Edited by the incomparable "Wires" who once again has made my story better in every way.
Bob Trent finished his fourth beer in fifteen minutes. He belched and slammed the empty bottle down on the already cluttered table. The table top was as wet as if water had been poured on it, and already covered with empty beer bottles. Bob, sitting with his friend Simon, glanced at the other three young men sitting around the table. He changed his attention to Simon and glared at him, then he almost yelled as he once again complained vehemently about the assignment given by Professor Sheripati to him and Simon in their Early American History class.
Bob snarled, "That asshole is insane. I told you we should take a different class, but you insisted we take his. Now look what it's gotten us. Two weeks of class and he gives us this damn research paper with a minimum length of 100 pages. Crap, I have no idea how to even start to answer the question and he tells us it is HALF of our fucking grade! Then he says tests and class participation are the other half? That's BULLSHIT. There's no way we can do this. Did you ever hear of a more stupid paper in your life? He wants us to (he pulled a paper from his pocket and read) research—assuming cost is no objective, and transportation is no restriction—pre-1930 non-motorized, non-electrical tools, equipment, and supplies the early settlers could have taken into the wilderness to improve their chances of living well and safely. We are to give priority to 1850-1900 items that were improved, sold, and used pre-1930. He wants us to compare and contrast our suggested tools and equipment to those they did take. Crap, I have no idea what they took and what they could have taken to survive."
Simon sighed once again and said, "Oh, calm down, Bob. That's the point of the paper. He wants us to research the tools they took, how they were used, their quality and so forth, then suggest alternates, improvements, and additions. We know the original settlers couldn't have taken the items we suggest because many of them didn't exist at that time. The point is to show how invention and learning improved life and living through the period we are studying. You forgot the other part of the question as well. The suggested equipment cannot exceed the capacity of a Conestoga wagon (first built in about 1717 and 18 feet long, 11 feet high, and 4 feet in width, capable of carrying up to 12,000 pounds per Wikipedia). We also have to justify our selections and compare and contrast the actual progression of settlement and civilization with our projected progress using the items we propose the settlers take when they move further inland. If we do this properly we learn American History, manufacturing, farming, and living from colonial times up to 1900. That, after all, IS the scope of this class."
"Yeah, exactly. How the hell do I know how the civilization would grow? It's bullshit. I'd drop the damn class if we weren't past the drop date. I think he did this on purpose to fuck with us after it was too late for us to get away from him. Shit." Bob raised his voice, now slurring slightly, and yelled at the pretty bar maid, "Hey. Bring me another beer."
Paula Breckenridge, a classmate working as the waitress, pressed her lips together and glared at Bob. Without saying anything she walked angrily to the bar and ordered the beer for Bob. When the bartender handed it to her he said, "Paula, remember you don't have to put up with obnoxious assholes. He's been hitting them pretty heavy since he got here. Tell him he has to slow down or I'll cut him off. It sure sounds as if he is pissed about something. Woman problems?"
Paula sighed and grimaced then said, "No, he's one of those under achievers that want to take all easy classes and not have to work for a grade. His friend Simon wanted to take Professor Sheripati's Early American History class instead of one taught by someone else. Instead of taking a different class when he couldn't talk Simon out of Sheripati's class Bob signed up for it, also. Now he's pissed about the research paper he has to write and is taking it out on anyone that will listen. Heck, the requirement for the long research paper is listed in the course catalogue for the course. He should have known what he was getting into."
"Don't you have that class also? I haven't heard you talking about the paper."
"Yeah, I have it too. We just found out about the paper today. I mean, we found out the topic and length today. Some of the other classes have papers, but they're much shorter. Some even let the students do two or three instead of one large one. I don't know how I'm ever going to find the time to write it and do a good job with all the other things I have on my plate but I have to try. You know, my major is history and I really think I can learn a lot in this class. I am so looking forward to it. I rearranged my whole schedule just so I could take the class from Sheripati.
