Geological Colonist 1st class Norman Howards studied the blue-green oceans and brownish continents below him with awe. "We'll need to get settled for landing soon, Norm," the captain, Kenji Netsumame announced gently as he stepped into the solar bay. His eyes, too, were fixed on the large 'window' where the passengers of the colony ship Santa Maria could observe the star-speckled expanse of space through which they were traveling. It was chilling, really, how similar their new home looked to the old photographs of Earth. Norman shuddered, comparing the lush landscape below him to the desolate planet he'd left behind when he was only sixteen years old.
It was considered the ultimate triumph of humanity over the ravaging powers of Mother Nature. With the advent of the great plate-fixing machines, the great urban centers of the world could be protected from the ravaging earthquakes which periodically caused unacceptable pandemonium, and occasionally anarchy, despite the efforts of man to modernize all buildings. The calculations were made by the world's most powerful supercomputers, triple-checked and pored over by every geologist with two eyes and a bachelor's degree. The public was confident that nothing would go wrong.
As a young student of geology, Norm had closely followed the progress reports on the installation of the gargantuan support beams deep below the earth's surface. When Earth's crustal plates were firmly fixed in place without a hitch, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The project was considered a total success when all seventy-three of the powerful tractor beams that would counter any buildup of force in the lithosphere were launched into orbit on course, on time, and only a few billion dollars over budget.
The real test, however, did not come until two years later, when a major earthquake was expected to occur somewhere in the Sea of Japan; scientists predicted record-breaking tidal waves that would wipe out everything up to ten miles inland unless the earthquake were prevented. The tractor beams were programmed to sense any buildup of force in the crust and automatically react to it, but hundreds of seismologists were still monitoring that region for months before the final destruction came. According to plan, the beams switched on and began redistributing the force building up along the fault line just as the monitors detected a disturbance. In the scientific community, there was an air of almost mocking celebration; they had completely defeated the forces of Nature.
It was almost exactly three years after the ambitious project was completed that the electrical storms began. Some astronomers had noted a recent increase in sunspots, and even a shift in the solar wind, but such things were fairly ordinary occurances, and no one paid attention to the doomsday types who predicted that the earth would become fried in ion particles or such rubbish. The aurora Borealis became a spectacular nightly occurance, visible as far south as London and New York. But, with the incredible show came devastating malfunctions in the tractor beam sattelites. The first earthquake was along the San Andreas fault, a rocking 9.8 that threw the completely industrialized coastline to its knees. The convulsions of the earth that followed were far off of any earthquake scale ever calculated, resulting in massive volcanic eruptions that shrouded the world in a thick cloud of ash. The remains of humankind huddled in massive underground bomb shelters, contemplating the fact that civilization's greatest triumph had become its final downfall.
After five years, the engineers who had been living on the moon colony when the cataclysm began were able to dismantle the tractor beams, and the earth's shaking finally ceased. Mercifully, the entire Royal British space fleet had been stationed on the moon base, and was able to rescue humankind from the scene of chaos that was Earth. This new planet, the fourth in the Mattega system, had been quickly discovered, and proved to be so eerily Earth-like that the explorer who had first stepped foot on it was sure that he had died, or was at least hallucinating the entire experience.
Three massive colony ships, colloquially named after Columbus's Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, had been constructed by caniballizing most of the fleet, and the vast majority of Earth's former residents had begun the five year journey to the new home.
Norman collected himself, swivelled on his heel, and silently exited the solar bay to strap down for landing, suddenly experiencing a pleasant feeling that he was going home.