My response to the latest prompt at Black Ship Books. Hope you enjoy!
PERSONAL MESSAGE... PERSONAL MESSAGE... PERSONAL MESSAGE...
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 of the Second Empire, 3rd Day, 7th Month, 20th Year
ATTACHED: Images of Earth's surface taken 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 could not contain my excitement; I had to let it spill forth in these words to you. The report, in contrast, will be mere facts and figures, as dry and dull as the surface of Earth itself. 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 to see it, 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. I have tried to picture them, assembled in their myriad craft, billions of lives cradled in ships that would look like egg shells in comparison to ours. And ours, as I mentioned, is barely strong enough. Of course, Sol was not quite so fierce then. They had to cope with the icy emptiness of space, not the baking heat of their dying star.
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 for 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?
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...
PAUSE... PAUSE... PAUSE...