“Look at that crowd. And you thought we were going to have trouble getting volunteers, there must be 10,000 people out there already, just here in New York alone. They’re gathering like this all over the world.” Elizabeth Davis, Director of the UFN Space Agency stood looking out the 30th story window at the crowd below. She brushed 1 of the blonde curls that framed her long, narrow head out of her eyes and turned to face the President, “Are you listening to me, Mr. President?”
Turning, she faced President Eric Avram sitting behind his semi-circular, cherry oak desk. The room was dimly lit, as always, by a single, tall, brass, floor lamp in the corner behind him. The floor was covered in a light green, hemp carpet. The beige walls stretched 2 meters to the domed, white ceiling above.
“Yes Liz, I’m listening. Thousands of people all over the world, it’s only noon, and here they all are. What will we do? Go it.” He waived his hand dismissively without turning his head from the never-ending supply of paperwork.
“You’re not concerned?”
Eric sighed, looked up at her, “We asked for volunteers Liz. Now we have them. We’ll stick them onto the shuttles and send them. What’s the problem?”
“You mean aside from not having enough room onboard the ships or enough supplies to take care of them when they get there? No problem, sir.”
“We don’t need to take care of them when they get there. We told them it was a 1 way trip into a world without civilization. They understand that they will be on their own. That’s why they want to go. Don’t you get it? The opportunity to set foot where no other has ever been, and pioneer a truly new world. What greater adventure could there be?”
“You sound like you wish you were going.”
He leaned back in his chair and gazed at an imaginary sky, “Believe me, if I weren’t tied to this desk by this slow torture of unending paperwork, I probably would go.”
“Don’t you have people for that?”
“There are people doing this. What makes it to me is just the shit no one else can sign off on. I’m the most powerful man on the planet and still I can’t escape paperwork. And why is it all on paper, I have no idea. We were supposed to go to a paperless workplace back in the 20th century, yet here I am.” Eric’s left thumb flipped across the corners of a particularly large pile as he shook his head.
“It must be rough, ruling the world, sir.”
“Ahh! I can’t take this anymore. Let me see this sea of humanity.” Eric stood up from his desk and joined Liz at the window. “Fuckin-A that is a lot of people. Look at ‘em all too, you’d think it was a concert the way they’re partying down there.”
“All over the world, sir. Between the news of the aliens and the settlement of Mars, people seem to feel it’s the dawning of a new era.”
“A new era, really? Did they catch the part about the aliens having been talking to us for a decade?”
“I don’t think those details bothered them. The talking heads are speculating on what types of new technology we may have coming. The religious types are either calling it a blessing from God or a sign of the apocalypse. And the conspiracy buffs have decided that you are, in fact, a secret alien pretending to be human.”
“A secret alien?”
“That’s what, what’s his name, the guy from streaming radio, Art Hatcher, has been saying for 2 days now.”
“I like that, secret alien.” Eric turned and looked at her with narrowed eyes, holding his fingers up as if his hand were a pistol, “Avram, Eric Avram, Secret Alien.” they were both still laughing when General Hobiani walked into the room.
“General! Hello, What can I do for you today? Don’t tell me you want to go to Mars too?”
“Hello, Mr. President. No, I’m fine with my feet on the Earth. I would, however, like to recommend again that we send some units to Mars before the settlers arrive to secure the situation.”
“General, we’ve been over this. The people on Mars are going to have to be responsible for governing themselves, in all aspects. We can’t possibly control a situation that far away. Sending soldiers is only going to create problems.”
“So you’re just going to let anarchy rule the day, sir?”
“I don’t really see how I can prevent it. Are we going to make them check in with us every time that want to do something, and then wait several weeks for a response? How would that work? And what if they disobey? Are we going to declare Martial law on Mars from here? Hah, Martial law on Mars, that’s funny.”
Liz looked at him without expression, “Yes, sir, very funny. You know, we could have them form a government before they leave.”
“Yes, we could, and then when they get there and fan out across the surface of an entire planet, how long do you think that government will last?”
“Sir, I …”
The President held up his hand to silence his advisors as he again took his seat behind his desk, “Look, I understand your concerns, I do, and I appreciate your advice. However, I think we’re just going to have to trust to humanity and let things develop organically.”
The General looked out the window at the growing throng below, “Trust, yes, that has always worked out so well in the past.”
Sun and blue sky reflected off the glass walls of the UFN executive building onto crowds gathered in the green fields of Central Park below. Music, shouting, and laughter could be heard for blocks surrounding the park. Directly in front of the main doors to building a news van and its crew stood waiting to go on air to report to those sitting at home the actions of others.
“We’re on the air in 5, 4, 3, 2….” Tom Jennings, cameraman, pointed at his intrepid reporter.
