IT WAS A BRIGHT, sunny Wednesday morning. Susan Dawes was on her way to work. Everything she was supposed to do that morning ran through her mind. Did she feed Tibbles? Tick. Did she organize the nanny to take Jacob to school? Tick. Did she lock the front door? Tick. Did she have her morning coffee? NO! Susan made a mental note to buy one before she got to work.
She arrived at NASA and parked her red Ford Focus EV at her dedicated charging station in the huge carpark located on the employees’ side of the building. She strode up to the entrance.
As she walked, Susan noticed people taking selfies and laughing. It was strange working in a well-known tourism attraction. Her office was located in the Kennedy Space Center, one of the multiple NASA centers in the United States. It was also a mega sightseeing location, which brought in hordes of excited travelers daily.
If only they knew what she knew!
She finally made it to the launch control building. Around Susan’s neck hung a keycard. It had her identification on it, and it was used to open code-protected doors. She brought it up to the scanner, and the front doors swung open.
Here I am, Susan thought. She took in a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for the stress of her workplace.
She walked over to the lift and pressed the button to go up. When she wasn’t working in the control room, helping to launch shuttles, Susan was normally in her office on the third floor. Most of her day was spent answering emails and doing piles of bureaucratic paperwork. Or at least, that had been the routine. With the solar flares quickly approaching Earth, Susan, and every other person who worked at NASA, was now working harder than ever.
The lift didn’t seem to be moving down to the ground level. Susan impatiently jabbed the call button again. Then she remembered she also needed to scan her security keycard to access the lifts.
Susan was deeply annoyed by all this keycard nonsense. Every single door in her building, and in many other NASA divisions, needed swipe access. Only keycards could unlock them.
This heightened level of security was due to an unfortunate accident that happened a few years ago. A group of kids had gained access to a restricted area and sneaked on board a space shuttle, shortly after destroying another one. What a complete disaster that day had been!
Since then, NASA had been forced to tighten security and closely control the tourist areas, but Susan still didn’t like the keycard idea. Oh, how much it bothered her! Every day.
Finally, the lift doors opened, and Susan stepped in. The lift was playing a soft tune from one of the speakers, which was quite pleasant to listen to. Susan pushed the button for the third floor and the lift lurched upwards. In spite of it all, she couldn’t stop thinking about the Salvos. This was turning out to be quite a stressful day for Susan.
Susan had launched the Salvos a few days before. Salvos translates to “survival” in Latin. That’s why NASA had chosen the name – it was meant to be the salvation of the human race.
Aboard the Salvos was a crew of seven specially trained scientists, astronauts and engineers. Their primary mission was to find another planet that could sustain life. In the meantime, NASA had been constructing gigantic, colony spaceships at a secret location in Alaska. If the Salvos was successful in its mission, then there would be the minor problem of moving a population of nearly eight billion people to the new planet.
The sad thing was, NASA wouldn’t be able to save everybody, not even close to one percent of the world’s population. Only two of the five planned gigantic spaceships had been fully completed so far. The dilemma that had everyone especially worried was who would have a spot on the spaceships.
Each spaceship was designed to carry approximately two million people. That meant that only ten million people could be saved. Susan had no knowledge of how the government would select the survivors from around the world. All she could think about was how lucky she was to get a spot on the ship for herself and her son, Jacob.
Jacob didn’t even know the world was about to end. Barely anyone did, except for a few selected people who worked at NASA and the government. They had been sworn to secrecy. If the world knew about the impending doom, there would be global chaos. Rioting and looting would follow everywhere. That’s why Susan and everyone who knew about it couldn’t say a word.
The launch of the Salvos wasn’t made public either. They just had to hope for the best and pray that the Salvos would find another planet in time.
The elevator music stopped abruptly, and a panicked voice rang out from the lift’s speakers.
“WE HAVE AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT, I REPEAT, WE HAVE AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. WE HAVE LOST CONTACT WITH THE SALVOS. I REPEAT, WE HAVE LOST CONTACT WITH THE SALVOS!”
Susan’s jaw dropped, as the lift doors flew open. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard.
She stepped out of the lift and gazed around. Judging by the looks on the faces of the other people in the office, they had heard it too. It wasn’t just Susan’s imagination. NASA really had lost contact with the Salvos.