Ghost In The Ruins, Chapter 4

4.

 

Beyond the sixth coring site, he came upon the rusted hulk of a submarine. Had the inhabitants survived? Or had they died?

Curious, he approached it. It was as big as he had believed it would be. No matter. He could still get in.

A simple adjustment to his utility belt and he was at the top. He studied the hull as he rose. It was remarkably preserved for something that should have been rusted away.

But then, there had been no moisture since it came to rest here. No rain. Nothing.

He inspected the sealed hatch. The lock was still intact. Almost as if no one had exited the machine.

That meant that all were possibly still in there. Were they alive? Or had they died?

He shook his head. They couldn’t be alive. These machines had not been built with hydroponic chambers for extended use. They had been intended to remain at sea for short periods.

Once out of food, they would have returned to base to get more. They possibly changed crews at that point as well. Or received new orders and ordinance.

He popped the hatch. A putrid odor rose from the bowels of the machine. The smell of death and staleness.

He touched another button and a bubble popped up around his head. A filter would be needed for exploration here. Something to filter toxins.

He descended into the bowels of the submarine. As he did so, he noticed that some of the lights were still blinking weakly. There was still energy enough stored here to keep the lights going. That was good.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. The mummified remains told him a tale of being trapped within this machine for decades longer than they had intended. Maybe longer.

He sought out what he believed would be the captain’s quarters. He needed to find the log. Or whatever the final moments would be recorded in.

He needed to know what happened. How it happened. And why.

Anything that could help prevent future mistakes. Or future wars. And anything that could add to the incomplete histories the elders currently had.

***

The captain, or what he took to be the captain, sat at a desk in one of the compartments. A stained book lay open before him, his dead, empty eyes staring at the ceiling. In his hand was a stylus of some sort. To one side sat a strange computer so compact that it folded easily.

So unlike the current technology, Billy thought to himself. Now, computers were little more than crystals that projected digital workpads. They saved so much room and used so much less energy.

The data on the old foldable computer would have to be extracted and digitized. After, it would have to be transferred to a crystal all its own. Just as the book before the captain would have to be digitized and placed on a crystal.

Still, the work couldn’t be avoided. The data was important. As was the video feed streaming back to the ship. 

He had switched on his video button when he entered the submarine. He had wanted a record of his entry into this massive machine. He had wanted to record all he saw.

He had not expected things to be so grim. But then, he wasn’t sure exactly what he had expected. Or why.

He had known that no one could have survived in one of these tubs for thousands of years with nothing to eat. And it was very apparent that they had starved to death. Or those who were still in one piece had. 

The rest had become food for the others. Perhaps, because of this cannibalism, the rest had succumbed to poisoning as the rest may have died of illnesses. At least that was how it appeared. 

He took samples from each corpse. Perhaps the samples would tell him what had ended their lives. He only hoped that he didn’t end up freeing some contagion.

From what he could tell, the engineering crew had been the first to be sacrificed. Perhaps they had been the first to die. Or maybe the first to fall ill.

He knew that in situations of dire need, in those times, the ill and the weak generally ended up the first to serve the needs of the rest. It was a disgusting fact in primitive humanity’s past. It amazed him that humanity had survived.

Man had been such a horrid creature in his primitive form. So selfish. So filled with hate and violence. So quick to eat his own in times of need.

He was glad that humanity no longer had need of physical sustenance. It seemed such a distant unnatural thing. So foreign.

He made it to ordinance. Or what he believed to be ordinance. He checked for radiation. 

There was none. The uranium used in the warheads had finally degraded beyond danger levels. The radiation levels in the engine room had proven to be below danger levels as well, though there had been signs of a leak. 

Nuclear power had been such a primitive form of propulsion. Most of it was what was called fission reaction. Splitting atoms to make energy. 

The Savior, the man who had helped the peaceful escape and who had started the colonies, had used what was called cold fusion reaction. Creating energy by fusing atoms in a cold environment. At least that was how he understood the concept.

***

A few clicks away from the submarine sat another ship. This time, it was a surface ship. One the ancients had called an aircraft carrier.

It was huge. Like a massive city that had once floated on the waves. And as it was just sitting there on the bottom, seemingly settling in an upright position, it was even more impressive.

Unlike the submarine, the aircraft carrier had begun to oxidize and the sheeting seemed a bit eroded. Still, it was in fairly good shape. He nodded. He would explore.

Instead of seeking entrance at the lower level, he decided to hover to the top, to the tarmac and explore from top to bottom.

Bones littered the tarmac. Deteriorating aircraft also littered the top deck. Standing at the far end of the top deck, he could see a seabed littered with planes. And other ships. Cruisers. Destroyers. And even one that looked oddly like what had been described as a commercial cruise ship. 

Apparently, they had run our of fuel. All of them. He shook his head sadly.

He didn’t have time to investigate the other ships. Nor did he want to. As it was, he was wasting valuable time exploring this one.

He felt, though, that he should. Maybe there was a similar journal here. Something to corroborate the other one from the sub.

Floor by floor, he walked the corridors and the cavernous lower levels. None had survived and much of the ordinance was harmless. There was even evidence of the same fate as those on the sub. 

A tear came to his eye. It was such a sad way to go. The torture of deciding who to sacrifice. The slow agony of death as it closed in.

Again, he had turned on his video feed. Once again, all was recorded. He climbed back into his rover and turned off the video feed.

He would head on to the plateau once known as North America. There, he would plant the seeds he had been instructed to plant. After, he would seek out the mysterious reason why the rivers suddenly dried up.