This week’s photo writing prompt courtesy of Sue Vincent’s fun #writephoto challenge is entitled “stillness”. The goal – to write a story based on the lovely sunrise/sunset photo below. Be sure to check out the many great stories by clicking on the link above and if you haven’t already, why not have a go yourself?
I’ve tried something a little different this week. This story is a continuation of another writing prompt set by Peter Wyn Mosey. I’ve tried to make part 2 work as a stand-alone story but also work as a continuation of the previous story (~800 words). I’ll leave up to the reader as to whether I succeeded or not. It’s all good prep for starting on a novel in November. If you want to read part 1 the link is below, you don’t have to.
The warning bell sounds. The first day for humankind on their new home is finally here. A hundred and seven years after leaving earth, the battered starship finally made planetfall. The journey had been difficult, the trillion miles had taken their toll. Many of the ship’s systems had or were in the process of failing. The alarm bell rang, multiple system warnings flashed across the cockpit screens as the ship shuddered and groaned.
Sara was staring out the cockpit at the lush valley racing towards them. She was still feeling the effects of hibernation. You don’t shake off a century of sleep in a few hours, but she’d be damned if they would fail at the last. “We’re still coming in too fast.”
“I can see that,” said Thomas, frantically pressing buttons. “I’ve given her everything.”
Not quite she thought, rapidly re-rerouting and shutting down the remaining systems. “Now?”
“It’s still not enough!” Thomas said, shaking his head. “Impact in 45 seconds.”
She gritted her teeth as she ran the permutations, all scenarios ended badly. If she failed here it would be the end of humanity. Her brothers and sisters in the hold would never set foot on this new world, they would never even know how close they’d come. The thought horrified her, but she knew what she had to do.
“Thomas, you’ll need to counter-confirm,” she said, entering the final command and placing her palm on the screen.
“Confirm what?” he said, staring down at the display. It took him a second to register what she’d done. “You’re mad. No!”
“Thomas, we are out of time,” she shouted at him, pointing out the cockpit.
Thomas looked at the approaching ground and ran the scenarios in his own head. She was right, it was their only chance. He jammed his palm at the confirmation screen. “Damn it!”
Above the din of the ship shaking itself apart there came a crack and a jolt, followed by rapid crushing deceleration. A second later, the last of the retro thrusters burst into life as the ship crashed into the soft mud of the valley. A mile ahead the other half of the ship buried itself into the hillside in a titanic explosion that reverberated back down the valley.
“You ok?” Thomas asked.
Sara was already checking the ships manifest. Her voice broke when she declared, “Eight thousand … units.”
Thomas shook his head. Less than a quarter of their precious cargo had survived. “Fuck!”
It had taken them two weeks to rewire what was the left of the ship’s guts to provide enough power to the gestation chambers. Powered up, it would be another week before their brothers and sisters would finally step out onto this world. It would be tough, most of the terraforming equipment had been lost in the explosion, but they would have the advantage of being born to this world and would be perfectly adapted.
Their job done, Thomas and Sara climbed to the top of the valley one evening. The sun was setting over the new world as they reached the nearby cliffs.
“I’ve never seen open water before,” wheezed Thomas. the climb had taken it out of him.
Sara collapsed on the ground next to him, panting. They sat there for a long time, catching their breath, enjoying the stillness as the sun slowly dipped below the far horizon.
“I brought this,” said Sara, unwrapping a primitive gun.
“Yeah, I thought that might amuse you,” she said. The gun was heavy in her hand.
Thomas staggered to his feet and stepped towards the cliff edge. Teetering precariously on the precipice he turned, smiled at her and nodded. A rivulet of blood trickled from his nose. “Mission accomplished?”
She nodded and pulled the gun up. It took both hands and all her strength against the planets deadly gravity. “Mission ” Through tearing eyes and shaking hands, she pulled the trigger. “Accomplished.”
The gunshot rang out as Thomas fell from the cliff into the inky depths below. Sara collapsed to her side, the effort of lifting the gun had left her exhausted. Her engineered physiology was tough, it had got her halfway across a galaxy against all odds, but even with her adaptions, she could not survive on this world. She and Thomas had known that from childhood. They’d been born and trained for this singular critical purpose. In the end, they may not have succeeded but they had given humanity a fighting chance, more than they had back on earth.
There was one last thing; she dragged herself to the cliff edge. She and Thomas had been of the old world, a dying world, drowning in its own sin. Her brothers and sisters would be innocent, designed without humanities destructive traits. They would not know evil, she would make sure of that, this new Eden would not be tarnished.