As the 21st century began, every member of the human race was aware that their time was soon coming to an end. It was common knowledge that Earth was dying and its inhabitants with it, whether or not they chose to admit it to themselves before the very end. Though, as predicted, the planet began to wind down and some attempt to save the human race had to be made. This attempt came several years into that 21st century, when the world’s governments finally came to an agreement at last. Of course, that agreement was forced by Mother Nature, herself, rather than any other kind of previous attempts at cooperation among the combined nations to save the world before it was indeed, too late for the entire species.
The only option that the people of Earth were left with was obviously to find a new home, and plans were made to use what resources were left for the mass production of ships that could sustain human life long enough to hopefully find an alternate home for Earth’s inhabitants. In the end it was decided that ninety percent of the population would make their new homes aboard these ships, while ten percent remained on the dying Earth, in the hopes that the reduced strain on what was left of the world’s resources would allow them to survive long enough for even one of these monstrous ships to find the new home that would be the savior of the human race.
When the journey to find this new home began, it began with a thousand of these new floating homes being created. Each ship was assigned to carry 60,000 humans chosen randomly from the nations of the world by a sort of census based lottery. Some family members managed the luck to remain together upon a certain ship, but that was the exception to the rule. Needless to say, it was a sad time for the entire planet, with friends and lovers being torn from each other and thrust into a whole new way of life, while convinced that they may never actually find themselves in the same room, let alone the same planet, ever again.
It was hard to decide who had it worse: There were those six million who remained on a planet that they knew was dying, while just waiting for a new hope that may never arrive at all. Then there were the nearly six billion who had to learn to live a life floating through space, just hoping that they would be the lucky ones who somehow managed to not only survive that new life, but to do so long enough to find a new home which might not even exist at all.
These ships, named simply E-1 through E-1000, were basically each considered their own nation-state, and were designed to support their 60,000 residents for exactly one earth century, assuming nothing went wrong. Of course, that was quite the assumption when dealing with the relatively new science behind long-term space travel and survival. Then, when adding in the variable of all of them venturing further and further from Earth into completely unknown and unexplored reaches of the galaxy, all of their chances became ever slimmer. Though, they had destroyed their own world, so what choice did they have but to take those odds?
Twenty years after the E-ships departed from their old home upon the dying Earth, the one thousand ships that began the journey were now only 466 ships. Over half of the original ships fell prey to the treacherous journey through unexplored reaches of space, or simply disappeared with seemingly no explanations able to be given before losing all contact with what remained of the Earth or any of their distant floating neighbors who continued the journey.
Of the 466 ships that remained in contact, some were still dying from within. There were those with a crew that were either overly optimistic or just plain in denial, and this caused overstretching of resources and a crew who now had to face the fact that their journey would soon end prematurely because of it. Then there were others still who suffered mass suicides on board of those who had lost their hope and their spirit after two decades with no end in sight for their journey and no hope of returning to their old homes and lives ever again; those who came to view the entire journey as a long, elaborate death sentence.
Of course there were some exceptions: Those few ships who managed to hold onto hope, and even come close to prospering. Most of these included a cross section of population wherein there were enough natural deaths on board to leave room to do that growing even amongst such limited resources. Those aboard these ships managed to retain their hope due in large part to the rise of an entire new generation who either did not remember the old world, or had never even set foot upon it, at all: They were nicknamed the E-children. These children, aged newborns through those in their early twenties, did not have a home to miss at all; they did not have a reason to have their spirits broken. They had no past to mourn, only a future to hope for, and their hope alone was what kept the entire ship alive and moving forward to find that new home, after all. These children truly were the future: Hope personified.
The eldest of the E-children were considered those who were no older than twenty-five, meaning they were only five years old when chosen to board their assigned ship, with no clear memories of Earth at all. Among those eldest E-children was a woman called Lili. She was the daughter of the commander of ship E-728, one of those ships which were seemingly prospering.
Though Lili was easily considered beautiful, standing at a petite 5’4” with flowing red hair and nearly turquoise eyes, some still held a bit of animosity towards her, nonetheless. Of course this animosity mostly seemed to be based on nothing the young woman had willfully done. Instead it came from the fact that she was what was referred to as “pre-chosen.” This was the term that was used for those members of the ship who were guaranteed a spot before the lottery that had assigned all the others their spots, regardless of family-ties, had even taken place.
Being the five year old daughter of the ship’s commander was what had gotten her that spot when the ships had taken off on this fateful journey two decades ago. All of the separate commanders who fit the criteria of having preschool age children, earned those young children their spot at the side of at least one parent, and Lili had been fortunate enough to be among this very select group, while other inhabitants of the ship, including other “less important” crew members, had been torn from their own families those two decades ago.
