Longevity Chapter 5: 2200
Longevity Chapter 5: 2200
I sat back on my little porch, a balcony really, and looked out at the ocean. Blue-green as far as the eye could see, almost crystal clear towards the shore, a beach as clean as you could get. There were scattered umbrellas here and there in patterns of fuchsia and aquamarine, and white. Few people still, but the war was long over and, though everyone remembered it, no one remembered it. Does that make sense? It is the kind of thing that's only ever talked about anymore in movies and on the Internet if you go back far enough, and since the browsers are still updating about a version number every five months, it's harder and harder to find plug-ins that can translate the old stuff anymore.
The sky is clear. Only a few planes are up in it anymore, but those that are can carry five thousand people at a time. There are some smaller air vans around, but most of us just program our cars and let them do the work these days. They'll find the best route, and take us there without having to ever refuel and streets are all but useless, but no longer all destroyed. We still like to pave walking paths and I like the bike trail I use from here to the store and back every day. Just a regular bike, you know, like when I was a kid. I like it. Had to order the thing from the other side of the planet, but that didn't matter. Everything seems to ship overnight all the time, and I've put away enough money to be comfortable, but I'm still on the lookout for something to do, that's all. I want to just find something.
Mary and I were married last year. I know that sounds odd, doesn't it? Married Mary? I refused to use the term in front of her. I figure when you've got a name that invites the jokes you've heard them all right?
I do like the pelicans, though. They hover over my condo all the time, and yes, I feed them. They'll eat anything. I was feeding them the remains of fish that I'd already cleaned as they sat there on the pier. (there's a pretty good pier down on the shore about two buildings down.) They are like big walking trash buckets. I could probably have tossed my whole bag of fishing gear and they would have eaten it. They're dumb, but I like them.
One of them comes to see me all the time. I call him Pete. No particular reason. I just like him. I know that it's Pete because he's missing his left eye, and he's a little slower than the other pelicans.
After the war, most of the cities were destroyed.
We had a lot of crap to clean up, not to mention all the walkers we had to get rid of. That was a mess and a half.
We did the job, though, but there weren't as many of us after the war. We're doing fine now, and yes, everyone still gets the shot when they are born, but it was just too hard to stay settled in some areas. Anywhere that was cold was just out, and we kept moving further and further south. Some went east and west, but no one went north. Most people ended up on the coast somewhere. We didn't have any boats in the water to pollute it with, most stuff being delivered by air freighter, and all the cars had little atomic power cells in them. Safe. Yes, I know what you're thinking. But things never need a battery. I had my hover bike outfitted with one the year before last, and the car came after that, though I can hardly call the thing a car since my first car was a practically rusted-out Camaro from the 1980s.
The car, if you could call it that, is more like a traveling living room. It's made up of a large bubble top surrounded by four repulsor plates and a small two-foot wall all the way around. Inside is a carpeted room under that domed ceiling with a table that stands, bolted to the floor on a chrome pole. Surrounding the table are a series of chairs. Four can sit at the table, and there is a three-seat couch at the back. There are also little monitors all over the place. You can watch films or listen to music as you safely glide to your next destination. It seems to take about an hour to get anywhere in the United States. (Or what's left of the United States, let's call it North America. That's just the way I think sometimes.) and if you're going overseas, it seems to take between an hour and three hours to get anywhere in the world.
That's nothing to what we're doing in space, though.
There's a reason there aren't more bodies out on the beach today. It's the fact that we've confirmed the existence of life outside our solar system. People are out celebrating.
I was out getting away from the video screens for a minute, but we've been sending probes out to distant stars and though most haven't gotten where they are going, the one to Alpha Centauri did. We've been watching the reports for a while now about all the planets we're discovering there. The first one was a big gas giant, then several smaller ones, then the mother-load. We haven't even fully explored our planets yet, but we've got this. The rocket landed on the fourth planet there and touched down after sensing a lot of heat that was moving around, and when the cameras turned on, there was this enormous great white bear-like thing, kind of like a polar bear but the size of a mastodon licking the camera. Once they figured out they couldn't eat it, they lost interest.
For the first time since the war, the bears, as they were called, had everyone glued to their monitors again, but this time it was more of a window than anything else. The space program's channel page has no sponsorship, and no breaks, just a constant stream of television from another world. Eventually, other cameras were set up, and the observers could choose between them. Every once in a while when the bears were getting too far away from the cameras they would sound a ping or play a tune, or flash a light at them to keep them nearby and interested while they set up a roving camera to follow them with, which just took a day or two more to complete.
It didn't take long to understand that it was a family group, that there was a father and a mother, and about six cubs from various years. Without a lot more detail, they did not know how old they might be, but then again, that would be relevant to where they were from, wouldn't it? A team of scientists figured out that the planet rotated about once every twenty-five Earth hours and that their year comprised about four hundred and fifteen of those twenty-five hour days, and then somebody realized that the planet was hurtling much faster through space than the Earth was. In the end, most people just watched them. They didn't know what was waiting for them on Titan, just a quick hop over to Saturn, but that was still being discovered. We were regularly hopping back and forth to the moon, and occasionally to Mars and Venus with a regularity that made it commonplace, but nothing more exciting than that. But regular trips to the outer planets were still a fairly new concept. It was done, just barely enough for any real research to be done. They could get there, but by the time the astronauts were home it had been ten years or more, and faster methods of propulsion were on the rise. It wouldn't take much longer to find them.
The family of bears was everywhere you looked. You could see it for miles and miles. It was in every window, in every coffee shop, and at every transit station across town. People ate their breakfast with the bear family in the background behind them. They took showers in stalls that were made of water-proof screens and brushed their teeth with Arctic bear toothbrushes.