Primordial Soup

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Chapter 22

Two-hundred-twenty miles above the earth, the International Space Station was home to the last observers of the extinction of humanity, and all life on planet earth.

Two of the six resident crew members were looking down at the planet. The earth, now a black orb, was in full sunlight. The land and sea masses were completely obscured by black clouds made up of trillions of creatures flowing around the earth like a weather system. The extreme northern and southern hemispheres were the only visible parts of the earth.

‘We’re fucked,’ said the flight engineer. ‘Look at it. The whole planet is covered in them. How will we land? Where will we land? We’ve had no transmissions in nearly three months. Is anyone left alive down there? I don’t think so.’

‘Keep it under control, Tokugawa,’ Commander Henderson warned. ’We have enough supplies to last at least another six months. We all agreed we would evaluate the situation weekly.

‘Sorry Commander.’

‘North America looks like our best bet for a landing site. The clouds of creatures thin out there, so survival is at least an option.’

‘I have the data you requested. It doesn’t look good.’

Henderson stepped back from the viewing port. ‘What were the findings?’

’The effect the creatures are having on the earth’s temperature by blocking out the sun is worse than we first estimated. If the current trend continues the earth’s temperature in another three months time will have dropped by a further ten degrees. In five to six months the planet will be in the beginnings of the worst ice age ever, worse than the one that ended 18,000 years ago. Because the earth is cooling down so rapidly it will be plunged into a deep freeze cycle. Even the equatorial band will be covered in ice. Once the weather systems have been exhausted and the atmosphere contains no moisture the planet will become a solid ball of ice, miles thick in places. If it continues the atmosphere will become so thin and depleted of gasses that there will be no air to breathe. We’re estimating a period of one year, though this is guess work at best. We’ve never encountered anything like this before so there’s no data to plot its progression.

‘Go on,’ said Henderson.

‘As the creatures have no need to land and their already vast numbers are growing exponentially, the planet will cool down quicker than in a normal ice age. We’ve extrapolated the effects in the growth of the ice sheets. The Gulf Stream has already begun to cool and this will affect the northern hemisphere. Landing anywhere in the northern hemisphere may not be an option in six months time. Weather patterns have already changed dramatically and the data shows that. I think we should go sooner than later. Later may not be an option.’

’I’ve been giving it a great deal of thought. Consider this scenario, Tokugawa. Let us suppose that once the planet has cooled and the surface of the earth is covered in ice, the air temperature will cool down very quickly. Those creatures at the lowest point will freeze, thinning the cover. They are after all mammals, with flesh, and blood running through their veins. Unless they have developed some form of anti-freeze they will succumb to the lower air temperature. The ones at the top are receiving heat from the sun, but as layer upon layer of creatures are subjected to the extreme air temperature they should suffer the same fate. If that happens we could also be looking at their extinction.

Henderson stepped up to the viewing port. ‘We need to absolutely certain of the outcome before we leave here. We only get one shot at this and that means we have to evaluate every scenario, even though the data may change on a daily basis.’

‘Commander, there may be nothing but a solid ball of ice when we get there,’

‘Then we’ll deal with that at that time,’ Henderson turned back to the window. ‘Keep me up to date with all developments.’

‘I’m going to run the simulations. I’ll bring them to you as soon as I finish.’

’Talk to Adam about my theory, he’s the biologist.

‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to join us in a group discussion, Commander.’

‘No. I need more time to study this.’ He pointed to the black orb floating below the window. ‘If I’m right, as your figures suggest, we could be going home soon.’

Henderson turned back to the viewing port and continued to stare down at the planet.

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