"I knew there would be a long paper when I signed up for the class, but I'm like Simon. I wanted to take Sheripati's class because of how great an instructor he is. I mean, you learn so much more in his classes if you work at it. I've heard it's a really fun class, too. Some of the class discussions can get really intense, or so I've heard. Sometimes a student is assigned a topic to research and present to the class. Then they lead the discussion on that topic. You not only learn about early American History but you learn about how people lived and worked back then. Most of the people I've talked to that took his class say it's awesome. It's really strange, though, every class there are a few that drop out after drop day and lose their money and take an F. Almost every year one of the best students seems to lose it and just disappear. They stop coming to class and no one ever sees them again. It's spooky how he gets to some people, but that's the price you have to pay for a good class sometimes. He never has more than ten or twelve in the class, either. Most students seem to steer away from him. I really don't know how Bob managed to get in."
Paula picked the beer up and carried it over to the table. She set the frosty bottle in front of Bob and waited for Simon to stop talking before she told Bob what Pete, the bartender, told her to tell him. As she waited for a break in the conversation she listened to Simon. He was saying " ... care what you think Bob. This is going to be a great class. I told you it would probably be best for you if you got your history credit in another class. I can't wait to find out about the tools the settlers used and how they worked with them. When we were young we camped out and pretended we were settlers. Now, we can see how they did some of the things we did and we can plan how we would do them using simple tools and materials. I think this will be one of my all time favorite classes. One of my hobbies is woodworking and I can see how the early settlers did that. I can see the difference between how they farmed back then and how we do it now. Can you imagine what one of the settlers would think if they came to our farm today and saw how Dad does the work? We do as much in an hour with our modern machinery as they could do in a season with their horses and hand tools."
"Whoopee. That's great, but you owe me asshole. I don't have time for this shit. I need copies of your research and I'll want a copy of your paper so I can change it some and turn it in. You got me into this shit and you're going to get me out of it."
Before Simon could answer Paula broke into the conversation. She relayed Pete's message, then, before she turned away from the table to check on her other customer's she said, "Bob, just chill. I agree with Simon. This is going to be a great class. I'm going to do my paper primarily on the things a woman took and used in the house and what she could have taken. I've already done a little talking with my friends and its amazing how little those early settlers had. Almost none of the things a woman or man used to work carried over to the other sex. The only medicine they had was a few herbs they picked. Think about what they could have done with some modern antibiotics and alcohol or other disinfectant. Many of the settlers actually carried their worldly possessions in a pack and managed to not only live in the wilderness, they prospered. Just think how much easier their life would have been with just a few good tools and some simple medicines! I just know this is going to be a great class."
Simon smiled at Paula and really looked at her for the first time. Oh, sure, he remembered seeing her in the class during the last several days, but she was just another face until she said what she just said. Now, he was amazed at how much she seemed to agree with his position. He said, "Paula, I agree with you. Would you like to meet and talk about the paper sometime? Maybe if I know what you're looking for I can point you in the right direction if I see something you could use when I'm doing my research and you could do the same for me?"
Paula smiled and said, "Thanks. I think that's a great idea. Why don't we meet in the library tomorrow morning about ten? It's Saturday so I'll have to work tomorrow night but maybe we can make a few plans."
Bob spoke up loudly, "NO. That won't work. I have to meet some guys at their house tomorrow morning. Besides the paper isn't due until the week before Thanksgiving. Crap, we have two months to do it. You'll have plenty of time to slap something together."
Paula glared at Bob and started to answer him, but Simon spoke in before she could. "Bob, we didn't mention you coming. I already knew you wouldn't worry about the paper until it was almost due. Paula and I intend to work on the paper now so we don't have to hurry to finish it. Besides, we have time to work on it now and we might not when the semester gets going. Right now we don't have much homework and we are a few days away from tests we would have to study for so we have time. Also, I won't give you my paper to copy. I've told you in the past I won't do that. I'm not sure I should even give you copies of my research, but I will do that. At least if you see it you might learn something, but you'll have to read it and write your own paper."
Bob's face got red and he snarled, "Listen, asshole, we may be friends, but if you keep shitting on me like this that can end. Like I said earlier, you got me into this mess and I expect you to get me out of it. I'll expect to see you tomorrow about ten so we can go. You have the wheels or have you forgotten?"
Bob stood drunkenly and looked at the other three guys. He slurred, "I have to get out of here before I get sick listening to this crap. You coming? I think I'll go to the hangout. Their wings are better anyway."
