The Road to the See
Arthur C. Clarke
“They have not always succeeded. The planets defeated them once; why should the worlds of other suns be more hospitable?”
It was a fair question. After five hundred years, the memory of the first failure was still bitter. With what hopes and dreams had Man set out for the planets, in the closing years of the twentieth century – only to find them not merely barren and lifeless, but fiercely hostile! From the sullen fires of the Mercurian lava seas to Pluto’s creeping glaciers of solid nitrogen, there was nowhere that he could live unprotected beyond his own world; and to his own world, after a century of fruitless struggle, he had returned.
Yet the vision had not wholly died; when the planning had been abandoned, there were still some who dared to dream of the stars. Out of that dream had come at last the Transcendental Drive, the first Expedition – and now the heady wine of long-delayed success.
“There are fifty solar-type stars within ten years’ flight of Earth,” Durven replied, “and almost all of them have planets. We believe now that the possession of planets is almost as much a characteristic of a G-type star as its spectrum, though we don’t know why. So the search for worlds like Earth was bound to be successful in time; I don’t think that we were particularly lucky to find Eden so soon.””
“Eden? Is that what you’ve called your new world?”
“Yes; it seemed appropriate”.
“What incurable romantics you scientists are! Perhaps the name’s too well chosen; all the life in that first Eden wasn’t friendly to Man, if you remember.”
Durven gave a bleak smile.
“That, again, depends on one’s viewpoint,” he replied. He pointed toward Shaster, where the first lights had begun to glimmer. “Unless our ancestors had eaten deeply from the Treee of Knowledge, you would never have had this.”
“And what do you suppose will happen to it now?” asked Hannar bitterly. “When you have opened the road to the stars, all the strength and vigor of the race will ebb away from Earth as from an open wound.”
“I don not deny it. It had happened before, and it will happen again. Shastar will go the way of Babylon and Carthage and New York. The future is built on the rubble of the past; wisdom lies in facing that fact, not in fighting against it. I have loved Shastar as much as you have done – so much so that know, though I shall never see it again, I dare not go down once more into its streets. You ask me what will become of it, and I will tell you. What we are doing will merely hasten the end. Even twenty years ago, when I was last here, I felt my will being sapped by the aimless ritual of your lives. Soon it will be the same in all the cities of Earth, for every one of them apes Shastar. I think the Drive has come none too soon; perhaps even you would believe me if you had spoken to the men who have come back from the stars, and felt the blood stirring in your veins once more after all these centuries of sleep. For your world is dying, Hannar; what you have now you may hold for ages yet, but in the end it will slip from your fingers. The future belongs to us; we will leave you to your dreams. We also have dreamed, and now we go to make our dreams come true”.
(Tales from Planet Earth by Arthur Clarke)
The future belongs to us; we will leave you to your dreams. We also have dreamed, and now we go to make our dreams come true