Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“Okay, Mister, er…,” Phillip Richfield glanced at his monitor, “Rousseau, what’s the crisis? Is something wrong with the orbital elevator pump?”

Soren Rousseau, one of the many “facilitators” hired by The Greenhouse Gas Project, had only been on Titan for six months, and this was his first encounter with the Director of Operations. “No, Mr. Richfield.” He took a deep breath to calm himself down. “It’s more important than that. We need to shut the entire methane transfer operation down. Titan’s oceans contain an indigenous life form that the original survey team missed. We need to preserve their habitat.”

“Life form?” questioned Richfield. “You mean there are fish swimming in these oceans?”

“Uh, no sir. It’s more like proto-bacteria. Still, it’s the first case of extraterrestrial life ever detected. Their existence will revolutionize the field of exobiology.”

“Did it ever dawn on you that the bacteria are something that we introduced into Titan’s oceans?”

“Yes, sir. I had the chemistry department check some samples for polymerase chain reactions. There weren’t any, so their biochemistry doesn’t contain DNA. It can’t be Earth-based contamination.”

“Well, I say that it is Earth-based contamination. Son, let me explain the big picture to you. A hundred years ago, the sun entered a long-term phase where solar irradiance started steadily decreasing. If we didn’t do something to maintain the surface temperature of the Earth, it was going to turn into a giant snowball. The Greenhouse Gas Project was created to collect and deliver the equivalent of one trillion cubic feet of methane gas to the Earth every week in order to produce enough greenhouse gasses to sustain the average surface temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re already behind schedule, and you want me to shut down the project to save proto-bacteria. It’s not going to happen. There are billions of human lives are at stake. Now, get back to work.”

“With all due respect, Mister Richfield, I can’t in good conscience sit quietly while you destroy the greatest scientific discovery in history. You’re going to force me to go public.”

Richfield smiled. “Is that so? Well, I guess you haven’t read the fine print on your contract. Because it cost billions of dollars to transport and support the people on Titan, the government has given us extensive leeway pertaining to your ‘civil rights.’ As a consequence, we own you for five years. You have no say in the matter. So, effective immediately, you’re being reassigned to a survey mission in the Oort Cloud. Now, go pack up your personal effects, your shuttle will leave within the hour. And don’t think about using the radio, your privileges are revoked.” He pressed an intercom button. “Yukos, please have security escort Mister Rousseau to his quarters, and then to the shuttle bay. He’s going on special assignment.”

Two burley security guards came into Richfield’s office and forcibly carried Rousseau away, amid his vehement curses and threats. Richfield then called the Director of Transportation. “Mikhail, I need a favor. I’m sending a disgruntled employee on an extended survey mission. I need his shuttle pre-programmed to take him to the Oort Cloud. Also, you’ll need to disable his radio.”

“Sure thing, Phillip. I’ll take care of it myself. What’s your preference this time: reactor malfunction, carbon dioxide poisoning, decompression?”

“He’s a decent guy, Mikhail, but misguided. Let’s make it quick.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows