The planet had decayed since its utter desolation. Gray sunlight, diluted by the presence of massive cloud patches, shone off of larger craters of glass and rock. The small craft broke through the endless cloud cover, skillfully handled by a veteran pilot. His younger self suffered from horrible acrophobia, which made it all the more ironic that he would return to his old stomping grounds as a pilot, flying the stars for a living. Though the gray skies obscured the pilot’s view, he knew the path back to his former home. With all of the poise of any seasoned skipper, the pilot maneuvered the small craft to a flat, clear area between the bare trunks of dead trees. The sleek freighter touched down with a loud thunk sound, steam hissing from valves and exposed lines.
The angular shape of the building just outside of the grove stood out from the other, more organic curves of the world, highlighting the entrance to the underground world that the former colonists had created. The pilot, now having donned a breathing pack and a pressure suit, stepped down the ramp of his ship and began moving quickly toward the decrepit structure. Black marks known as carbon scoring covered the outer walls, the last reminders of the violence that had taken place here. The pilot remembered what had happened after the raiders had breached these once-solid double doors, and he felt this debilitating memory prevent him from keying the doors to open one last time. However, he had come this far. Perhaps this last foray into his past would be therapeutic.
He pushed open the doors, and they creaked as the rusted bolts strained to keep from falling apart. The once-resplendent interior now looked incredibly dilapidated, crumbling walls and equipment still protected by the remains of those who died at their stations. The elevator to the city below looked somewhat usable, but as the pilot carefully stepped on, the pylons holding it creaked and groaned. A loud snap cut through the silence, and the pilot scrabbled back onto the relative safety of the floor as the ruined elevator imploded. Its rusty remains spiraled down, landing on the ground with a loud crash. He crept back to the edge and stared down into the darkened city. The inky black of the void reminded him of the portals to the underworld he’d read about in his childhood storybooks. He secured a grapple line to a large piece of rubble nearby, and began his descent into the cavern.
Small, barely functioning lights flickered, their once-bright fluorescents now fighting with all of their strength to keep the encroaching darkness from consuming them. Shining his helmet light around the ruins, he saw crumbling bricks and tarnished white walls, a dark foreshadowing of the building above’s inevitable fate. The screams of the people, the sharp reports of both energy and projectile based weapons, and the loud thrums of overhead explosions danced in his mind, terrifying reconstructions of that fateful night. The pilot picked his way through the ruins of old homes, finding old weapons and the remains of fallen defenders. The final stand of his family had happened here. To find peace, he knew what he had to do. He grabbed his shovel off of his back, and began to dig into the rocky ground.
Freshly dug graves stood like silent sentries overlooking the ruins. The pilot's task had been tedious, but he felt as though the ghosts of his past could finally find peace. He began his trek back to his ship, the hiatus from his worldly job finally over. The pilot walked by the now empty rooms of the upper building, noting that sunlight now shined through the windows. Walking out of the rusted doors, the pilot felt free as light hit the faceplate of his helmet. He returned to his ship, the crunch of the dirt underneath his boots cutting into an abrupt metallic noise when he got to the boarding ramp. Seconds later, the freighter’s engines shone bright blue, bringing back a small semblance of color to the darkened world. Their whine reached its peak, and the landing gear retracted. With a roar, the small craft shot towards the sky, and a small green sprout, hidden beneath the ship, stretched out towards the light in the wake of its departure.