Prompt: “An old man walks alone, inside the crumbling remains of an old colony ship. When he reaches the bridge, a small ball of light emerges from the ship’s console. ‘Hello Captain’, says the ship’s A.I. ‘It’s nice to see you again.'”
Captain William Holt emerged from his cryogenic pod coughing and spitting. Dried vomit ran down from the corner of his mouth and onto his uniform. It was an old uniform anyway, not really fit for the cryogenic pods, but it was the only thing he had.
He stepped out still coughing and steadied himself against the wall. Captain Holt still had memories from years ago when he was a young man dreaming of flying among the stars. He would walk these halls day after day among a large crew. All people top of their class in Biology, Chemistry, Linguistics, Astronomy, Engineering. Geniuses in their own right. All under the leadership of Captain Holt, top of his class in Space Flight Academy. Down below on the other floors were thousands of people, all on a journey across the universe. A colony ship full of thousands of people destined to travel from one planet to another.
Now the ship was a empty husk. Just a terrible reminder of what it used to be.
Captain Holt took another step forward stumbling forward onto the floor.
He let out a few sentences of intergalactic slurs. He then took a few more deep breaths and eventually pushed himself up into a sitting position with his back against the side of the spaceship’s wall.
“Stupid cryosickness,” He muttered as he wiped the vomit from his mouth.
At Captain Holt’s age, cryosleep was something that still took a toll on his body. He had been asleep in cryogenic pods before, sometimes for decades, but now the freezing process damaged his body further. At this point Captain Holt was about 250 years old, but discounting the cryosleep, he was about 140 years old.
After spending a short amount of time sitting on the floor, he used the wall to help him to his feet. The blood was flowing better in his legs and he was no longer dizzy.
“That’s better,” He muttered again after a series of wheezy breaths.
He tried to take a deep breath, but this just sent him into another coughing spree.
Captain Holt made his way slowly towards the colony ship’s elevators, having to stop every few minutes to catch his breath.
He braced himself against the heavy, metal, elevator doors and pressed his wrist up to the reader beside the door.
“Come on, work,” He mumbled.
Eventually there was a small beep and the elevator seemed to come to life. It rumbled as a few lights turned on. The doors opened and there was the elevator.
Captain Holt walked on and pushed the button for the bridge.
The elevator beeped again and it began going up. There was a horrible screeching and grinding sound and the elevator rumbled, but it managed to get to the bridge. There was another beep followed by the scarping of the metal as the doors opened. Captain Holt then stepped out onto the bridge which was completely dark except for a few buttons on the control board.
As he stepped out of the elevator, the lights above him began to turn on. The whole thing was lit up from lights above and below. The control board lit up and different bits of information came up on the display.
“Hello Captain. It’s nice to see you again,” A voice called out to him.
Captain Holt stumbled forward into his captain’s chair in the middle of the control room on the end of the ship’s bridge. He then proceeded to have another coughing and wheezing fit before he was able to speak.
“Mage, is that you?” Captain Holt asked.
“It is,” The voice said again.
Mage was the colony ship’s AI which was in charge of plotting the course, regulating functions on the ship, and navigating when the crew was asleep or unable to take control. Mage’s job was to keep everything running.
“I’m surprised you’re still here,” Captain Holt said.
“I was about to say the same thing about you, Captain,” Mage said. “It looks like the cryosleep really took a tole on you.”
“Shut up, Mage,” Captain Holt said laying his head back against the headrest of the chair.
“Do you want to know the status of the ship?” Mage asked.
“Is there any good news?”
“Then no,” Captain Holt said.
“You should know that fuel reserves are low and most of the ship is not working at full capacity.”
“Do we have enough fuel to complete the journey?”
“I was able to use the nearby planets and their gravity to propel us forward in order to save fuel. Now we’re only about fifteen minutes out. We’re burning all our fuel to get there.”
“It’s not like we’re going anywhere else,” Captain Holt said.
Mage fell silent.
Other than the electronic and mechanical noises in the background, the whole ship fell silent. It truly made the whole thing feel empty. A ship able to carry tens of thousands of people now with only one human resident and an AI flying it through the galaxy.
“Anything else I need to know before we get there?” Captain Holt asked.
“Our landing is not going to be soft,” Mage said. “You might want to secure yourself into your seat. It has a heavy atmosphere and our landing gear was damaged long ago.”
“So it’s going to be a crash landing.”
“Most definitely. I’d say that our chance of survival is very low.”
