This is the first of my Jay Lake Challenge stories that I have decided to publish to the web as free fiction. Just a short 1000 word story. Hope you enjoy it.
Earth was never more beautiful than the day Simon Kent blew it up.
He hadn’t expected to blow it up. Simon hadn’t expected to do anything more serious than get a distinction in his year end science project. He’d needed it because he’d spent the entire year being fixated on a beautiful young woman in the chair in front of him. Every time he smelled lemon he thought of her, and it raised parts of his anatomy that should remain flat.
Simon had the bright idea when he read about black holes in new scientist. He wasn’t trying, as such, to make a black hole. He was just trying to make a device that in theory could isolate a black hole. It was just his luck, and the luck of the rest of the species, that he hadn’t been told all the details of the most modern research. As he worked with methodical calmness he couldn’t have understood what would happen when he tried the device.
At 9:53 AM he tried his isolator.
It didn’t seem like there was anything unusual at first. He felt a smug certainly about the device as he watched it, then the slightest hint of alarm. Then, more alarm.
The sun broke into three quadrants on the thirteenth day of April in the year of Our Lord 2034. Many people died, although on the good spaceship Yalter no one knew anything more malign than usual had happened that day for at least five years. It was a colony ship. The kind of ship that no good people like me are forced to attend in lieu of going to prison, or being executed, or having to listen to the judge describe our characters in minute and uninteresting detail. I was, well, I had been a minor criminal who proved that crime does pay but only if you don’t get caught. And I was sunning myself on the exercise deck as normal when I looked up and saw the man with the gun.
I might chose to explain that at this time I had come to God a sinner, and he had washed away my sins.
But the man didn’t think of it that way. He was taller than me, thinner than me, and better armed than me. He was a guard. And I’d never expected to see him again after that time where I stole his daughters’ education fund. Of course, he probably wouldn’t shoot me for that. He’d shoot me for the fact that I stole his daughters’ innocence first. Parents are prickly about these things.
I stood up, feeling half naked in my swim suit. He walked with decided certainty towards me, the gun held lightly in his hand. Light enough that for a crazy moment I thought about rushing him. But his eyes told me something about him. He was a killer, his eyes said, and he had the next target in his sight.
There were three humans who escaped from Planet Earth just before the destruction. Two of them were unimportant, one just along for the ride.
The third was a priest. The last catholic priest from Rome.
He was on the shuttle by accident. His boss, the Bishop of London, had felt unwell and had sent him into space as a punishment for being outspoken on the matter of whether his church should have an evening mass. He was a young, timid, brown haired man who apologised very often for living. He was also the only priest outside the earth when it blew up.
The priest was looking out of the window at the time. He saw earth split into three parts like a tooth crumbling because of an infection. He didn’t know what he was seeing. Just felt bafflement, then called out, “have you seen-“
And of course, everyone else had seen it.
But none of them understood what they were seeing.
There were three hundred and sixty four people on board the Colony ship and I’d been lucky enough to seduce the one of them whose father was insane. Of course, I put my hand up and started to whimper but I began to feel the sinking sensation that only happens when you know you’re about to get shot.
“Please,” I whimpered, “Please don’t kill me.”
I watched with horror as I saw his finger pulled the trigger, then I heard the sound of the explosion just a fraction of a second after I felt the thing hit me like someone’d slapped me on the chest.
That was it. I didn’t know anything more.
She was the beauty of the Cathodian Church.
Over five miles long, covered in silver and gold enamel, reflecting the glory of the saints to the cosmos. She was the most powerful ship in the fleet and Captain Edmund felt a shot of pride roaring through his veins as he realised that he was the captain of the flagship of the Human Church. His ship worked with ordered practice, with a routine that was routine even in the middle of the extraordinary. The science officer was peering at the screen with a worried look on his face.
“It’s impossible, sir, but it is a human ship. There are – well, it’s signalling us.”
“Signalling us?” The captain asked.
“It says that it is the last resting place of Armand Horner.”
The captain frowned. “It’s a burial.”
“Yes, but, it says something else, too…”
The captain turned to his science officer with a strange look on his face, a mixture of horror and surprise. He reached over and grabbed a transcript of the message.
He tied me to a bed using nanofibres, fitted the life support system and medical drones on me so I’d not die. Just laying there alone. Then they left me. Left me with a message playing over and over again.
A message that said I was a plague carrier.
A message that said to avoid my ship at all costs.
The Captain sighed. His duty was clear. He ordered the ship to turn away and continue on its destination.
It was a thousand years after the fall of earth.
And I was still waiting to be saved.