The Fall of Terra #42: A Letter Like No Other


Dearest Chamilia,

I write to you from the Waisland province of Proxima Centauri.  I know you’ve seen the news, and worrying sick.  I’m alright.  I got a little banged up, but I’m all okay; I’m intact and alive, just to strike the point home.

Well, where do I start?

As you know, I was visiting the African continent, and keeping away from the news, the networks, everything.  I didn’t want to have my holiday spoiled by bad news.  How wrong was I?

I was visiting the Kilimanjaro Natural History Museum when the asteroid struck.  You know the one; it was built after the last Interior War to commemorate the planet’s ecological history?  How ironic.  The building was positively ancient compared to the apartment block I live in.  It was a fun and fascinating place; I was maybe halfway through the exhibits when it hit.  At first, it felt like an earthquake.  I hadn’t heard or seen the Prime Minister’s so I was nearly alone, except for a few staff that had refused to leave in the face of what was to come.

The building looked like it was going to come down on top of me.

I was terrified.

Thank the gods it didn’t.  Though when I ran outside I saw that some of the building had indeed collapsed over on the western wing.  What staff was still left stood still and saw what had happened.

We could see the massive smoke trail from the asteroid’s path towards the horizon, and the dust cloud that raced into the air kicked up by the impact.  I was stunned, rooted to the spot with shock.  The others ran, sprinting away from the museum and into the wilderness that still partially surrounded it.

That part of Africa was still largely untouched by modern buildings, and the others disappeared, shouting and screaming in their native language, a local dialect I didn’t understand at all.

I was on my own.

I had been a proper tourist and got a taxi from the holiday village, but now there was none waiting.  I guess they were leaving the planet as well.  I checked the parking lot and found three hover-vehicles and a wheeled car.  The hover-cars all had tough impact glass; my attempts to smash a window were rebuffed, my elbow smarting.  I sighed as I looked at the wheeled car.

The windows were open, the car itself an off-road 4×4; it was shabby and run-down, left to rot by the looks of it.  I tested the driver-side door and it opened with a loud creak.  The power cells were nearly drained, but it started.

The controls were simple enough, and I was bouncing down the road to the nearest city with as much speed as I could coax out of it.  It took half an hour, but I made it.

I was horrified to find that the city was nearly empty.  Vehicles had been abandoned, some even crashed.  My stomach turned when I saw that there were burned and mangled bodies in the crashed vehicles, even a firefighting vehicle that had been smashed.

Thank the gods I found a path through that mess.

I think I would have gone mad else.

I dodged around several lions that had come in from outside the city, narrowly avoiding crashing and becoming their food.

The spaceport I found was filled with people.  It was like everybody in the city had just upped and filed towards the place.  Ships and shuttles were taking off in a hurry.  I saw one overloaded with passengers, people hanging out of the hatches, dip towards the city, too much weight.  An engine died, and I presumed something must have happened aboard, and it plunged straight into the side of the City Council building.

The ground started to shake really badly.

I hadn’t noticed the constant vibrations before having been in the rickety rust bucket.

“This is it!” somebody shouted.

The buildings collapsed, the solid blast walls of the landing field cracking loudly.

The ground spit with an almighty roar, and fiery red magma poured out of the cracks.  Gods, Chamilia, I watched hundreds of people suddenly engulfed in the stuff, screaming and still clawing for life even as they melted.

A low tidal wave of it poured out all around us, but a surge of it under the ground pushed a wide chunk of concrete and stone upwards into the air, with me and a dozen others on it.

From that viewpoint we could see the city literally collapsing beyond the walls, skyscrapers folding over and melting, walkways, balconies and platforms disappearing.  I hoped that there was nobody left there to be caught in it.

But we were surrounded by lava on all sides, other larger islands of rock and concrete floating about far out of our reach.

The island we were surviving on dropped a metre, the magma finally eating at its edges.

This was it, I was sure.

The others started praying, kneeling or just bowing their heads.  I looked up at the stars, though the light from the glowing molten rock prevented me from seeing more than just distant lava.  I didn’t want to see it coming, just the sky.

There was another roar.

At first, it seemed like it was just another spurt of the fiery death that awaited us.

It became more pronounced, more mechanical.

Through the smoke and heat came our salvation.

One of the Navy’s gunships.

It was bigger than I remember one of them being, though I admit I haven’t seen one up close until that moment.  It rumbled over us, looking bigger than anything I had seen.  I was sure I was delusional, or hallucinating by then, the smoke and heat making me giddy.

For a brief second, it seemed like it might pass us by without a twitch.

As I watched its engines fight against the heat and gravity of the planet, I felt a tingle pass through me.  Bright white light obscured everything around me and then disappear again, and I found myself in the cramped teleport bay of the gunship.  Hands grabbed me off the platform, urging me to the floor.  Both crew and survivors, all that had been on our little island among the lava, were lying down on the deck in the bay and the corridor outside.

“Why are we lying down?” someone demanded.

The Navy crew didn’t answer right away.

One of them slapped the comms in the hand.

“Commander, we got them all and we’re secure.”

“Standby for FTL.”

“WHY ARE WE LYING DOWN?” the survivor screamed again.  I know that the events had absolutely scrambled his reasoning and logic, panicked fear gripping him.

“You don’t want to be standing up when we jump to FTL inside a planetary atmosphere,” one of the crew growled.

The world shook, literally as it turned out, and we were thrown about the room.  I hit my head on something solid, and was out cold for several days, waking up in a hospital on Proxima Centauri.

Now, we’re just waiting for a ride home.

Could be another two weeks, but we’re comfortable enough here, not like some places.  We’ve heard stories about a whole pre-fab town on New Terra that people are being exiled to like a concentration camp or something.

Anyway, I’ll be home soon little sister.

Love you,

XXXXXXX

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