“Ray, I have never doubted your judgment. But, I am begging to differ today. Religion is an important part of human life. You cannot just obliterate it from the new world!”
“Prof. Rhel, I understand your concern but, believe me, it is for the greater good. Look, how religion has brought this world on the brink of destruction. Three-fourths of the population nuked away. The maps are unrecognizable and let’s not discuss the plight of the living one-fourth mass.”
“It’s not a religion, Ray, it’s the hunger for power that has led to this catastrophe. You also know that.”
“Fueled by religion. Intrinsic human nature is good, religion spoils it. My designed world won’t have this flaw. There will be only one religion, the Religion of Science.”
“Oh, okay, but, what about arts? How come all the database regarding music, poetries, stories are being deleted before transferring to the mother computer?”
“That’s just a waste of time. Storage cannot be overloaded with such nonsense things.” Then, with a pause added, “Also, these arts will bear timestamp of religion, which is not acceptable to me.”
“Ray, please understand, people need Arts, people strive on arts.”
“Not, when they will be disciplined enough to use their time more judiciously. There is no future for arts, Professor.”
Dejected, Prof. Rhel looked outside. The sky was its usual dark, just after the occasional shower of radioactive black rain. The civilization of this world was on the verge of extinction. An escapade to a safer refuge was the need of the hour.
And the wealthy futurist Ray volunteered to help in designing the modern Noah’s ¬¬ and shift to the next habitable planet, discovered three decades back. The current wealthiest person on the planet, Ray offered his help on one condition that no politician or spiritual leader be accommodated in his designed space shuttle.
Once Ray left the room, Prof. Rhel sat silently for some time, then dialed an intercom number. The screen flashed 3570- Database Chief.
“Hello, Cheryl, I need your help.”
Prof. Rhel explained what he had in mind to Cheryl. She was convinced but was scared to act on it.
“What if he finds out? We will not be spared. It’s suicide.”
“Don’t worry Cheryl, I am there with you. We will handle it. Mankind needs us to do this. We can’t let everything go down the drain.”
The Earthship 3.0 was ready for launch. It was to travel for four light years before it would reach Cassini, the new Homestead for mankind. The two earlier vessels were unmanned. But they had sent vital data, which made scientists believe that it could be habitable. Mr. Ray was the pioneer in this endeavor. He was a devout follower of Stephen Hawking, who had predicted three hundred years ago that man needed to find a new home or face extinction. Not only was he the richest person alive, but Ray was also a scientist to the bone, trained in Astrophysics and Aeronautics; he was ideally suited to lead this mission: Mission for the survival of mankind.
Having witnessed the Nuclear holocaust and the great wars that lasted for a hundred years, that left the earth with little life and resources, he hated the genesis of it all. Religion. He had paid a price for it; by losing his mother, wife and child to it. He despised and blamed it all on it. He had made this mission of his life – If and when a new Homestead would be established, it would be free of Religion and all its associated paraphernalia; be it arts, poetry, history or anything remotely related to it.
The trials for the mission had been done on the atmosphere less surface of Moon. Atmospheric hubs were set up on the moon and the moon was colonized by these AtmoHubs. They were the rehearsals for the main mission. The same AtmoHubs would be transported on the Earthship to Cassini. The AtmoHubs were to be used till the time man would get used to the new atmospheric conditions on Cassini. Maybe it could take hundreds of years and many genetic modifications before a man could comfortably breathe the air on Cassini. Till that time, they had to do with AtmoHubs to provide an artificial atmosphere.
The first batch of Earthship 3.0 would transport about a thousand men. It was going to be a wait of almost eight years (four years one way and another to get a message back) before the next batch could travel. Once the base was established there, new batches would be sent to Cassini every month.
Ray and Rhel both were watching from the control tower as the Earthship took off. It safely left the Earth’s atmosphere. Now it would be traveling almost at the speed of light. Cassini was four light years away. Both of them looked at each other with pride and satisfaction, their hard work had finally taken shape. Their dream machine was on its way to colonize the Galaxy with mankind and save it from extinction. And Ray was more than ecstatic, as it was sans Religion!
Ten years later…. On Cassini…… Proxima Centauri Star system.
“Prof. Rhel, you see that tiny faint star out there. That’s our Sun in Cassiopeia constellation.”
“Yes. And somewhere near it, the third rock moving around it would be our Earth.”
“It is unbelievable as to what we have achieved.” Said Ray.
“Yes, but it is true. We had such an uphill task. It’s thousands of years of scientific work of all mankind.” Commented Rhel.
“And you know the irony? The same power that almost destroyed our beloved planet Earth, made our journey possible to this new Homestead of ours!”
“Yes, the nuclear power if used correctly, can do so much good. It is powering all our AtmoHubs here as well.”
“Yes, that is the reason I don’t want contamination by Religion, Politics or Arts in any way. I have made sure that it has been relegated to the ashes.”
Prof. Rhel remained silent. He did not comment. The issue was again simmering in the mind and hearts of the twenty thousand inhabitants of Cassini. They wanted to get back to the old ways of the Earth. But the Supreme Governing Council had ensured that no religion would be practiced on Cassini. The scriptures, records and archives were already destroyed by Dr. Ray.
