Friday, June 02, 2017

Stepping Out

Breathe. Breathe. All I have to do is remember to breathe.

This is a moment. The moment. The one humanity has waited for, longed for, lived, bled and died for. This moment. And I am the one to carry it out.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I stand alone in the airlock. Fully suited and covered. The airlock could render anything unprotected to ash in moments. The suit is all but armor. Both are fully instrumented to detect something nonTerran. The ship itself was sacrosanct. The lab we would set up outside would study the life of this world, our new world. Once the lock opened, I'd be exiled outside until we declared we were safe and that would be over a terran year long: too many planners of this mission had actually thought about the consequences of something alien getting aboard.

And if it did, well, there was a way to deal with that. It would not be a positive historic moment though. For any of us. Except to be martyrs.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I could deal with the exile. I would not be alone. But I was going to be the first for the first day at least. Then I'd be joined by another and we'd be the only ones for a week. Then four more, for a fortnight. Then a full team for a month. Caution was warranted. Caution was needed.

The radio squawked. I gave my affirmation. I was ready.

The airlock door shuddered and started to retract. Light, bright light, the first natural light I'd seen in a months poured through. It was dull and bright at the same time. The shadows had a rusty cast.

Breathe, just breathe.

I stepped forward. I walked to the aperture. I placed a hand on the doorway and through the cage of the elevator, looked out. Out at this new and beautiful world.

It was riot of color. Oranges and purples. No green plants beneath this sun. Life had been burned away for a kilometer as a precaution. We landed on this world and wanted to be on the world but we wanted to be safe. I couldn't help but consider the irony: a new world, just arrived and already we scorched her to keep us safe. I hoped we would not repeat the patterns of the old here, but…time would tell.

With a jolt, the elevator descended. No ladders on Caerus: the gravity was too high. The consequences of a fall too great. The elevator lowered me. Lowered me down. Down to this new world.

My chest tightened. I was a wound spring.

Breathe. Just Breathe.

The cage halted. The ground was still somewhat uneven despite picking a "flat" piece of real estate to land on.

The cage doors retracted. There I was. A whole new world with only my suit between me and it. It's untamed wildness and my Human, Terran self. I was the alien here. I was the interloper. I was the explorer.

I stepped forward.

The world would see this through the relay through the jump point. It would be 80 hours old by the time it reached Earth. Caerus had another name, Gliese 667Cf and it required a jump to Gliese 667Bb's jump point and a 120 AU trip to this world. Our world. Our new world.

Tension gripped me, tightened me, made me into a string of a violin. 10 billion people would be watching this moment. If I fell, if I misspoke, if I choked, if something happened. That would be what was remembered for the ages for what Humanity had said on its first step upon this new and wild world.

Breathe. Just breathe.

I was a just a person. A normal person. Well, a bright one to be sure. However, there were many bright people and it was highly unlikely to be me making history. yet here I was. Thrust forward and daring enough, yet still terrified of the responsibility. Courage was not the absence of fear, but acting despite it.

Breathe, just breathe.

I lowered my foot and it landed a touch harder than I would have expected: though that was not surprising: Caerus had 1.2 earth gravities and I was wearing something just short of powered battle armor.

A purple wisp of aero plantkon wafted by. I could see at the far end of the burned landing site, animals we were calling shuffle lumps were starting to cross into the blackened barrenness. Their weird shuffling, humping motion from the movement of their odd, rubbery, segmented flatworm/caterpillar bodies propelled them slowly into the clearing. They were large but about as threatening as a neon colored blob of jello. Squigglies darted across and around them, snapping their tentacles at each other and at the small flies trying to bite and slurp from the bodies of the shufflelumps. They were spookier, but I was prepared.

With that crunch, the crisped gravel, my foot touched Caerus. Touched immortality. Touched the future.

Breathe. Just Breathe.

My second foot also touched down and I stood erect.

I remembered the hopes. I remembered the fears. I remembered the wonder. I remembered the toil. I remembered the blood. I remembered the words. The words they wanted. The words I wanted. The words that were needed.

I took a breath.

And I opened my mouth and spoke and left an honored place in the annals of Humanity.

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