July 15, 2149, Hawking
The foot of the massive lift was lowering from the skies as night approached, and they could see it from miles away. It seemed Carne was planning on getting the people transported to the surface quickly. At least that meant the Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta made it safe and sound. The safety of the last remaining humans was really all that mattered to Karen now.
“So why did they take your transmitter?” she asked Grant in the middle of him telling his story again.
He shrugged. “Not really sure. I think they’ve been given some sort of objective from the ships they drew in the caves. Probably wanted to keep me from sending messages back to Earth in case I found anything. The message you intercepted said they were coming for Earth, and they thanked Carne for the transaction. What do you think it means? Is it as clear cut as it seems?”
“I think so. Carne traded them for this planet. They seem to have a foothold on the indigenous people here, and their technology is evident in the cliff caves you were in. Why would they want to trade this fresh planet for our damaged atmosphere with sick people everywhere? It doesn’t add up.” Karen knew it was time to contact Carne.
July 15, 2149, Hawking
Grant noticed the lander flying toward him just when he was sure his life was almost over. A massive shot of adrenaline coursed through him as he now had hope of survival. The lander turned and softly settled down two hundred yards ahead of his current path. He took the time to do a quick check over his shoulder, and caught a stone with his foot at the same time. He tumbled to the rocky ground, his pack falling off his shoulder. The imager was in there and he knew it was imperative to translate that data. The creatures’ feet boomed behind him, the echoes cascading around the cliff-like alcove as they got closer and closer.
He got up and grabbed the pack, ignoring the shooting pain on his knees from the tumble. He didn’t have long now. Laser fire shot past him and at the ground, causing rocks to explode behind him. They just missed hitting him; a few shards softly hit his back as he ran and then dove from the beams.
A woman stood, feet planted firmly, with a pulse rifle firing past him.
July 15, 2149, Hawking
Karen looked around the decimated lander and searched for any sign of Grant. His supplies were gone, along with the picture of his daughter that she knew he took on every flight. Everything he would need to survive a new world for at least a few weeks was not here. They already knew he hadn’t crashed —he’d shot them information when he’d landed, then the lines had gone silent.
“Penner, any sign of the transmitter?” she asked.
“Still nothing. I can say without a doubt that it’s not within a square mile of this wreckage.”
That was interesting.
“Commander, we’re getting a message from Breena. She says it’s urgent,” Officer O’Sullivan’s eyebrows raised as he spoke. They all wanted to know just what that alien message had said.
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