The Last Ark
Nayama clenched the heart-shaped locket in her sweaty hand. She took a deep breath of scorching air as the desert sand swirled around her feet. Her lungs seized for a moment. The heat was nearly unbearable.
The sun scorched her delicate skin, so vulnerable. Humans couldn’t stay on the surface of the earth anymore—at least not for very long—without suffering burns, or eventually skin cancers. She shuddered. Once she had loved the sun. She would sit in it, soak it in, let it recharge her batteries. Now she had to be cautious, cover up, and avoid it. Her sorrow over that joy nearly crushed her.
She looked around. The green beauty she craved was gone. She shouldn’t feel sad or feel regret. She had survived as had her husband and her children. She smoothed her thumb over the engraving on the outside of the locket. A great tree. She sighed. As a child, she had enjoyed climbing the huge live oak in her parent’s yard that had stretched to incredible heights in her child’s imagination. The locket bore tiny photos of her parents, the last link to what she had lost. She let it fall.
“Nayama, come back inside,” Ian called.
She turned to him. “Just another minute, please.”
He looked at her, shook his head and went back in. She knew the dangers. She also knew he was watching out for her. Her hunger for fresh air and sun never seemed to cease. Soon, she wouldn’t be able to do this. The airlock door stood open, waiting. Her family, safe within.
She walked up the rocky slope near the ship. Her typical path was well worn since she made the trek daily—closely watched—as she pretended she had her freedom once again. Her natural warm, brown skin had faded to an ashy paleness since humanity had lost the ability to tolerate the sun for very long. The war had done something to the atmosphere, ripping away the protection humanity needed. She straightened the dark glasses she wore to protect her from sun blindness.
She reached the top, from here she could see the endless sand. Florida had once been a lush jungle, humid, and rich with water. Now like the rest of the world, it was a wasteland. Even the oceans were stripped away, and soon the deep aquifers and other water would also be gone. That’s why she and Ian had come up with the Plan.
The Plan culminated in front of her. A great gleaming ship, it sat in a cradle at what had once been the Kennedy Space Center. Humanity’s last hope. Unfortunately, more had survived than could be accommodated.
A sudden siren wailed, and she started out of her thoughts. Looking up she saw a dust cloud approaching. She drew a quick breath and ran down the slope. Her white garments flowing behind her. She kept a close eye on the cloud. The roving bands of the desperate launching yet another attack on her creation.
She swallowed hard. Her throat and mouth dry with fear. Her shoes slapped the stone, then slowed as she hit the sand, stumbling. Ian was standing in the door. Hands outstretched.
“Run!” he yelled.
As if she needed more encouragement. It would be close, but she was ahead of the cloud and the angry people it hid. Gasping, she leapt into the airlock. Ian grabbed her and hugged her tight as the airlock cycled and the door sealed out the danger.
“Darling, you must stop these excursions.”
She nodded against his chest. She knew that. Several times she’d almost been caught. But they both knew she couldn’t stop. It was almost a compulsion. She, who had created a way to save a remnant of humanity by taking them to a new world, couldn’t let go of Earth.
The ship was ready, and they were down to days before the ship slipped the bonds of earth and began the long journey to their new home. Food, supplies, a perfect balance of genetic human, plant, and animal stock had been gathered and waited for the windows of heaven to open and let them leave their dying planet. This had been her and Ian’s work since long before the war.
Yet, the ship didn’t have infinite space. The balance needed to give the human race a chance to survive had left many angry and desperate.
“Is it the same group?” she asked.
“I don’t know yet. Zayne is observing. As soon as the dust settles, we’ll know what we’re facing.”
There seemed to be two different groups. Those that wanted on the ship and tried to break in, and those that wanted to destroy it all.
The last attack had been the latter. They were the group that she and Ian feared the most. The ship was not impervious, although she had worked hard to make it so.
She nodded and pulled herself from the safety of her husband’s arms. “I’ll go check in with him.” Her voice was tired.
“I need to check on the stock, then I’ll join you,” Ian replied.