Always uncannily perceptive, Lili knew others thought her to have an unfair advantage going into this entire journey, and she tried to be as helpful as she could, to hopefully dissuade some of that animosity. As she was not mechanically inclined, instead of following in the footsteps of her mother, the ship’s commander, Lili chose to focus her attention on helping to aid the rest of the upcoming generation of E-children to have a fully-rounded upbringing.
It was not that she had any maternal instincts, really, as she did tend to leave the tiniest children to their parents. It was the adolescents, instead, that she chose to spend her time with, helping them to expand their knowledge beyond the bounds of their ancestors in that faraway home none of them had ever even seen.
A lot of the way she chose to educate these new human minds came from none other than her mother. Lili’s mother, Miranda, was unconventional in several ways, aside from simply being skilled and educated enough to command a ship of such proportions. Beyond that, Miranda had always taught her own daughter the value of not conforming to most of the beliefs of the world which had since been all but destroyed. The knowledge Lili came to take from her own upbringing and her own unconventional mother and even more unconventional surroundings, was simply that the reason the Earth fell to such a fate was because of the way the people of earth treated each other, repressed one another, forced their own ways and beliefs on one another, and just hoped that their “god” would save them from themselves in the end. Of course Lili had lived to see that there was no Christian god saving anyone at all, and, in the end, it was all left in the hands of the humans who created the science which “killed” god, to do all the saving, if any was to be done at all.
Lili spent the first seven years of her adult life there on the nation-state known as E-728 setting up courses in all of the world’s religious systems, rather than the usual 999 classes in Christianity and another course simply named “other religions,” as would have been more likely back on their old home. After much research done by all parties, herself especially, she managed to make herself into an expert on all cultures’ religions and also managed to find a few others willing to devote themselves to helping her teach the ways of these cultures to the E-children who were old enough to understand the concept and wished to learn about any of them at all. The only thing she asked of her other teachers was a promise to teach all they knew without any bias whatsoever and to never, ever place one religion on a pedestal, deeming it as the “correct” religion or way of life. After all, that type of thinking was responsible for so much of the torture and death that took place in their old world, and Lili wanted desperately to do her part to make sure this next generation of humans would never make those same mistakes again.
Another of the E-children who was not born on the ship, but still had no real memories of Earth was a twenty-three year old man named Ian. He stood at nearly six foot, with shaggy brown locks and eyes that matched the long-forgotten waters of the old world’s oceans. Muscular and fit, it wasn’t hard to tell that he had been assigned to share his living quarters with the ship’s head security officer, who had become his surrogate father when Ian himself had been pulled from his own family and placed aboard the ship when he had been only three years old.
In the twenty years since, he had been groomed to take over Charles’ job in coming years, and had already procured a position as the head of the secondary security team. Aboard the ship he simply oversaw daily tasks such as making sure that the supplies were safe and used in accordance with the predicted amounts needed for another eight decades’ survival. This job itself was not very glamorous or demanding, but Ian still kept himself in top condition for utmost survivability in the harshest of surroundings. The reasoning behind his strenuous upkeep of his own body was to always be ready to assume his real responsibility when the time came. He and his adoptive father’s roles were as follows: If and when they reached a new planet, Charles would stay aboard to assure the security of the remaining occupants while a small team would be sent to the planet’s surface to determine whether it held any survivability for the human race at all. This team would have to include security, and Ian had made himself into a soldier of sorts to ensure that team’s security when the time came.
One of the first children born on the ship had been born during their second summer journeying through the stars. His name was Jared, and he had just turned eighteen that week, or at least he thought he had. Sometimes it was difficult to keep track of one day bleeding into the next up there, without the Earth’s sun and moon to clearly guide their lives as they had guided his parents’ lives upon a planet he had never even known. Jared had been born to a couple who had met after boarding the ship. His father had then worked as one of the assistants to the ship’s science team, which was a job that Jared himself now held.
Jared’s mother had simply been a lost college girl torn from her own family during the great departure from the old world, and she had then passed away due to unforeseen medical complications brought on by Jared’s birth. Her death left his father to retreat into his own research and Jared to desperately try to be a part of that world to simply hold onto what was left of his family, in a situation where most never even had any family left to know at all.
Though his attempts to keep his father close weren’t very successful, as now his father resided in a completely different part of the ship and he was lucky if he crossed paths with him during one or two meals a week, if that. But Jared had already began his journey toward becoming one of the brightest scientific minds of the new generation, despite his true reasons for going into that line of work at all, so he simply kept pursuing it, cause what else did he know?