“Hello, this is Benjamin Scott reporting for the World Press Network. I am standing 30 stories below the UFN Executive Tower in Central Park, New York City where crowds of volunteers have been gathering all morning in response to last weeks request by President Avram. As you can see behind me, a diverse assortment of people has gathered here today. They have come from all walks of life, there seems to be no common denominator; education, economics, ethnicity, all as various as the world has to offer. What they do seem to have in common is a desire for adventure.
“Excuse me, sir, can you tell us what brought you here today?”
A young man with straight, brown, shoulder length hair wearing a silver shirt and slacks looked at Benjamin’s mic and camera, “Hell, I’m here to go to Mars. Why else?”
“You understand that there will be no coming back.”
“Who cares? We’ve got a chance to get out from under this fascist, corporatist government and build our own utopia. Why would I want to come back?”
“Of course. And how about you miss? Why do you want to go to Mars?”
A blonde women in a long, homemade dress of many colors looked at him and held up a leather sack the size of her head, “In this bag I have enough seeds to start a truly organic garden. No more chemicals or toxins in our food. A chance to make a fresh start.”
“Were you a farmer here on Earth?”
“No, I’m a waitress in vegan restaurant, but I have done a lot of reading about farming during the pioneer days of the old United States. I think it will be a lot like that.”
“Sounds logical. As you can see, the crowds have gathered into groups based on similar demographics all on their own. Let’s walk over this way and see what we find.
“Sir, Sir, hello, I’m Ben Scott from WPN, can I ask why you have come to volunteer?”
A tall, bald man wearing a tight, green shirt and camouflage pants turned to face the camera, “My name is Henry Sweinheld, Colonel of the Free Peoples Militia. My unit and I,” with a sweeping gesture he waived towards a group of similarly dressed men and women behind him, “have come for liberty.”
“Yes, liberty. Finally an opportunity to escape this oppressive world government of banks that robs us of our sovereignty and truly set out on our own to be free!” with the final words he raised his fist into the air and the militia cheered.
“Well, yes, very good. Let’s continue exploring the crowd, shall we?” Ben approached a group of people gathered in a circle around numerous packs. “Hello, how are you today. Mind if I ask why you have come today?”
“Are you kidding? Exploration.”
“Yes. An entire planet, most of which no human has ever set foot on before. We are going explore and map the entire surface.”
“The entire surface? That could take quite awhile.”
“A lifetime, hopefully.”
“You do know that they mapped from satellites in orbit, right?”
A woman in the group stood up and looked at Ben as if he were an ignorant child, “Please, those are just topical charts. If you want to know what a place really is like, its beauty and its dangers, you need to see it first hand.”
“That’s right,” the first man agreed, “and we are going to do just that.”
Ben turned back to the camera, “As you can see its an eclectic group, but they are all very excited for a new beginning, regardless of the dangers. I’ll be here all day talking to people, for now, this is Ben Scott reporting for WPN. Back to you Tammy.”
Tammy Davis and Steve Acres sat next to each other behind a blue plastic desk in a white plastic studio. “Thank you Ben. Boy Steve, that’s really something isn’t it.”
“I’ll say Tammy. It’s really ‘out of this world’.”
They both forced laughter, “Oh Steve, stop.” Tammy turned and faced the camera, “But don’t you stop watching, because we’ll be back with more coverage of ‘Volunteer Day’ from around the world after these messages from our Earth bound sponsors.”
“Are we out, Tom?” Tom took the camera off his shoulder and lit a cigarette.
“Yeah, Ben, we’re out.”
“Okay, we don’t have another report due in for a couple of hours. I’m going to take a walk around. Why don’t you get some b-roll before you stow the equipment.”
“Sure, but be careful Ben, these people don’t seem to be all together right.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
Ben turned and began to walk off into the crowd. A general party atmosphere had broken out. There were barbeques, impromptu bands, and groups of children playing games. As he came to the center of the field he found a large group of families who had set up together around a campfire. About 15 families, by his best estimate; old, young, and children. There were elderly people sitting in lawn chairs, and young couples drinking beer, smoking marijuana, and talking, a group of children were playing soccer off to the side. He walked up to an African-American couple watching the game.
“Hello.” Ben flashed his famous smile at them, they turned and smiled back. She spoke first.
“Hi, You just get here?”
“Um, yeah, sort of.”
“Isn’t it exciting? You can just feel the electricity in the air. So many hopes and dreams, with no idea what to expect. I still can’t believe its real.”
“You’re bringing your kids along?”
The husband looked at him sideways, “Kid, singular, the boy tending goal over there.”
“Ah, handsome boy.”
