July 15, 2149, Hawking
Grant ducked and hoped he’d been fast enough to avoid being spotted. He knew there were dozens of the monstrous beasts in the hollowed out cavern, and he had no idea what direction they would come at him from. His stun-gun sat uneasily in his now sweating palm, but he knew there wasn’t enough juice in it to take all of them down. He would have to be lucky. After a moment of silence, he once again heard an occasional grunt, and the constant humming of the large, blue, glowing power source from the centre of the room.
Knowing he had to do something, and quick, he crawled down the hall. The floor was a dusty, red shale and his hands and knees were getting cut up and raw from rushing across it. Better sore hands than being dead. He slipped into a small opening in the wall and crouched down, hoping to catch a peek of what was going on in the room. Apparently at this point, he hadn’t been seen, but he knew his luck would run out sooner or later.
A voice began blaring through the speakers of the cavern. The acoustics, mixed with the fact that it was in an entirely alien language, gave it an ominous tone. His heart raced at the new information. This couldn’t be from the grunting, howling monsters, so it had to be from an outside source. Was there another race on this planet, or was this voice being transmitted from far away? Perhaps from one of the ships depicted on the cave walls in a crude triangle shape. Continue reading
July 14, 2149 – Seeker – Solar System Outer Limits
The Seeker had reached astronomical speeds, but the problem with the technology was it couldn’t just slow down with out ripping the ship apart. The deceleration process took light years, and Karen was told it was much like a speeding car using a parachute to slow itself. Except there was no physical tarp, but rather a force shield that grew incrementally at the front end of the ship. Too much too fast and they would all die, but with the proper calculations they should arrive into Hawking’s orbit. Karen hoped they had the exact right distances or they could end up shooting past it, or into something – mainly one of Hawking’s two moons.
“Penner, are we confident in the force shield?” Karen asked.
Penner gave her a slight head turn and nodded. “Yes, Commander. Plus, we have no choice. We’re heading into another system full-speed. If we don’t try to stop now, we have no idea where we would end up.”
July 15, 2149, Hawking
Beads of sweat poured down Grant’s back as the sun beat down mercilessly. He’d been travelling all day in the heat, trying to track the creature that had been at his lander. At this point he had no idea if the tracks he sporadically saw were from the same one, but he had nothing else to go by. It was doubtful that help was coming for him: there was no way to contact anyone. He had taken all the supplies he could carry without hindering his movements too much, but they were limited.
Stopping, he pulled the ripped T-shirt off his head and wrung out the sweat. Maybe he should have left it on to stay cool. Nothing was clear to him. The whole mission seemed so absurd now. Here he was stranded on a semi-hospitable planet – by far the best-case scenario Earth had ever hoped to encounter. He had no way to know if they’d gotten his initial messages. He silently prayed they had, and someone was on their way.
July 11, 2149 – Seeker. Earth’s Orbit.
“We are all set to go Commander,” First Officer Penner said, hands hovering over the ship’s controls.
Karen took one last look out the viewport at Earth and said a silent prayer for the people they were leaving behind. “Hail the Santa Maria, please.” She fidgeted with her collar. “In my office please.”
She sat at her desk, empty except for the comp screen. It buzzed and an image of the Union president appeared. “What is it Bilson? You should be gone by now.” President Carne’s face flushed.
“Yes, sir. I just…-” she paused, wondering if she should just keep it to herself, “I want to know if you have a plan to come back and help Earth once we’ve settled?”
Carne’s red face turned crimson and a vein pulsed on his forehead. “Bilson, follow your damned orders and don’t question me again. There are plans in place that are far above your pay grade. Fly your vessel in front of us. Keep us posted and we will be a day behind as planned. If you fail to do so, you will quickly see yourself left behind, alone on the lift to Earth!” The screen went dark.
The guilt that somehow she aided in the world’s death tried to weigh her down, but she knew she had to shake it off and help those she could. The colonists were her main focus now. With a new resolve she walked back to the bridge.
“Penner, take us out.” The first officer smiled and soon the ship was accelerating quickly away from Earth and everything they’d ever known. Continue reading
July 13, 2149, Hawking
Cold morning air blew inside the cavern opening, throwing drops of rain all the way to where Grant was huddled in the corner. He opened and closed his hands in a vain attempt at warming them up. The storm had raged all night, and judging by the wind and flashes of light, he had a few more hours to go before it would dissipate. The howling had raced through the valley for the first hour, and it ceased as quickly as it began. A harmony of a thousand souls, he’d thought with a shiver at the time.
