An Imagined Future Part 3: The Overview Effect
Author’s Note: Quote by James B Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission
Simply put, this is the end.
No, dear reader, this isn’t one of those ending that begins something.
The thing about humanity is that in living the way they did, they decimated an entire planet. They leeched resources and refused to come together. There were no second chances, as humanity destroyed those too.
We are starting ten years into the future—2129 C.E. Aleshia Brevard Wrightson is twenty-eight years old. She grew up after humanity had driven themselves underground. She grew up seeing pictures of the blue earth and hearing lies that “images of the current situation” were restricted because humanity had to have hope that Earth would be fixed. In reality, the leadership of the world just didn’t want humanity knowing that nothing had changed in the 100 years since Earth took a dark turn. In a hospital room, fresh from surgery, Aleshia discovered this truth after a conversation with a follower of One Earth. One Earth demanded the truth. They demanded that the world’s leadership stop trying to get into space and start trying to fix the problem. One Earth believed that humanity needed to own up to its responsibility. After seeing the lack of change in Earth’s condition, Aleshia agreed. And she was angry.
She was fighting for humanity to stop trying to leave its planet of origin.
“Aleshia, are you sure this is what you want to do?”
Res, who wore a white body-hugging dress under a long blue jacket looked in Aleshia’s eyes, disbelief marring her features. When Res, who now was a short blonde adult who could no longer see, first heard of One Earth’s plan she thought it wouldn’t work. She thought it wouldn’t be considered after the logistics were sorted out.
But even so, One Earth went with it. Res couldn’t believe it. This plan was crazy. It was insane. It could get them arrested by—
“This plan could get you killed.” Res jabbed her hand out in front of her. She felt the cool, scratchy surface of the old fake-oak table. There was the static sound of the touch sensitive tablet adjusting to a human extremity being slammed on top of it. “Hell, this could get an entire Hub killed.”
“That’s why we’re going to activate the Walls, Res. People will see what Earth looks like without ever having to touch it,” Aleshia reassured. Aleshia wore something akin to a business suit—a blue pencil skirt with a black button-down jacket. The only thing that threw off the professional look was the One Earth logo (a picture of Earth before 2019) on the front of the jacket, and the fact that Aleshia had used color nanos to dye her naturally black hair brown. “It’ll be fine.”
“How are people supposed to just go about their lives after a centuries-old football field-sized pile of dirt falls on their heads?” Res’s voice was raising, and she tapped her cane nervously. The sound of it hitting the plastic floor echoed in the almost empty room. “They’ll be buried.”
“That’s the point,” Aleshia told her. She took Res’s hand. Res felt her fingers gliding over a surface filled with Braille. Technically, Res could have asked for Medical to fix her eyesight. But in standing with One Earth, Res resisted the notion. She told Aleshia that she’d regain her sight when Earth had regained its blues and greens. “Did I translate that right?”
“It’s not a perfect translation into Braille, but I get the point,” Res conceded. “You’re going to dump the dirt in the atrium.”
“Yes. As much as One Earth hates the idea, we have to do it. Destroying a few green spaces—” Aleshia gave a rough, heavy sigh. “It will not only bring attention to above, but it will also bring attention below. Besides, we’re only doing it in one Hub. One Earth is trying to save the rest of humanity, not cause its death.”
Res nodded in understanding. Humanity was not meant to live underground. What she did not understand was the lie her best friend told. Nor the truth she omitted:
One Earth was only using Operation Dirt Block—the name Aleshia had given it, as a distraction. What was going to happen was simple: members of One Earth were going to hack into the Hubs’ networks and blast the very image that spurred Aleshia to join One Earth. They were to overload the system with years, decades, centuries of images of not only Earth but of their leaders’ failure in making an off-Earth solution.
The people of Earth would know: Earth was not getting better, nor was humanity leaving it any time soon. And the cost of waking up Earth’s dwindling population would be deadly. Operation Dirt Block commenced three days after Res voiced her doubts. It was then that Aleshia’s—and One Earth’s betrayal, was revealed. And then it would end—everything.
Aleshia stood in a darkened room full of technical equipment. Electric cords slithered on the floor beneath her feet. Lights from the tall modems of servers cast shadows all around her as the young woman silently searched for the tool of One Earth’s completion. With a flashlight—stolen from a collection of old things Res had somehow managed to gather and then fixed by a mechanic loyal to One Earth—she scrolled through the place. When she found it, she grinned.
“A to 1E, I got it,” Aleshia whispered, knowing the comm she wore would pick it up. “Plugging in and downloading now.”
“Tell us when you’re done A. We just dropped the ball.”
Aleshia sighed. In truth, she hadn’t wanted Operation Dirt Block to happen, but it was the only way humanity would learn. But she didn’t focus on that; instead, she focused on getting the data she needed and of getting out.
Within five minutes, Aleshia had it: all the cover-ups, all the damning evidence—the smoking gun.
“A to 1E, I got it. Hit send.”
“We did the second you uploaded. It’s done. Good job.”
As she left, Aleshia’s holo rang. It was Res. “How could you,” she asked in a voice muffled in sobs. “You have no idea what you’ve done Aleshia!”
Aleshia felt a tear slide down her face. “I do Res.”
“I’m turning you in!”
“Go ahead Res,” Aleshia told her as she stepped onto a Hub transport. Around her, screens lit up with one message:
“Humanity is done. We have destroyed Earth. We have decimated Mars. Now, it is time we taste our own medicine. Say goodbye, because, in twenty-four hours, a planet-killing asteroid will collide with Earth. Earth will survive; humanity will not.”
Quite an ending isn’t it? One Earth evidently realized the only solution—a final one. Humanity destroyed Earth, so Earth had to return the favor. In the wording of One Earth:
Humanity should never have existed. But we did. So now, we have to reconcile that.