“Do I know you? You look familiar.”
“Benjamin Scott, WPN.” Ben offered his hand.
“Right,” he took Ben’s hand and shook it, “Terrance Evans. This is my wife, Alicia.”
Alicia looked at him and smiled again, “Oh my god! Ben Scott! Really? I used to watch you all the time, before Terry got rid of our com-unit that is.”
“You got rid of your com-unit?”
“Rots the brain, staring at thing all day long. What’s the benefit of virtual reality when there is actual reality? My Dad used to say, and I agree.”
“Is that why you are going to Mars?”
“Are we on now?” Terry looked around suspiciously.
“No, no, I’m just doing background research.”
“I see. Yes, that is why. A chance to make a fresh start. Build something of our own design, rather than being forced into the pre-made, pre-fabricated, pre-ruined world of the modern age.”
“And you’re not worried about bringing your child into an environment where there will be no civilization to help you if he gets sick or injured?”
“I’ll take care of my son, thanks.”
“I didn’t mean…”
Alicia gently scolded Terry with a light slap on the shoulder, “There’s plenty of danger here. Chief among them the fact that no matter what path he chooses he will still have to become a cog in the machine. At least now, whatever happens, he’ll be free.”
“Yes, that does seem to be the theme of the day.”
“And there’ll be Martians.” Alicia smiled
Terry shook his head, “They’re not Martians, honey, they’re Kentaurans.”
“Oh, whatever, they’re aliens and we’re going to get to meet them. How cool is that? Aliens and spaceships and Mars colonies, its like a movie come to life. How could we not give our son a chance to take part in this?”
“Fair point.” Ben nodded his head, “Did all of you, these families, come together.”
“No, some of us did,” he waived at a group of families off to his right, “but mostly we met up here and sort of gravitated together. The children, actually, started playing with each other.”
“You all seem to have packed more heavily than the others. Most people just have a pack or 2, but all the families here have a lot of bags.”
“When you are responsible for more than just yourself, you tend to plan ahead a little better. Don’t want to end up on Mars with just the clothes on our back and an empty belly.”
“What type of stuff did you bring?”
“Dried and canned food, bottled water, cooking supplies, farming supplies, tools, like that.”
“So you’re planning on being a farmer?”
“Everyone is going to have to be a farmer whether they plan to or not. It’s not like they can just go to the grocery store for dinner.”
“So you’re not expecting any help from the government?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. They’re going to dump us there, give us a few supplies. And let Darwin take over. Then, once we’ve built roads and grocery stores, you’ll see the rich and powerful come and vacation on Mars.”
Alicia continued to smile, “But that’s okay. We, these people you see here, we’re looking for adventure. We don’t need to be taken care of, we’re looking forward to the challenge of building a world all on our own.”
“When you say it like that it does sound like fun. Although I’m not sure all these people are as prepared as you are for what’s coming.”
“No, I’m sure a lot of these people are going to die the first year. Those of us who do make it, though, are going to build a great new civilization. Free from the constraints of having been built on the ashes of history.”
A loud siren wailed across the park, followed by a booming voice, “Attention! Attention! The President of the UFN will be making an announcement in 5 minutes! 5 minutes!”
Ben looked at his watch, “Okay, I’ve got to get back to my camera crew. It’s been nice talking to you. Good luck on your adventure.”
“Good luck to you Ben.” Alicia called after him as he weaved his way through the crowd.
5 minutes later, Ben was standing by his van, performing a sound check with Tom and the rest of the crew when the top 10 stories of the Executive building became a solid white screen and then the President appeared in front of a podium.
“Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is indeed a pleasure to see you all here today. Across the globe, millions of people have gathered to volunteer in a stunning display of courage and a true testament to the spirit of humanity. I applaud you all.
“Over the next several days we will be transporting you to the launch sites so that you may begin your adventure. We will provide you with basic supplies and educational materials to help you begin once you have arrived.
“I caution you to remember, as exciting as this will be, it will be equally hazardous. Once you step aboard the transports, there will be no turning back, so now is the last chance to change your mind.
“Truly this is the greatest adventure humanity has ever embarked upon, the settling of another planet. I ask all the peoples of Earth to take a moment to reflect upon the heroic measures being taken by these pioneers as they head out into the great chaotic unknown.
“May God bless and protect you all.”
“And there you have it folks, the final send off from the President of UFN. As you can see the crowd continues to be excited about this opportunity. It does not seem that anyone is taking the President’s suggestion to take this last moment to reconsider the dangers involved. Having spoken with people today, both on and off camera, I believe they consider the danger one of the positives in this adventure. I suppose time will tell.
“Reporting from Central Park, New York City. I’m Benjamin Scott.”