Saving The World

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

18th December 2015
From the 'Morning Voice', 14/03/89

A New Hope? By Vartika Vala

A breakthrough was made earlier this week when scientists revealed they have found a planet identical to ours. They have gone as far as saying it could be our sister planet, an image of Earth, a parallel world. There will be a special investigation on Tube 3 tonight. People are invited to write in with their question which the scientists will attempt to answer in a live action programme...

Paulo put the file of cuttings down. It seemed like only yesterday that he'd been one of the people who'd phoned in. He remembered his question clearly: if this world is a parallel world, does that mean there is another me? The question had gone unanswered, all they ahd was theories, in the end. Every single question was thought through and the eminent scientists' respone was the same each time: we're not sure. It had been a waste of time, really, just another way we use the media to forget what's going on around us; create meaningless diversions to take our minds off the fact that we are drowning in our own disasters...

It was also to give some hope, Paulo recalled. There had been warnings for decades; climate change, terrorism, sea levels rising, pollution, the techno ceiling, over-population. The list went on. By 2031 everyone was thoroughly sick of being told what to do and how to live and they'd all given up. So the techno ceiling had been breached, the internet had gone bang, countries disappeared under flood water, thousands, no, millions died, and so on and so on. Those that were left just got on with it as best they could. Things had settled in the 2070s and with the discovery of Fuel99, space travel became possible and there was a new idea: find a new world and move there.

Paulo had been one of the first to sign up. He remembered his mother's pleasure and pride in his decision, followed by her worry she'd never see him again. He put the newspaper cuttings away in the cupboard and took out the bundle of her letters, written to him whilst away in China, training. He thought about reading them again but he missed her so much and the last time it'd thrown him into a fit of despair so deep he'd nearly gone in the escape pod. To oblivion. They'd told him not to bring letters but he'd sneaked them on board.

He went to eat and wrote his log and stared at the on screen monitor, wishing again the world had listened when they warned of the techno ceiling. Nobody had believed it. If they had, he'd be able to be in contact with Earth right now. Occasionally he could pick up a broadcast from one of the other ships, but it was patchy, at best. At least he got to go back eventually. Some of the others were staying, to try and use the new planet's communications systems. They'd called it Earth Two, which Paulo had thought completely unoriginal. Also, he thought - as he often did - what if those eminent scientists from home had got it all wrong? He and the other five astronauts were supposed to arrive on Earth Two, a planet just like earth in every way except in time. Earth Two was ahead, probably around 200 years, and this meant answers, hope, help, a new home - it meant everything to those on a dying planet. It was their future. They could cut corners, find out how Earth Two dealt with problems, assuming they'd had the same ones. And why shouldn't they have had the same ones? The planets were identical, same issues, same conditions... It worried Paulo that scientists couldn't exactly explain how they'd worked this out, but they assured him it was correct and he took their word for it. After all, the pay was enough to keep his siblings wealthy for the rest of their lives and he got to be part of history.

He shouldn't have looked at the paper. It made him think too much; sent his thoughts spiralling out of control into theories and suppositions and worries.

He signed off on his log, sent out a goodnight message to the other ships, and took a weeklong sleeping pill.


When he woke, it was to crashing sounds and alarms. He sat up, groggy but shocked, rubbing his eyes, trying to work out what had happened. He looked at his watch. He'd only been asleep for three days instead of seven and now he'd be playing catch up, trying to waken a body that was still asleep. He groaned. He wondered ho bad it would be if he just lay back down, and slid back off to sleep. nothing should be able to penetrate a weeklong.

The alarms blared louder and froced him out of bed and to the control room.

Earth Two five hours! flashed the screens and Paulo frowned - that wasn't correct - he wasn't due to arrive for another three weeks. He swallowed some caffeine pills and jumped up and down on the spot until he felt more awake. he looked at the screens and the readings and concluded, that the on board comp was correct.

