Thomas walked along the snow-covered path toward the barracks. He slipped his therm glove off, pressing his thumb against the sensor, opening the door to the spartan quarters. He entered his cubicle and sealed the door, before turning on the heating system. He waited for the ambient temp to rise, hoping tomorrow brought salvation.
Salvation. They believed they were saving themselves when they left Earth to colonize a new planet, Terra, creating a fresh beginning for Earth’s population. They almost did.
The temp sensor beeped, and Thomas began to peel off the therm suit, multi-micro layers of thermal material and gel, providing maximum warmth with flexibility. Warm air seeped from his now exposed skin despite the comfortable temperature, and he hurriedly wrapped up in a thick robe.
He was bone tired. Over the past fourteen months, he had worked sixteen-hour shifts seven days a week. He craved a drink and sleep, but decided to shower first. Thomas grabbed his toiletries and headed to the communal shower. The few minutes of hot water allowed pounded some of the kinks out of his body, and as he dried off he hoped a drink would take care of the rest.
Back in his cubicle, Thomas mixed powdered scotch into a glass of water and plopped down on his bunk. He took a swig from his drink, then picked up his pad, activating the photo holograms.
A holographic image of his wife and daughter appeared, taken before an enormous fragment of a passing comet struck Terra. The impact zone was two-hundred miles from the settlement, spreading debris into the atmosphere, covering the planet and plunging them into a frigid impact winter. Their power grid destroyed, they searched for days in the thick haze for a cave system a previous expedition found, which fortunately had a source of water and temperate clime, suitable for temporary housing.
The engineers, and scientists devised a plan to construct a solar array large enough to absorb adequate sunlight to provide light and heat for living quarters and the hydroponics gardens they needed to survive. Hopefully, the generated power would allow them to contact Earth and request rescue. With only fifty therm suits, the manpower they needed was severely limited, but they made it work. Cannibalizing the solar panels and as much other equipment as they could spare they began construction.
An ancient and now extinct civilization once lived on the planet, and an enormous circular ruin left behind proved an excellent foundation. The roof long-gone, only a medallion remained at the apex of the metal rafters. Using the structure as a frame, they worked day after day, building in the cold.
Thomas stared at the image of his family, his heart aching from not seeing them but once during the past fourteen months. The grid was finished two months before but only in the last weeks had the dust dissipated enough for weak sunlight to reach the panels. Tomorrow morning they would turn on the generators to determine if the array was storing power. At lights out in the barracks, he downed the reminder of his drink, and pulled the covers over him, but sleep was slow in coming.
Twenty four hours later, Thomas stood alone under the array. Lights attached to the frame cast an eerie glow onto the snow beneath his feet but warmth spread through him. A message was on its way to Earth and tomorrow he and others would travel to the cave to report their success.
Not the salvation they desired but Thomas knew it would do.
Flash fiction written for the Moderated Selected Writing Exercise (#writingprompt) on the Writer’s Discussion Group community on Google+. The prompt for this exercise is a photograph of the abandoned House of the Bulgarian Communist Party.
No commercial use intended.