Earth folk have decided it might be safe to crawl back to the surface after living underground for 250 years.
Auto-imposed exile was a result of the last war, which left radiation residues in over 90% of land surface.
The dwindled population’s government intends to send its top scientists to go explore the surface and then provide a report as to whether or not it is inhabitable.
These scientists, in turn, have outsourced their jobs to newly graduated scientists who don’t matter diddly squat in case something were to suddenly deprive them of oxygen on the planet’s sore surface.
This is where my team and I come in.
Dr. Jocelyn is the lead scientist. She graduated top of her class and has been working in biochemistry since she was eight. She was brought up by the government in a laboratory and has no known genetic family. She has dark olive skin, blue eyes and straight silver tresses. My brother dated her in college before his motorcycle accident. Otherwise I have never seen her show much affinity toward anyone.
Fil is an extraterrestrial from an uncharted planet whose family dropped him off on the surface when he was a baby, with nothing but a note and 6 bags of powder baby food which contained minerals no one has been able to trace. He would have died on the surface except one of the professors taking samples from the sky hole’s edge heard him crying 32 years ago. The professor raised him as his own son and was able to duplicate the minerals for his survival. There are no traces of radiation on Phil’s body, so he might be immune. He is 7’2″ and walks erect like a homo sapiens, but has ghost-like white skin, no hair and a tail he coils around his waist. His face looks otherwise human, sometimes more human than others I have seen. His intelligence spans that of several top scientists’, but he is quiet and mostly goes underappreciated. I wonder if he has a penis.
Xavier is an enthusiastic handsome lad who just graduated on a full scholarship. He comes from a large immigrant family who has worked for the underground farming industry these 250 years. If it were up to him, he’d be leading the team. (He likes to point out he has a penis).
I am just a senator’s niece who happens to have a minor in culinary arts. I graduated last year but have really just traveled the underground tunnel system since, popping my head up through an air hole every few hundred kilometers to graph air samples and then sell them to government and news agencies.
My team and a I aim to spend 60 days on the earth’s surface, photographing and taking minute samples of any plants known to be edible, as well as oxygen and radiation levels at different altitudes.
From the sky holes, I have seen blue skies and white and orange clouds, hills that to me look like mountains… but I have been denied this one privilege: I have never set my eyes on the night stars.
There are records and many computer images of beautiful star systems millions of light years away, but the stars have not been visible since the explosions that exterminated most of the land life. Some say God is punishing humanity. I think, that if God exists, he’s afraid we’ll destroy those too.
Our mission begins tomorrow at 5 AM.
Captain Jocelyn led us down a black valley between two active volcanoes. Fil offered to try my cooking before everyone else to assure them that it is palatable. I did not know Fil could eat earth food. Apparently, neither did he. Xavier insisted on pitching my tent and it feels like he didn’t entirely clear the spot of rocks. I wonder if this was on purpose or if he is just a dimwit.
We have found samples of Coffea plant! It turned out to be edible. That is, drinkable. There were Aloe plants nearby. We saw bird specimens of the Psittacoidea family. The earth here is an entomologist’s paradise. This was on the west side of the south volcano. No water in sight yet. I pitched my own tent tonight.
We found a southwest stream with a waterfall! The bugs are getting noticeably larger as we move forward- some as large as my palm. I haven’t seen any crickets, otherwise I would very much like to fry those and see if they taste like the underground crickets at fine restaurants. Fil has taken two of my food packs from off my shoulder while I made my way down the side of the waterfall. We each took turns bathing at the bottom. Xavier picked up my other backpack on the way out, without my consent. Captain Jocelyn then gave me two inflatable containers equivalent to twelve liters to carry water out. She is quite practical. Surface hot coffee tastes and smells like heaven! Still no stars.
Tonight we have reached a wall to a mesa and there are lots of potentially edible plants to sample. We will stay here a couple of days. There is a spring about 300 meters away. Xavier built a bonfire and I tried climbing up the mesa wall. I got stuck on a ledge and Fil, who has better balance, has climbed up to fetch me. Then he has carried me all the way to the top of the mesa on his shoulders. We had to climb through a low cloud at about 1500 meters in altitude. Oxygen levels were still good. We reached the top and there were stars everywhere. If you lie down on the grass and move your arms it feels as if you’re swimming in them. I asked Fil if there were stars on his home planet and he said there are stars across the whole universe. I wonder if he has always known this or if he just now realized it.