Simon noticed he wasn't invited and truthfully he was glad. He would have refused and that would just have made Bob angrier. This was their second year in college and he wasn't sure their friendship would survive the year. Of course Bob thought they were much better friends than he did—or maybe he just called him friend to use him. Simon wasn't really sure by this point. He was sure that if they hadn't been roomies the first year of college he would never have hung around with Bob at all. They just weren't the same kind of folks.
He first met Bob the first day of his freshman year. They were roommates in the dorm and did everything together. Of course, being freshmen, they had many of the same classes. Several times Simon caught Bob copying his work and it bothered him. He always took his papers away from Bob, always with a scathing comment from Bob about him doing it. His sophomore year Simon made sure he and Bob didn't room together, but they were in the same dorm so still saw each other and, surprisingly, had almost all the same classes at the same times. Simon was pretty disgusted with Bob, but wasn't quite to the point where he would purposefully hurt his feelings enough to sever ties with him completely.
The other three boys at the table looked at Simon a moment, then at Paula and Bob. Timothy, Bob's current roommate, stood up and said, "Yeah, I'm ready for a change. Let's go. The other two looked down at the table and didn't say anything. Finally, Bob and Tim left loudly.
After the two roommates left the whole atmosphere around the table changed. Don and George relaxed back into their chairs and Don said, "Damn, what's with that jerk? I've got that class, too, and I don't think the assignment's that bad. I was about to leave just to get away from him."
George, Don's roommate, said, "Yeah. He seems like a real asshole." He turned to Simon and said, "What're you going to do about helping him?"
"I don't have any plans to do very much at all. I wish I didn't know him, but I do. He thinks I'm a lot better friend than I think we are. We were roommates freshman year and I can't seem to get away from him without causing a real scene. I don't know how he does it, but more often than not he shows up wherever I am. It's almost as if he was stalking me. Many days when I'm not in class he shows up where ever I am like he did here today. Somehow, he manages to get into most of the same classes with me. I think he finds out when I take a class and changes his schedule because many times it's the second or third class meeting before I see him.
When we were freshmen I caught him several times copying my work when we roomed together. I had to keep it hidden if we had the same class to keep it safe. He always made low grades and just barely got by then he complained about the Prof's having it in for him. Oh, well, he's gone now. Let's relax."
Simon and Don talked about the assignment off and on for a few minutes. From time to time Paula dropped by and made a comment or two. By the end of the evening Don agreed to meet them the next morning also to begin planning and researching the paper.
The next morning all three classmates met at the library when it opened at ten. They were in a small study room discussing the assignment and making plans when the door slammed open and Bob stormed into the room. He glared at Simon and snarled, "I thought you were going to pick me up at ten? I told you I needed you to take me into town to Bill's house. Come on, we're already late. We were supposed to be there at 10:30."
A librarian walked up to Bob and said, "You need to be quiet or I will have to ask you to leave."
Bob glared at the librarian and said, "Don't sweat it. We're leaving now." He looked at Simon and said, "Well, come on. We have to get out of here."
Simon looked up at Bob and said, "No. I told you last night I needed to study. If you want to study with us, fine, but otherwise leave so we can finish studying."
"FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE," Bob yelled just before he turned and stormed across the floor.
The librarian's voice followed him. "That'll be enough of that young man. What's your name?"
Bob glared at her over his shoulder and kept on walking after he flipped her off. She turned to the three in the room and said, "Who was that rude young man? Is he a student here?"
Simon sighed and gave her the information she requested. After she left the three resumed their studies. By the time they decided to quit for the day and head out for lunch together they had a plan laid out. They each knew what the others were going to make the main point of their research. Of course, much of the research would overlap because they start at the same point, the equipment actually taken into the wilds. The divergence would come with their choices of what the settlers need to take in lieu of the equipment history showed they actually took. They agreed to meet every Saturday morning at ten to share research, ideas and to discuss the project.
As the semester progressed Simon and Paula became very good friends. They actually even sat together in class. Don usually sat with them and they, not surprisingly, had many of the same ideas and made many of the same points during class discussions. More often than not Bob cut class.
