Middle-aged eyes stared keenly at the surrounding countryside out of a frail, elderly body, worn and wizened by heat and many years of constant sunshine. The man sat in his rocking chair, gently swaying in the late afternoon breeze, waiting for the darkness of night to come.
Night no longer brought with it the refreshing odour of cooling dew, as it settled no more on the hills in front of his ramshackle hut. It was a neat and tidy little dwelling, built solely out of wood, a one-storey, one-room building that he could call home.
The man had spent an indeterminate length of time on his own, the leaving of his fellow humans still indelibly etched on his mind.
He had first thought of it as “solace” – some kind of isolated contentment, but now, well now… he was truly alone, missing conversation more than he thought possible; yet, in a strange way, he felt more at peace than he had ever in his life. Maybe it is the proximity of death, he wondered.
It had not always been this way – civilisation had existed many times, but had always burned itself out, with primitive technology yet again rising from the ashes of a broken world, surpassing its predecessor just a little each time. The man considered the historical achievements of his world. In many ways the 42nd Century had resembled the 18th, when an Industrial Revolution had thrust human beings forcefully into a technological age, blinded by a captivating, obsessive desire to possess more and more technology. But this, the last industrial revolution, had not had time to burn itself out, and it had swept through the globe, encompassing all nations, sweeping all nations together, uniting all tribes and countries. Unified, the world had progressed much faster than ever before. This was fortunate for them, as the sun had been growing larger and larger throughout the last six centuries, and water levels had become seriously depleted, so much so that the world could no longer support the millions of beings that populated its surface. To a person, all had thrown themselves into the building the most enormous spaceship the world had ever seen. “Transport 1”, of a new “tan” class; it was not possible for it to be “blue” class cruiser – it certainly could not be a “silver” class frigate. Nor a “crimson” class fighter, so a new class had been born. No-one had named it properly, as all had been too preoccupied with its construction. However, the first two prototypes had been unsuccessful, so “1 c” was its temporary designation, until such time as this monumental ark had, with a tremendous surge of power, roared out of the atmosphere, at an almost impossible speed.
Only one remained. One man had decided that he did not wish to go. He had had no reason for not boarding Transport 1 (or T-1 for short), and he had said so at the time. Now, at the brink of the planet’s demise, he was alone. Maybe he had wished to be special in some way before his own light was extinguished, and to call a whole planet “his”, had perhaps been his fondest wish… the seas and lakes had long since dried up and the last drop of water on the entire planet had been drunk two and a half days earlier.
The landscape was a dry, dusty desert, with the bent and warped trunks of trees, long since dead, jutting out of the sand at odd angles, like strange, black skeletons of huge corpses, forgotten by all save time itself. The planet had no coasts or cliffs any more. No islands or continents, no nation or tribe, jungles or savannah – just one land mass. That the man’s condensing reactor could no longer extract water from the atmosphere had meant that he was bound to his hut, no longer capable of traversing the long distances in the blazing sun. He was alone and left to his thoughts and reminiscences – the last of his race, the last of any race on the planet. He thought once again of the vast ship that had departed so many years before. T-1, the military had called it, or just 1-c; its temporary title had stuck amongst the engineers, as they preferred its simplicity, and they were the ones who had designed and built the vessel. Nevertheless, its name notwithstanding, it had left, and had aimed for the Andromeda galaxy, hoping that there would be a possibility of a new solar system there – a new planet full of teeming life, perhaps; a world of seas and oceans, lakes and ponds, streams and rivers, where water would fall from the sky in drops.
On the earth the man’s attention was caught by the sun as it flared once and died, almost pitifully collapsing in on itself, with no burst of violent explosions, its light and protecting heat slowly dissipating. It would be a while until the earth became a frozen rock drifting aimlessly in space, devoid of any purpose, life or meaning.
Briefly, the man wondered if his decision had been the correct one, but decided that it did not matter. His concentration was drawn once more to the transport vessel of the “tan” class and wondered momentarily whether the people in it still survived, or whether they had failed and died. There were many hazards in space, many lumps of rock and ice, large enough to smash the ship into smithereens, or at least tear a hole in its hull. The man decided he was being unnecessarily morbid, and abandoned that line of thought. It was undeniably the most impressive ship ever to “set sail”, but whether it would ever reach its destination, the man would ever know.
In the vast emptiness of space, the ship’s full title glinted in the rays of a distant sun.
The T-1 tan 1-c drifted on.