There was almost no light in the pre-transfer room.
The space was designed to have as calming an effect as possible. As you walked a soft glow followed you and preceded you casting its light far enough for you to feel secure. There was no need to walk far however, a welcoming bed of velvety softness was never far from reach. Ambient sounds lulled all those within the room’s imperceptible walls.
I lay face up, my hands cupping my head, drifting slightly toward sleep but embracing a pleasantly meditative state of mind. Nothing could be heard of the hustle and bustle outside, the room was fully insulated from that. The only sound beyond the music playing was the ever-present hum of the room’s air filtration system. These are of course ubiquitous now and have been since the first pandemics struck in the early 2020s. I was almost oblivious to this as I lay breathing deeply to maintain my thoughtful state and gazing up through the darkness above me.
The Brooklyn Transfer was similar to most others around the globe. Perhaps a little shabbier around the edges and the graffiti that was ubiquitous in New York had also crept inside what ought to have been a totally pristine environment. After all, there was no way that anything remotely alien should transfer with you from one location to the next. Not that paint or any associated bacteria could get past the flushing. But still, the appearance of a sanitized and supremely clinical space somehow created confidence. The mess outside that was Brooklyn was simply impossible to create an airtight barrier against.
I had politely declined most of the services offered in this VIP refuge. All except my usual chilli cappuccino which now tingled as it wound its way within me. I wanted to use this time to think in the calmest possible state I was capable of in what I knew could well prove to be a vain attempt to find a pathway of solutions to the many problems ahead.
The Mars Colony was in crisis. Somehow, no one knew how, a virus had reached it and spread to approximately 12% of the colonists. Containment policies were currently in place. The isolation of all those affected had been speedily enforced. However, the disturbing possibility was that the virus could begin to mutate and any mutation could potentially appear weeks later among the virus-free majority.
My disciplines were in military and biological spheres and I had been publicly tasked to make the transfer to Mars and once there take the difficult decisions required to resolve the situation gripping the colony. It was emphasised that my intervention was the greatest hope for a resolution of the crisis there. However, there was a far greater crisis that I was tasked to assist with and this was to remain wholly confidential.
My meditations brought little benefit to me. I knew I had to create some substance to my public presence on Mars and for the life of me I couldn’t see any substantive way to assist. Without a vaccine, there was little that could be done to protect the 412 souls remaining unaffected on Mars and with no known effective treatment for the 49 sick, prospects for a speedy solution were virtually non-existent. Virtually I thought…, not virtually, currently. Currently totally non-existent. Yet go I must. And do something I must. But what?
I had transferred many times and this time was no different. Procedures were standardized globally. Shed of my clothes the bathing proceeded without incident. Every microbe on my body was cooked by the non-ionizing radiation within the chamber. Of course, only exterior microbes were affected, my interior helpers remained intact and able to continue their vital tasks.
Scrubbed clean I followed the usual signs to the ante-chamber where a welcome warmth bathed me and calming voices related the usual routine for transfer. A mild sedative was offered which I knew from past experience was considered almost mandatory. I took it as I remembered well the fuss and delay which had taken place on the first and only occasion when I had opted out.
The pristine white doors opened to a darker space lit by a diffuse system of green lighting. Gentle music played. I lay on the transfer couch feeling reasonably calm. No matter how many times you go through transfer however you never quite get used to it. I could feel my heart beating notably faster though I was beginning to feel the ministrations of the sedative now taking effect. The voice which had been reassuring me now faded away to silence. It had been found that any form of countdown needlessly jangled the nerves of transferees and had therefore been abandoned. Thus, a few microseconds later the transfer took place.
I detected no change, as was usual. Imperceptibly the green of the diffuse light became somewhat brighter over a period of around 60 seconds. The transfer was over. I was on Mars.
After post-transfer scrubbing I emerged to find myself faced by a number of heavily-masked, concerned-looking faces huddled expectantly before me. Naturally, there were greetings of welcome and the usual social niceties expressing the hope my transfer had been a comfortable one. For this of course there was no truly appropriate answer but a positive one. It was not possible to inquire of my approximately seven octillion atoms how they would rate this particular transfer across these currently three hundred and ninety-two million kilometres to be reconstituted here on Mars.
I was taken to my quarters in the VIP section where I thankfully became free of the subtle stressors I felt on my emergence. This was without any doubt the hardest task in my entire career and without a shadow of a doubt the most dangerous also. Pondering these facts I turned my gaze to the one solitary window within the suite I now occupied. The window incorporated selective magnification and I looked with not a little longing at the blue sphere that hung there far off in the sparkling dark. Earth looked as serene as ever, a tranquil gem high over the dark blood-red sands of a now subtly diseased Mars.
The mission to Mars had been full of hope. A brand new venture for the unity of states and a hi-tech vicarious adventure for all of mankind. Any departure from the cacophonic chaos that was Earth just had to be welcome. Twelve billion souls, most of them cooped up in semi-isolation with nowhere to go were making many restless noises. The cars may no longer frequent the streets and highways as before but the ferment of rabid frustration caused by cabin fever was reaching its peak. Free VR had calmed things down at first but expectations that virtual travel, sex and gaming would be a universal panacea were short-lived. Humans were hard-wired never to be satisfied with anything approaching a permanent state, always seeking more, and better. It had become clear that no technology of any kind would be enough to assuage that human desire.
Now Mars too was afflicted with a debilitating factor, destroying the myth of pristine beauty that science, technology and human innovation had at first instilled. Humanity was facing another blow to its communal mental state, a last focus for optimism, idealism and hope was now tarnished. How could he possibly turn this around… even to the slightest degree?
