Elements Sci Fi Novel
M. A. Packer
Excerpt from a history report by Lacey Sanford
“Not long after the First Expanse, the Great Solar War started. This is said to be the shortest, but most destructive war in history because of how expensive it was to build ships and weapons, very few of which were ever actually fired. Maybe this is a good thing, because it meant there weren’t a lot of casualites, but it started one of the biggest recessions in history, putting billions into poverty and putting a wedge between Spacers and Grounders. This lead to the Second Expanse, when a group of people called the Freewayers gathered all the starships and people they could and began their expodus to Jupiter where they hoped to colonize the outer rings. Unfortunately this created tension between the Freewayers, who we now call the Jovians, and the Earth Council, as the Jovians were accused of stealing expensive construction equipment and also were accused of kidnapping some of the most renown scientists who specialized in terraforming.
“That was almost 100 years ago and tensions continue to rise as reports come in, claiming that the Jovians are running out of necessities and are believed to be amassing an invasion fleet. This has caused a lot of fear in the world as all the nations now prepare their own fleet of ships in anticipation of another war, but unlike the Great Solar War, they fear that this one will culminate in the loss of hundreds of millions of people. Personally I hope we don’t go to war, because I don’t think anyone would survive. Nobody trusts each other anymore and nobody would be united enough to stop anything bad from happening.
Nancy Gale stared out the narrow, transparent band, which served as her apartment’s view port. It was the same spectacle of the stars rotating as though speckled across an endless black disc on which Mars made an occasional appearance. Naturally it was the Mars Orbital that was spinning, but Nancy always felt more comfortable imagining that it was the other way around. She had spent all eleven years of her short life on this station and its confined, composite construction was endearing to her. It was home, it was safe, and now she would be forced to leave it behind.
The doorway behind her slid open, almost fully silent, but the shift in air pressure always told Nancy when someone was entering the apartment. Her mother strode in, tall, beautiful and strong, but when she saw her daughter slouching against the view port, as she had been doing for the last hour, she began to worry. Nancy tried hard to keep her fears from her mother, but living so close together in such a small, densely furbished place made it impossible.
“Dad feels really bad that he won’t be arriving with us,” Mrs. Gale said, plopping down beside her daughter and stroking her auburn hair. “But he told me to tell you that he has arranged for a very special surprise.”
“What surprise?” Nancy said, her face smeared against the view port.
“He didn’t say. You know how he is, he just gives you the least amount of data to go on, but when it happens he’ll be sure to explain everything to death.”
“Why do we have to go?”
“I told you, he said he needs to work more closely with his client. Besides, his assignment here has been over for well over a year. It’s just the right time for us to go back home, is all.”
“It’s not home,” Nancy pouted. “Maybe for you guys because you’re older, but I want to stay here. I don’t want to be a Grounder.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“My friends will still be Spacers and Spacer and Grounders always stop talking to each other.”
“That’s ridiculous. You can always jump on the net and talk with your friends. You can still play your games in the VR and interact like you never left! It’s not like centuries ago when people could only communicate long distance over ground lines. Come on, let’s get your things. The shuttle is due any minute.”
Nancy collected her baggage, which consisted of only two bags on rollers. All of her clothing and personal belongings had been vacuum-sealed into tubes, which stacked neatly into the durable containers. Nancy’s mother explained how strict the station was on conserving atmosphere and every last speck of air had to be pulled from their belongings before they were allowed to load it.
The two walked along the curvature of the outer ring of the Mars Orbital. They said their goodbyes to neighbors and other passersby, all of whom had seemed as close as family, but Nancy felt her gut wrench when she saw how casually they regarded them, already treating them like mere acquaintances. People they had shared meals with now said “bye” to them like they had just met on the Net to briefly discuss a video. Nancy could feel her entire life slipping away, like stepping into a dream, or worse yet, as though she were being lowered into her grave.
They reached their docking bay where they were further prepped by station workers. Nancy always hated being scanned and then sprayed for potential germs, which usually happened whenever a Space Jockey or some other outsider visited the station from Earth or one of the other colonies.
Nancy and her mother said nothing as they watched for the displays to confirm the arrival of their shuttle. When the vessel did arrive, they were both slightly embarrassed when the first people to depart from it were the replacement team for Dr. Gale. They were a stern bunch of people and Nancy felt jealous of them, knowing they would be warmly welcomed into the station and treated like family. Everything she had was being taken away and given to these strangers and it filled her with so much angst that she allowed her head to thud noisily against the wall panel behind her.
“Our turn,” Mrs. Gale said, smiling and taking Nancy’s hand. She lead her daughter through the port and into the tiny shuttle. A shuttle worker hand their baggage sent to the rear cargo bay and escorted the two females to their seats. The seats were quite comfortable, cradling their bodies with adaptive gelatin cushions, and the facemasks they wore filled their nostrils with clean oxygen and very mild sedatives to help them ease into the process of departure.
“Here we go,” Nancy’s mother said, almost thirty minutes later after all the pre-launch checks were completed and the ship’s computer gave them a green signal, showing that all inspections shows no signs of worry. The cockpit crew spoke through the comm systems, explaining their departure course. So much of it was beyond Nancy’s understanding, but when she heard mention that their shuttle would make several passes around Mars to pick up speed, she felt herself panic.
The thought of approaching any kind of planet terrified her. She knew that planets, like Earth, were huge and pulled things toward them. Her thoughts envisioned several terrifying scenarios of their ship going out of control and plummeting toward an obstinate, rocky surface like a bullet from an ancient gun. Her mother eased her tensions by placing a hand on her knee, which was about as much contact as she could give the frightened girl due to the constraining nature of their seats. Nancy placed her hand on her mothers’ and tried to breathe deeply as the ship was released from its docking clamps. It gave a terrible shutter, but quickly everything turned to peace as the slender vessel steered itself clear of the Mars Orbital.
Nancy looked at the display in front of her, which displayed camera feeds from all around the shuttle. She tapped on one in particular, which provided a full-on view of the Mars Orbital. She watched as her home, her life and everything she ever knew slowly drifted away and out of frame, possibly never to be seen again.
The vessel began rounding off towards Mars, using the smaller world’s gravity to build up sufficient speed. But as Nancy and Mrs. Gale’s true journey home commenced, another journey was ending. Well beyond the sensors of the Mars Orbital, away from all of mankind’s many prying eyes, a distortion formed in the tiniest point in space. The very center of this distortion became dark with a ring of starlight encircling it. Then, smaller than a pinpoint, a shape emerged, growing into its actual, relative size as its long body emerged. The object was, perhaps, larger than a city bus, but jagged, angular, and completely black. So black that it was camouflaged against the backdrop of the cosmos. At its front was a long, sharp nose, like the proboscis of some strange, insect-like creature. Clustered about the top of this point were many twitching, staring, red eyes that scanned it surrounding before focusing indelibly on Earth.Earth was nothing more than a large, blue star in the distance, but this was its destination and it sped off at relativistic speeds. Nothing would deter it from its mission and if all went right with its agendas, no one would ever know of its existence, right up to the very end.
More to come...