Landfall - Part 1

As the Arks approach their destinations, the Ilmatar begins it's deceleration, as the personnel onboard prepare for their future home.

4 months ago

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"How long have we been decelerating for?"

"A few months... still remember the fuckin’ roar those engines made when they came back to life," replied Erik, reminiscing as he and Anja sat in one of the ship's recreation rooms. Tonight, the hologram wall displayed a replay from a recent 'spaceball' game, a post-shift ritual for the duo that was often accompanied by a few shared drinks.

Anja stared vacantly at the comms pad, its soft glow illuminating her contemplative expression. The messages, once a source of connection, now blurred into an indistinct stream of text.

She snapped herself out of her daze and noticed the liquid in her cup vibrating, the liquid dancing as the room started to shake around them. This had been a regular occurrence for months – every three hours, like clockwork, the engines would burst to life, the ship groaning as it fought against its own velocity, gradually slowing the colossal vessel that was hurtling through the void.

Anja tapped on the screen of her comms pad, opening the Landfall Readiness Manual. But before she could delve into it, Erik interrupted by sliding his own pad across to her, a mischievous glint in his eye. "You remember this shit?" he chuckled. The pad was filled with the face of a woman, eyes wide and her mouth twisted open. Erik hit play, and the woman's scream echoed in the room. The camera swayed as she pushed it away, it righted itself and revealed the chaotic scene of a crowd, the woman rabidly pushed people out of the way while continuing to wail.  Laughter erupted from Erik as the woman, arms spread, tripped over her own feet and headbutted the floor – a memorable finale.

Anja pushed Erik’s comms pad away. "It’s not her fault - we forgot to tell them what to expect once the deceleration started. If I hadn’t been prepared, I would have lost my mind too…those engines boomed so loudly the first time, the whole ship was shaking and groaning. I understand why it was terrifying for people."

"Who do you think forgot to inform the general population?"

Erik relished these reminders. The responsibility for all internal and external communications of the ship rested with the communications team, a duty shared by all Communications Officers aboard the Ilmatar, including Anja.

The “Ilmatar” stood as one of the European bloc's premier vessels, originating from a lineage of ships constructed in what used to be Northern & Central Europe. Reflecting this, the Landfall Readiness Manual featured languages such as English, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish. While the guide's design and layout were visually appealing, the text proved excessively dry, impeding Anja's progress. Undeterred, she continued reading:

The Ilmatar is a Jörmungandr class vessel with a capacity to house up to 35,000 individuals. Exceeding this population limit was strongly discouraged. Any Jörmungandr class vessel surpassing its optimal design limits would jeopardize efficiency, cohesion, and ultimately, the entire mission.
This manual offers specific instructions for each section of the ship, categorised by role, to prepare for Landfall. Unlike many of the ship's fully optimised and automated systems, the Landfall process requires crucial support from the crew.

When they initially departed Earth, the ship's population comfortably remained below the capacity cap. However, the prolonged journey, coupled with the sheer monotony and surplus free time onboard, led to a natural increase in numbers. Families had blossomed and children had become an inevitable presence, their laughter echoing through the corridors. These youngsters, born during the voyage, had never known life outside of the ship. Anja swiped her fingers across the screen, flipping through the pages, eager to resume reading where she had left off earlier.

Considering the size and inherent characteristics of this vessel, attempting to enter the atmosphere is strongly advised against, as the consequences could prove fatal. Instead, the recommended protocol involves maintaining the ship in orbit around the planet whilst suitable locations for deployment are identified.
The gravity ring is composed of numerous individual modules that currently serve as both your living and workspaces. These modules are designed to autonomously detach from the Ark and descend autonomously to the planet's surface. It is important to note that a period of complete gravity loss is anticipated during this phase. In preparation for this, please consult the "Harnessing Gravity" Manual.

Anja’s screen inquired: "Suggested reading: Would you like to read the Harnessing Gravity manual?" She ignored the intrusion and flipped through a few more pages before finding her place in the manual.

Regardless of your module's size or purpose—whether dedicated to Agriculture, Construction, Health, Science, Water, Manufacturing, or any other function, you will be organised into launch waves. Each wave, meticulously calibrated, contains the ideal number of modules to safely separate and detach from the gravity ring. Following a successful separation, each module will align itself with its predetermined trajectory, initiating a calculated descent toward the planet's surface.

A soft chime emitted from Anja's comms pad, signaling an incoming announcement. Erik's voice broke the room's stillness, reflecting his bewilderment. "Well… that's different."

The chime came through the room’s audio system and the ambient game sounds ceased abruptly, the holographic display on the wall fading to black. Darkness enveloped the room for a fleeting moment before a deep blue glow bathed the space, indicating the initiation of the lowest level of alert.

Anja and Erik shared a glance, uncertainty etched across Erik's furrowed brow. Their eyes locked for a fleeting moment before the holographic wall shifted once more, flooding the room with a view from beyond the ship.

The void of space lay before them, a tapestry of darkness interlaced with the distant glow of stars from far-off systems. Over the course of their lengthy journey, this celestial vista had become a familiar companion, occasionally punctuated by gifts—nebulas, asteroids, and other astronomical wonders that united the crew in awe. However, this time was different; there was an absence of notable features, just the boundless expanse of space.

"Hey… what is that? A pink star?" Erik was pointing to the center of the display, Anja's gaze followed.. A small star, seemingly tinged with pink, caught her attention. The incongruity of a pink star left her puzzled; it defied astronomical logic, stars shouldn’t be pink. In response to Anja's curiosity, the holographic feed heightened its engagement, zooming in closer on the pink speck, almost as though it were intuitively mirroring and amplifying Anja's own bewilderment.

“Holy shit.” 

Anja propelled herself out of her seat with such speed that both her comms pad and drink went crashing to the floor. As she suspected, there were no pink stars to be found; what lay before them wasn't a star at all. It was a planet. Anja approached the holographic representation, maintaining a respectful distance to avoid obstructing Erik's view.

The display zoomed in once more, revealing a vivid image, with the planet suspended in the center of their field of view. Overwhelmed, Anja descended to her knees, the details coming into focus. Expansive, dark green continents were encircled by oceans, their waters casting a subtle pinkish hue. Mighty rivers, resembling prominent veins, carved through the land masses, creating a striking visual contrast.

"It's breathtaking, Erik."

“What the fuck is that?” he asked again.

“It’s home you idiot… that's... that's our home.”

Erik's cup slipped from his grasp, meeting Anja's on the floor. After enduring years in the vastness of space, their long-awaited destination finally lay before them, a canvas upon which they would help forge a new future for humanity.

by Samuel Tucker

Samuel Tucker

Published 4 months ago