To leap or lounge?

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.

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.

[polldaddy poll="4569982"]

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.)