The people had got restless. They were used to wearing their religion on their slews. Religion had been the opium of masses. And now they were showing withdrawal symptoms. With no arts, theatre, movies, poetry; life was becoming drab and boring.
Prof. Rhel was briefing Ray, “There have been instances of conflicts and violent behavior with the security personnel. People have strongly protested against the clampdown on their religious freedom.”
“You know Rhel, how it had poisoned the minds of our youngsters. The genesis of most of the conflicts back on earth was religious in nature. We cannot go back to it.”
“I agree, but people need hope and faith to continue with their existence in life. Religion gives them that.”
“All the religions have taught a noble way of leading life, without exception. Science has understood barely the tip of the iceberg. It does not have even the basic answers about our existence.” Rhel was making his case. “Science needs a direction and moral compass. Spirituality can provide that.”
“We have to train them to be more spiritual and less of religious. I guess that is the solution.”
Ray was looking at Rhel intently. He for a moment seemed to ponder on what Rhel had just said. Was he right?
The elections were due next week. The Supreme Council was to elect the first President for Cassini. The nominations were all based on merit and achievements. Politics was totally kept out. But for how long? Could it hold on as per Dr. Ray’s wish? He himself was a strong contender for the post. The people were indebted to him for their survival and making it this far. But would they elect him over religion and arts, which they already were missing?
The results were out finally. Ray was looking at Prof. Rhel with disbelief. All his hard work, his dedication, his preconditions; were about to be thrown in the dust. The people had elected Mr. Gatkins, his arch-rival as the President of Cassini. It was not the lure of the Presidency or power that he cared about. It was Mr.Gatkin’s ideas. Although a scientist and a Doctor, he held views that were diametrically opposite to Ray. He had his own version of Utopia, and people had aligned to it. They had voted him to power. What Dr. Ray had worked for was meaningless now. He was a dejected man. But he was not the one to give up. He would fight tooth and nail and prevent as much damage as possible.
On assuming power, the first thing The President did was to pass orders that individuals could practice a religion of their choice but at their own place. No public display of religion or faith. Gatherings and religion were to be totally kept out of politics. To this Dr. Ray heartily agreed and supported this decision. He found succor in the fact that yes maybe a controlled approach would be not such a bad idea.
The President summoned both Ray and Rhel to his office after a month of assuming power. He directly confronted them with the issue.
“What have you done with the archives of all the arts, literature, classics and paintings? They are nowhere to be found on the database.”
“They are what defines us as mankind. What we stand for. What we are, good or bad, it’s because of what we have done for thousands of years on Earth. We can’t afford to lose our heritage.” He was speaking very forcefully.
“I destroyed every bit of it back on earth. It was my command and precondition for working on this mission.” Said Dr. Ray without any emotions.
“You destroyed everything? Are you out of your mind? That is our identity. That is what defines us.”
“I know, but I wouldn’t let another holocaust destroy the future of mankind.”
“You think you can control it. Man is a social animal and he will fall back to it as soon as possible. That is what makes him tick. You can never change that. The only thing that you can do is; control it by putting safeguards. And that is what I am going to do.”
After listening patiently for some time, Prof.Rhel finally spoke.
“Sir, with due apologies to Dr. Ray, I may dare to come out with the truth finally. There is a way to retrieve the lost archives. I had thought of this eventuality and had ensured that they survive. I had two copies of it. I had encrypted it deeply and transferred one to Moon much before Dr. Ray could order its destruction. The second is on Earth deeply buried inside the secret vault. The encryption keys are with me.”
“I may add that the same AtmoHub on the moon has arrived on Cassini in the last Earthship.”
“You can summon Cheryl. She can decrypt the coded files and recover the archives.” He said.
Dr. Ray was almost fuming and was eyeing Prof. Rhel with scorn. His efforts had been thwarted totally. He was thinking of what was going to happen to Cassini next. Will history repeat itself?
Prof. Rhel was happy. He had succeeded in preventing the eradication of mankind’s history. There was a long way to go. Man would survive by learning from his mistakes. Good or bad, they belonged to him.
The experiments had already started. Plants were being grown in the controlled atmosphere by carefully altering them genetically. Men in batches were sent out on the atmosphere of Cassini. They could withstand the atmosphere only for a short duration, as it was different from that of Earth. But gradually man would adapt. There would be genetic adaptations over generations. As Mendel had said hundreds of years back, “Survival of Fittest.” Man would evolve and become fit to survive in his new habitat.
And hopefully, mankind would walk freely on its new Homestead Cassini, outside their AtmoHubs, as they once did on Earth!
With the new found home, freedom and wisdom from past mistakes; would they make it a better place?
Only time will tell…..
Notes for the Reader
- Cassini is a totally fictional exoplanet used in this story. It was actually the name of the robotic spacecraft sent on a voyage to Saturn. It was active for 20 years and finally, it entered Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017 wherein it was burnt up.
- Light year is a unit of Astronomical distance equivalent to the distance that light travels in one year.
1 light year = 9.5 trillion km = 6 million miles
- Proxima Centauri is the nearest star system to earth. It is part of the triad of the Alpha Centauri system.
It is 4.244 light years away.
- Proxima Centauri b is an exoplanet of the Proxima Centauri and lies in the habitable zone and a possible candidate for habitability.
- As of date 3,944 exoplanets have been confirmed and are being evaluated as candidates for habitability. There could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars!!
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