The world as someone once said, didn’t end with a bang. There was no invasion, no war no great cataclysm. They just died. Then the snow started to fall. Then everything died. Some of The Older ones talk about the Earth that was. They have stories about machines that flew and rode on wheels. I can’t imagine what that world was like.
I am too young to join the Reserves, so I am not allowed to leave Command 11. We live underground. I have never seen the sky. Once when we were just little kids me and my friend Josh talked about how one day we would walk under the sky and see birds and trees. Josh is category B, so is apprenticed to the engine. He is working on the turbines in tunnel four. After every shift he smells of fuel and sweat. I am still uncategorized, they think that their tests do not compensate for high IQ’s. For the time I teach the children. Even though I am barely 10 years older than them.
I’m very tired, so when Josh opens my door I only just hear him coming in. I wake properly when I hear the shower, it will only work for two minutes, then it automatically turns off. Our quarters are very small, space is limited. I walk into the bathroom and kiss him.
“Hi, You. Sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.”
I smile. “It’s okay I was thinking, maybe dreaming about you anyway.”
He laughs. “Let’s go to bed. I can barely stand I am so tired.”
Three days later Diana, Josh’s Foreman gives birth to a healthy baby girl. The entire colony celebrates, we use whatever spare rations we have to give her and her new family gifts. It has been almost two years since anyone delivered a child. The party goes on until the small hours. Someone brings alcohol. Like most of us I have no tolerance for it and become giddy and sick quite quickly. I have my arm over Josh’s shoulders and he undress me and puts me to bed. Thank God there is no school tomorrow.
In the morning Josh brings me a glass of water. “Drink this.” He smiles and kisses my forehead. I feel horrible. I think this is what was called a ‘hangover’. I decide that I will never drink alcohol again.
“Tarrant wants to see you.” I stare blankly. When Minster Addams died, Tarrant took command. I have only met her a few times but I can’t say I liked her very much.
As I walk into her office she stand and smiles “Engineer Barrat, Teacher Loudon. Thank you both for coming here this morning. May I get you some tea, coffee?” We both shake our heads.
“As you may or may not know, our Reserves have been venturing into the snow and they have discovered something, well quite remarkable. It’s machine tech. Unlike anything we have seen. Josh you are a fine engineer and you, Mr Loudon, well despite our best efforts testing you seem to be somewhat of an uncategorised genius. We, I am asking if you would go with a small group and look at this tech. It may be nothing or possibly a total solution. The one The Olders referred to”
It takes almost twenty seven days to walk out to where the tech is. They must have blasted in the doors to find it. For twenty seven days I have seen the sky for the first time in my entire life. It is grey and freezing but it is a living, real sky.
As we walk down the stairs to what must be some sort of laboratory or some science monitoring place, Josh takes my hand and smiles.
We have been here for almost 23 hours. The Reserves have remote generators and have managed to get all the facilities power systems on line. Josh spent about five hours working on the power transfer ratio but it is working.
I have to keep re reading what is in front of me, they are called ‘monitors’ one of the Reserves said. Very little of it makes sense. There are talks about war and possible countries, although I am not sure. Some of the words are familiar from hearing about how the Olders talked about the Earth before. There are mentions of Korea, China and something called the US. It seemed silly but in a back up file there is a sub file called reset. I move the little plastic thing and open it. It is a hexogimic pentafold code. Numbers have always seemed to do what I want, so the access code is almost being typed by my hand before I have finished the equation in my head. I clicked the plastic thing onto the part of the screen that says access.
There is a deep, awful humming from below us. Ancient machines are powering up. The Reserves grab us and they are shouting “Out! Out!”
Josh is holding my hand as we watch vast tubes come out or the Earth. A fine, white mist pumps up and out into the air.
The sky, so grey and cold, like ash, starts to part and there is something blue behind it. There is some light, something shining in the sky. It looks like hope.