Our ship took up its stationary orbit above the planet; it had taken six thousand years for us to answer the call. The day when the ancient battered space probe was brought aboard our orbiting space station by its tractor beam, had been a momentous one for all concerned. To learn that there were more sentient beings out in the vastness of space caused great excitement for both the scientific community and the general population.
Over the next several months, our scientists worked at fever pitch in an effort to unravel the secrets of the probe’s departure point. Here was a clear invitation by an alien civilization across the other side of the galaxy to come and visit.
Many hours of careful analysis had gone into the strange markings on the plaque attached to the side of the probe. There were clear engraved representations of both male and female of the species, together with a crude star chart of the area of departure.
When a way to read the disc storage unit found inside the probe was eventually discovered, things began to fall into place. The sounds on it were identical to those strange subspace messages that we had first detected years earlier.
Our scientists had been puzzled by the plethora of languages that appeared to emanate from the far off region across the galaxy. So when those self same languages were heard on the disc, together with samples of music similar to the broadcasts previously heard, here at last was the key to unlocking the puzzle.
Armed with all this information, the decision was taken to make contact with this latest branch of humanity. Because of the immense distance involved, and the length of time it would take, a volunteer crew was created for the hazardous journey. Problems experienced in the past concerning the failure of deep sleep units aboard ship on long voyages, meant that this mission would be carried out using family groups. The twentieth generation would land on the distant planet, and on completion of the mission, hopefully the fortieth would return.
Now as we looked at the planet below, excitement grows among us tempered with caution. We had seen disturbing visual images among those early broadcasts. The peoples of this planet were warlike, clearly not nearly as advanced as we had hoped. Yet, not far from where our ship now sat in stationary orbit was a crude type of space station, clear evidence of some degree of peaceful technological expertise at least.
During the journey as our ship drew closer to the system containing the planet, our communications section had managed to pick up more of the broadcasts. Course corrections were made to home in on the source. Then approximately two hundred years ago, the broadcasts came to an abrupt halt! When there was no reaction to our arrival from the station or the planet below, an away team was sent to investigate. On their return, the team reported that the station was deserted. A shuttlecraft of some sort was still moored at the space dock; personal items belonging to the former inhabitants were aboard, but there was no sign of life!
The planet was scanned for life signs, made more difficult by the almost impenetrable cloud cover. Probes were sent into the planet’s atmosphere. The temperature of the planet’s surface was just above zero. Its atmosphere was breathable, so away teams were sent down to investigate. They recorded high levels of radiation both in the air and in the soil. Because of the cloud cover, the warmth from the systems star could not penetrate to the surface. Combined with the radiation, the planet was now a barren frozen wasteland.
In both hemispheres, were found the ruins of cities high in the mountains. At one time, the planet had been covered with vast oceans. We found clear evidence of this in some of the cities, because they contained ports. Deformed rusting skeletal remains of ocean going ships were found wherever the away teams travelled. Clearly a terrible disaster had overtaken this planet and its inhabitants. But what?
Above the planet lay the first clue. Not far from the space station, we encountered missile launch platforms with their tubes now empty. They were all aligned to a point in space roughly half way between the planet and its satellite moon. The second clue was below on the planet’s surface. A large valley ran in a north south direction for approximately two thirds of the distance between its poles, its surface smoothed by friction. Clearly, the planet had been in collision with another body! The geological team reported that because of the collision, evidence of massive upheaval was found across the planet. The impact had been on such a colossal scale, that the planet had shifted its orbit slightly increasing the time it took to travel around its star.
The third clue was found during an investigation of one of the old seaports. On a hill above the city, in front of some ancient fortifications, the team found a rusting land vehicle. Inside it were the skeletal remains of its last occupant. Searching through the vehicle, a written document was found and sent back to the ship for analysis. The linguistic section, utilized all the information from the original research into the languages of this now dead planet, to study the document. Eventually after a procedure for recognition of crude hand written words was developed, the document was processed. A personal journal was what lay before them, a record of the last days of the planet seen through the eyes of a man who had witnessed the completely tragic event.
