Morning Run

“So, why isn’t Rob running with us?”

“I told you, Meg.  He’ll run later, with Mom.  He’s lifting weights at home first.”

“Oh yeah.  I was half asleep when you told me.  Before I chugged an energy drink.”

“You don’t really need those.  Just get up and get moving.  Your body knows what to do.”

“Sometimes my brain doesn’t.  But you’re the doctor.”

Dr. Jonathan Traynor, middle-aged but reasonably fit, smiled as they crested the first hill at an easy starting pace.  The sun was just coming up over the mountains to their left, and the green valley stretched before them, with a few houses nestled among the trees.  He was glad he chose this route today.

“That’s right, but you can always just listen to your own body.  It’s usually trying to tell you what it needs.”

“Like more sleep?”

He laughed at that.  “Listen harder.  Don’t you feel good now?”

“I guess,” she acknowledged, with an 11-year-old’s lack of conviction.

“And after we run, doesn’t it feel good?”

“I know what you want me to say.”

“Ok, I’ll stop pushing.”

They loped silently down the slope and jogged along a fenced field where a meadowlark sang.  They had opted not to wear earbuds on this run, so they could talk occasionally.  The fresh breeze felt good in their faces as they started to climb the next long rise, through a stand of whispering firs.

After that challenge, they slowed a bit.  After she caught her breath, Meg resumed the conversation, a slight frown on her face.

“Mom was already working at her terminal.  Couldn’t she run alone later?  Why does Rob have to go with her?”

Jonathan paused before answering carefully.

“It’s not a good idea for any of us to go out alone now.  We’ll be flying to Hawaii in a week to get ready for the launch.  We’ve kept quiet about it – I know you’ve been good about that, as hard as it is to not even tell your friends – but if anyone around here found out, well, they might be jealous, or angry.  Colony 4 might be the last of the Ark Ships.  We’re very lucky to be part of the NorthAm contingent.  We still might not make the cut if we’re not in shape.  Some people don’t think United Humanity should be devoting resources to this project at all, with so many problems right here on Earth.  Lots of people just hate the UH on principle, even after all that happened in the last war.  So, people might pick on us, see?  I don’t want any of us to have to face that alone.”

He glanced at Meg’s troubled face.

“I hope I haven’t scared you.”

You haven’t.  The world has.”

By the time they reached the lake, the sunlight was sparkling on the caps of the little wavelets near the shore, and geese were honking as they rose to meet the dawn.  A few white clouds trimmed the blue horizon.

Jonathon glanced at his wrist.  According to his watch, they’d had a good run.  The time was about right.  He had raised his pulse rate where he should, despite keeping the run suited to his daughter’s abilities.  And several important messages were waiting for him in his queue.  

“Shall we wrap it up, Meg?”

His daughter just nodded; she was starting to get too fatigued for conversation.


As they pushed through the airlock from the rec center into the transpod to head back to the apartment highrise, Meg, freshly showered, quietly voiced the question that had been haunting her.

“Was Earth ever really like that, the way it looks in the workout sims?”


“Like, when you were a kid?”

He laughed.

“I’m not that old, Meg!  But you’ve seen old movies.  Archive photos.  Paintings in museums.”

“That’s not just imagination?”

“I don’t think so.  There’s too much evidence.  Earth was colored in greens and blues and browns in lots of places.  Before people messed it up.  Before the nukes.  Before we screwed up the oceans and the atmosphere.  It was different.”

Meg tried to wipe a space to see through the plexi window of the transpod as it raced along its rail, but the filth was on the outside of the window.  Only the dim outline of endless buildings was visible.  The noisy filter in the transpod struggled to clean the air. 

“Will it be green and blue where we go?”

“Honestly, Meg, we don’t know.  The A.I. will look for wormholes and then for habitable planets, and then wake us up if it finds any to explore.  We could survive, asleep, for a very long time.  We might never find anything that works.  Or we might find a Promised Land.”

He said that with a smile, but he meant it.  Meg didn’t smile back.  She was still trying to peer out the window.

“And we take a whole bunch of people from different countries, and some animals and plants and cells.  That’s why it’s an ‘ark ship’.  Like in the Bible story.  Except hardly anybody believes in that.  But we do.”

“That’s right, in our way we do.  Because it seems like we had our chance with this planet, as humans, and we have to do better next time.”

“I feel guilty leaving so many people behind.”

“I know what you mean, Meg.  But we don’t know what will happen to them, or to us.  Where there’s life, there’s hope.  We represent one kind of hope.  The ones who remain, the vast majority of humankind – they still have to make choices and figure out how to stop fighting and work together to heal the planet.  Or maybe build more ark ships in the next generation!”

The transpod slowed to a stop at the airlock to their apartment block.  A line of fine dust trickled to the floor as the doors hissed open. 

Jonathan stepped through and looked back at Meg, who was slowly rising from the cushioned bench, still looking thoughtful.  He shot her a grin.

“Race you to our door?”


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