Author: Michael Mieher
Friday, December 18th, 2043
Day 503 of the 3rd Mars Pilgrimage joint SpaceX/OneSpace mission.
“I’m sorry Captain Shu.”, First Officer Griffin Musk said, trying to keep his exhaustion from showing. “Even the ISS and Peary Station are dark, Literally dark. No lights or even thermal readings. The radiation readings we picked up aren’t as widespread as we feared, but between Israel, Syria, and the Korean peninsula…. well that’s where all the atmospheric dust is from.”
“Thank you, Griffin.” Captain Shu Chang of the Keyi Hua-Mayflower looked out the window at the Earth below. “We need to know what the hell happened before we send anyone down there. How is your team doing retrofitting the Plymouth for remote landing operation?”
“They’re almost finished, Captain. Another 36 hours and they’ll be ready. Scotty is a miracle worker. Her team is pulling double shifts.” Griffin paused. Then hesitatingly said, “We may want to consider a different landing site though.”
Captain Shu slowly turned back to Musk, “Where?”
“Australia sir. The Outback, as they say. We’ve picked up some radio noise sir. Shortwave. We think it might be native language.”, explained Musk
“Dr. Banalandju is from Australia,” said Shu.
“Yes, Captain,” agreed Musk, “She is in Communications now. I asked her to try…”
(The door suddenly opened, hitting Musk in the shoulder)
“Yes, doctor.”, said Captain Shu calmly, “Come in. What do you have?”
“THERE ARE SURVIVORS IN COOBER PEDY!”, exclaimed Dr. Banalandju
“Slow down doctor,” Captain Shu said much more calmly than he felt. “Where?”
“Sorry sir” Dr. Banalandju took a deep breath. “Southern Australia, plus other locations they said, but right now only in Australia.”
After a long pause, Musk asked, “So what happened?”
“Hackers!”, said Dr. Banalanju, then turning back to the captain, “They said it was hackers. Various DoS attacks and viruses. All aimed at the agriculture syndicate control satellites, food distribution services, delivery drones, and even networked kitchen appliances. Everyone just starved!”
“Or worse,” said Musk
“There must be more survivors. Rural areas. Preppers.” said Captain Shu. Then, “Griffin… your father? You mentioned he had….”
“Shelters.”, finished Musk. “Yes, Captain. He called them Boring Sanctuaries, but if there was any way to get a message to us, he would have.”
“Captain.” interjected Captain Banalandju.
“My People. They said the first month there were hundreds of international radio contacts, but it dropped off over the next 6 months. The winter was incredibly cold. We are the first contact from Outsiders in over a year, with one exception…”, she trailed off.
“What exception?”, asked Captain Shu
“Well…. crazy as it seems, it sounds like Spam.” after a pause, Dr. Banalandju continued. “They said they keep getting the same message over and over again. The message claims to be from a Nigerian Prince stranded in South Africa with millions of dollars.”
“That’s got to be Xavier!”, exclaimed Griffin.
“What?”, asked Dr. Banalanju looking puzzled.
“His brother doctor.” Captain Shu explained. Then turning back to Musk “Your twin if I recall?”
“Yes, sir.” Musk said calmly, but he couldn’t hide the smile. Or the welling tears.
“Well then,” said Captain Shu, smiling at his First Office. “Send a message to the Prince of Nigeria that the First Bank of Coober Pedy is ready to receive his millions.”
Dr. Banalandu and First Officer Musk joined their Captain in an uncharacteristic moment of laughter.
Then sounding serious again, the Captain said, “The Outback should have plenty of good places to set this bird down. Find me an LZ.”
“Yes SIR!”, said Musk, turning towards the door.
“Don’t hit Uluru.”