He had to get back to the lander and contact Earth with some updates. They would want to know there was life on Hawking, and he knew they would also want to know about the storms. Dawn made a feeble attempt at breaking through the thick clouds and he could finally see his surroundings. It appeared he’d missed a hole in the cavern, just tall enough for an animal to crawl into. As the room continued to get brighter he saw a pile of small bones near the hole’s entrance.
July 9, 2149, Earth’s Orbit
“Sir, we aren’t ready. There are too many unknowns,” Commander Karen Bilson said to the hologram.
The Union president’s form flickered on her office table. “Commander, we don’t have a choice. You saw the images Grant sent. They are everything we’ve been waiting for. The other’s found nothing even close to a livable planet. People are dying down here. I’m making the call, and you will assist in the transport of the first selected to the Santa Maria. Understood?”
She shifted on her feet, feeling her blood pressure rise. Every decision made by the Union was rushed, and she wished for a moment that all the cost and work thrown into building the transport vessels and scouring the galaxies for a new home could have been put into saving their planet.
In the end, she bit her tongue and did what every good soldier was told to do. Follow orders. “Understood, sir,” she said with a salute. The hologram flickered and faded away with a hiss.
“Commander? What are the orders?” the ever-loyal First Officer Penner asked. Continue reading
July 8, 2149, Hawking’s orbit
The planet looked beautiful; light clouds covered the massive oceans. Grant had seen many amazing things in his life, but being the first human to see a new world was something special. He made sure the images were transmitted back to Houston. The ansible technology had been explained to him but he was still in awe of the fact they would see the pictures in mere minutes.
From here it was hard for him to tell how much smaller than Earth this planet was. When they first spotted it in the neighbouring solar system, they thought it was too good to be true. As their technology improved, hope grew as they saw green space, and an atmosphere. Then water. Grant glanced to the picture of his daughter on the console. If this place was what they thought it might be, there was hope for humanity after all.
He would wait until he’d completed the orbit around Hawking, scanning and taking images the whole way, before heading to the surface in the lander. Continue reading
I pulled the hood over my face as the guards rode past for the third time. Children wailed as the group of us migrated away from the burning village. Fury raged through my veins, but I tried to show myself as nothing more than a cowering villager sauntering on to look for shelter somewhere else.
I saw Franklin’s wife ahead and shuddered as I remembered her husband standing definitely between the king’s guards and the town. He lost his head for the trouble. Guilt was a deep burden and I’ve felt a lot of it over the past ten years; ten years since I’d left; ten years since I left him behind.
Henry walked over to me, his eyes were red and his hand shook as he spoke. “What are we going to do Harold? Everything we’ve built is gone…our homes…”
I knew nothing I said would comfort my friend so I just put my hand on his shoulder as we walked. After a while, I gave his arm a squeeze and stopped walking. It was time. I felt the old familiar weight of my scabbard against my leg, and even though it had been years since I’d worn it, I still practised out of sight every week.
Once the group had passed by me, I turned west. I could almost see the king’s castle spire in the distance.
It was 1983, and we were on a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. My buddy George and I drove the six hours from Dallas to the French Quarter in my – 76 Chevy Nova. We were excited to party it up in the streets now that we were finally twenty-one. I drove into town in the middle of the afternoon and it was hotter than we were expecting. I don’t recall much from that trip. Between the booze, and the fact it was thirty years ago, I only remember the heat…and the gypsy.
Her, I remember like it was yesterday. I’d stumbled into her tent and when I saw the elaborate set-up, I called George in to check it out. She sat at a round table and told me she would tell me my future. She was wearing a pink and orange dress, and bracelets; a lot of bracelets. I remember the sound they made when she moved her arms and still hear it sometimes when I close my eyes. Incense burned in the corner; the smell stuck in my nostrils.
She turned to me and told me it was ten dollars to know my future. I was a slightly twisted young man so I gave her ten bucks and asked if she could tell me when I was going to die instead. I swear the candles dimmed when I asked. Her eyes narrowed, and she told me it was a dark art, but for another fifteen she would tell us both how we were going to die. George shrugged and pulled out his wallet. We were a few beverages in at this point so this strange event had us snickering as she reached for my hands. Continue reading
In Central Park the leaves are just beginning to turn to yellow. The tourists are overdressed, thinking the air will have turned colder here along the Atlantic coast but there is still some time before that happens. I can remember a time when visitors and Manhattan dwellers alike would only venture to the edges of the park. As if touching your toes on the boundary was an invitation to a criminal gang.
It has since been “cleaned up” but not in the way the media claims. Sure the police presence helps but I know the real reason why you will not see the homeless in the park. I know why the drug trade and robberies are down to almost nothing. You see, I was there around twenty years ago when it all went down and I will never forget the face that saved the park. It haunts my nightmares to this day.