Maldor Prime, often referred to as the "ass end of the solar system" was NOUS's latest attempt at prison control. Two hundred male prisoners that were considered to dangerous for Earth prisons were deported to Maldor by the New Order Of The United States or NOUS Member's executive order.
Other than the deported prisoners, the only other humans on Maldor were forty seven male terra farmers that came on the original ship from Earth. Also known as settlers, these hard working dirt farmers were considered experts at growing food and making water. The terra farmers are so good they can grow tomatoes on the side of a rock. Terra farmers lived alongside the exported prisoners on Maldor without fear. It was in everyone's interest that the settlers were as happy as possible so they would continue to produce the only food source.
The prisoners mine the tunnels until all the precious minerals are exhausted. Then the terra farmers take over the tunnels and convert them to agri-tunnels. The tunnels become their own environmentally controlled greenhouses with a little help from the terra farmers. The terra farmers have mastered the art of agri-hydroponics. The settlers rarely visit the tunnels during the mineral mining process and likewise the prisoners rarely visit the agri-tunnels after they are converted for food production.The inmates nor the settlers have any modern weapons for hunting or defense. Weapons for hunting are not needed as there are no indigenous life forms on Sierra. The settlers did transport a few smaller domestic animals during their migration to Sierra such as chickens and hogs, however feeding the animals in the early years after their arrival proved to difficult. Maldor is so dry its almost impossible to grow anything. Partly because there's no rain but mostly because the soil is sterile. A meteor hit a thousand years ago and sterilized the soil and then blew out enough dirt to block some of the sunlight from the already light starved distant world. There is a light atmosphere but the air must be supplemented with a special cocktail prepared by the settlers. O yeal, the settlers are the atmospheric experts as well.
"Billy, got a second", Kevin said over the intercom system interconnected to all the mine shafts that the settlers had bored into the rocky subterranean world of Sierra. Kevin Mitchell was the newly elected leader of the settlers.
"Kevin, this is Billy. I'll be there as soon as I can. Anything wrong?"
"Billy, I just want you to look at something we uncovered this morning in one of the tunnels. Pick up Jake at the equipment shack and ask him to bring the bio recorder. Meet me in tunnel 7D." Jack said to Billy as he examined the contents dropped off by one of the tunnel workers.
Jake Martin was the settler's top electronics specialist. He kept all the electronic gear working that was used in growing the food in the tunnels. The settlers discovered shortly after arriving on Sierra, that the best way to grow plants was to utilize the tunnels used in the mineral mining. Once a tunnel was mined out they would set the tunnel up as a hydroponics garden. They used wind generators and solar panels to generate electricity for their working and living quarters, but they also used it to run the lights necessary to cultivate plants for food.
"Jake, grab the bio recorded and meet me at the entrance to tunnel 17D", Billy said to Jake as he passed the entrance to the fully decked out electronics equipment shack at the mouth of the enviro tunnels.
Billy didn't stay around to chat with Jake. He was anxious to see what Kevin had discovered in the latest mine shaft being converted. Billy had overheard Kevin mumbling something about pieces of wood that the workers had encountered. Billy had never seen wood on sierra before. All the housing quarters were constructed of a poly mineral that was derived from some of the local mining materials. All the trees and plants on the surface of the moon had been destroyed during the asteroid impact.
The settlers are a handful of people that didn't agree with the political and economic conditions on Earth. They hated the pollution and the taxes. The rules and the regulations. They liked their chances better with the deported prisoners on Maldor than with the humans back on Earth. The terra settlers were highly trained at survival in harsh conditions and were dispatched to new worlds to find ways to mine and colonize them. They were accustom to living in isolation and capable of adapting to whatever conditions they encountered. Life on sierra was difficult, but they had the opportunity to make their own laws and set their own moral standards. They had the opportunity to mold this world into the peaceful surroundings they had wanted back on Earth but were unable to because of politicians, criminals and dictators.
"Kevin, Jake's on the way with the recorder, what did you find?"
"Billy the workers ran into something that fowled them up, here's a sample. I swear it looks like a branch from a tree or maybe a root."
"That makes no sense at all Kevin, tunnel 7D is currently over 200 ft deep." I don't think tree roots would be able to penetrate that deep, and more importantly there are no trees on the surface of Sierra." "Is it possible that roots still remain underground intact after hundred's of years with the surface barren of trees and plants?" Billy was thinking out loud and Kevin heard his comments, but said nothing.
"What we found in the tunnel is not an isolated root. We hit a solid wall of roots. It will take us hours to clear the tunnel before we can continue digging." Kevin sounded to Billy. "We need a working party of several men to give us a hand cutting the debris away."
"Have Jake test the sample to confirm my analysis. I'm going to the site to take a better look at the situation. When the helpers are ready have them report to the location." Kevin shouted to Billy as he headed back into the dimly lit shaft.
By the year 2050 the earth was infested with terrorism, disease, worldwide pandemics, racism, economic depression, violent crimes, abortion, war, dictators and hunger. Earthlings became infatuated with violent sporting events such as wrestling, boxing, football, marshal arts and big game hunting. Internal social destruction resulted from all the violent TV programming, movies, and unbelievably graphic computer games. During the last half of the 21st century lawmakers enacted a sterilization program on all prisoners with sentences of 25 years and more. Society believed to eliminate future criminals it was necessary to make sure current criminals couldn't pass on their genetics to others. All the deported prisoners on Maldor were sterilized before leaving Earth. They were also subjected to new sex therapy treatments to subdue their sexual desires. In theory, the deported prisoners would not experience any more sexual tendencies. The settlers had sworn off sex many years before leaving Earth. They believed that sex was responsible for much of the crime, social unrest and disease on Earth. In the 23rd century with advanced stem cell applications, gene splicing and DNA decoding few people ever resorted to sex to make babies anyway. Before anyone could have a child back on Earth, they had to undergo extensive testing for compatibility, DNA forecasting to determine if any of the parents had any genetic faults that could affect the child, psychology testing and extensive background checking. It had been determined in the 22nd century that the best way to filter out the bad elements of society was to start with a proper conception. If you have undesirable genes, a questionable background or non compatible religious believes, then you would not be granted a birthing certificate. Scientist and medical researchers had come up with safer and more enjoyable ways to have a sex anyway.
