James kept on calculating again and again. His desk was filled with papers covered with what someone from the outside would surely have mistaken with hieroglyphs. He was only an intern, he was of no real worth, and still, if what he had been spending his afternoon on turned out to be true…
But how could the researchers he was assisting have missed that much? Everything was there. Heat, dryness, time going faster, so many alarming signs…
And to think that at first, he had only been calculating a mere value of solar intensity!
With a shaking hand, he pushed the communication button beside the desk.
The answer came in the form of a crackling, then a beep to show that he was heard and recorded. No one would have enough time to take the message of an intern in person.
James took a breath. How was he to say this? Nothing would make it sound better.
« Professor, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m afraid our expectation of the end of the world will have to be bought a few centuries forward. »
– Journal of the Lab. Day 1 of the Twilight of Earth.
Toby never liked the name « Twilight of Earth ». It sounded so negative, as if it was the end of it all!
It made him even prouder to be part of the first expedition. He truly hoped it would allow Humanity to change its perspective. He had given up on everything: family, job, everyday life. Everything was gone, in order to become a part of the team creating the Office of Exploration.
And now, he was about to take off. They were a small team, they had found a planet.
People were divided: those who didn’t believe in them, those who thought they were mad, and those who were hoping things would turn out well for them, because they knew they were right about the cataclysm to come.
When the shuttle of the first Exploratory Expedition got out of the atmosphere that was growing warmer and warmer, Toby felt a pang in his heart and yet he could only smile: the end of the « Twilight of Earth » had finally come. »
– Journal of the Exploration. Astral Dawn: day 1.
Pekko shuddered. He had nordic origins but the Earth had grown warmer and warmer, and he had lost his habits of cold environments.
Their grey-haired scientist on board, James, had told them all about it. But there was a gap between knowing the theory and living the thing.
The cold was not unbearable still. James had assured that it was only for one season, the same way those worked on Earth before the Twilight. They would survive it. Following the orders of Captain Toby, they were roaming the surface of the planet looking for a proof that the expedition would not be useless. It had been weeks and nothing had been found yet. Pekko felt like howling; all of this for nothing. Lost in his dark thoughts, he angrily kicked a rock that flew far away –Gravity was so light here.
Pekko suddenly stopped.
Captured in the ice right under the rock he had just sent away, something that looked a lot like a vegetal was shining.
For the first time since they landed, Pekko smiled. The first Exploratory Expedition was a success: Humanity could live here
– Journal of the Exploration. Astral Dawn: day 27.
They have started the construction. Gary had been talking about it for a while, but I didn’t believe him. It sounded so crazy. Physically it could not exist, it could literally not stand up. And yet, one day, they called Gary on the construction site. I couldn’t doubt him anymore.
I am one of the skepticals, those who don’t believe in the alarmist speeches of the scientists who keep on repeating that we are all about to be burnt by the sun. But if the construction helps the expeditions go further, I’ll be happy with it.
In a few years, the Tower will overhand the planet. It will be a lighthouse for all the shuttle of the Exploration, and we will be free to fly.
I’ll probably try to join the teams on the construction site tomorrow.
– Journal of the Builders. Astral Dawn: day 56.
Thirty-fifth expedition. Lina felt the burden on her shoulders. She was the only captain here. The five last expeditions had failed, and there were hundreds of thousands of people on Earth waiting for good news.
It was cold here. She had been told so, but it was even colder than what she was used to. The climate on Earth had become burning hot lately.
While she was roaming again and again looking for anything that could justify her expedition, a flash of light caught her eye, up there. Linda couldn’t see well because of her protective helmet. She tore it down.
In the huge alien sky, a massive serpent of purple light was radiating.
Lina was bewildered. She forgot to wipe the tears that had started to run and were already frozen on her cheeks. She didn’t care. She had never seen auroras on Earth, and now she saw one on another planet. Such a discovery was totally worth a visit to the medics.
– Journal of the Exploration. Astral Dawn: day 225.
Glowing with pride, Master Andréi walked towards the ray of light. Behind, the Tower –or rather the part of it you could see, because it was so tall that no eye could reach the top from the bottom– was going against all physical laws as we knew them only centuries before. Master Andréi had not initiated the building of the Tower, but he liked to remind people that he had always supported the project.
In a swift move, he brushed the ray of light with an end. The light opened to deploy itself like a fan and pierced through the clouds to reach the top of the Tower. There was a short moment of silence that seemed to last an eternity. Then a loud sound filled the space until the Earth moved.
Master Andréi was prancing. The signal was established: the Earthlings would finally be able to travel.
– Inauguration of the Tower. Astral Era : day 1.
« One by one, please! »
A huge crowd in the hall. Ugo was amazed. He had always been skeptical: he refused to believe in those stories of travel to run away from the sun, of an end of the world that would be coming soon. And yet, it seemed like quite a bunch of crazy people granted more attention than he did to the scientists. Oh well, why not.
At least it gave him a job after all.
« First file, please! »
Un shy-looking man took a step forward, as if not believing the fact that he was first, and he held out his file. Ugo looked through it quickly, eveything was fine. He gave a rubber stamp on the file.
The man almost passed out. Ugo repressed a smile. He had just sealed the fate of the first man to join the interplanetory emigration.
