The Countdown Begins
I can tell that we writers have a lot in common. Specifically, that we have procrastination in common, judging by the several entries I’ve gotten today! 🙂
Two more goodies for you right now — ready?
At Journey’s End
by Jeffrey Hollar
They were the fifth, and quite possibly the last, generation that would call The Great Ship home. Every possible scenario to extend their journey had been thoroughly researched and subsequently discarded as unworkable. The simple truth was the great behemoth simply had no more to give.
Equipped and outfitted for a voyage expected to last no longer than one year of ship’s time, she was now halfway through her 237th year of travel and unlikely to see another.
Scarce three months into their trek, she was seized in a solar storm of unparalleled intensity and flung willy-nilly through an uncharted quantum singularity. She emerged into an area of space that neither her databases nor her crew had any knowledge of.
Nearly all The Great Ship’s systems had suffered damage of some sort. The most telling were to the primary and secondary propulsion systems, astrogation systems and planetary sensors. In essence, the ship was a great bird with a badly-broken wing that’d lost its sense of direction and was unsure where it might be safe to land.
The final indignity was that this space appeared reasonably devoid of potentially-habitable planets. With little choice, they resolved to make the best of fate and so began their search.
Of the legion of lives lost along the way and the myriad of worlds deemed unsuitable, little more need be said. The explorers continued onward despite all obstacles, always believing that “home” would be the next world they encountered.
Colonists aged, babies were born and their numbers remained constant if a bit diluted. Every passing year more secondary systems were cannibalized to prop up their sagging primary counterparts until no more secondary systems remained. Environmental controls faltered and the end of the voyage could be precisely calculated. A date and time were computed beyond which The Great Ship would live no more.
Morale onboard was at an epic low point and some had even begun to discuss whether euthanasia was a viable means to extend their trip. In this, their darkest hour, they glimpsed the first feeble light of dawn in their latest scans.
There remained one planet within range that could prove their salvation. Nothing hazardous was detected by the limited sensor data and a decision was made. They must, at long last, make landfall and call their exodus done. And so they did.
The planet proved wondrous beyond their wildest expectations. The climate was almost perfectly agreeable with projected long growing seasons and relatively mild winters to be expected. Air, soil and water quality were exemplary. This was, at long last, home.
They bedded down that night for the first time under planetary gravity, breathing air not endlessly recirculated and lulled by the sounds of actual terrestrial fauna.
Sadly, they had no way to know the joy and relief swelling their hearts was echoed by the swelling of gravitational abnormalities within the core of their new planet’s sun. The end of the world was mere days away for those who’d travelled so long.
A DARK PATH
by J. Whitworth Hazzard
“I want it done!” General Franco slammed his fist down on the lab bench, scattering calibrators onto the floor.
A tense silence filled the room as the scientists froze.
“Your Excellence,” Dr. Escobar said, “we’re very close. We need…”
“You don’t need anything else.” General Franco picked up a monitor and smashed it on the floor. “You were given everything. Time, money, materials, and the best minds. Yesterday, it worked. And today, when the American tanks are crossing our border, you doubt. How can this be?”
“Your Excellence, what you don’t understand is…” Dr. Reynaldo put his hand on the General’s shoulder only to be cut off mid-sentence.
“Never tell me I don’t understand,” General Franco spit the words. “If we don’t stop the Americans, we’ll lose everything we hold dear. Your family, my family, our way of life, our great nation…all destroyed! Now. Does it work?”
“Yes, but you can’t…”
General Franco drew his sidearm and shot Dr. Reynaldo in the heart. A lab technician screamed, as Dr. Reynaldo slumped over General Franco and fell to the floor. Dead.
The General held the pistol and walked over to Dr. Escobar—the ranking scientist in the group now—and placed the hot barrel against his temple.
“Does it work?”
“Yes,” Dr. Escobar said. His face twitched, and the beads of sweat poured down his face.
“What concerned your ex-colleague so much that he was willing to die?”
Dr. Escobar snapped his fingers excitedly and a white-coated technician brought over a stack of printouts. He flipped through and found the chart he wanted to show the General. “Your Excellence, the device works as we suspected. We can transport troops and machinery in the time-space compressed dimension to anywhere on the globe. The ancient text was correct in that respect. But our last test produced two unexpected results.”
General Franco looked over the graph. “Go on.”
Dr. Escobar traced a line on the paper, “The energy expenditure to open the portal has been dropping geometrically, but the last run it spiked negative when we shut it off.”
“The portal is stabilizing, your Excellence. The instruments detected the dimensional rift open for 0.23 seconds AFTER we shut down our side.” Dr. Escobar wiped the sweat from his forehead. “If the trend continues the portal may stay open entirely on its own. More worrisome is this anomalous frame of video from the probe. We’ve run fourteen crossings and never seen anything like it.”
A video monitor flashed and a red smoky landscape came into view, pixelated by static. In the corner of the image, was what looked like one half of a reptilian eye.
The General lowered his weapon and spoke calmly. “Two battalions will begin transport at 0700 hours tomorrow morning. You will open the portal on my command, so they can begin their mission. As a special treat, I’ve ‘invited’ your families to watch your glorious success. Do we understand one another? Yes?”
“Yes, your Excellence.”
Posted on July 30, 2012, in Contest Entries, Contests, EOW, Flash Fiction and tagged apocalypse, emmie mears, end of the world, flash fiction, J. Whitworth Hazzard, Jeffrey Hollar, paranormal, sci-fi, Science fiction, urban fantasy, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Countdown Begins.