Day 96 of 100 Word Prompts: Rapids
Tila looked out over the shifting landscape in horror as the ship lifted her higher into the sky. From a thousand feet up, the mountains and valleys that had once been her home crumbled and rolled over themselves as though they were rapids of some giant, world-sized river. She wanted to pull her eyes from the scene before her, but couldn’t find the will. She knew that anywhere else she looked, there would be more of the same.
“It’ll be okay,” Gabriel said, placing his hand on hers. “We’ve still got the Ark.”
“But what about the billions of people that couldn’t make it there?” Tila asked, tears welling in her eyes. “What about the families all over the world being swallowed by this?”
“There’s nothing we can do for them, Tila. You realize that, right? We did what we had to do,” he replied as their capsule continued its ascent through the roiling storm clouds. “All we can do is hope that it ends quickly for them, or that they didn’t know it was coming at all.”
“Sarah, how many capsules activated before the event?” Tila said, her eyes locked on Gabriel’s.
“Four-thousand-six-hundred-twenty-two capsules have been activated,” the AI system replied. “Six-thousand-two-hundred-twelve persons accounted for.”
“Sixty-two hundred,” Tila said, her chest feeling as though someone had just pulled her heart through. “Our system was engineered for a hundred thousand.”
“It could be worse, Tila,” Gabriel tried, “There could be-”
“Less? There could be no one who made it out? Who do you suppose makes up that population, Gabe? Do you think it’s the brightest in the world? Do you think it’s the innovators, the humanitarians?” Tila pressed. “Tell me, Gabe.”
“We don’t know, Tila. There’s no reason to get upset-”
“No reason to get upset!? Everything we’ve ever cared about is gone! The world as we know it is uninhabitable, and we are on our way to a fucking space station to watch the aftermath with the world’s richest people that have no concept of how to survive on their own,” Tila said. “Billions, Gabe. Do you even understand that number? That’s how many died today in less than an hour. Billions.”
“We’re alive,” Gabriel replied, squeezing her hand gently, but frowning as she pulled it away.
“It doesn’t matter now. Our species is doomed,” Tila said. “We’ll be lucky to get a year out of Ark before we return to the surface. Then what? The animals will mostly be dead. We have no protection from anything that may have survived. I doubt a single person aboard Ark will have the ability to farm.”
Gabriel sat back in his seat and looked out the window at the shifting surface of the planet. The greens and blues that had once been the forests and the oceans were now all brown equally. It looked as if mother nature had decided her surface was an etch-a-sketch and violently shook herself.
Tila looked out the capsule in the other direction, seeing the massive floating disc, roughly the size of a quarter, rapidly approaching. The silver and white surfaces of Ark grew clearer as their capsule approached the side for docking. A wave of nausea washed over her as she saw the thousands of empty capsule ports along the bottom. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she steadied herself.
The door to the Ark opened, revealing the hall which led into the interior of the vessel. Tila was thankful that the port in which they had docked was interior and not exterior. It meant that there would be no view of her destroyed home to look at on her way to the Helm.
Gabriel grabbed her arm just before they reached the lift that would take them up.
“What, Gabe?” she snapped.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this? We could go to our quarters for a few hours and try to get some rest-”
“I’ll be fine. I need to do something to take my mind off it,” Tila said. “Anyway, the crew aboard the Ark will need to be briefed on what happened.”
“It can all wait, Tila. I think you might need to take a break,” Gabe said.
Tila thought about telling him off for a second but could see the genuine concern in his eyes that only rarely came to the surface these days. Her fuse immediately went out, and she shook her head as she grabbed his hand gently.
“I need to do this,” she replied. “The crew deserves to hear it from me.”
Gabriel nodded. “I’ll be in our quarters getting settled. If you need anything, call me, okay?”
“I will,” Tila said as she pressed the button for the lift. A moment later, the lift opened, and she stepped inside as Gabe blew her a kiss.
“Main Helm,” she said, looking up at the eye, watching the space.
“Clearance?” Sarah asked.
“As acting Captain of this vessel, I am taking control, Sarah. Take me to the Helm,” Tila said.
“Scanning,” Sarah replied. A moment later, the lift began rocketing to its destination.
Tila took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves as the lift slowed and came to a stop. The doors opened, revealing the main Helm. Forty people stopped what they were doing, looking up from the various instruments and devices as she stepped into the room.
“Welcome aboard, Captain,” one of the crew said, giving her a salute. The rest of the crew repeated the sentiment and the salute.
“I am only the acting Captain of Ark until either Captain Floren or Captain Geneveve arrives,” Tila said. “Until then, we are to maintain a holding pattern in orbit around earth.”
“Permission to speak?” a younger man asked as he stepped forward. He looked as though he might have been twenty.
“Granted,” Tila replied with a nod.
“Is it true? Did it start already?” he asked.
“What’s your name?” Til asked.
“Private Gibson, Ma’am,” he replied.
“Sarah, general announcement,” Tila said, waiting for the tone signifying that every corner of the Ark could hear her. “My name is Tila Lang, acting Captain of the Ark. As many of you may be aware, the event has officially begun on earth. While many capsules were able to make it off the surface, many still have not reported as activated. This is as near our worst-case-scenario as we could get.
“Many of you would be aware that this vessel was engineered for nearly a hundred thousand men, women, and children. We are currently reading less than seven-thousand, having successfully escaped the surface. For those of you still in transit hearing this message, we welcome you when you arrive. For those of you already aboard, I am sorry for your loss. And finally, for everyone, if you are considered essential personnel, carrying a red-designation, I will need you to meet me in Auditorium F at four P. M. Ark time. It is currently one-thirty. See you soon, and welcome to our new existence.”