“I am tied to the ship’s computer unable to walk around like you, Captain. When the ship crashes into the planet’s surface, I doubt the computers will be functional. As for you, you are in bad shape -”
“Don’t sugarcoat it, Mage. Tell me what you really think,” Captain Holt said.
“This sounds like some kind of suicide mission. Just one person with a frail physical body destined to reach this blue rock.”
“It’s Earth,” Captain Holt said. “It’s humanity’s Eden.”
“It’s a dump,” Mage said. “Abandoned hundreds of years ago. A place plagued with toxicity in the soil, in the water, and in the air. A place -”
Mage’s speech was cut short by loud sirens and a flashing red light. A warning message popped up on screen.
“What’s going on, Mage?” Captain Holt asked.
“Looks like we’re about to hit the atmosphere. I’d show you what’s going on outside, but all outside cameras are disabled. Plus the whole outside of the ship is a fireball,” Mage explained.
The ship began violently shaking and Captain Holt almost tumbled out of his chair.
“You better strap yourself in,” Mage said.
Captain Holt used the arm rests to press himself against the back of the captain’s chair. He reached over and grabbed the straps of the chair bring them close to his chest. As the ship rocked back and forth, Captain Holt struggled with the straps before eventually clamping them together.
The ship’s rocking got worse and worse and Captain Holt felt bile rising up from his stomach.
“Mage, make it stop!” Captain Holt yelled out.
“Brace for impact, Captain,” Mage replied. “I hope Earth is everything you wanted.”
The shaking got more and more violent as sirens continued to blare. All the sounds and the shaking was too much. Eventually, Captain Holt’s eyes began to spin and he blacked out. His head hung forward before shaking around as the colony ship tossed and turned. Eventually the ship crashed into the planet’s surface with a jolt.
It was some time later, Captain Holt found himself laying in the captain’s chair. The room around him looked mostly intact with a few things strewn about. He seemed to be fine except he now had a major headache on top of the side affects of the cryosleep plaguing him.
“Mage! Mage!” He yelled out but there was no response.
He laid there in darkness. It seemed like the ship had completely lost power. Eventually, Captain Holt managed to undo the straps and free him from the chair. As he stepped out from the chair, he noticed the whole thing was on a slant.
“Mage!” He yelled out again, but there was no response.
Mage must have been right about the computers not surviving the ship’s crash landing into Earth’s surface. Now it was only Captain Holt, alone on the colony ship.
Captain Holt stumbled through what was rest of the ship. The captain’s room was mostly untouched, but as he walked, he saw more and more destroyed rooms. Broken glass and bent metal was everywhere with all sorts of wires hanging from the ceiling. He guessed that if the ship still had power, that this whole place would be electrified.
Captain Holt lost track of time making his way through what was left of the colony ship, but after some time, he found a large hole in the side of the ship where a cafeteria used to be. He stepped forward and out of the ship’s metal surface onto the soft soil of Earth. Real dirt.
It had been decades since Captain Holt had stood on real dirt.
Tears streamed down his face as he fell forward onto his knees. He dug his fingers into the dirt and pulled up handfuls of the soil.
“Earth. I finally made it here to Earth,” Captain Holt said.
Eventually he started to climb his way out of the crater that the crashed ship made. It took almost an hour in his partially injured state to climb.
Around him was several toppled trees, scraps of metal debris, and large sections of the ship spread out over many miles around the crater. There were still fires still burning around the edge of the crater.
“I guess I made quite an entrance,” Captain Holt said with some wheezing breaths. “I never imagined Earth would be quite like this.”
Captain Holt placed his hand against a fallen log which was partially singed. He then slumped down next to it. He coughed harder and harder as a bit of blood pooled in the corner of his mouth and ran down his chin. More blood came from his nose.
“It’s quite beautiful,” Captain Holt said resting his head against the log. “It’s just too bad that I had to make this journey alone.”
Captain Holt continue to cough, wiping away blood from his mouth. Small sores began appearing on his hands and arms.
“Earth. Our Eden. Our beginning. Our home planet,” Captain Holt muttered to himself as his eyes grew heavy and chest began to tighten.
He coughed more and more before slumping sideways onto the ground. His eyes closed and his breathing slowed until it finally stopped.
Captain Holt laid there on the edge of the colony ship’s crater. His body slowly burning from the air around him and the soil below him. He had made it to Earth. His final journey as a Captain as a Human.
Header Photo Credit to Wallpaper House
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompt by u/Prince_Nocturne