Five weeks after the assignment was made the Professor began the class discussion with a frightening request. He said, "After class I want Mr. Franklin, Miss Breckenridge and Mr. Johns to stay for a few moments."
By the time the bell rang ending the class the three friends and study companions were very nervous. It seemed to them the Professor spent almost the entire class period watching what they did and listening to everything they said to each other. They were all worried about the reason they were requested to stay after class also.
After the final student filed from the room and the door closed the Professor relaxed and sat on the corner of his desk. He looked at the students for a moment, then said, "You three seem to be of the same mind on most of the coursework. You have answered almost all the pop quiz questions the same even if your answers were not worded the same. I see you sitting together when the rest of the class spreads out more. I have seen you several times in the library studying or doing research.
"I need to remind you that this project is not a group project. You are to each write your own paper. Is that clear?"
After receiving three agreements the professor continued, "Would one of you care to enlighten me now about the reason you seem to be always together? I have checked and find most of the time you are seen in the library together you each have one of the books dealing with colonial America, or more modern tools and medicines in your case Miss Breckenridge."
Simon looked at the other three and said, "Professor, we know we have to write our own paper and do our own research. We seem to get along well together and are interested in slightly different aspects of the paper you assigned. I'm interested in farming and building things that make life easier on the farm, as well as items that would make growing food easier and more efficient. Paula is interested in medicine and household items. Don is more interested in manufacturing and transportation, although those interests do compliment mine somewhat. As I am sure you know, when you research one topic you frequently come across an item for another topic as well. We have been sharing references we discover that impact one another's topics as we research our specific interest.
"We know we will have to touch slightly on many topics in our paper but we cannot do justice to the entire universe of knowledge and equipment necessary for success in a pioneering endeavor. We will have to limit our report somewhat and key in on specific areas we feel are more important than others just to keep the paper at the 100 page limit. I am sure you will find our three reports will complement each other well and are three parts of the whole but we are not writing the reports together, sir."
Professor Sheripati looked surprised and thoughtful. He rubbed his chin and said, "That is a different approach I must say. Many times a student writes only about one specific item or group of items leaving out much that is considered necessary for a successful homestead or business in the wilderness. I have never had a group of students do what you are doing so I never thought about addressing the issue of sharing research. Most times a student talks about farming implements or cooking utensils or wood working tools and so forth, and totally ignores all the other tools and items necessary to live. If you have a good plow maybe you can turn the soil more efficiently, but if you don't have good wood cutting tools and building tools you cannot make a safe, secure place to live and may still fail. It appears you three are on the right track to produce an outstanding paper. I look forward to seeing the finished product."
The three shared an immense feeling of relief when the professor said that. They walked down the hallway to the Student Union together without saying a word. They did exchange several relieved glances, however. At the union Paula said, "Whew. He had me scared for a minute there. Now I'm really pumped to get this done and turned in. I want to see what the others have done and I'm really looking forward to the discussion. You won't believe the size of my list, either. There's no way one person can carry what I'm proposing they take. I'm sure glad he said transportation was not to be considered to be a limiting factor. I wonder what he'll think about some of the drugs, medical texts, reference books, and surgical instruments I suggest get taken. He didn't specify a limit on them or a period of time we could use for choosing our items either, did he?"
Don said, "No, as far as I remember the only restrictions were non-electrical and non-motor driven, manufactured before 1930, primarily in use before 1900. Oh, and the weight and cubage limit imposed by the dimensions and restrictions of a Conestoga wagon.
Oh, yeah. Crap, there go some of the biologicals I wanted to try and slip in. Medical care back then was pretty poor. I wonder if he would cut my grade if I tried to slip in some more modern medical items? I think I will make an addendum listing those and try to slip them in that way. I'm ready to write now I think. In fact I have over half of the paper in rough draft already. It's going to be a bitch to limit the size. I think I'll fudge and put all the footnotes and bibliography at the end in addition to the paper and see how that works. I'll have about 110 pages then but the paper itself will only be about 100 pages. Do you think that'll work?"