Perhaps the real reason Jared continued to assist the ship’s scientists was in a subconscious need to make sense of things that seemed to make no sense without first finding some kind of greater knowledge. Ever since hitting puberty, Jared began seeing or experiencing things that made no sense in a black and white version of the world, and he needed them to make sense, if for no other reason than his own sanity. So, science was the first place he turned to try and find that logic, as well as to fill his less logical, and more emotional, need to be near his father. But as his father drifted further and further from his own life, the lanky 6’4” brunette with chin-length locks and soulful dark brown eyes, began delving deeper and deeper into searching for some kind of explanation for the things he continued to see, or do, or feel, with no rhyme or reason to any of it at all.
Lili was making her mark as the cultural soul of the next generation, and Ian was expected to stand as their guardian in whatever new world they came to find, and then there was Jared, who would be among those expected to make sense of that new world. But it was another of the E-children who was the one who already stood out among all four of them. His name was Kyle, and he was born four years into their journey.
At only sixteen, Kyle was about Ian’s height, with shoulder-length brown waves and gray-blue eyes which were usually hidden behind those locks as he leaned over whatever piece of technology his attention was on that day. Despite his age, Kyle was already considered a part of the ship’s flight crew. He was in charge of updating all the technology aboard the ship and coming up with even newer, better technology to keep all the systems running and hopefully finding even more efficient ways to use the ship’s energy and resources to better predict the locations of possible new homes and to get to them more quickly, efficiently, and safely.
At first, the flight crew was obviously wary of putting such a young person into such an important role, but when, at only age thirteen, Kyle passed a battery of intellectual and technological tests, registering an IQ higher than any other member of the science team or the existing technology team, despite his age, they owed it to the ship as a whole, to allow him a chance to be a very valuable resource to them. And that was three years ago, now.
That afternoon, Jared cautiously approached the room of the ship that housed the mainframe; sure that he had a good chance of finding Kyle there. He took a deep breath as he stepped through the door, receiving no visible reaction from the only slightly younger teen whose attention was glued to the console, as it nearly always was.
“Hey, Kyle,” Jared greeted him warily as he held some paperwork in his slightly shaking hand with a nervous biting of his lip, knowing that the younger of the two was renowned for disliking interruptions.
“Working here,” Kyle mumbled as he adjusted a setting without so much as a glance toward the doorway Jared stood in.
“Yeah, me too,” Jared returned, though softly, as he nearly always spoke.
“You missed the science lab by about a wing,” Kyle retorted smartly, his eyes still not leaving the screen in front of him.
Jared took a deep breath as he tried to ignore the fact that genius almost always seemed to be paid for by a loss of any kind of social skill, and forced himself to move on, “Yeah, we need you to look at this,” he said as he took a small step forward, holding the papers slightly out in front of him.
Kyle sighed heavily as he finally looked up, moving long locks from his eyes, “Do I look like a science geek?”
Jared was caught a bit by that response, not quite sure what his own was meant to be, “Well…” his voice trailed off as he attempted to find the rest of that sentence.
“Oh god, fine you got five seconds,” Kyle told him in frustration as he gestured for him to bring the papers over to him in quite a bit less than that amount of time.
Jared swallowed again as he moved to cautiously hand the papers to the younger boy, continuing to bite his lip nervously. The older of the two simply waited uncomfortably as Kyle began inspecting the computer readout with a furrowed brow.
“The boy genius looks confused. That can’t be good,” Ian spoke from the still open doorway where he stopped whilst passing by on his afternoon rounds, smirking at the two younger men as he leaned upon the doorway.
“Trying to work here. You’re sucking the intelligence out of the room, Neanderthal,” Kyle returned sarcastically as he turned slightly away, continuing to leaf through and decipher the pages before him.
Ian returned a derisive laugh, “And to think, this Neanderthal has to keep your butt alive if and when we go exploring. I’m sure your dazzling personality will really make me think twice about feeding you to the aliens,” he mocked as Kyle continued to ignore him and Jared looked down uncomfortably caught between their petty bickering.
Ian then simply shook his head as he began down the passageway again; ever vigilant of his duties, despite the sarcastic jabs he shared with Kyle. Jared took a slight breath as Ian left. He then turned back to Kyle, “Does it mean what I think it means?” Jared dared to ask a moment later.
“Listen, I have to test and retest these findings, and I can do it a lot quicker without you asking for a running narrative the whole time, so find something else to do. I’ll page the lab when I get through all of it,” he stated dismissively as he waved Jared away and continued his study of the papers before him.
Jared sighed slightly, already knowing what Kyle would find, as he himself had not only tested the findings, but had also dreamed of them, dreamed of the new planet that they were flying towards at that very moment. A new planet: A planet which could spell doom or hope for their entire race. Now if only those eerie, vague dreams of his could make it clear to him which it truly would be, after all.