Damn, he breathed to himself. He wasn't ready. His stomach flipped and he went into panic mode, running about the ship, sorting, making ready, setting landing sequences, checking settings, writing his log, sending desperate messages to the other ships. There was no reply from anyone.

Three hours later he felt awake and ready. He tried sending messages to Earth Two but there was no response. His sequences bounced back. he watched the green-blue planet approach through the large front screen. It looked the same. It looked JUST the same, from up here. A flicker of excitement ran through him. He set the ship's path to Orbit to give him time to work out what to do, where to land. His instructions were Asia, as on a future Earth that was where the party would be, so to speak, but in the end the eminent scientists has said it was up to him. As he went into Earth Two's orbit, he saw with horror there was soemthing very very wrong.

There was no space junk, no satellites winging around the planet, no space staions, disused, no new space stations, as expected. What did it mean? Paulo rubbed his beard, chewed his thumb. Maybe they'd just learned to clean up? It was in the future plan for Earth, when they had the technology.

Paulo tried again to contact Earth Two but there was nothing, no signals coming back; in fact no signals at all. He'd had no response from the others in his team, in their ships either. He was alone. To spress his rising panic, Paulo began to plan a route in and set the ship's landing sequence. He decided on China, and set the course for what had been New Shanghi, where he'd trained. His little ship turned and fought with the orbit for a few seconds, then set itself on the new course. Paulo sat in the landing chair, strapped himself in and braced himself. He stared through the front screen, at the greenish blue planet that was coming closer, and closer. From here, it looked just like home.

As the ship began to fight with the atmosphere, a terrible thought struck Paulo. if the scientific team on earth had got the travel time wrong, what else had they got wrong? What if it wasn't 200 years in the future? What if he landed in the middle of a war, or... The atmosphere was different to the one at home. It felt thicker, somehow. Paulo began to sweat in his landing suit. He felt his head shaking and wondered if he'd even survive the entry. His last thought, before he blacked out, was of his mother and how he hoped he'd made her proud.

When he woke, he was still strapped in his seat, but he was upside down. He looked around, feeling an ache in his neck and head. The ship looked intact, from here. Had he really survived? Was he dreaming?

Slowly, he extricated himself from the landing chair. He hung from the edge of the seat for a second, then lowered himself down. The screen was jammed in front so Paulo went to the door and began tapping in the sequence of codes needed to open it. It took him ten minutes to get through the three doors. By the outer one, he paused. I'm about to make history, he thought. I'm here, on our sister planet! He wished his mother were here to see him. He thought of her pride when he got home, their escape plan in hand, their future secured.

He opened the final door.

When he stepped out he knew in an instant something wasn't right. This wasn't 200 years in the future. Unless... unless something had gone wrong on Earth Two. He was on sand, in a wide expanse of yellow. In the distance were brown and yellow huts, with figures standing about. It was hot, so hot. Paulo undid his suit. It felt like Earth; the figures by the huts were human. Paulo began to run towards them, waving his hands, shouting in excitement.

Before he reached them, he stopped. He recognised this place. It was a place of sand and oases. A camel stood, watching him warily. The figures came closer and closer still. He stopped, and held up his hands as if to say, I'm harmless! But he wanted to run to them and embrace them, feel another body next to his.

Soon he was surrounded. Someone prodded him. Their faces were hostile. They wore robes, carried leather bottles.

I'm in the past, he thought wildly. Something's wrong.

He knew several languages and tried Hebrew first. It was a good guess.

He sat down on the sand. He should never have come here.

A woman approached him. She reminded him of his mother, back on Earth. She cried out and embraced him. Gently, she reached out and touched his face.

'Jesus?' she said, wonder in her voice. 'You've come back? But I thought... I saw you die on that cross...'

Paulo shook his head. 'No,' he tried to say. 'No.' But then he thought about the implications, the possibilities... he realised what had happened.

'Mother,' he said. 'I've come back...'