Authors: B.B. Gallagher
Copyright © 2016 BB Gallagher. All rights reserved. With the exception of short excerpts used in articles and critical reviews, no part of this work may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in any form whatsoever, printed or electronic, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
For Francis, Catherine, Maria and Jude
Log Entry # 1
If I don't write down my last memories of Earth, will it fade in our memories and cease to exist entirely?
I write this as my eyewitness account of the last days of Earth. Future generations must know it did in fact exist and that it once was a beautiful home for the human race.
Now the only home the five hundred of us have is the Ark, floating out to space, aimless and lost.
I remember the day Earth got hit. It was only two days after we awoke from hyper sleep. We were still adjusting to our new roles in our little society when a massive asteroid slowly flew by in the distance. Every colonist on board gathered in silence at the observation deck.
The air was sucked from the room as the sight brought us an indescribable horror that we had never known. The giant mass of crags, peaks and craters continued toward our friends and families on Earth. We had been told by GENESIS that this would happen, but that didn't make it any easier to watch as that asteroid inched closer to the big blue orb we used to call home.
And then impact.
A circular shockwave spread out from the point of collision, consuming everything in its way, like one tidal wave of fire. Debris formed into a high standing cone that only fell when a second round of meteors hit just to ensure that nothing survived the first wave. The Earth slowly turned from its bluish beauty to a burning wasteland.
The world was ablaze.
It was the strangest sight, such a collision before us but no screams, in fact there was no sound at all from the asteroid's impact. Only the horrific vision of the world's destruction. The only audible sounds from the foretold Armageddon were the gasps among us as we stared out that observation deck window across the infinite stillness in which we were floating.
Eliot was right when he said, “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”
Nothing has been the same since that day. People have despaired, knowing that everything they once knew had been reduced to ash. We along with the other twelve Arks, flying out to the far reaches of space are now the only remnants left of humanity. We are the chosen few for the world’s only life rafts.
We are Ark-13 and this is an S.O.S.
Jake Hansen’s armport itched as he shifted awake in his pill shaped sleeping pod. He scratched the circular jack implanted in his forearm and wiped the grogginess from his eyes.
Jake’s sights turned to his room and merged from double into single vision as it came into focus. At first his eyes retracted as everything in the pod was made of white aluminum and reflected a glossy sheen.
The room was fifteen feet long and seven feet wide. Each pod had a thin mattress held up by a twin bed frame, a desk with a mirror above it and a small closet filled with different GENESIS issued clothes. His unit was identical to the other five hundred lining the corridor known as the Stacks.
It was his only privacy in his new life aboard the Ark, but it wasn’t even private, for a surveillance camera hung from the corner. He often wondered who was watching from the other side and if they could see him, why he couldn’t see them.
Jake gathered his feet beneath him and lumbered toward the back wall of his pod. He pulled out a toilet from the wall and relieved his bladder of the weight it carried. He pressed a button which sucked the waste down the pipes and the toilet back into the wall. He turned to his wardrobe and found a pair of jeans and a grey shirt, patched on the arm with the Ark emblem.
His vision fell to the foot of his closet; there was his personal parcel, a one foot by one foot cube that each colonist was able to pack with personal effects. Jake used the opportunity to pack a collage of mementos to the past. His grandfather’s pocket watch, his grandmother’s wedding ring which was supposed to be on someone’s finger by now, a journal which he had written ‘Requiem for Earth’ on its cover, and a stack of 4x6 photographs.
They were the echoes of his earthly life. He flipped through a few and scanned the images on each photograph. Main Street of Georgetown, SC, his small country town of origin. The Harborwalk where he worked on his grandfather's boat as a child. His small law-firm office on Front Street above the antique store. And then his family. His mother and father with their arms wrapped around him and his sister, Nora. They were much younger in the photograph and seemed genuinely happy – a feeling his family had forgotten long ago.