17th July 2019
It was seventeen years ago that the astronomers had originally detected it. For a couple of days it made the headlines in the news, and then it was largely forgotten. Life went on as normal. War, famine, greed, and corruption continued as they had for centuries. Astronomers around the world hypothesised about a likelihood of a life extinction impact similar to the one that ended the rule of the dinosaurs sixty five million years ago. Most opted for the ‘near miss’ theory. But the one thing none of them could deny was that it was definitely coming! Its size was colossal, approximately one and a half miles across and at the speed it was travelling at it would arrive this year.
The governments of the major nuclear powers did nothing, preferring to leave it to the boffins and the military to come up with solutions to stop it. Physicists believed it would be possible to divert it by creating giant airbags and placing them in its path. The military favoured a more direct approach by trying to blow it up in space, utilizing the ‘Star wars’ nuclear deterrent rockets, which had been put in place high above the planet in the eighties, during the last days of the ‘Cold War’ in the previous century. All the while, the general population carried on as if nothing was wrong.
Some small groups of so-called survivors quietly began to form, mainly in the United States, parts of France, Germany and finally here in England about two years ago. They bought properties in the mountains and began to dig nuclear shelters and stock them with supplies for what they believed was the inevitable – a nuclear winter of some kind. The authorities regarded them as the ‘lunatic fringe’ and continually harassed them, arresting their leaders and imprisoning them. Sometimes, they made the six o’clock news on television when a shoot-out occurred.
Then about six months ago, the astronomical community finally confirmed that impact was unavoidable! They still could not agree whether or not it would be a direct hit or a glancing blow! All the governments were informed. They immediately began debating the issue as if it were just another everyday occurrence, which could be legislated against – the fools! Nothing was announced to the Earth’s population concerning the imminent disaster for fear of panic. But when amateur astronomers began to see it with their telescopes and binoculars, and when it could finally be detected with the naked eye, the governments couldn’t hide their heads in the sand any longer!
The one thing we all talked about was which side of the planet was it going to hit? For those of us in Europe, we hoped it would come down in the Pacific or the South Atlantic, not on land. A giant tsunami would, we hoped, be survivable. Whereas a hit on any of the continents would send so much debris into the atmosphere it would blot out the sun and create the equivalent of a nuclear winter for years to come.
As the days went by, the military under the leadership of the US and NATO together with China, India and a few smaller nations who had nuclear capability began to formulate an ‘eleventh hour’ plan to launch a coordinated attack in a desperate attempt to destroy it. Nightly, pointless television programmes were broadcast describing how to survive in your own home. Panic broke out among the general population. People began to stock up food supplies. Bank accounts were emptied, few people bothered to show up for work. Everybody wanted to be with their families. Martial law was declared in most countries to try to combat the situation, which was rapidly getting out of control! It was now a crime to be on the streets at any time of the day or night.
The rich tried desperately to leave for foreign parts in the hope that when it did happen they, at least, would survive to once again take control of the Earth after the impact – the greedy stupid bastards!
As the countdown continued, anarchy broke out. The police were powerless to control millions of panicked angry human beings. When the military opened fire on people desperate for food and somewhere safe to go, civil war broke out throughout the nations of the world. The curfews on movement were dropped as the situation worsened. By now the world leaders realised it was too late, and closed their eyes to what we were doing to concentrate on stopping the impact!
By the beginning of May, it was inside our solar system and closing fast. I used to drive up here to Portsdown Hill above Portsmouth, in the evening to watch its progress. It was the brightest object in the night sky low down on the southern horizon. Each night it grew in intensity, until by the end of May, its appearance began to change. As it passed the moon, it began to glow as it drew closer to us. On the 7th of June, we sat and watched as the ‘Star Wars’ rockets were launched directly into its path through space. We could just make out the trail produced by the rockets engines as they sped towards their target. Then they turned as if a giant hand had deflected them and descended back towards the Earth out of control. Our nemesis was fighting back! As it entered our atmosphere, it created a massive electromagnetic wave, which totally disrupted everything electronic! The rocket’s warheads dropped indiscriminately across Europe and the US, killing thousands. Submarines launched ICBM’s into its path in a desperate attempt to reduce its size as it tore through the atmosphere. But they were diverted, sending more uncontrollable nuclear warheads across the surface of the Earth.
