Today we are sending through three full-size UAVs—Unmanned Aerial Vehicles—to do some long-range exploration. We know that the future earth atmosphere cannot support life, but there is a chance that some survivors could have built shielded communities with their own enclosed life-support. It’s a long-shot, but we have to try. Plus, like firefighters identifying the source of a fire, we need to look for any clues that can tell us what started the earth down this path to destruction.
We have six UAVs on campus but only four are operational. These are all of our own design and have been used as part of our research here on campus. Each UAV can be controlled with a remote or programmed with a pre-set flight path and guided via satellite.
Each one is powered by a single Renewable Energy Fuel Cell. Regular fuel cells are an ultra-green power technology that excretes very little pollution and waste. The downside is that the cost of generating fuel is extremely high, which has prevented them from being adopted for broad, commercial implementation.
The basic premise of a fuel cell is to combine oxygen that is found naturally in our air and combine it with hydrogen that has been added as fuel to the cell. This reaction generates electricity, with a natural byproduct of water and heat. Typical fuel cells release this byproduct back into the environment.
We have added a second phase to our REFC—pronounced “refs”—technology that reverses the process from the first phase, turning the water back into hydrogen and oxygen. This process is powered by the heat generated from phase one.
With each cycle, the power output is the same. And with the waste being recycled, it creates a 100% efficient, indefinitely regenerative power supply. Just one REFC has kept a drone flying circles around our campus for 1021 days and counting.
We use a lot of REFC technology around Studio D but never got around to converting the Continuum to it. At this point, we’d have to do a significant rebuild, which wasn’t worth the time investment until we knew it worked.
Because the REFC operate in a completely closed system without any waste or byproduct, they can work in any environment—especially those without oxygen, such as space or underwater.
Or an oxygen-deprived planet.
Greaser is making preparations and barking out commands. “GoPro, I need you to send Brooklyn the codes she needs to access the UAVs, so she can establish communication between them and the satellite. Darwin, do you have those flight plans mapped out yet? Get them to Brooklyn to upload to the satellite. Come on, people, let’s get these birds in the air.”
“Make sure the video from the UAVs can be transmitted to the satellite and recorded,” I add. “We’ll want it bounced back to us in real time while the portal is open, but also to be able to download any recorded data for later analysis.”
“What kind of coverage will we get from the UAVs?” Cleaner wants to know.
KJ answers, “Each UAV will be programmed to scan a section of the continent. One heading north to Canada, another to Central and South America and the third will head to the east coast and then start making its way back sweeping north and south as it does.”
“I think we should focus primarily on the more densely populated areas,” Greaser adds.
“Smart,” I say, “but we don’t know what might have changed between now and then. For all we know, new cities have sprung up that we wouldn’t have on our maps today.”
“Fair enough,” Greaser replies. “I say we do a broad sweep first. Check out the major cities, then move on to smaller ones, keeping an eye out for anything of interest in between.”
“Agreed,” I tell him. “Keep the portal open for as long as possible so we can monitor the video footage. Looks like we’re going to need to get some help in here to review the recorded data between portal openings.”
Cleaner approaches me as everyone busies themselves around me. “I want to go in.”
“What’s that?” I say turning to him.
“I want to start exploring the future.”
I give him a funny look. “That’s what we are using the UAVs for.”
“I’m not talking about taking pictures or reading the atmosphere. I want to go over there and get a look around in person.”
“We’ll be doing that soon enough,” I tell him.
“You want to learn more about the future? There’s no better way to do that than to actually be there.” Cleaner is getting visibly angry, raising his voice and pointing his finger at my chest.
“No way!” I tell him emphatically. “We don’t have enough information yet to know what we’ll find, or even if it’s safe. Besides, if we send anyone over there, it’s going to be one of the scientists. You’re security, your place is here.”
“My place is where there is the possibility for danger.”
“Okay, that’s a fair point,” I say trying to ease the tension. “But weren’t you the one who suggested that no one should go through the portal without the President’s approval first?”
“That was about traveling to the past. Even still, not every rule applies to everyone equally.”
I don’t like where this is going and need to shut it down. “Look, we know a few things about the atmosphere already, and we do need to start prepping for the eventuality of sending over a manned mission. As head of security, I could use you to start getting supplies together. Our safety and security while over there will be a top priority, and there is no one more qualified than you to make sure we have what we need for that.”
I can see this placates him a bit.
“Plan for a multi-person team,” I tell him. “Nobody is going over there solo! Understood?”
“Fine,” he says, calming down a bit. “But I am going to be part of the team that crosses over.”
I don’t appreciate him acting as if this is his decision to make, but I also understand where it’s coming from. After thirty years at Studio D, he feels like he’s earned the right to do this. And he has.
“You will be,” I promise him. “Commandeer whatever you need from the other departments, and make sure we are ready to go as soon as we get the approval.”