Interstellar Odyssey

 

PART 1: THE DREAM

The sun peeked over the horizon, illuminating the Earth, but obscured partially by the thick air, laden with dust. Fourteenyear- old Carlos walked through the stifling heat, his hands deep in his pockets, his head bowed and his mind struggling under the weight of misery.

Carlos was a rocket science whiz kid, with a real flair for all things mechanical. He loved to design various tools and vehicles, endowing them with a myriad of functions. He even made models of the vehicles he designed, and tested them out for effectiveness. Naturally, he dreamed of becoming an inventor one day. It was his passion to make new things, and make old things better.

But that was the root of his problems. The other kids in school couldn't accept his intelligence. He always won the science fairs, and excelled in science projects. Jealousy soon gave way to hatred, and today, he was probably the most hated kid in school. He frequently got bullied. In retaliation, he had invented various devices to use as weapons. Still, it couldn't allay the crushing mental torture he had to endure every day.

As he mulled over his problems, his throat suddenly stung and he started coughing. He wiped his mouth and glared at the foggy sky. The weather was becoming unbearable these days. A large truck roared past him, the exhaust fumes making him choke. Suddenly, he started wheezing as his lungs struggled for air. He whipped out his inhaler and took long draws from it, savouring the clean draught of air. He had recently developed asthma, due to the worsening condition of the air. This inhaler was his own creation to combat it! It actually stored oxygen. How he wished the air surrounding him could be as clean as the air in the inhaler! What was the world coming to?!

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His mother was waiting in their shoebox flat, with a meal prepared for him. As always, Carlos glanced at the tall buildings across the street before entering the tiny apartment.

The contrast between rich and poor was grossly apparent in this street. His father had died years ago, leaving them to fend for themselves. They had very little financial resources. And so, while he lived with his mother in a tiny flat, struggling to make ends meet, the palatial houses across the street were inhabited by high-class businessmen, who made a living in oil, automobiles, and other widespread industries that was the cause of all this pollution and unbearable air. Shaking his head, he went into the flat, his mother holding the door open for him.

"How was school today?" his mother asked as he glumly tackled his pie.

"Horrible as ever", he replied.

"Did you get bullied again?" his mother suspiciously asked.

"No".

"You're lying".

"All right fine", he exploded. "I did get beaten up! But I used my pen that shoots capsules to send the guy flying down the corridor!"

"We should talk to your principal..."

"No!" he yelled. "Mum, we've talked about this before. My principal doesn't care. Just relax, and one day, I'll make us rich, so we can live comfortably, okay?"

"And how do you propose to make us live comfortably?" she questioned.

"By helping everyone live comfortably. I'm going to invent an efficient starship to bring humans far into space to discover new planets. Earth won't be fit for human inhabitation in a few years time".

His mother stared at him, open-mouthed. This was the most outlandish of all his ideas.

"Carlos...you can't seriously be thinking of designing a rocket…" she stuttered.

But Carlos had said it with all sincerity. He was serious. Dead serious.

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His alarm clock chirped, and Carlos woke up, looking around drowsily.

Good morning, Carlos. The time is 0800. The day is Saturday, and the date is the 10th of September, 2025. Would you-

He pushed the button on top of the clock, cutting out the mechanical voice, and went to brush his teeth.

Today was a holiday, which meant he got a break from the boredom and torture of school. The only subjects he liked were science and math, and the teachers constantly skipped class. Thus, he hated school. He preferred to stay at home on the weekends, working on his latest invention.

He decided to start working on his dream; to build an energyefficient starship to bring humans to far off galaxies. He would get through with this project!

He never knew what he had gotten himself into.

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Carlos drowsily dragged himself off the couch. The time was 9 in the morning. He had fallen asleep on the couch after fifteen straight hours of toiling the day before.

Going into the bathroom, he brushed his teeth, washed his face and then lathered shaving lotion onto his chin. He shaved off the stubble that had developed.

He thought back to the day, four years ago, when he had sworn to build a revolutionary new starship. Now, he was a near-man of eighteen, dedicatedly toiling on the biggest project of his life. And every day, scientists warned that the Earth was in trouble due to pollution. Man had meddled with Mother Nature too much, and she was calling it quits. Enough was enough; the cold, hard truth was that Earth was reaching a critical point.

The prospects were maddening. He had designed the entire starship, equipping it with jet boosters, artificial gravity engines, supercomputers, labs, and all the paraphernalia a starship needed.

He had toiled day and night. He had spent hours on research and testing. He had visited space agencies. Still the final key evaded him. He still did not have a form of fuel for the starship. He had decided it would not run on jet fuel like the current space machines. The form of fuel it used would be the factor that made it different from other craft. Now he needed to create that differing factor to make it truly unique and efficient.

He nursed his coffee, his brain whirring as he thought of a form of fuel. Still, no solution presented itself. He threw the cup in the sink in disgust, and dressed up to go outside.

He got into his tiny car, and drove to the beach. The fresh air always acted like a brain tonic for him. Surrounded by a hubbub of activity, with people playing volleyball, basking in the sun or swimming in the ocean (already polluted with plastic bags and other items of rubbish), he looked out at the sea.

He sighed. The "fresh" air wasn't so fresh anymore. It was starting to become putrid, and he knew that one day, his asthma would act up here, and that would be the cue for him to avoid this place from then on. He could hardly go anywhere now without coughing.

