. It all started when I was a sophomore in college…”
“The United States was in the process of electing its forty fifth president. There were two candidates on the ballot, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I was a fool back then. I didn’t look at the facts of who Trump really was and what he planned to do; instead I stuck with my family’s Republican standpoint and voted for him without giving the Democrats a chance to win me over. He ended up winning the election even without attaining the majority vote. As soon as he stepped into that oval office, things kept on going from bad to worse. He did horrible things, such as breaking off America’s relationship with NATO. He mocked our allies, cut environmental support funds to nearly zero, and he even went as far as to provoke our powerful enemies. By 2019, the U.S was plunged into an all out nuclear war with North Korea. Millions were killed on both sides. As the war progressed, North Korea gained continually growing support from our opponents. The manner in which the president had first brought on the war -- and then the thoughtless way he chose to deal with the threat was unacceptable to our allies.”
“Almost everyone broke off any relationship they had had with the United States. Without support from other countries and with foreign nations breaking down our door, the U.S was crippled. Eventually, American troops were able to push back the frontal attack force and regain control. Although the threat was defeated, there was far more devastation to come. Trade links were completely severed between the U.S and all other nations. Without a constant flow of imports from other countries, America plummeted into a state of chaos.”
“Riots broke out left and right, killing and injuring many people. It was then that I knew it was time for me to leave. I made the move to Canada as soon as possible, then bought this very cabin. A few years after my move, I got word in the news that in a final desperate attempt to revitalize the economy, the U.S built a space satellite called a neural gene enhancement beam. The mission was to launch the space satellite and fire it at every farmland in America. The ray was meant to genetically increase the speed of plant growth in order to make up for the loss of imported goods. But the project was far too rushed, and there was a terrible malfunction. The launch only worsened the conditions on the surface by withering all of the remaining crops and littering the surrounding areas with radiation, even reaching Canada and Mexico.”
“Being alone in my cabin gave me time to think over the events of the past year. After a few days of reflection, I had the realization that had the voters not been so apathetic towards presidential issues in office, all of this misfortune could have been avoided. I just hadn't realized it soon enough,” her grandma sighed.
Christine took in what her grandma had told her. She processed the information and thought about why people hadn’t changed things for the better. Then suddenly she knew. She had to make that change.
“I spent the next fourteen years exploring an education in politics, heading towards my ultimate goal of revitalizing America!” The statement was followed by a thunderous applause. “With me in office, I promise to heal the economy to the point where it can again flourish. I will repair the bonds with our former allies, bringing us back to the top.” The crowd burst into cheering and whooping that lasted for nearly a minute. Once the group finally settled down, Christine gave her closing statement, “Thank you, America. I can assure that these next four years will be more progressive than the past century!”
With that, President Christine walked from the inauguration stage towards the presidential convoy that would transfer her first around the city, and then back to the White House. After the thirty minute ride, they finally arrived at the front gate. Christine proceeded to step out and taking in her surroundings. Beyond the constant flashes of news cameras, she could see her new home. She let out a sigh of relief and smiled. She then turned to her vice president and said, “Well, we have a lot of work to do. Let’s get started.”