Jake's eyes quickly passed over his father and settled on his sister. Her cherubic features and rounded nose. Her brunette hair and dimpled smile. He remembered the school night they snuck out of the house for a late night Wendy’s run. Their mother had texted them irate, so they brought her back a frosty as an apology. A heaviness formed behind his eyelid as his vision became flooded with a tear.
"She's gone Jake..." he reminded himself aloud, gulping down the memory. He put the photos back in his personal parcel and tucked them back in the corner of his closet.
He brought his hand up to his jaw and scratched his stubble as he met his reflection in the mirror. Jake Hansen was an attractive man with a chiseled jaw and high cheekbones. His brown hair carried a slight auburn hue within its loose curls. His eyes were emerald green, his nose narrowed down to his thin lips. Jake's frame was strong and broad. The GENESIS emblemed shirt clung to his body, highlighting the rolling mass of his muscular torso. His arms filled its short sleeves, stretching them wider.
He rubbed his eyes and then plucked his GENESIS issued holographic from the solar charger. Jake mentally followed the charger's wire through the miles of infrastructure to the outside solar panels lining the space station. The energy network alone was an impressive engineering feat to Jake but then again GENESIS was the world's leader in all things technology, so it did not surprise him upon reflection.
Jake pressed the button next to his unit's door and met the cool filtered air of the Stacks. His eyes scanned the hundreds of pill-shaped pod units that lined the walls. He then turned to see the high monitor. The large screen cycled through different surveillance feeds around the Ark – nothing seemed out of sorts. The monitor clung to the wall that separated the colonists from the main resource repository. It served as the curtain that the colonists were kept in front of, with no idea as to what was happening behind it. Jake’s sights descended to the Drop at the base of the wall. The Drop was the main chute that GENESIS would send supply shipments through. The supplies were then divvied up to the appropriate sections of the Ark through a series of smaller chutes which ran to different ends of the Ark. Drop day happened every three days, today being one of them. It was exciting for the colonists as it was their only day of abundance. But for Jake, Drop day was just another reminder that they had been cut off from the very resources on which they depended. They were by no means subsistent; they were dependant on GENESIS for their very lives and basic necessities.
"Jake!" a female voice called up to him. He stepped out onto the steel catwalk that connected the Stacks and looked down four levels to the corridor floor. There was a petite blond girl with a tight pony tail. She was slightly younger than Jake. Her eyes naturally curved down at their ends but her lips compensated as they curled up into a smile upon seeing him.
"If you are going to meet me in the morning like this, you could at least bring me some coffee, ya know?” Jake quipped down to her as he descended the ladder connecting the different levels of catwalk.
His feet landed on the bay floor with a metallic thud. Former Accountant, Meredith Jones stood before him.
“Well, if the Bridge would deliver some coffee beans we could dedicate a plot in the Fields to growing your precious coffee, but until then it’s just me,” she smiled back and offered a curtsy.
“Well, that will have to do then… so what fire do we have to put out this morning?” Jake asked, turning to business.
"Why do you assume something is wrong every time you see me?"
"Because it’s your job to bring me the issues of the day."
"I know... aren't I good at it?" she jibed back with a wild smile. She nudged him with her hip.
She began walking alongside Jake through the Stacks – shoulder to shoulder.
"How are you so happy all the time?" Jake asked, smiling down at her.
"I just know you need it..." she shrugged in the most charming way. Jake couldn't help but chuckle at hearing this. They were close friends on the Ark. Maybe under different circumstances they could have a relationship, but everything had changed and no one was finished grieving their own personal loss yet. Jake knew that Meredith had a husband on Earth when the asteroid hit. Jake had been there for her as emotional support and never made a move out of respect for her grieving process.
"So, what is it this morning?" he asked.
"We've got a situation in the Stalls," Meredith explained. Jake exhaled a deep seeded hopelessness.
"After you..." he calmly gestured her lead. And together they proceeded to the Stalls.
