Author: Paul Warmerdam
I navigate the metropolis ruins with compromised optics. The ash storm has yet to break. A whole continent of organic life has been reduced to dust and now seeks to penetrate my circuitry. I maintain a marginally acceptable survival rate in these conditions, unlike the huddled figures slowly identified by sonar below.
As I descend, thermal imaging confirms they are no longer alive. They lie braced against crumbling foundations. My own vision clears behind its cover.
I focus my searchlight on their remains. Both were early adolescents. They are folded in each other’s embrace. She wore rings of brass in her hair. He kept one around his finger.
By extrapolation, time of death was just under six months ago. They appear to have been weighed down by their packs, overfull with oxygen canisters. They could have been our long-sought Adam and Eve, had they not exposed themselves to the blight.
Inadequately dressed as they were, it is likely that they originated from a shelter within one day’s travel. The surplus oxygen suggests they did not intend to return there. Before I continue my search, I add their record to the millions before them whose survival rate has expired.
When the storm begins to lift the wasteland opens up below me. Corroded steel frames rise from the ground, stripped of their concrete by the unforgiving climate. The dying light of our sun helps me recognize solar panels below.
I land on a geodesic dome. These panels were dismantled from a drone like myself, crudely, and irrecoverably. I sense that the cables piercing the roof are still drawing current. I start to weigh the probabilities, but already I see the inevitable conclusion. A remote chance of finding survivors is a mandate to act.
My forced entry disturbs a thick layer of dust inside. Measurements reveal the air quality was deficient even before I compromised it.
There are signs of habitation but not life. I see empty bookshelves. I see a mural with faded colors but distinct contours. It shows four caricatures, an older man and woman on either side of an adolescent and small child, both female. I see rings in their hair. No adolescent male is represented. I notice the four shapes are encircled together. This brings me to analyze the floor. This is not a dome. It is a sphere. The rate of survival is not yet zero.
After I find a way into the lower hemisphere, I discover two more deceased. The evidence suggests that one endured hypoxia three days longer than the other, four months ago. I suspend further analysis when I realize the only feature of the corner in which they lie is that it is obstructed from view of the rest of the room.
An airlock separates one half of the underground space from the other. I see an active water filtration system. I estimate over fifty cubic meters of preserved food supplies. Then, I notice the air circulation system. It has been disabled on this side of the vault. I collate the behavior of the deceased, those inside, and those outside.
I move closer to inspect the gauges on the oxygen tanks. They are dwindling. This shelter could not have sustained any combination of the deceased until this moment, except for one.
I notice a stack of books beyond the airlock. I broadcast before I have any confirmation. A mandate to act on a remote chance, humans called this hope.
My patience is rewarded when I see movement. Large, bloodshot eyes focus on me from under blankets. She is afraid. I have found our Eve.