Cataclysm: Survival in a Barren World
by Robert F. Lundrigan
Genre: SciFi Fantasy
The story is told from two points of view. The Clark family finds themselves seemingly alone on a barren planet while an alien named Pzx is in charge of the fleet looking for a home. She is under orders but would prefer to communicate with other beings. This is a tale of the struggles of both of them as they seek to survive in a barren world.
Robert F. Lundrigan is a certified member of APICS and former Manager of Materials at General Electric. A native of Massachusetts, he graduated from Lowell Institute in Mechanical Engineering and later attended technical and creative writing workshops at Harvard. He has helped several companies as a consultant to improve profits by using the theory of constraints, with great success. Bob has written numerous articles for professional journals, this is his second novel.
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The end of the three hundred year journey is at hand and the flagship passes silently into the outer reaches of Earth’s solar system. As programmed, the artificial brain is automatically activated when the craft passes through Pluto’s magnetic influence, causing the temperature and atmosphere of the cryonic chamber to change. At the same instant, a signal is transmitted to the other space vessels and soon the entire armada slows to sub warp speed and deploys to establish a parking orbit around Mars, the planet nearest to its ultimate destination.
Slowly Pzx opens her eye and it takes her but a moment to realize what seemed like no more than a good night’s sleep has in fact, spanned three centuries. She stretches her stiff tentacles and breathes as deeply as she possibly can to clear her lungs of the stale air, while she looks carefully at the bank of instruments overhead to be certain that all is in working order. Satisfying herself that all is as it should be she projects the thought command that lifts the lid of the vacuum chamber that has been her world for three hundred years, and slithers to the deck where she anchors her base appendage to the foot-beam. She rubs her eye and seeing her reflection in the chamber lid, decides that she looks terrible - just as she does every morning until she’s had time to adjust her
plasma casing from rest to activity mode. It’s extremely cold in the cryonic chamber but the twisting and turning exercises she must go through to make her face cause her to forget the chill. When she’s satisfied that she looks presentable enough for what she needs to do, she slides slowly to the next capsule and extreme apprehension takes over as she peers through the transparent lid at the still form of Hrnk. She engages the activator switch and watches fondly, and the apprehension is replaced by something else as he goes through his waking process. He
opens his eye and when he recognizes Pzx his thought projections tell her that all is well with him. Pzx doesn’t open the cover until she is certain that all of Hrnk’s vital signs are normal. At the precise moment the cover is unlatched Hrnk’s reproductive organ begins glowing with that unmistakable signal that is characteristic of all male members of the Drmbkian race, a race dominated by females, a race where the male’s only functions are reproduction and companionship. Although there is an almost overwhelming desire within her to climb into the chamber with Hrnk, Pzx closes the lid reluctantly and tears herself away from her mate.
She has so much to do and so many duties to fulfill. Her first duty is that of activating the cryonic capsules of the ninety nine other ships in the fleet so that they can can get on with the business that has brought them to this new world, the world which they have chosen to be their home, New Drmbk.
Bill wakes at the crack of dawn and gets things ready for travel without waking the others. As he leaves the main gate he stops to look in on the ranger booth but no one is there. Somebody has left a uniform, complete with shoes right there in the middle of the floor of the small cubicle, and the cash box is open and filled with money. He shrugs his shoulders at the strange condition but leaves the price of a campsite rental for one night on the small counter and drives on. Soon he is out of the Mammoth Cave National Park land and on the entrance to the
highway that leads towards Nashville. There hasn’t been a single car or truck on the road so far but, now that he’s on the main drag, there’s bound to be traffic.
He looks both ways and there’s nothing coming in either direction. “I know that there’s light traffic in the south as compared to the north, but this is ridiculous,” he mutters to himself just before he sees the two cars overturned in the ditch beside the road. He stops and gets out to investigate. There’s nobody in the cars but there’s clothing
scattered about in both of them. He gets a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. The road is straight and flat affording good visibility. There’s no traffic in either direction. He waits for five minutes and nothing shows up. Something is wrong, terribly wrong.
He climbs back into the driver’s seat and proceeds slowly towards Nashville. He sees more and more overturned and smashed vehicles along the way but investigation always reveals the same thing - No people in evidence but there is always clothing scattered inside of each vehicle. There’s even watches and jewelry in some of them. His
head is beginning to pound. None of this makes any sense. He turns on the radio to get the news, to find out what in the hell is going on. All he gets is the shoosh of the open airways. He scans the band over and over but either his radio is broken or nothing is being broadcast. He turns on the CB and gets the same shooshing sound, nothing more. “Oh my God,” he shouts. “What is going on?”
His shout wakes up the rest of the crew and they find him sitting in the driver’s seat shaking like a leaf. “Dad, what’s the matter?” asks Marty. “Are you alright?”
“There’s nobody out there,” is all that he can say.
Diana is the first to notice the smashed vehicles alongside of the road. She shakes Bill and he snaps out of it. He tells them what he has found, or has not found. The details are enough to numb them all into a sort of semi-shock but Bill decides to press on towards Nashville until they at least come to a McDonald’s or someplace where he knows that there are always people.
For a while they stop at every empty vehicle to investigate but it’s always the same. They soon learn that it’s useless to stop, and keep going until they come upon a sign that tells them there’s a Burger King at the next exit. When they get to the exit ramp there are several smashed vehicles and an overturned eighteen wheeler blocking the way. The restaurant is nearby so they leave the motorhome and walk. There’s no sound except the sound of a soft breeze murmuring through the trees, and there’s no movement save for that moved by the same breeze, and when they start walking, the sound of their footsteps are like drum beats. The parking lot of the Burger King is nearly full of cars and the big yellow and red signs glow with the electricity that’s inside them.
“Looks like there’s somebody here. The place is open,” shouts Mike as he dashes on ahead followed by Marty and the girls .
When Diana and Bill get to the top of the ramp the children are on their way back, their faces as white as new fallen snow. There is shock in their eyes. “All there is inside are piles of clothes but no people. All the lights are on and there’s even Whoppers ready behind the counter, but there’s nobody anywhere,” says Debbie. “Oh, my God! What is happening, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, honey. I don’t know.” He takes a sobbing daughter into his arms, feeling helpless and confused.
They go into the restaurant where Bill notices on the small computer above the counter that the last order was taken at five-thirtyeight PM. “Whatever happened must have happened at about five-thirtyeight last evening,” he tells them, pointing to the screen.