Inevitable (Itieration #3 in the Heavy-Handed Environmentalism Series)

DESPITE HIS SUDDENLY POUNDING HEARTBEAT, the president’s face remained calm. “Say that again,” he said in his best imitation of a steady voice.

His chief of staff looked as though she would faint. “We have discovered ruins on Venus,” she repeated. “And not primitive ones, either. Actual cities. Roads. Industry. An entire civilization, not all that different from ours, once existed there. And more than existed – it thrived.”

“For a while, anyway,” the science advisor spoke up. “Tell him about the launch sites.”

“‘Launch sites?’” echoed the president.

“Launch sites, yes sir. Plural and widespread,” said the chief of staff, her voice a-tremble. “It’s hard to tell their age from an orbiting probe, but our lander confirmed it. Indications are that they have been there for thousands of years – at least six thousand, in fact.”

The Oval Office was quiet, but not for long “Launch sites,” the president murmured, shaking his head. “Launch sites! Do we know what was launched? Where? Why?”

“I’ll get to that,” the science advisor said. “Due to its equivalent size and mass, Venus is closer to being Earthlike than any other planet in our solar system. However, its temperature and air pressure are inhospitable in the extreme.”

“Despite that, our lander discovered an incomplete rocket inside a massive building at one of the launch sites,” put in the chief of staff. “It contained a capsule built for two occupants, with ample provisions for an extended journey. Why it wasn’t used, and how it wasn’t melted into slag, we may never know. I mean, you can boil lead on the planet’s surface!”

“Apparently, that was not always the case,” snapped the president. “Do we know how Venus got that way?”

“This is what I’m trying to say, sir,” the science advisor said. “You are correct – our instruments tell us that it wasn’t always that way. Our readings show that excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere created a runaway greenhouse effect. The planet’s thick clouds trapped all its heat, and chaos ensued.”

Once again, the three officials lapsed into silence.

“Perhaps all industrialized species fall into this pattern,” the advisor said at last. “They invent or discover internal combustion engines, which pump carbon into the air and sea, and overheat their planet’s biome. Then they go somewhere else. A repetitive cycle, driven by simple survival.”

“It would explain our own dominant mythologies, sir,” said the chief of staff. “The Adam and Eve story, that is. God, or anyway someone Godlike, who lives in the sky, placed humans – rather, Venusians – into an idyllic paradise. Then their own curiosity gets them banished from it.”

“Maybe the Jews were right all along,” said the president, a faraway look in his eyes. “They say recorded history began six thousand years ago, yes? What if that’s when the Venusians arrived? And thanks to our own developing curiosity over the intervening millennia, here we are again.”

“And facing the same solution,” said the advisor. “We may need to go somewhere else to survive. Mars, perhaps. Or the Moon?”

The chief of staff pursed her lips. “Meanwhile, what do we tell the people, sir? It’ll be hard to cover up this story; too many know about it already. We have to tell them something.

The president’s eyebrows knitted for a brief moment. “Tell them the truth,” he said finally. “And tell them that we must do as our evident ancestors did.”

“Sir?” the officials chorused.

“It could be the only way out — literally,” the president said, laying his hands on his desk. “There’s nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go. Escape may just be … inevitable.”

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