He idly stared at the salty water, lapping at the shore.

Salt...water...

He sprang up, his inventor's brain firing on all cylinders. He turned around and sprinted all the way to his car, and sped home, narrowly missing a speeding ticket. He ran into his house and into his makeshift lab, for once not looking at the huge houses across the street.

Once inside, he jumped up and down, yelling "EUREKA! EUREKA!"

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The new bulletin ran: "According to scientists, the freak storms that occurred in Ontario clearly show that the Earth has very little time left. This is an emergency, as Earth will become uninhabitable ina few years' time. We are reaching a critical point"

Also, many areas around the world recorded a 28% increase in precipaitation rates. The average increae in this has only been 5% in fifty years.".

Carlos nearly fell out of his chair. 28 percent?!!! That spelled disaster! Even a few percent decrease in temperature meant the climate was rapidly changing. The climate was fluctuating between two extremes, either extremely hot or humid, or freezing cold.

The phone chirped, and Carlos picked it up. It was his mother.

"Carlos, did you see that stuff on TV? Terrible, isn't it?".

"Yeah" he replied. "This means disaster. You know how bad this is. We have to move to another planet, and we have mere years to do that! Earth is a done deal".

There was a long silence. Then, his mother slowly said, "Think you should reveal your invention?".

Carlos smiled. It was time.

"Yes Mom".

He ran into his room, and grabbed the thick file. It contained all his work on the starship. Notes, blueprints, schematics, and last of all, the details of its revolutionary engine system. It used water as fuel, converting it into salt to power the engines. This ensured a clean engine, that was nevertheless, powerful. He smiled at the simplicity and beauty of it all; it was the ultimate engine in existence, and it was his brainchild. His invetor's mind was not content; inventors knew no invention was perfect, but he knew this was enough for the moment.

He had even made a working model, and it's efficiency had surprised and delighted him. Placing the model carefully in a cardboard box, he rushed out, his precious file under his arm.

It was the product of four years of work. Hard work. Hard work which would or would not bear fruit in matter of hours. He called a taxi, and rushed to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency.

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He sat down before the Director. He felt nervous. This man could make or break his future, and the future of the Earth.

"Mr Griffiths..." he began.

An hour later, the Director of NASA stared at him, round-eyed. He had looked through the file, and even watched the model in action. He stared at the eager eighteen-year-old, unable to believe his flair for invention.

"This is the craziest idea I've heard so far. But…it somehow makes sense, a lot of sense".

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PART 2: THE JOURNEY

After that, there was no going back.

A whole crazy year later, Carlos sat in the reclining seat unable to believe this was all happening. He was going to become an astronaut…an astronaut…

His invention had been accepted, and it had been built. Due to the urgency to colonize other planets, the space agencies of the world wielded great power. The approval of the Director of NASA was akin to God declaring a man fit to enter heaven; it was absolute law.

Now, the whole world was going to watch as Carlos and a few companions left the Milky Way to search for a new planet to live in. The Earth's population was rapidly decreasing. The planet that had sustained the human race for generations had finally closed shop. It was becoming unlivable. Avalanches, hurricanes, heat waves, unrestrained flooding...the once beautiful planet now looked like a battlefield in most places. There was no choice. The era of Earth was over. It was time for the human race to find a new planet, a new home. Earth would become either a barren desert, or an ice-covered wasteland in a few years. Mankind had to move house; it was now or never.

3...2...1...LIFT-OFF...

Carlos Rodriguez, the hero of Earth, waved to his people one last time before lift-off. He was shown on the huge holograhic screens erected at the launching area. The people cheered as though they were welcoming a Hollywood star.

Carlos had promised to find new planets to inhabit. He was the genius who had found a way for the people of Earth to have a new home, a better tomorrow. He was the light at the end of a tunnel for them. Once, he had been bullied relentlessly because of his intelligence. Today, his genius was legendary, and he was as famous as a superstar actor, just that he was considered more important, and thus, respected more. The money he had earned from his patent had ensured that he and his mother could live comfortably in a large house. However, only his mother occupied their huge new house now. Her son had more pressing matters at hand, like scouting around the universe in search of new galaxies and planets. Right now, she stood at the launching area, tears filling her eyes as she gazed at her son's creation. And of course, she couldn't resist the usual motherly,"That's my son! That's my boy!!".

The starship whirred as the gallons of water inside it were converted to salt, and it lifted off the ground, not leaving a jet-black trail of exhaust like other spacecraft. It was a silvery plane-like craft, with triple exhaust fumes. The air behind the exhaust fumes blurred as power surged out throught the engines. The revolutionary craft, powered by mere water, worked beautifully. It could last all the way to Alpha Centauri and back. Already, it was being mass-produced to ship the people to their new planet when it was found. This was the first of its kind. The Smithsonian Institution had gone wild getting a model to display in its exhibibits, as a symbol of man's acheivements. The starship had been named the HMS Rodriguez in honour of the teenager who had come up with a way to search for man's next home.

The people gathered there cheered wildly as this metal bird zoomed towards space, and a new home. People all over the world danced in front of their TV screens. Earth watched as its saviours took off on the most important mission ever undertaken by man.

It was a new beginning.

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