Flash Fiction

Flash Science Fiction: The Apple

Photo by magnezis magnestic on Unsplash

Santana is an advance scout ship.  You know, one of those manned spacecrafts that follow up on the leads found by the unmanned probes that our home-world sent all over the galaxy in a desperate attempt to find another place for humanity to live.  My husband is the pilot and I am the planetary specialist.

We verified that the planet we scouted will support humanity.  A beautiful blue marble with huge oceans, fresh water lakes and rivers, more kinds of flora and fauna than on our home-world, five major landmasses, blue skies, white clouds, green everywhere and astonishingly beautiful.  Five years we stayed in orbit, inspecting the planet, classifying, cataloging, analyzing.  No doubt could remain.  Finally, we classified the new planet “Viable.”

Then, we returned to the planet of our origin and engaged our stealth approach. We had been away a very long time and had no idea what we would find.

Santana announced, “Based on the positions of the stars from our current vantage point, we have been away from here for 10,876 years, 4 months, 12 days, 9 hours, and 14 seconds…mark.”

“Almost 11 thousands years,”  I say, quietly.

Santana replied,  “Your estimate is imprecise.”

“I don’t need precision, Santana. I have you.”  I could almost hear her chuckle if a spacecraft is capable of humor.

“I’m not picking up anything that should be here,”  Adam said. His brow creased with worry.

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

“No approach beacons.”  His voice trembled.  “Eleven thousand years is a long time…”

“I concur with Adam,”  Santana said.

I floated quickly to my station and engaged my sensor array.  Nothing remained. Not even a microbe.  No sign that any living thing ever existed on the surface.  “What happened?”  I asked them both, not expecting an answer.  I got one, anyway.

“If I may speculate,”  Santana said.  “We were sent to find another place for humanity to settle because the Earth was dying as a planet. Apparently, the end came more quickly than science anticipated. When a planet dies, it can no longer even the most primitive life forms.”  

I looked at the surface in real time.  A disgusting yellow sand covered the familiar land masses. The polar ice caps vanished and the atmosphere consisted of mostly sulfur dioxide. Even the water looked bilious instead of blue. And the surface temperature hovered around 100 degrees Celsius.  “Is this really Earth?  Is this really our solar system?”  I knew the answer, but my brain refused to accept the facts.

“The coordinates are correct,”  Santana replied.

“We have to be sure,”  I said and I started my sweep.  To fully analyze a planet required several weeks, but I had to know.  If even one person lived…

For the next few days, a strange quiet fell over the ship.  Adam and Santana rarely engaged in conversation with me or with each other. Adam and I went through the motions of life. Eating, sleeping, analyzing.  Each day morphed into a sameness.  Weeks spun away.  Finally, we all agreed.  Earth was very dead indeed.  

We carefully searched the entire solar system and found no trace of a beacon, a probe, a scrap of metal, a message in a bottle.  Nothing of humanity remained in the vicinity.  No reason remained for us to stay a moment longer. Adam entered the coordinates to take us out of the system.  

I left my own message in a bottle, so to speak, when I launched a probe into Earth’s orbit. If someone else returned to our former home, I may save them the trouble of investigation because I included a copy of our data and our personal stories.  A very sad ending to our mission.

We found a fold quickly enough and returned to that planet in the suburbs of our galaxy.

As we prepared to disembark for the surface, Adam asked me, “What should we call our planet?”

“We can’t officially name it until we grow crops on it,”  I said.

“So, Evie, have you found a place for us to land?” Adam asked.

“Yes.  A beautiful fertile spot between the two rivers just there.”  I pointed to the location on the holographic globe. 

“Okay.  I’ll take the first shuttle down and you can bring the second one down when you get everything shut down up here.”  He kissed my cheek lightly.  “See you in a few minutes.”  He palmed on the force shield.  The shuttle dropped away from view an instant later.

“Santana,”  I said.  “How long will it take for your power supply to exhaust itself?”

“Seven thousand years from the day I was initiated.”

“Once Adam and I die, no one will know you.  Likely, no one will be able to get back up here to you after we cannibalize the shuttles for living quarters.”

“I will monitor the progress of humanity as it grows.  Also, the shuttles will have transmitters and your offspring can learn to use it.  I am a machine, Evie. I cannot get bored.”

“You are so much more than a machine, Santana.”

“I will remain in contact with you. I can shut down all systems on this ship except what is essential for my survival.”

“Scout Craft Santana, it has been a privilege serving with you,”  I said, formally.

“Evangeline Eden, I am honored.” The ship replied.

I walked toward the shuttle, eager to join Adam on the surface, but strangely reluctant to leave the true brain behind.  Santana was as real for me as Adam was.  I considered her a friend, a mentor, an adviser.  “Santana, will your CPU fit onto the shuttle?”

“Yes.  It is only 133 kg.  It will easily fit.  You will even have room for several access points.”  I could swear she sounded excited.

“You’re coming down there with us.  Send a message to Adam and tell him my arrival will be delayed until I get you loaded onto the shuttle.  I am not entering paradise without you, my friend.”

And she did just so.  In a few short years, Santana became the ruler of Eden, our planet, the she shortened her name to Satan.

Photo by Michał Grosicki on Unsplash

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