It is 1974. The Cold War has gone on for years and shows no sign of stopping. Humanity is scared and hopeless. Dr. Richard M. Goldsmith can't save the millions of people across the globe, but maybe he can do the next best thing. Follow Richard as he spearheads Project Pandora. A project with one goal and one goal only; keeping humanity alive.
August 10, 1974
Dr. Richard M. Goldsmith,
Pandora was founded as a precaution, a safeguard against the terrors of our twentieth century. We have sent you to the depth of the ocean floor, the only place safe from nuclear threat. Two years ago, our good friend successfully covered up this secret project, and just yesterday felt the repercussions for his actions. He may have fallen, but he successfully kept Pandora safe; he kept you safe. Do not fail him. History will record him as the one who resigned, the one who failed, but you and I both know the truth. You have been enlisted for an undoubtedly insurmountable task. You have spent the greater portion of your life on this project and I trust that it is in good hands. As your Commander-in-Chief, but more importantly, as your friend, I give you one objective and one objective only: at all costs, keep humanity alive.
President Gerald R. Ford
P.S. Quit smoking, Richard - it’s a nasty habit.
Chapter 1: Dr. Richard M. Goldsmith Sr.
Richard Goldsmith woke up suddenly. The same haunting dream every night. He couldn't breathe. Gasping for breath that never seemed to be there. He could taste the metal in the air. It was so—artificial. He rolled over to check his clock, squinting to catch the blurry black hands orbiting the white surface. He silently cursed as he realized there was the perfect amount of time left where he couldn’t decide what to do. He could try and go back to sleep until it rang or he could get out of bed and have an extra three minutes to get ready. Not liking either option, Richard laid silent, motionless for the remaining time, staring at the cement ceiling. Three minutes felt like hours as he checked the clock every few seconds only to realize it had hardly even changed.
After an eternity had seemingly passed, the alarm pierced the air and his hand sprung forward, swatting the alarm clock like a fly. A fly?— He couldn’t believe that he actually missed having to swat flies away. He remembered waving his hand in front of his face only to have the same bug annoyingly return every few seconds as if he had nothing better to do. He missed that? Richard crammed this thought into the back of his mind, he didn’t care much for useless information. He had much more important matters to attend to. Richard swung his legs to the side of the bed as his muscled arm reached for his glasses. Considering his built frame and strong jaw, the glasses seemed like they always did—out of place. Richard’s military cut and hairy upper lip did not help them look any more at home. Richard brought the frames to the bridge if his nose and started his morning routine; the same one he had followed for the last decade. Well, eleven years to be exact.
5:00 Wake up; get dressed
Richard quickly grabbed his Nikes from underneath his bed. His knees popped as he slipped the shoes on. He was thrilled to get the latest model of the Nike Waffle Trainers before he left. They fit perfectly on his feet. The dark blue mesh material contrasted sharply with the bright yellow checkmark streaked on either side of each shoe. The sole was covered in square-shaped rubber, now quite worn from many miles of use. Rumor had it that Bill Bowerman made the first pair of Nike Trainers on a waffle iron that he had stolen from his wife’s kitchen, giving the shoes their iconic name and simultaneously landing him a spot on the couch. Richard chuckled, guessing every guy had a nasty habit that their lady could nag on about. By now, Richard had criss-crossed the white shoelaces into perfect loops and was ready to go.
5:02 Morning jog
Bounding out the door and down the hall, Richard’s jog seemed as easy as ever. He savored every step as he ran down the spacious corridor. In less than an hour, the corridor would be filled with personnel, making the word “spacious” seem like part of a foreign language. Richard could still remember his very first jog like it was yesterday. Believe it or not, he had read about jogging in the newspaper. Apparently, it was the newest health craze that had started in New Zealand and was slowly trotting its way across the globe. Eleven years later, Richard was still going strong. Stronger than ever, actually. To keep the run interesting, he used the stairs to cover all five floors of the cement block, ending right where he started. Four miles in thirty-two minutes wasn’t too bad for a man of his age.
5:34 150 push ups
Richard opened the door to his quarters, took two steps inside, and immediately dropped to the floor. Fifty push-ups. Minute rest. Fifty push-ups. Minute rest. Fifty push-ups. Richard quickly stood and realized one-hundred and fifty push-ups was getting too easy. He briefly considered cutting a minute from his breakfast or shower to add in another set of fifty, but continued on with his routine.
5:39 Shower; get dressed
Richard walked over to his turntable and put on his favorite disc, Hot Five by Louis Armstrong. He payed careful attention to place the needle right where track six started, and began scatting along as if he were Louis himself. The first day Richard arrived on Pacifus, he had found the turntable waiting for him on his bunk. It was a pleasant surprise, as the model was not supposed to come out for quite some time. Attached was a personal note from the President. Richard hopped into and out of the shower like it was a race and winning was of the utmost importance. He took his time trimming his speckled brown mustache and eventually donned his coat and tie. He took one glance in the mirror, adjusted his glasses, and headed into the kitchen.