– Diaries of the Exploratory Emigration. Astral Era : day 34.
Mari looked at her order with a glimpse of pride. She knew no one would have ever dared refuse her anything: she was, after all, the leader of the most successful provider of shuttles for the Office of Exploratory Emigration.
Her final whim was her most ambitious. The Flying Haven. At the same time the office for her company, her place to live and somewhere to relax, it guaranteed something that she had never found elsewhere before: peace.
She wouldn’t have to bother with refueling and supplies: she had taken care of recruiting the best pilot android of the company.
It was good to be a billionaire at a time when Humankind was flying from the Earth: no one had opposed her idea.
Earth could well burn now: Mari would never set feet on it again, and that was the best way to live for her.
– Launching of the Flying Haven. Astral Era: day 2137.
« Mommy, Mommy, I’ve lost Bunny! »
Cold sweat. Kid’s crying, gripping her mother’s skirt. It had to happen, of course. And he knows what happens next. 4, 3, 2…
« Don’t worry, darling. Daddy will find Bunny. »
Thaaaat’s it. Running through the whole spaceport. Outside the world is burning, the sun is going to kill us, it’s high time we get into the shuttle, but we CAN’T because we have to find Bunny. Where we’re meant to go, there’s no replacement Bunny we could find.
So we litteraly turn the spaceport upside down and finally. Here is Bunny. Kid’s happy, her mother’s relieved and I finally can get back to what we were doing… but the departure gate is closed now.
The last shuttle of the Exploratory Emigration is leaving without us. We’re heading back to the Underground.
– Diaries of the Exploratory Emigration. Astral Era : day 7820.
Elijah gritted his teeth. He had refused that moment, up until the end. He had always had the feet stuck on the ground and hoped never to change his habits.
And yet the times had changed and he was left no choice. He had been among the latest ones to fill a file, although he had the means to do it way earlier. The Emigratory Exploration was calling for men like him, strong and rich, but he had been resisting.
That is, he did, until the entirety of his garden had burnt down and he had found himself suffocating in the heat, without any possibility to negociate more time. So he had filled the file. Got the rubber stamp. And the shuttle was taking off.
It took at least an End of the World to force Elijah to even consider taking to the skies.
– Diaries of the Emigratory Exploration. Astral Era: day 7820.
« They closed the Office of Exploratory Emigration two days ago. We should have guessed what was coming up by then. The last shuttles left this morning: their calculations were good. From the top of the Tower that remains protected the deadly rays of then sun, but not for much more than a few minutes now, I can still see the smoke the rocketship left behind them.
It’s time for me to do what I’ve been hired for. I go to the stairs that go down to the private office, a tiny room which sole function is to protect the button for emergency. When I get down to the door of the office, I know I will never see the sun again. But it’s the right thing to do. It is what was planned since the very beginning.
I take a deep breath and push the button. It is time. The alarm goes off.
Outside, the last of Humankind who were still linving in the atmosphere must be running to the closest shelters. As for me… The Tower starts to crumble down around me. That was what we planned.
The Tower will never be used as a lighthouse again. The Earthlings will never fly again.
But if I’m lucky, maybe I still have time to reach the Underground…
– Final entry of the Diary of the Keepers. Astral Twilight: day 1
« Anna? Anna! »
Anna was running through the corridor of the main underground, swiftly avoiding passers-by. She was going to miss school once more. She was fed up with listening to the teacher, who kept on repeating how better things were before, when the sun was shining, when the planets were still going round and when we were allowed to go out.
Anna didn’t even know what « out » meant. She was born in the underground, and the sun was but a mere legend for her.
But this time, her angry mother followed her and is now running after her. Anna didn’t care: it only makes the game even funnier. She goes round, taking shortcuts there and then, when suddenly her eyes get caught by a glimpse of colour on a wall.
It’s one of those Old Time framed paintings.
« Mommy? What’s this? »
Her surprised mother stopped too.
« Sunflowers, Anna. »
For a time, Anna didn’t think of running. She didn’t say anything. She was just looking carefully at the painting. She was fascinated.
« Mommy, when I grow up, I’ll be a sunflower. »
Her mother hugged her, even forgetting about her previous anger.
– Chronicles of the Undergrounds. Astral Twilight: day 215.
Iris was taking care of the flower. One could have thought it was a given, with her name, but to be honest, her name wasn’t even so original. Nostalgia had taken over former Terrestrians and a lot of them had given their children flower names.
The greenhouse was huge and well-kept, but remained desperately empty. Sometimes one plant would grow a little before dying away. The researchers kept on going though, and Iris kept taking care. Every day, she would go through the small lines of seeds, passionate about the descriptions she could read of the plants that were meant to grow but never produced any flower. Humankind had had to find other solutions to feed on their New Earth, but they kept on dreaming. Sometimes, some plants would get out as if they were mistaken for the Old Earth atmosphere. It never lasted.
And yet, that evening, Iris’s eyes were caught by a yellow flash from the central square, the most important one. Iris checked, double checked.
Then she started laughing.
For the first time since the Sun had burst, the sunflowers had bloomed. Finally, the Earthlings would be able to till the new earth.
– Journal of the Greenhouse. Day 1 of the New Dawn.
(Thank you so much @jo_brown for this great illustration!)