19 Ending

This story began as a response to a prompt at Black Ship Books but wouldn't let me go until I had included it here.

FROM: Cpt L Morris-Harvey, SS Demeter, in orbit around Planet Earth

TO: T Morris-Harvey, 19 Byron Street, Hebrides, Planet Juno

DATE: Third Age, Second Empire; Third Day, Seventh Month, Twentieth Year

ATTACHED: Images of Earth's surface from orbit


We have found it! At last!!! All of the planning and searching was worth it.

Earth is no longer a myth, a bright blue-green spark in the collective unconscious. It is real, verifiable, fact!

I am writing to you before I submit my official report but you will understand that I will have to send the report off first. But I had to let my excitement spill forth in these words to you, get them out of the way, as it were. The report, in contrast, will be mere facts and figures, as dry and dull as the surface of Earth itself.

Oh, how it would break your heart to see it! But I am getting ahead of myself.

We entered Sol’s system two days ago. The outer planets are just as the scriptures describe them but Sol is no longer the bright yellow dwarf that the Ancestors left behind them. It is nearing the red giant stage and its surface is within a million kilometres of Earth. Mercury and Venus are gone, swallowed up by the ever-expanding star that once gave life but now destroys it.

The heat beats on the outer plating of our little craft despite all the best our scientists could do to protect the fragile human lives inside. We estimate that we can only remain here for three rotations rather than the five we had planned, so everyone is working around the clock to perform the tests and experiments that are the ultimate purpose of our mission. It's going to be tight, but we will do it.

I have thought of you every day since I left you at Juno's space dock but even more so now that we are here. I ache for your touch. The cruelty of Fate to separate us at such a moment! I have railed against it so many times. But we all have duties beyond our paid employment. Family must always come first. These are the things that honour the Ancestors.

I have tried to imagine what you would say as you stood by my side gazing out of the viewing ports at the poor, shrivelled rock that once supported such abundant life. You would have cried your heart out, I know you would. I had tears running down my own face, as I am sure you can imagine.

The images that I have attached are ones that I took myself. They will give you some idea of what Earth now is, scorched bare, dead. The official ones that will be attached to my report, that will soon be spread across every news feed in the Empire, are much better, of course. They are clearer, show more detail. We have captured an image of a square meter of ground at the pole, the equivalent of the one the Ancestors took before they left. Then, it was dazzling white; now it is ashen grey. One of our tasks is to locate the position of each of the images that they captured, to contrast the lush greens and serene blues with the barren browns and greys.

I have felt closer to the Ancestors since we arrived. Our courage and ambition mirrors theirs, I think. They had no choice but to leave; we had no choice but to return, to seek out our first home. Did they imagine that we would come back? I have often wondered. After all, they left us no clear directions, no record of their own journey to Terra Nova, Secundus, Trident. Perhaps they did not intend us to return.

But it is right that we have come. Scientifically, spiritually, for the sake of sanity if for no other reason. What years of war might we have spared ourselves if we had come sooner?

There were those who said that it was a fool's errand and others who said it was blasphemy. They were all wrong! Still, I have kept half an eye out for sabotage throughout this voyage...

I will have to finish this later; there is some kind of problem with the cooling system. The Chief Engineer is muttering something about a conduit being deliberately cut.

A Captain's work is never done...





19 Ending

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