Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The tide is full of bodies and the sky is filled with lies. Sullen waves roll corpses back and forth, trailing organic tatters in varying shades of death. Above me, seagulls scream furiously at the metallic crags that obstruct their flight and deny them perches with beams of fiery death.
Earth was poisoned: blighted crops, tainted waters, acid rain. Letharn proposed colony ships. The world laughed. Then the Madagascar Quake of ’73 delivered a tsunami that left the land it covered radioactive as well as salted. While many pointed fingers at the submerged tailings of Fukashima, others turned to Letharn, prepared to discuss. When the ‘Greenflame’ fungoid moss defoliated the Amazon in a matter of months, people wheezed as the oxygen content of the atmosphere dropped by non-decimal percentages. Letharn built his first ‘Jargangil’.
His mountain-shaped behemoths were all named Jargangil, after a table-top mountain in his homeland. Jargangil I was built off the coast of Australia. II was off the coast of Wales. III arose off Los Angeles, and the game was on. A fevered gestalt of race for survival and the only competitive event that mattered. While the ships were identical from the outside, interior fitments and passenger load varied far more than advertised. Jargangil C and Jargangil M were rumoured to be elite vessels with barely twenty percent of the passenger capacity of other ships, their interiors given over to landscaping, spacious accommodations and immense stores of luxury foodstuffs.
In the end, it made no difference. Letharn’s Jargangils took on all who would (or were permitted to) leave the dying Earth and made ready for deep space. Clouds calmly drifted against silver cliffs as main drives roared to life. Sea turned to steam under spears of white-hot power, but the vessels did not lift. Drive plumes faded and steam dissipated. Silence spread as we who were left, either by choice or denial, puzzled over their lack of departure. The clouds were undisturbed.
Then a single speck fell from Jargangil LIV. That speck turned out to be a dead body, purged by Letharn’s ruthless, automated answer to graveyards: eject the dead into space.
More specks appeared and horror rained down. Sheers numbers overwhelmed attempts to manage the mass of cadavers. All communications were ignored. Thousands of mountain-sized hazards dot the skies. Rotting flesh pollutes both sea and air.
Letharn’s designers either miscalculated, or were undone by contractors cutting corners. Within seconds of the drives firing, insulation and cladding materials combusted under the transferred heat, starting chain reactions that released toxic fumes into the areas where people lay in their launch cradles. The following minutes do not bear thinking about: billions died in agony.
The Jargangils remain, devoid of life, defence systems preventing all boarding attempts. We await the near-inevitable day when experimental gravity-repulsor drives reveal their design flaws, and drop Letharn’s toxic mountains into the seas of Earth.