Simon looked thoughtful, then grabbed his composition book. He did a little research and said, "Not sure, but my gut reaction is you MIGHT get by with exceeding the page limit with the bibliography, but normally the footnotes are included in the pages of the paper. Very few are added at the end although it isn't entirely incorrect to do it like that. I think I will hold it all to 100 pages to be safe but we can ask him and see what he says if you want. I'm like you, I have almost all my rough draft completed. You know, they actually had very little equipment and possessions when they took off into the wilderness. I got that taken care of in just about ten pages. It took me over twenty pages to suggest equipment and so forth then the rest of my space is used for the remaining requirements of the paper. I even slipped in modern seeds and some of the early horse drawn farming and building equipment and tools. This is really an interesting paper."
Finally the date arrived to turn in the papers. Simon and his friends were happy with their papers. Many of the other students seemed worried. Bob was furious because he couldn't (he said) find enough material to get more than 53 pages so that was what he turned in. Everyone else did better but some of the students cheated somewhat in page count by making the margins of their papers somewhat larger than normal. One or two even bragged that they enlarged the line spacing.
After the papers were turned in Professor Sheripati sat on the edge of his desk and said, "Ok, now that we have the research project completed we are almost done with the coursework for the semester. I will read and grade your papers the rest of this week and this weekend. Beginning with Monday's class we will read and discuss each of your papers in class. Please be prepared to discuss each paper as it is read when you are called on to do so. The papers will be read and discussed in totally random order. There will be no mention or guesses of who may have written any particular paper. If you know who wrote the paper, please keep this to yourself. If the student who authored the paper wishes to give that information, that's his or her prerogative, but no one else is to say anything. This is very serious, if any information is given out, the student who does so will face the Dean of the Department. Now, let us have a general discussion today on the way possessions limited early expansion."
Monday morning early the three friends met outside the classroom and chatted about what the papers would say. Class discussions were projected to end the second class period before finals week with the last class period reserved for review.
The reviews were generally very good. Each student, with the exception of Bob, brought new and interesting information before the class. Of course, much of what was presented was repetitious but everyone had a slightly different take on things and saw different possibilities and causes for failure in the material they studied. The final for the three friends was a cake walk. They each completed the test in less than half the time allotted.
After the final exam the three friends met in the Union to discuss it. They already knew that was the last final any of them had. The only thing planned the next day was turning in books, checking grades, and packing before returning to their individual homes for the holidays. They agreed to meet back after the holidays to purchase the next semester's books together and just hang until classes started. They already knew they would share a couple of classes with one or the other next semester.
The morning before they left they all met and made the rounds of the Professor's offices to check grades. All three friends made A's in Professor Sheripati's class but were somewhat worried by the comment beside their names on the grade sheet. They all had an appointment to see him in his office at 9:30 that day.
At the appointed time the three friends made their way to the office and knocked. After taking a seat at the Professor's invitation they watched as he locked the door then returned to his desk where he took a seat. He opened his briefcase and rustled around in it for a moment then closed it. He looked at the three friends and said, "Thank you all for coming to see me this morning. I know you are anxious to get to your homes, but before you left for the holidays I absolutely had to talk to you for a short time. This way I won't have to look you up at your homes. Before we begin I must tell you that if you haven't already seen it you will all find an urgent e-mail in your box requesting you see me. You can ignore that message now since you are here today. However, I am sure we will see each other again soon.
"You are to be commended on your papers and discussion of the settlement plans you made. Much of what you each discussed in class is, of course, impossible to do because of the constraints the original settlers faced. We knew that going into the assignment. You, Mr. Franklin, were more correct than you might know when you told Mr. Trent "We know the original settlers couldn't have taken the items we suggest because many of them did not exist at that time. The point is to show how invention and learning improved life and living through the period we are studying." My intent was to make you think about possibilities and learn about other periods of time as you suggested some time back. It was a pleasure to follow your thoughts, research, and planning as you put your papers together. Your reasoning was excellent as were many of your choices."
The professor turned to face Simon and smiled, continuing he said, "Your idea to take books with plans for manufacturing many items from wood and iron was a good one. I also liked your idea to take sample farm and wood working implements and large amounts of more modern seeds. Of course, we know the early settlers did not have access to those items but you did your research well and documented the increases in yield those items would provide. Well done.
"I would like now to give each of you some advice and offer you an opportunity for a full life. Make the most of this visit home. Enjoy your family and save memories of your time with them and your friends. You will not see them again after this trip home."