Most disputes were between the prisoners and rarely involved the settlers. It was usually over property boundaries and mineral rights. Although the prisoners were not citizens of Earth any longer, they did have rights under the Sierra manifest to own property and any minerals found on the property belonging to them. The deal was that the prisoners were being exiled to Sierra and since it was determined that Sierra was a sterile world without any pre-existing life, they could set up their own rules and regulations to govern Sierra. No one from Earth had any plans to visit or support the settlers or prisoners on Sierra in any way. The settlers were allowed to bring basic tools and testing equipment necessary for mining the local minerals, but were not allowed to take any weapons or advanced technologies that would aid them in leaving Sierra. Earth was not interested in the minerals that orbiting satellites had determined existed on the distant moon. The residents of Sierra had full rights to anything found on Sierra, however they didn't possess the advanced technology to export the minerals. So everyone stockpiled their minerals for now hoping to find a way to sell their nest eggs eventually.
"Billy, you've got to see this! Meet me at vent shaft 4, tunnel 7D. Bring Tom and Philip." Kevin said to Billy. "We've hit the mother lode!"
Tom and Philip were responsible for maintaining the plants in the mining shafts. They spent their days attending to all the plants needs to ensure there would be food for everyone. Tom and Philip were hydroponics specialists and with the right light combinations and ventilation shafts could grow almost anything in the abandoned mine tunnels and ventilation shafts. They had spent the last two years adapting the tunnels to the unique requirements of the plants. Water was scarce but they had brought enough to get the enviro tunnels up and running. All the precious water invested in the growing tunnels were recycled with little loss.
Billy gathered Tom and Philip from another tunnel they were working in and escorted them to tunnel 7D. When Kevin arrived at the bitter end of tunnel 7D the workers were cutting away at the mass of gnarly roots blocking the tunnel. After several hours of cutting and hacking away at the root system with knives, axes and picks, they were finally able to carve a small opening into what appeared to be a massive living cave.
"Kevin!" One of the workers said loudly.
"Come look at this. It's a huge underground cavern and it's filled with exotic plants of all kinds. And there's light!"
"Plants?" Kevin responded back. "Are you sure? Light?"
Kevin examined the small opening that pierced the massive cavern. He stepped inside and could feel the dense condensation and the sweaty humidity was unbearably high. The cavern looked to be over 100 feet high and continued as far as he could see ahead. The cavern was completely filled with green vegetation and a few small trees. There was even a small clear creek trickling through the gigantic cavern. Kevin crawled back through the small crevice entryway with the help of another worker and reached for the radio strapped to his hip.
"Billy." Kevin said over the hand held intercom. "Put together a small team of 6 men to explore a cave we excavated at the end of shaft 7D. Tom and Philip will want to see this as well. Bring some ropes, knives, picks and some sample collection sacks and meet us at vent shaft 4, tunnel 7D in 30 minutes."
Kevin, Billy, Tom, Philip, Jake and another worker entered the lush cavern and explored for several hours. Kevin decided it would be better to return with a fully equipped expedition with the necessary supplies for several days to continue searching the cavern.
During the extended expedition they found indescribable plants, trees, fresh water and even signs of insect life forms. They had hiked for days and discovered many miles of plant filled passages and even a small lake with a beautiful waterfall. It would take the team days to analyze all the specimens collected and to determine which plants were edible and which contained the ingredients of life and/or death. No one could offer a reasonable explanation for the plant filled caverns but everyone was excited about the possibilities it presented.
That night Kevin, Billy, Tom, Jake and Philip sat around a table in the mining shack and discussed their futures. Should they reveal the cavern discovery to the prisoners? How important would their relationship with the prisoners be now that an infinite source of food and water had been revealed. Would the prisoners respect the settlers as much now that they didn't need to depend on the settlers for food and air? And what about Earth. Conditions back on Earth had improved in the 23rd Century, however food production was poor and it was becoming more difficult to feed all the hungry people. Atmospheric deterioration, soil and water pollution had limited the farming efforts on Earth to producing only for the wealthy. Everyone else was expected to eat the commercially available organic food supplemental and drink recycled water. Earth could definitely use another Garden of Eden. Maybe this time everyone would work together to preserve mother nature and cultivate a non-carbon society without the side effects of pollution, drought and hunger.
Regardless of the decisions the settler's made that night regarding their new discovery, there was little they could do to help the people back on Earth. They had been exiled to this barren world and forgotten with no means of inter planetary communications and no means of escape. The folks on Earth considered the deported explorers a disease and had no desire to hear from them again. The settlers had accepted their fate to migrate with the prisoners and had denounced life on Earth in favor of a new start on Sierra.
The biggest problem the settlers and the prisoners faced now was a dead end generation. The newly discovered Garden of Eden had potential to supply generations of children with unlimited food and water, however there were no women on Sierra to bear their children. There would not be another generation after they died to pass on their beliefs, family history or their genes. There would be no one left to harvest the bounty of the newly discovered underground paradise once the settlers and prisoners had expired. Once again the humans would be cast out of the Garden Of Eden as in the original Earth Bible tale, except this time no one would survive to tell the story.