Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Alien World Christmas - by Llola Lane

 "Alien World Christmas" by Llola Lane

The year is 3015.  The earth is gone and we were forced to find a new world to live on.
Year 100AE (After Earth)   It took a hundred years to find this planet.  The ones who set off on the long journey have long since passed away.  We are their descendants.  Our grandparents and parents have left us with many traditions.  Many colored faces fill our ships.  Traditions have become mixed and together we are now forming new traditions of our own. 

The songs from long ago also have a different tune.  Mixed with new instruments and odd tones, our songs still sing of troubled times, but good times too.  Yes... there are good times even on the ships.  We do our jobs and survival was our number one priority.

Maybe this planet will be our new home.  It is being tested to see if it will hold our species.  Our scientists are hopeful.  We will not know for a few days.  Until then we celebrate our Christmas tradition in the silence of space.
Year 300AE   For over three hundred years we have been searching for a new home.  We are learning how to survive in our metal ships.

Our species is now so mixed no one knows what the originals looked like.  We are all the same.  Small of stature, to conserve space, our bodies have become. 

Every little corner of our ships is needed for crops and growing food.  Plants have been genetically altered to grow in space.  Fruit is bigger and can feed more of us.  Earth's dirt loves space and we nurture and cultivate it. 

A tree for Christmas is a long tradition not forgotten and we celebrate... again... in the silence of space.
Year 500AE   Five hundred years have past.  Many planets have been explored.  We take what we need from the planets we visit and our species has grown.  We have the will to live.  More grandparents and parents have left us.  The vastness of space is littered with their bodies.  Will we ever find a new home? 

We have learned to adapt our bodies to space.  We sleep longer so we live longer.  Time has no meaning.  Everything is automated in the ships, so very few are needed to run it.  The great minds have invented new medicines and we are told to sleep if we want to live longer. 

To help us sleep, we dream.  We are given dreams of planet earth so we don't forget it.  Bright blue skies, majestic mountains, and flowing oceans flood our sleeping world.  It keeps us calm and there is no need to breathe as often. 

We awake for Christmas and enjoy our holiday... again... in the silence of space.
Year 800AE   Eight hundred years now seems like an eternity.  All that is left are our memories of earth our in our dreams.  Earth does not seem real anymore.  It is hard to hold on to a dream. 

Tunes are still hummed and instruments are still played.  It is mandatory now to learn an instrument.  The great minds tell us that learning an instrument will keep us calm and give us something to do.  Everyone on the ships knows how to play.  The ships are filled with music and laughter. 

This Christmas we will be descending to a new home.  A planet that is habitable and will sustain life.  No one knows what the future will hold but they are glad to be off the ships. 
Year 200EA (Earth Alpha)   It's been a thousand years since our people left the earth, but we have finally made a home for ourselves on this new planet.  It is cold and dark.  It does not remind anyone of our earth of legend.  The air is thick to breathe and we can't be outside without our life suits.  Not much grows here, but we have managed to cultivate some of earths' greenery in the foreign soil. 

This new world tries to freeze out every last bit of humanity, but we fight back.  We keep planting and harvesting and now this planet is heeding our commands.  Bits and pieces of earth are starting to take hold and dig deep into the soil. 

We ourselves have started to change.  We grow stronger and are learning to breathe the heavy air.  Many of our children can play outside without their life suits for small periods of time.  Humanity is taking hold of this planet and it is finally listening. 

Now living in our cold ship buildings we can appreciate what our earth had.  We did not take care of her and it is hoped that we have learned our lesson with this new world.  We have a second chance to save humanity.  We must care for this planet and cherish her, or she too will be gone. 

Christmas has a new meaning on our new Earth.  The years on the ships have taught us that it is a season of tradition, love, hope, and joy. 

We of Earth Alpha wish you all, who may be reading this, a Happy Holiday this Christmas!

Year 3015 Historian Number 1532 – Mery Crist

Lunatic Christmas - by Sven Pertelson

Lunatic Christmas – by Sven Pertelson

'Ding! You have mail!'  The annoying chime inside the helmet of my Lunar Excursion Suit disturbed my contemplation of the sight of the sun going down over the horizon signalling the start of a month of lunar night.  The stars, un-twinkling in the vacuum, became clear in the instant after sunset, no twilight on the moon. The temperature began to drop as well and my suit coolers responded and began running in heating mode. I would have to start the short walk back to the new European Space Agency Lunar Observatory before I got too cold. For the next month we would be using suits with augmented heaters.

As I walked I touched the keypad on the arm of my suit and brought up the e-mail headers on my heads-up display.  It was from the Public Relations department of ESA and titled 'Christmas'. Well that was just over a month away. Whatever it was could wait until I was back at my desk inside the observatory.