I began analysing the data. Not the data concerning the spread of the virus however. My interest and purpose lay in examining the logistics involved in creating a bridge to a place where the entire psychological state of humanity would be lifted. The crucial mission I was tasked with was not medical, it was far wider, far broader than that, it was nothing less than instilling the confidence in humanity that it could survive. Mission Restore Hope lay heavily upon my shoulders even though I had the assurance of every technological asset at my beck and call.
Earth could no longer go on as it was. The series of pandemics that had hit her since the 2020s along with the unstoppable population rise and steady decrease in both viable living space and dwindling resources had reached a tipping point. Food and fuel could no longer be brought efficiently and predictably to where they were needed. These and not luxuries were of course the essentials but access to little luxuries had taken the edge off the pain of reduced living and these were now absent or at unaffordable prices for the average household. This nexus of negativity was creating a fast-growing panic and invitation to mass disorder at a time when only an orderly calm could possibly mitigate the situation. Each negative factor had begun to feed on all the others. Crime was rising steadily, drug use also. Suicides were commonplace and aggression in every community and home was on a steady incline. Things up there on what appeared to me as the most beatific and tranquil ball of light possible were going rapidly from bad to worse.
My visitors were of the elite class within the colony. Naturally, they offered their ideas long-considered regarding possible solutions regarding the virus and were ignorant of the true scope of my mission. I humoured them as best I could and was eventually left in virtual peace except for the occasional invitation to breakfast, brunch or evening meetings. I was grateful for this mix as I needed both to maintain my balance. Peace enough to analyse all aspects of this vastly complex problem and enough time away providing a distraction from it.
Back on Earth the program to locate ever more planets capable of sustaining life had been in progress for well over a century. In tandem, transfer units capable of taking large numbers rather than simply individuals had been ongoing for some time and in recent years had attracted ever-greater investment. I knew that it would have to be these two developments that would provide some easing of the present dangerous impasse regarding population growth and the predations of the virus and all other infectious diseases.
The mass migration of humankind, reborn through the cleansing effect of pre-transfer scrubbing to other life-viable worlds must surely be the essence of any framework put in place to provide that element of hope I was charged with creating. But to what degree could it be real, to what degree could fatalities be hidden and how could those with the virus be dealt with?
Interior scrubbing was impossible. Though the virus would be eliminated so too would all the helpful, indeed vital, microbes that lived within each human. The solution was clear, at least here on Mars Colony. Those with the virus infecting them would have to be quarantined on a semi-permanent basis until some cure could be found. Or… simply terminated.
I was in regular contact by encrypted means to the mission-dedicated Restore Hope team on Earth. I was hearing that the mass transfer units were now in test mode, that means of travelling to even the most distant life-viable planets was now subject to an imminent breakthrough. The mass concentration of resources both financial and human to these areas over previous decades was finally bearing fruit. Knowledge that an inescapable crunch was coming for all mankind was not new but political and economic factors had delayed the necessary actions needed for far too long. These and the previous geopolitical disunity had mitigated strongly against the alliance of unity formed some twenty-five years previously. When the climate change catastrophes began to hit in the mid-2020s it became clear to all that only unity of purpose despite all ideological differences could save humanity now. On top of this came the latest pandemic. Now we all knew just how high the stakes were for every last one of us.
The true reason for my mission to Mars Colony had of course not been to solve their virus problem, it had been to get me off Earth in a position of communication security unavailable back home. Not even the most secure locations on Earth were unhackable these days. The level of sophistication outside the origin of authority matched that which was inside in almost every way. Here, on Mars, total security could be assured.
The factors of faster than light space travel and molecular de- and re-integration were intertwined at the nub of what was desperately required now. All nations within The Unity of States was working on both at the highest priority level possible. My task was to coordinate and assign tasks to maintain all operations at the highest possible peak of efficiency while receiving the fruits of big data at nanosecond frequency. My analysis nexus was universal in scope and linked to every supercomputer on Earth. The speed of processing and analysis delivery was breathtaking and the visual models created, equally so.
It was some six months from my arrival date that the first breakthrough occurred. In a combination of cosmic string energy fluctuations and conduits through the space-time continuum resulting from these, the first element in our transfer puzzle was resolved. We now had the potential to reach the proximity of all those life-viable planets identified to date. All resources were now poured into the mass transfer program and in five more months a breakthrough of equal proportions was also made. The foundation for the mass migration of virus-free individuals was now not only a real possibility but a viable reality.
The public relations program framed the journey to new worlds as you might expect. Hope was key. Adventure and ambition followed along with heavy plugging of freedom along with what was conveyed as the unique opportunity of a lifetime. Families were encouraged especially though of course any virus-free individual was welcomed. The buzz created was enormous and all authorities were well prepared to process all volunteers. The Transfer units were in place on each continent. The screening centres also. Backing all else up were the units dealing with the PR program to highlight the better life for those unable or unwilling to make the trip as millions departed off-world.
Watching these developments and being heavily involved with the logistics using the vast computing and coordinating power I had was immensely gratifying. Though difficult decisions remained in regard to the virus-infected millions remaining on Earth and those on Mars the primary mission was being fulfilled. Now that the two primary factors had been resolved resources could now be re-routed to creating some form of selective interior scrubbing clean of humanity in relation to the viruses which continued to plague us. Those who were healthy could leave. Now it was time to regain some semblance of truly livable lives for all within The Unity of States.
Now there was truly time for hope.