2017-08-21 14:01 short-story fiction science-fiction return-to-ebyx


Siqua knew something was wrong. He was the last to leave the whale. This had been prearranged several thousand years ago. When he looked down he didn't see what he expected to see, what they'd expected to see. This was a green world.

When he got in the pod he had his doubts. It was old, weak. It had waited since they'd arrived, it too was the last of its kind to leave. As it detached it groaned, with a sickening tearing sound permeating the cabin. And it veered. He watched with dismay as their trajectory arced far beyond the place they'd planned to set down, where he assumed his people were. It looked like they'd go as far as the poles. All he knew about the poles was that they were volatile. That's why they hadn't settled there after they arrived. At least that's what he read from the notes they'd left behind before descending.

He understood the implications. He knew where he needed to go, and it would be half a world away. The most likely outcome was that he would die far away and alone. This was the kind of thing they'd all prepared for. But this world had already shown them surprises. And his people had been planet-side now for some time. It wasn't hopeless. He also had the advantages of a destination. In the old stories it was said only those without a destination could be lost. He didn't put as much faith in those stories as some of the others did. Many of the stories were merely platitudes that excused deeper thinking. Maybe that's why he'd been assigned as Last. Not because he was contrary but perhaps because he was rigid and skeptical. He got done what needed to be done. The whale was now free. Their journey as they'd known from the beginning, was in only one direction.

As the pod drifted to one side the chirps that were meant as a warning too softly filled the space. The glowing indicators flickered, no longer entirely accurate. The pod was dying. If they landed in one place he knew it would not survive. He made the gesture of a short prayer in part in thanks for the pod giving up its life, but also that it might hold out a little longer.

The bright friction of the atmosphere surrounded them. He could hear the pod gasp for breath. It looked like they would land in the far south, almost at the magnetic pole. As he watched the land creep into view, deceptively farther away than it actually was, he started to count. He estimated their time to impact. The land became more clear. Dry, rocky, undoubtedly colder than the equatorial region. It appeared lifeless, also unlike the equatorial region.