All three of the young people sat in shock for a moment. They could not believe what the professor said. Finally they all three began talking at once. Professor Sheripati raised his hands and shouted, "QUIET. Please be quiet. I get this response almost every time I have one of these interviews and it never gets any easier for me to handle.
"I meant what I said. I'm sorry, I know you now think I'm a nutcase, perhaps an asshole or any of the other names I've been called in the past by students. I assure you that is not the case. I am deadly serious when I make this request. Make the most of your time at home this holiday. It will be your last visit home and the last time you will see your family. Please watch this video and you'll see why I tell you this."
The professor picked up a remote and pushed play. The first scene was Simon getting into his car for his trip back to college. He hugged his mother and younger sister goodbye and smacked his younger brother. He just waved at his father and got into his car. He drove away. When he neared the university he pulled into a convenience store for gas and some snacks.
As he was going into the building Bob came out. He was in threadbare clothes and dirty. He saw Simon and snarled, "You son of a bitch. Because of you I flunked out of college last semester. He screamed "YOU ASSHOLE" and swung the bag he was carrying. It contained a six pack of beer he was too young to purchase. The clerk was a friend and sold it to him anyway. Before he could get his arm up to defend himself the bag hit Simon in the temple. Simon dropped like a rock and lay in a spreading puddle of blood. Bob kicked him and walked off to get into an old rattletrap Mustang car. As he left the scene of his assault Bob muttered, "That'll teach you to fuck with me asshole. I take care of you all our first year of college and you shit on me. That's bullshit and you know it."
The professor stopped the video, looked at Simon and said, "You'll die in the door of the store from a brain injury before the paramedics arrive. Bob will be convicted of murder and will be sentenced to 30 to life in the state penitentiary. Unfortunately, he will not learn to control his temper or mouth before it's too late for him. He'll be killed by another inmate."
The three friends sat in shock and looked at the professor. He picked up the remote and started the video again. This time it showed Paula. She and her older sister were crossing a parking lot when a van drove up beside them. The door slammed open and two men jumped from it and forced the sisters into the van. It sped off. As the van drove down the road four men in the back stripped the sisters and began raping them. One of the men was Paula's sisters ex-fiancée. He said, "Both you bitches are going to pay for disrespecting me and dumping me. Paula was raped once. As her first rapist started to rise the van lurched causing him and the one holding her to lose their balance. She jumped up and opened the rear door of the van and tumbled out. Unfortunately, the semi-truck behind them couldn't stop. It drove over her. The professor once again stopped the video.
Again, the three friends sat in shock. The professor said, "You, too, will die Paula. I'm sorry it is such an unpleasant death, but it is fated."
He looked next at Don and said, "I don't know what to tell you Mr. Johns. You, too, are fated to be absent from school from now on. I don't know whether you will consider yourself fortunate or unfortunate when I show you what fate has in store for you. You will be attending the memorial services for your friends here at the University when the temporary bleachers you will be sitting on collapse. There are many injuries but no deaths. Unfortunately, your injury will be the most serious one and the only long lasting one. You'll hit your head and suffer permanent brain injury. You will become a vegetable, unable to communicate or move. Of course, this will be devastating to your family and remaining friends."
The professor once again started the video and let the three watch it. After it ended he said, "I can offer you each an alternative to the future you face. This is the first time I have been privileged to harvest three students from my class at one time. It was an effort to get you three all into the same class as you might imagine. I was pleasantly surprised to find you worked well together and were so successful on your term paper.
"Now, I'll answer what questions I can and leave you with some time to make your choice. I am sorry but you will find you cannot divulge any of this to anyone. We have placed a strong mental block on each of you. I'm sure you each think you will just avoid the location I have shown you and thus avoid your fate. I assure you this is impossible. We have researched possibilities countless times and you cannot indefinitely avoid your demise. Yes, you may avoid the one I have documented but within a very short time fate will intervene and you will face death or, in your case Mr. Johns, possibly a fate worse than death.
"You, Miss Breckenridge, may avoid the rape or not, I really can't say, but I can say you will not avoid the death. You will each meet your fate before classes start next semester either at the time and place I have shown you or another one having similar circumstances. I'm afraid time is very strict when it comes to things like a person's death. It is true as written, that we only have a certain, limited, pre-ordained time on this Earth.
