The people have spoken, and we have decided to turn down the beguiling high-tech Utopian fantasy offered by our long-skulled yet cowardly “allies” in favor of continuing our journey to cloud-shrouded, devastated Earth!
Earth may not be like it was, but it’s your home. You wonder how far into the future you’ve journeyed. A thousand years? A million years?
A screen lights up. You’re determined to see what happened to it, so you order the computer to stay on course. Moments later, retrorockets fire to brake the descent.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SURVIVAL ON EARTH
Oxygen content: 4.3%. Supplementary oxygen-generating helmet must be worn at all times. Radioactivity level: 6. Radiation-resistant coat and helmet cover must be worn except in protected zones. Basic gene grain bits are available. This is the only edible food. Ingest 1,800 milligrams of vitagranules-anti-toxicant formula mark 8744369-5 — with each gram of gene bits. All water must be demulsified and de-acidified in puroscan.
You have hardly finished reading these words when you feel an abrupt deceleration followed by a slight jolt. Your craft has made an amazingly smooth landing.
Through the window you see an endless landscape of rocks and boulders, the sort you might find in a dried-up riverbed. So this is Earth.
You only hope it’s not all like this.
You put on the oxygen-generating helmet and your radiation-resistant coat and helmet, open the hatch, and step outside. Your computer said that food is available, but everywhere you look, you see nothing but barren, rust-colored rocks and dirt. It’s the most forlorn landscape you’ve ever seen.
Hey, we landed in Phoenix! I kid, I kid.
There’s no way of knowing which way to walk.
Before you can think about it, a strange-looking machine zooms in and hovers over you. You watch with fascination as wire arms descend and begin enfolding your spacecraft like a spider capturing a fly.
What’ll it be, intrepid explorers? Stand by and spectate, or leap in and participate? Each path has potential dangers and benefits. However, I believe our only food source is on the ship, no? That might make this decision REAL easy …
(Text and images ©1985, 2010 by Edward Packard.)