This is a flash fiction I wrote that I used to share to my EFL students for light reading.
Bruce Gerber and his wife Natalie had spent months analyzing DNA samples, determining their medical content, searching and filtering them for any bacteria or parasites. They had examined the samples using automated equipment and specialized instrumentation within the spacious laboratory of USS Genesis. With the help of academics and researchers, the husband and wife team have exhausted all the means to save what was left from the dwindling numbers of plant and animal life.
Stationed at an undisclosed location of what used to be a lush forest national park surrounded by a chain of mountains, the USS Genesis was a secret project Bruce initiated way back when the sun was first discovered to be languishing.
"Has everything been accounted for?" Natalie said behind a surgical mask.
"Yes, I'm just running some final tests," Bruce said, scrutinizing the blood sample of a Gaboon viper he stumbled upon in the dying Amazon rainforest three months ago.
Natalie removed her surgical mask. The scent of antiseptics in the sterilized lab felt refreshing to her. "We should have at least brought in some live species."
"I'm not Noah, honey."
Natalie wandered her eyes at the storage apparatuses that stretched throughout the entire walls of the lab. "All these blood samples and not a single live specimen. We have cryogenic chambers at the C-Deck. Maybe we can put some animals into suspended animation."
"The cryogenic chambers are reserved for human refrigeration. We're bringing in the people who helped us make all of this possible. The journey will be long and arduous. In case we get sick and run out of supplies along the journey, the chambers would be our last option. It will take us five years to reach Alpha Centauri B. Our food supplies are limited. Do you think I don't want to bring a live sample if I had a choice? We had a menagerie before, remember?"
Natalie sighed. "This ship would have been grander if the Board didn't fire you."
Bruce took off his surgical mask and looked at his wife. "It's too late for would've beens, don't you think?"
"Emily is still heartbroken."
"I'll talk to her."
They took off their lab suits in an isolation chamber as they left the laboratory, holding hands as they walked along the passageway with large square ports on the bulkheads that Bruce designed for excellent viewing. Natalie turned right toward the pantry, while Bruce took an elevator and came out of the mid-deck. He watched the world from one of the huge square ports. The dying sun hung low, barely giving enough heat to sustain flora and fauna. The sun as a star has begun running out of nuclear fuel that its heat was slowly fainting--its radiation pressure pushing outward causing the sun to contract. Outside the USS Genesis was a depleted landscape of arid soil, dead trees, and drying rivers. The sky was devoid of birds. Sixty-five percent of plant and animal life had gone down to extinction. Humans themselves did not fare well. Aside from the lack of sustainability, war and famine brought about by panic have wiped out the human population to seventy-five percent.
Bruce knocked before entering Emma's room. Emma, hugging a teddy bear, watched the bleak landscape from the glass port in her room. She was counting tumbleweeds that rolled along with the dust.
He sat beside Emma. "Ready to leave, honey?" he said, creasing his daughter's hair.
She did not acknowledge him.
They had Emma late in life. He was forty-five and she was thirty-nine, both dedicating their lives to collecting samples of flora and fauna that they could obtain around the world, racing against time as the sun inched closer to oblivion.
He kissed her head. "Honey, there's nothing left here. Food and water supply are scarce. We'll build a new and better world where we're going."
She looked at her father. "Are there animals there?" Her glazed blue eyes reminded Bruce of how much she takes after her mother.
"Please don't guess. Can you be more specific? A dying planet with few animals is better than a healthy planet with no animals at all."
Bruce and Natalie used to keep a menagerie of some wild animals. With food becoming scarce and sunlight unable to sustain life, the animals perished one by one, and how it broke Emma's heart.
"Ten years ago, before you were born, the first colony of humans traveled to where we will be going. They've reported that there are many good plants and some animals there."
"What kind of animals?"
"Emma, it's going to be a better planet."
"What if the animals here are better?"
"That's why we brought samples."
"Does that planet have a healthy sun?"
Emma's questions drained Bruce, but he answered them as best as he could. "We will be living in one of the domed towns established there. The planet is close to red dwarfs, and the towns use them to create solar energy."
"You could at least bring one live animal aboard. Even that Gaboon viper you told me about would do."
"Honey, we're traveling with limited resources, and our journey will be long."
"It's gonna be boring then."
"You have us to play and talk with."
Emma looked out of the glass port again. "I'd like a pet to keep me company," she said.
Bruce looked at his watch. "Would you like to join us in the deck?"
"No. I'll stay here."
Bruce excused himself, kissing Emma on the head. "Stay here. We're leaving in seven minutes."
He rushed out running along the winding passageway toward the bridge. Turning to a left curb, he took an elevator and emerged in the upper deck. Opening a sliding door, he came to the bridge meeting his crew and Natalie. Bruce acknowledged them one by one.
"We're ready, sir," the pilot said.
Bruce looked at everyone, took the intercom microphone and said, "Ladies and gentleman, we are now on the brink of the greatest journey of our lives. The journey will be long and uncertain, and I hope that we all make it to this new planet. Our exodus begins."
The crew manned their stations. Natalie came to Bruce inquiring of Emma. He told her that their daughter was still distraught at leaving, and Natalie no longer pried.
The ship generated a thrust. Clouds of dust billowed underneath its hull. Natalie and Bruce stood watching the dying planet as the space ark lifted.
The door slid open with Emma rushing in, towing her teddy bear.
"Daddy, stop the ship! Stop the ship!"
He calmed her down. "Honey, what's wrong?"
"Daddy look!" Emma pointed to the left side of the deck's view where the clouds of dust slowly settling revealed the image of an emaciated brown bear and her two skinny cubs scavenging for food.
Bruce, Natalie, and the crew watched with a mixture of awe and pity as the mother bear stopped in its tracks, too weak to continue, its cubs prodding it to go on.
"Daddy, let's take them on board. We can't leave them there. They will die!"
"Honey, we can't," Bruce said, "we don't have enough provisions. Bears eat too much, and that mother bear is too weak to take a long journey."
"But that's unfair!" Emma protested, tears swelling in her eyes, "it's not their fault that they need to eat a lot. Would you also leave me to die here if I eat too much and if I were too weak to travel?"
Natalie's hand perched on Bruce's shoulder.
Bruce watched the bears as the USS Genesis gained higher lift. "Stop the ship!" he said.