"I can offer you an alternative of sorts, however. I may look like an Earth human but I am not. I am from an alternate universe with an alternate Earth where evolution occurred similarly to this Earth. Fortunately, our evolution and history was not as violent as was yours.
We see much on your Earth to admire. Your advancement was much faster than was ours. We believe the advancement was a direct result of all your wars and religious beliefs. Perhaps that is why you are so violent. We never developed the religions you did so had no religious strife, no killing in the name of God, or Allah, or any of the other deities your population worships. Your world is headed for total destruction much as your bible predicts. The prediction is; "There will be wars and rumors of war. The Earth will quake." The prediction of total destruction by fire will occur in the not too distant future. The fire will be nuclear. The wholesale release of nuclear bombs will reach the core of the Earth and volcanoes will complete the destruction of the human race. A very small number may survive but even if they do your civilization will be wrecked and your race will have to rise from the ashes. To my knowledge no race has ever done that if they suffered the devastation the Earth will face.
I and some colleagues have spent the last fifty years harvesting promising young people from this Earth. We will place you, or them, on an alternate Earth to preserve your genetic heritage and hopefully some of your culture. We hope you are now mature enough to build a more peaceful civilization on an Earth where the very few indigenous people are stagnant in their development. We think you will be able to interact and interbreed with these people. We hope you will build a new civilization without reverting to the violence rampant on this Earth.
We select very few young people in any year. Frankly, most of the people we might be able to collect don't meet our criteria and we allow them to die as fate has decreed. We want non-violent, well rounded, mentally stable, and intelligent individuals. That is not to say we reject those who are willing to fight if necessary to protect themselves or others, rather we have researched and selected those who are not personally aggressive and who have no predilection for arrogance and bullying. We hope those we select will prevent their offspring from developing those traits also.
"If you should agree to allow us to move you we will place a clone of you in the proper place at the moment of your demise so your families can have whatever closure they can get. Your current body will be transported aboard our ship pending resettlement on your new world."
The three young people sat in shocked silence for several seconds while the professor watched them. Finally, Simon shook himself and spoke. He said, "Then the rumors are true. Several of your students HAVE disappeared in the last several years. But how can we be sure what you have shown and told us is true. It could be some elaborate hoax."
"Yes, the rumors are true, but I am afraid in the last five years I have only taken four students for the new colony. There have been seven students that were in my classes who disappeared counting those four. All of them were fated to die or disappear and I can show you the records of their demise or, in one female's case, disappearance. If you had their names you could even look up the records yourself. The three I did not take did not meet our selection criteria for some reason. Usually, the failure was because of poor performance in this, the final selection class. If you should choose to take our offer you will be placed on the same planet as the earlier selectees. You will all be placed on the planet within a week of each other but well separated by distance. You will all be held in our ship in suspended animation pending us obtaining a full load or the end of your world, whichever comes first."
"You three were guided to this penultimate class by your advisors and because of suggestions made by professors in two of your other classes. You first had to be passed by your psychology and/or sociology professors and by your professor in government/political science. We used your performance in the psychology class to determine your suitability psychologically. The government class was used mostly to instill and assess your tendencies to minimalist government with strong human rights leanings. Perhaps you noticed your government professor stressing minimalist, ethical government and unrestrictive laws. In each of those classes you were assessed on your willingness to follow and implement laws and regulations for the betterment of all and your cooperative attitude. You had many discussions on legislation that did not protect one from oneself."
Paula was crying silently as the professor spoke. Unconsciously, Simon slid closer to her on the couch and put his arm around her. He pulled her to him and gave her a gentle kiss on her head. The professor smiled and said, "If you choose to take our offer you will be, or perhaps I should say you can be, placed as a couple."
The three sat for a moment longer then the professor said, "I know this is a lot to take in. Why don't you go on home now and think about this while you enjoy your families? All you have to do is send me an e-mail before your demise if you wish to accept our offer. You all still have my e-mail address don't you? I must stress the importance of sending that e-mail. We will not rescue you if you do not send it. You will still die, but that will be the end for each of you."