“Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear hellfire,” I informed the crew. “The Sagan’s communication beacon has been pinging mission control for the last 50 years, ever since we entered hibernation stasis. We haven’t received a response back. It is safe to assume that all nuclear powers on Earth have indeed initiated Mutually Assured Destruction, leaving the planet in a radiated mess, meaning it won’t be safe to return there for the next 250 years.”
“279 years to be precise,” Dr. Jackass interrupted.
“In all likelihood,” I continued, “we are the last remaining members of Space Fleet, and possibly the last Earthlings.”
The crew looked at one another.
“When did you learn about this?” Valdez asked.
“Not long after we departed Tranquility Bay,” I replied.
“So we could have aborted the mission, returned to Earth, and Smashhouse would still be alive,” Valdez retorted.
“My orders were to continue with the mission and initiate population measures on the planet orbiting Tau Ceti. We have a responsibility not only to Space Fleet, but to humanity as well, to maintain our race.”
Valdez threw up her hands in frustration. “What about our responsibilities to the people of Earth?!” she cried, then stormed out of the briefing room.
Patel spoke up. “What about that ‘God’ thing?” he asked.
“Patel, you don’t seem to be too disturbed about this news,” I said.
“Sir, I’m in Space Fleet. We all knew the risks when we signed up.”
I nodded. “Forget about the ‘God’ situation. The being they have captured underground is indeed an intelligent life form, but I believe its intentions are deceptive. In my assessment, it’s too dangerous to bring it on this ship and back to Earth. Therefore, that thing, whatever it is, is the Ishnarian’s problem. I believe our best course of action is to remain here, under the good will of the Ishnarians.”
“Sir,” Hanson interrupted. “I’m in agreement with Valdez. We must return to Earth and assist in recovery efforts.”
“Hanson,” I said, “there may be nothing to return to. And that’s to say nothing about surviving hibernation stasis.”
“Earth is our home sir! We must do something!”
“Now I am the captain! And my orders are to remain here. Is that clear?”
“How can you be a captain when there is no Space Fleet?!” Hanson said and left the room in protest.
“I guess the meeting’s adjourned then,” I said. As everyone left the room, I pulled the Doctor aside. “Check on Valdez,” I told him. “Confirm that she’s pregnant. Run a medical exam if need be. We need to investigate the veracity of Yah’s claims.”
I returned to my quarters and pulled out a bottle of bourbon. There was a knock on the door. “May I speak with you sir?” the voice asked.
It was Mwangi.
After my encounter with Yah, I had been reluctant to make eye contact with her. I took a big swig from the bottle and invited her in.
“What can I do for you Commander?” I asked.
“Sir, I didn’t want to bring this up in front of the crew,” Mwangi said, “but launch thrusters are blown in addition to the hydrogen drive being depleted. And with hibernation chambers being iffy at best, it appears that we’re stuck here.”
I started to rub my temples. “I can’t believe that Space Fleet sent us up in this piece of shit,” I said. “Is there anything you can do?”
“It’s normally a simple refueling process,” she replied, “but because we’re on a planet stuck in the 14th Century, it might take decades before I could develop the materials to even begin the process. I’m sorry Captain.”
I sighed. “It’s not your fault Commander,” I said.
“I guess you can call me Nia now.”
“Can I offer you a drink Nia?”
“I would love one sir.”
“Please, call me Bill,” I said as I poured her a glass. After I handed it to her, she stared at it for awhile in deep thought.
“I also want to tell you that even though you’re the captain and have to maintain a stoic distance away from the crew,” Nia said, “I have supported your decisions 100%. And I know these last few days have been difficult for you. But you don’t have to be a stranger. You have my support.”
“A captain is only as good as his crew, specifically his Chief Engineer,” I joked.
“Then you must not be a very good captain,” she laughed.
“Nonsense,” I said, “I’m thankful to have your support.”
There was an awkward silence for a few moments as we sipped our drinks. Finally, Nia smiled and spoke up. “So how are you going to spend the rest of your days on this planet?”
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it,” I laughed. “I guess I’ll be a farmer. There’s nothing else to do on this forsaken planet.”
Nia leaned forward to touch my hand. “I could be a farmer’s wife,” she said.
I clasped onto her hand. “Now I just need to talk to the Ishnarians,” I replied.