As it happened I forgot all about the e-mail for a few days as other high priority tasks claimed all my attention.  The lunar night was the busiest time for the astronomers at the observatory and we engineers were consequently run off our feet with requests from the astronomers for repairs and adjustments to their equipment. When things settled down I started going through my accumulated emails and finally came across the one from PR.

I am not sure what the people working in PR had been smoking but this idea was one of the oddest that I had come across for a long time. In order to keep the public aware, interested and supportive of our work up here they had come up with a publicity stunt.  Years ago, when lighthouses back on Earth were manned, it became a tradition for local air forces to fly a special Christmas helicopter sortie to remote lighthouses and bring them a Christmas Tree and presents.  The PR department had arranged for a special automated Russian supply ship to deliver a Christmas Tree and decorations to us on the moon.  The Norwegian government had supplied the tree, the Irish government were sending hand blown lead crystal baubles, tinsel was coming from Germany, candles from Italy, lights from France, the list went on and on.  PR would produce a video sequence about the preparations on Earth, all we had to do was set up a live video feed of the tree in place on Christmas Eve which incidentally would be just about lunar sunrise and together they would go out to news programmes worldwide.

To start with everything went so smoothly I stopped worrying about it. The supply ship launched on time, came into lunar orbit, landed exactly between the radar reflectors a safe distance from the observatory. Our low-loader went out and picked up the pressurised container and brought it into the vehicle airlock and then we man-handled the container into the mess hall and opened it up. The lovely smell of the pine tree inside filled the mess hall as we opened packages of decorations, stood the tree up in its tub and started dressing it.  It looked magnificent and we even started singing impromptu carols as we gathered for our main meal of the day.

It was then that the stations air quality alarms went off. Klaxons and voice warnings of a volatile chemical release. We all grabbed the emergency re-breathers we carried at times and pulled them  on as we headed for our muster points. My place was at the control room and I queried the computer for more details of the nature of the chemical release. The automated GCMS (gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer) identified it as a mixture of terpenes.  I shut down the automated alarms and went onto the PA system and announced that it was OK to stand down from the alert. It was the oils from the pine that we were smelling that had set off the alarms when it spread away from the mess hall. No need to worry, we could programme the system to ignore those.

I woke in my bed several hours later with a headache to another set of air quality alarms, this time the automated voice said high carbon dioxide and lowered oxygen levels. Still groggy I pulled on the re-breather and took a few breaths and felt better, this was no false alarm.  In the control room the 'night' shift were puzzling over displays. Something had caused our photosynthetic algal and hydroponic gas recycling systems to slow down conversion of carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen. The lights in the tanks and chambers were working normally, powered by the fusion reactor  sited in a crater a few miles away. Nutrient and water levels were correct. It was just something was slowing down the reaction.  We scratched our heads, made calls to Earth, searched databases. It was one of the biologists that realised what the problem was.  It was those terpenes from the pine tree, they ware acting as an airborne herbicide. We had to get that tree out of the station, and fast while we scrubbed the terpenes out of the air.

It took 4 of us to man-handle the tree into the vehicle airlock and onto the low loader. Two of us quickly donned our heated excursion suits while the others ran back into the station and hit the emergency decompression button, that was a mistake. Crystal glass baubles full of air at Earth pressure act like mini hand grenades when suddenly put into a vacuum. We moved very carefully and dusted the broken glass shards off our suits and the seats of the low loader, one tear in a suit and  we would be in serious trouble.  I radioed the control room and asked for a clean-up crew to deal with the airlock before we came back in from placing the tree outside. We could always fix up some baubles and video it outside for the PR department.

You might think that was the end of our troubles. You would be mistaken. After a few hours of sleep I was woken again by a call from the control room. Could I come and take a look at the external video feed of the tree. Something did not look right. I assumed it was because they were looking at the tree using infra-red. We try and avoid using visible light outside the observatory during the lunar night, the whole point of being here is that it is dark. We don't even get earth light as we are positioned just over the horizon from the part of the moon visible from earth.

It was not the infra-red view that was the problem. No it was more mundane that that. You all know what happens when a Christmas tree dries out. The needles fall off. We had a nude Christmas tree, freeze dried needles lay all around it. Not very impressive and only two days to go before show time.

While the engineers worked on making aluminium baubles and anodising them in different colours any astronomers who were at a loose end were set to work cutting out leaf shapes from the metal foil heat insulation we used around the station.

So it was that as the sun rose on the moon on Christmas Eve a shiny metallic tree stood on the lunar surface with the observatory in the background while we sang carols inside our suits and sent the video back to Earth.

As I walked back to the observatory I was thinking how glad I was this was all over. 'Ding! You have mail!'. Hmm - it was from the PR department titled 'Valentines' ....