Then it hit!
Plunging into the Atlantic approximately a couple of thousand miles north of the Falkland Islands, it continued northward towards Greenland, before finally exploding into billions of pieces, and sinking to the ocean floor. As it gouged its way along the mid-Atlantic ridge, it set off a major chain reaction in the tectonic plates beneath the Earth’s surface. Massive seismic events occurred, creating wholesale destruction worldwide. The tsunami created by the impact spread rapidly across the Atlantic, hitting both shores with devastating effects. From up here on the hill, I watched as massive tidal surges travelled eastward up the English Channel. Portsmouth was flattened by it as it passed. For a brief while, those of us who had made it to the hill were cut off from the surrounding low-lying densely populated area to the north of the city.
Because of the EM shockwave, our radios were now useless, no news from other parts of the world filtered through, nothing worked. In the following days, hunger began to set in. Fresh water was scarce. By now there were about thirty of us on the hill. Then one day a man arrived who had walked from what was left of London. He told us about the destruction caused by a couple of direct hits from the falling nukes. As if we didn’t have enough to contend with, we were now slowly being poisoned by a massive radiation cloud, which was drifting around the world dropping its deadly load as it went!
2nd August 2019
I’ve been getting steadily worse in the last few weeks. My hair has fallen out; my skin is rotting, I look like a survivor of the Hiroshima attack. I can’t keep anything down for long. My time is limited. From time to time, I scavenge for something to eat and drink. At night, I retreat up here to shelter in the car from the increasingly cold temperatures, which have now become the norm. The skies are clear and yet the Earth is cooling down – why?
Our number has dwindled to just four of us here on the hill. During the day, we congregate in the abandoned pub behind us and mostly sit in silence, too ill to find the energy to talk anymore. One member of our group, a girl of eighteen, gave birth a week ago. The child was stillborn. Just as well. It was grossly deformed, because of its mother’s radiation sickness.
Little movement can be seen from up here. At night, fires light up the ruined city below as small groups cluster together. From time to time, we come across other scavengers. The more friendly ones talk of cannibalism occurring in some parts, as food becomes scarce.
The shoreline is retreating as the temperature falls. It’s August and I’m wearing more clothes than I do in winter! Soon, I reckon it will be possible to walk to France if the channel dries out completely. The only problem with that is no one will be fit enough for the journey!
16th August 2019
I don’t know why I bother recording the damned date each time I write in this exercise book. Time doesn’t matter anymore. I still wear my watch even though it ceased working when the EM wave struck. It’s snowing! At least we can collect it and store it in the barrels in the pub cellar for future use. It’s so cold now that we’ve taken up permanent residence in the cellar. No more food left. All of us look like toothless ghosts as we sit huddled together for warmth. I’ve drawn the short straw for tomorrow’s foraging expedition. God I feel sick…
3rd September 2019
The three remaining survivors on the hill are writing this entry collectively. We discovered John’s body a few yards away from here this morning. We found his journal when we decided to place him in the front seat of his car. Soon we shall all go the same way. We are Angela, George, and David. Farewell. Do not forget us…
Exploratory Team Leaders Final Log
Together with John’s personal account and sketchy records found in ruined government buildings around the planet the story was slowly pieced together. Those who survived lived for a few short years after the massive meteor struck. Because of the slight shift in the planets orbit around its star, in the intervening years the planet had gradually cooled. Now it only had two seasons. The warmest lasted forty-eight years, when the temperature rose and boiled the oceans. Then for the next seventy-two years, the temperature rapidly dropped well below freezing. The planet was permanently covered in clouds of frozen water vapour by now. While the atmosphere was breathable, all that remained of this once vibrant planet was a frozen, barren poisonous wasteland, which would be uninhabitable forever.
Our exploratory crew was recalled from the planet’s surface and preparation was made for our return journey home across the galaxy. We have lost a branch of humanity forever. Who knows how long it will be before we find another. John’s journal will return with us as a memorial to our brothers and sisters who died here so long ago…