This week's flash fiction challenge over at Chuck Wendig's terribleminds blog involved randomly rolling two words and joining them together to become a title. We were allowed to add 'The' in front, if we wanted to. I rolled a '9' and a '1' and came out with 'apocalypse' and 'bride'. My first reaction was that I did not want to write a zombie story. I know it would have worked but... just 'no', okay? So, I ran the words together and the next thought that struck was that this would make a great name for a starship. And the story came from there. The Apocalypse Bride is 1,000 words long - excluding the the title. Enjoy :-)
The Apocalypse Bride came down in a shower of star dust and meteor debris. She took the hit that would have set the world askew, and her fleet sisters did the rest. Her entire crew were snagged from orbit after sending her on her way. Most of the rescue ships even made it planet-side, avoiding the aftermath through luck and sheer pilot bravado. No AI could fly like that.
The Apocalypse Bride
We watched Apocalypse Bride fall, saw her sink from the ocean of stars in pieces not much larger than housing blocks. Damn, she’d been a big girl—the only one who could’ve done it, although nothing could have done it *and* survived. I mourned her loss. The others just stood with mouths agape and hoped nothing would land on their heads.
There was one thing that hadn’t made it off the ship. I hoped to hell it had made it through the crash and then the fall. Why no-one had thought of the research stored in her data files, I don’t know. Maybe it was too much panic and too little time. Heaven knows, the scientists hadn’t been given the time to pack. Getting them off and away in an orderly fashion had been hard enough to swing while we maneuvered her into place.
The meteor had very nearly blind-sided us, and we’d been reeling as it was. A mega-storm, an earthquake and a pending volcanic eruption hadn’t been enough to worry about? Apparently not. If Karma is a beeatch, then Mother Nature is the biggest Mother out there, and she’d obviously had enough of the way we’d been treating her—enough to throw a meteor at us, while we were repairing the only space station able to look in that direction.
What can I say? That station had been broke a long time, and the government had been just as broke—broke enough that looking into space hadn’t been a high priority. Well, it is now.
We’d lucked out when the guys in Orbit One decided to take a peek out the window pointed away from Earth. Granted, it had been a wild and stormy day, and there’d been nothing to see dirtside, but they’d known about the broken satellite station, and they’d been joking about being able to see what the rest of us were missing. The meteor had been an entertaining shadow blotting out the starscape, until the radar started to beep. They phoned home right away.
So, I watch, dividing my time between the sky, the radar, and the machine-that-goes-beep, which I’m holding in one hand. That beep is going to go a long way to re-stabilising the population—if it survives impact. If we can get to the Bride’s research centre. If it misses the nuclear power plant, and anything else that goes boom on landing.
I swing the detector, aiming carefully at each falling chunk. The Apocalypse Bride is coming in hard. The old girl is taking this marriage of fate a bit too seriously for my liking. I’m pretty sure that whole joining-together-as-one thing did not mean being embedded into each other so tight it’ll take a seismic survey to tell the two apart. Still, it ain’t my wedding, so what do I know?
The detector tells me the chunk we need is coming in as predicted. It sucks we couldn’t predict who’d need to evacuate. Pretty early on, we’d been thinking the Bride would come to roost in a remoter part of the country. Well, she didn’t and she ain’t, and…
I shake myself together. Grieving will come later, and that’s only if we can stop the plague that arrived in the volcano’s aftermath. Whole world was busy tracking the ash cloud and trying to pull itself out of the morass left by the storm, while the aftershocks rolled through more densely populated lands than ours. I vaguely remember someone saying they’d lost sight of at least one island. Apparently there were houses floating on the same currents carrying plastic bags to that garbage island in the South Sea.
No one had time for an itty bitty flu. Not when it was only us.
I’d thank God for international travel and humanity’s tendency to selfishness, which means they fly when they know they’ve got a fever and darn well shouldn’t. If so many hadn’t, we’d be fighting this particular devil on our own. The world’s like that.
But people did travel sick, all hoping to get home before the ash cloud grounded them for God-knows-how-many months, and now enough of the world is trying to get a vaccine or a cure that I have a machine to detect the bit of Apocalypse Bride that we’re all gonna need, because that particular bit—if it survives—holds the key to this particular fever. Because some medical organisation found an interesting bug, and some unnamed conglomerate wanted to see how it fared in space—for reasons it won’t name—and the world united and said the results were ours.
The chunk is just a smouldering ruin of metal and plastech, where before it was a descending candelabra of flame. Re-entry is over and that budgie is comin’ home to roost—along with a whole flock of its friends. Satisfied it ain’t gonna land on the bunker, I signal the team inside. Three need a quick tap on the shoulder to get them moving, and I can’t say as I blame them. One needs a sharp slap upside the head.
The bunker seals and holds, but we know when our bit of the Bride sets down. It’s like a small earthquake all on its own. We’re just lucky it’s not going to set off a real earth shake, not here. There are other parts of the planet not so lucky. When everything settles, and I can get feeds from the cameras outside, I take look around. It’s an hour before we can shoulder our packs and head out to the vehicles.
Now, it’s time for retrieval.