She smiled to herself. Neither of them could give up control. Although thousands of people populated the massive ship, and all had their assignments and tasks, neither she nor Ian could stop from checking and rechecking that all was as it should be. It was too important, and her entire adult life had been given to this one task—survival.
She took the elevator to the observation deck, where her first son, Zayne kept a watch on the surrounding terrain. Even though he was fully grown, she bent down and kissed his cheek and ruffled his hair. That was a mother’s prerogative. She smiled.
“Mom,” he protested.
“Yes, I am,” she replied. Then her voice, serious, continued. “Who is out there?”
He knew what she was asking, what group was attacking? He pointed to the appropriate screen in what seemed an endless amount of them.
She gasped. “The destroyers,” she said quietly.
“Yes,” he confirmed. “And it looks like they have better weapons.”
She blanched. For all its strength, her ship, the ark that would save humanity was delicate. It was designed to take off and land, and withstand the perils of space travel, but with the right weaponry it could be destroyed. Why did some people feel the need to burn everything down? Didn’t they understand this was the only way? Not only were there select genetic specimens on board—there was an endless storage of genetic material frozen and waiting. It could be that these destroyers would be eliminating their own children or grandchildren—stored and waiting for the new world to be populated. She shook her head.
“Zayne, call down your dad and brothers. We need to make a decision.”
He nodded and switched on their private comm link.
Once everyone was gathered, she spoke. “I know we were waiting for the perfect window, but is there a way to leave earlier? I don’t know what this ship can withstand if they have nuclear weapons or worse. This may be our last chance.”
The faces of her family were grim. She and Ian had raised these boys to be the best minds in their selective fields. Together, with her foresight, they had been able to pull this act together, the last act of a dying planet. She left them to their figuring and went back to monitor the situation outside of the ark.
The shields were up, and she could feel the gentle rumble of the generators that supported them. The mob was shooting at them, guns, cannon, lasers, but so far, they were ineffective. She wondered if they did have anything stronger, but they hadn’t brought it out yet. No aircraft seemed to remain from the war, so that was a relief, but still some ugly weaponry was lying around and that was what she feared most. The fearsome war weapons that had laid the world to waste. She swallowed—her throat and mouth dry with fear.
“Mother.” Her second son’s voice reached her.
She turned. “Yes, my darling?” she replied, her voice soft although her anxiety screamed inside.
“It is possible to leave early. We have several protocols to make up for the earlier take-off if we proceed.”
Her smart boys. Of course they did. She should have known they’d have several back up plans if their ideal launch date couldn’t be met. She looked at him. “It’s time.”
He nodded. With a few taps of the keyboard, he set the launch sequence. An announcement had to be made to the crew and the passengers. She knew they would mainly be relieved since the attacks were growing more frequent.
She opened up the general in-ship frequency and began her announcement. “Since the time of the great flood, nothing has threatened our existence to this extent. Now, instead of a wooden boat, a great star ship has been tasked with the survival of all humanity. Today, we leave the planet that has sustained us, and we head for a new world. Pray that we will take this gift and create a new legacy of peace and good will.” She paused a moment and took a breath. “Everyone please proceed to launch positions and prepare for immediate departure.” She clicked off. That gave everyone a thirty-minute preparation warning. All should be safely strapped into their appropriate positions by the time the ship thrust its way to the stars.
By the time she had finished her announcement, her family had joined her on the bridge. Her sons and their families, and Ian. They relaxed into their chairs and belted in. The mob outside was growing desperate as they realized that the ship would be leaving. The screens showed the hate and violence growing. She could see that yes they did have war weapons. One was being set up far behind the mob. She shuddered. It would be a close race.
The ship’s engines were rumbling and soon they would ignite into the immense thrust needed to escape the gravity of planet earth. She could see now that they would not get the weapon setup in time. She had made the right decision to leave early. Sure, it would burn a little extra fuel, and require some new calculations and maneuvering, but the ship and its precious cargo would be safe.
Her fingers once again smoothed over her locket. The ship blasted into the sky and slipped away from earth. Someday, on the new planet, a live oak tree would grow and perhaps her great, great, grandchild might sit in it and remember her. She cast one longing look at earth, and then she looked towards the stars.