Richard opened his refrigerator and took out his rations for the day’s breakfast: 3 eggs and 2 pieces of toast. He ignited the old gas stove and just five minutes later, he sat at his desk eating while reviewing his agenda for the day. He carefully glanced over his speech for the afternoon’s celebration, mentally making minor changes throughout. He quickly reviewed the credentials of his new Chief Engineer Steven A. Polster. He hated to admit it, but Richard was quite impressed with the Polster’s past works.
Louis’ trumpet was still gliding its way across the room and Richard couldn’t help but hum along to the familiar tune. He glanced up at the clock and set aside his speech and Polster’s resume. He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out the only thing able to get him through each day. Cigarette in hand, Richard closed his eyes and puffed away.
“If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. You are not smoking that in this kitchen.” Paula was used to their daily banter by now, but she knew if she didn't bring it up, her husband would be smoking in her kitchen every morning at precisely 5:56.
“It’s only one, dear.” Richard mumbled, cigarette in mouth, paper in hand.
“I told you this yesterday morning and the morning before that. One cigarette will stink up this house. One cigarette a day? That’s seven a week and three hundred sixty five a year. See? You’re not the only smart one here, Doctor Richard.” Paula said with a playful wink.
“Multiple studies have shown that they are perfectly healthy. After all, I am the doctor in this house.” Richard shot back with a wink of his own.
“Every day, Richard? At 5:56? And in our new house? The back patio has a lovely view… Plus, Little Richie always gets upset when you smoke on my new sofa.” Paula smiled while patting her oversized stomach. She knew it was a lie, and so did Richard, but one mention of their unborn child and Richard was like a dog on a leash.
“Whatever makes you happy.” Richard said with a smile as he strolled out to the back patio. Three minutes later, he was back inside, kissing Paula goodbye.
Richard snuffed out his cigarette and buried his hands into his face.
He got up and stood motionless in front of the door, knowing full well that the moment that door opened, he instantly became Dr. Goldsmith, the man who had it all together. Taking a breath, and right on schedule, he stepped out of his quarters precisely at the top of the hour. As always, his assistant was waiting for him right outside the door and their morning dialogue began.
“Good morning, Doctor.”
“Good morning, Ms. Maria.”
Richard turned down the hall and Maria quickly followed, clipboard in hand. Her high heels clicked and echoed through the halls. Her hair was back in a bun but her bangs swayed in time with each step. She was tan, a surprising sight in Pacifus; her skin hadn’t been kissed by the sun’s golden rays in two years. Maria was the young and beautiful type. The exact woman Richard’s wife would not have wanted anywhere near her husband.
“Give me the overnight updates and go through the agenda for today.”
Richard already knew today’s schedule forwards and backwards, but his superiors insisted he have a female personal assistant. Any protest from him on that topic was quickly dismissed. Odd for a man who got everything else he ever asked for. Richard didn’t care to remember the bumbling excuse they gave; something about inter-department cooperation. Damn government bureaucracy. This was his way of appeasing them and making Maria feel useful at the same time.
“Good news first!” Maria piped over-enthusiastically. “As you know, Doctor, today is Civilian Day! The Deep Capsules were supposed to depart from D.C. this morning at 0:00.”
“I said good news first Doctor,” Maria’s tone was less chipper now. “Allow me to continue. If all is well, the Deep Capsules will land tomorrow at approximately 14:00.”
“If all is well?”
Maria ignored this comment and hustled to keep up as Richard quickly rounded a corner. He was always the man everyone else had to catch up to.
“Air and water pressure are steady. Food and Oxygen reserves are full. Oh! - and guess what?!” Maria paused for excitement. “The hourly Glass and Hull Integrity Test’s you called for overnight were given a 9.89 out of 10! We can drain the sectors 1-4 of the Surface as soon as you wi—”
Richard interrupted her, “Drain it now.”
Maria nodded and continued. “Lastly, by beginning drainage now our calculations say the surface will be fully dry by 9:00, meaning the Hydro-generators, ArtSun, and O2 filters can all be fully operational by 11:00 today.”
“Reach out to our engineers. Make it happen.” Richard quickly snapped.
“Continuing with our good news, don’t forget you have a meeting with Dr. McGraw concerning the situation we had with Chief Engineer Dennison a few days ago. Dennison’s remains have been preserved and he has been replaced by his number two Steven A. Polster.”
If this was what Maria considered good news, Richard couldn't imagine what the bad news was.
“What is the bad news?”
“The mess hall is serving meatloaf and potatoes for dinner and—” Maria hesitated.
“What is it?” Richard said sternly.
Maria’s volume lowered as she shot off the words in rapid percussion “We lost all communication with Dispatch last night at 23:34. We couldn’t confirm or deny the departure from D.C. Thomas has been working all night to establish connect. We have yet to make contact but we are confident that—”
“DAMN IT, MARIA!” Richard cursed at her. They could not be dealing with this right now. Female assistants were nothing but trouble! “You should have lead with that. You are supposed to wake me up in the event of an emergency Maria! We need those supplies! Cancel my schedule; this takes number one priority!” He cursed again, turned around, and sprinted down the hall in the opposite direction.