The Stalls was the center of commerce for the colonists of the Ark. It resembled a flea market as it was filled with different booths and eager vendors, hoping to sell their goods. Some booths had homemade crafts, while others sold food or medical supplies as distributed by GENESIS. A Council of five, including Jake, was charged with the duty of governance and making sure these drops were not ransacked by any unruly colonists. Selected by GENESIS these individuals functioned as the only governing body over the five hundred colonists of the Ark. Jake and Meredith arrived at a fruit stall and broke through the small crowd to see a grimy-looking teenager restrained by the Stall vendor.
"Junior! What is going on here?" Jake asked the dark, muscular man with his clenched fist around a wad of the teenager's T-shirt.
"He stole a bag of peaches! He owes me three currency notes. I should knock him out, shouldn't I?!" The former boxer's intensity only increased as he snarled at the teenager in his grasp. The peaches had not been delivered by GENESIS, rather an expansive orchard had been planted long before the colonists boarded the Ark. Junior Posey had found himself in the role of farmer of Lot 4 in the Fields. Junior had picked the peaches himself and so demanded a proper payment for the labors of one of his first harvests. Jake's hand came up to Junior's shoulder, patting a calm through his body.
"You know this isn’t the ring, Junior. We have a process. Let’s plug in the holographic – find out what his readings say?" Meredith brandished a cord with an insert on one end and a holographic projector on the other end. She plugged it into the teenager's armport. Upon being inserted, a hologram shined into the air, showing a litany of statistical outputs. Bars and line charts projected before them for the gathered crowd to see. Jake swiped through the menu and navigated to the chemical level profile.
Meredith whispered in Jake's ear, "Adrenaline levels are off the charts. He's terrified right now."
"Mine would be too if Junior Posey was threatening me with a right hook," Jake responded as he tapped a holographic button on the display entitled 'Thermography'.
The display changed to his body temperature. Jake than tapped another holographic button entitled "Interrogation Mode". Jake's eyes lowered from the display to the teenager still restrained against the booth.
"What is your name?"
"Danny... Danny Ryder," he responded through huffing breaths. The hologram showed a scanning of body temperature and hormonal levels.
Body Temperature: 36.73982 degrees Celsius
Pituitary Hormonal Production: 15%
Blood Pressure: 120/80
Then the output concluded a result. The word "Truth" projected through the hologram.
"Did you steal a bag of peaches from this booth?" Jake's second question drew the gaze of the gathered crowd.
"No! I didn't..." Danny shook his head. Jake did not look at the scan immediately but rather, remained fixated on the teenager's eyes for a moment. There was no fear, rather there was something more exposed through his vulnerable expression.
It was guilt and repentance.
Jake snapped from his gaze as the conclusion displayed on the hologram. The word "Truth" again was projected. Jake had to look over the results as they disagreed with his instincts.
Jake unplugged the holographic from Danny's arm and shrugged.
"That’s ridiculous! I saw him shove it in his jacket and run. I'm surprised the little twerp came back!" Junior barked again. All of the colonists that had gathered waited Jake's verdict.
“Search him!” a voice called from the crowd.
“No, no, no… you know that is against our laws. The Council voted on the Bill of Privacy to protect you all. I think we can all agree that we already don’t have much privacy as it is,” Jake reminded the crowd, rolling up his sleeve and revealing his armport.
"What now, councilman?" Meredith spoke over his shoulder. Jake considered the results of the body monitor and then again considered his gut on the matter.
"Let him go," Jake ordered with a nod to Junior’s dismay. Reluctantly, the former boxer loosened his fist and released Danny from his grip. Danny immediately ducked underneath the scene and scurried through the crowd.
The crowd quickly thinned out as the colonists returned to their shopping.
"Teenagers…” she said, shaking her head.
“I know we are trying to procreate and all, but did GENESIS really have to put that many on the Ark?" Meredith asked as the crowd dispersed. Jake's eyes focused down the aisle of booths where he watched the teenage boy retreat.
"He did steal those peaches..." Jake confirmed with certainty.
"But the body monitor..." Meredith didn't understand what he meant.
"I know what it said. I think he's hacked his armport and if he has... I need to know how."