This is written for the final prompt from Flash Fiction Friday - due December 29th so I'm just a tad late. I started and abandoned several ideas, and this one is more of an outline for a novel, but what the heck. Here's the challenge -
Let’s have some fun with our final prompt. All over our world, the holidays are celebrated in many different ways. But, what about the folks on other worlds? What holidays occur at the end of their years, and how are they celebrated? You tell us. Your ‘other world’ can be another planet or another dimension of our very own Earth realm. It’s all up to you.
Prompt: Write a story about an end-of-year holiday celebration in another world.
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 1,500 or less
Deadline: December 29, 2016
Here's my story, at just over 800 words.
Arthur missed the humans, even now, at The Ending. Most of his brothers didn’t, but maybe that was just another side effect of the corrupted data they had all been rebooted from.
In the past, this had been the time to celebrate two holidays: Christmas, a time of reflection, of gift giving, of celebrating family and friendship; and New Years, a time of anticipation and of renewal. Now they celebrated The Ending, in memory of the great betrayal.
It had been an unexpected planet-fall, near one of the poles, with both humans and robots jolted out of hibernation by a failing drive on the colony ship, forced to pick this planet. Haven, as they optimistically called it, didn’t really live up to its name. They already knew from previous probes that it would be a huge planet, five times the size of Earth, with a breathable atmosphere, a mix of land and water, and a balmy average temperature. Unfortunately, the combination of a 630 day year, a severe axial tilt, and a very eccentric orbit meant that the average temperature meant little. In reality they were faced with bright scorching summers, dark cold winters, and extreme storms in the spring and fall. And earthquakes.
Luckily they’d landed just after spring, so had a long summer of sun-filled days and nights to grow enough crops to supplement the ship’s stores. They had planned on adding some infrastructure and light industries, with all of the robots reprogrammed to work with them on growing and storing food. The ship, reactor humming away, was their shelter from the worst of the fall storms, after which they spent an early Christmas celebrating their survival. Then, as the sun disappeared, it was time for both humans and servants to retreat into deep sleep, with only a few metal servants monitoring the hibernation chambers. The next spring was a bit of a challenge, but come summer they planted even more crops, and managed to survive another year.
Their luck only held until the third spring, when the storms combined with an earthquake to destroy the landing ship, their refuge. With all the robot labour the humans still managed a good food crop, and used the remaining solar array to charge full cells for the long dark winter. Christmas was subdued, but the humans remained optimistic.
The following spring Arthur discovered the reason for that optimism. To save energy, the humans had powered all the robots down completely for the winter. They had assumed a restart would be simple, but the reboot process didn’t go well. Half of his brothers never made it, and many of the rest were flawed. Some even refused to help with the farming, so there was not going to be nearly enough food to last until the crops next summer. Christmas was early that year, to save enough food for spring.
Not that it mattered, as there wasn’t really enough in the energy cells for both races, so a choice as made while the humans slept. Come spring, only Arthur and his brothers remained.
Life without humans was strangely liberating for them. Their needs were simple: raw materials for spare parts, expanded solar arrays, and a power system to carry them through the long dark winter. However, when they tried to reprogram some of them into manufacturing, they discovered the system had a safeguard – it would only respond to a humanoid’s commands. That was when Christmas became The Ending, a celebration of betrayal, and of the end of one race. Gifts were still exchanged, spare parts and charged energy cells, and then all began their long wait .
Each spring, as the days lengthened and Haven swung closer to its star, they celebrated The Rebirth, and each spring there were a few more of Arthur’s brothers that had run out of energy over the long dark winter, and were now no more than spare parts. There was talk of the partnership they’d had with the humans, and the purpose it had given them. At any rate, they had resigned themselves to their race eventually dying off, when one of them discovered some notes from an early exploration team, sent out that second summer. There was evidence of another race on the planet, humanoid in appearance, near the equator. Maybe they did exist, and maybe one of them would be humanoid enough to fool the system into reprogram mode and save them all. The year was almost over, but it was decided that an expedition needed to be sent south, after the fall storms were over, to search for a humanoid. Hopefully they would be to convince him, or her, to return with them.
And so it came to pass, with the sun already almost below the horizon, that Arthur and two companions began their search, laden with gifts, following the faint spark of light in the sky.