“Rare metals, originating from the asteroids that bombarded Earth’s surface billions of years ago, were once very common. The original settlers of the stars stripped the planet of as much of these materials as they could before finally leaving Earth in a mass Exodus. Those remaining on the planet suffered from the lack of knowledge that resulted, and fell back several stages in technological progress, eventually using stone tools as their ancestors did in the caves. It is my hypothesis that this first wave of human expansion now observe us from UFOs.”
— Dr. Phineas Turnbull
Excerpt from Interview in Nature, March 2078
I stare at the words in the old magazine and wonder what my life might have been like had I been born a hundred years either forward or back. Stuck in an age where the commute dictates one’s lifestyle or living in a world already abandoned for the stars. In such a short time, so many changes.
Earth is a near wasteland, having spent its nuclear missiles in one nation’s attempt to prevent another from leaving in the Exodus. The moon, once terraformed, is now again a gray husk. Mars is still thriving, but who knows for how long. As humans keep expanding outward, the inward source collapses.
I sit on the observation deck of Station Gecko, orbiting Jupiter. Staring down at its surface, I wonder what it might have looked like when the Great Red Spot still raged, a storm that captured the eye of many an astronomer over the course of centuries.
Our station is a resupply base for those leaving Mars and venturing further outward. They’ll then make the long haul out to Neptune where they’ll refuel and go into cryonox for the journey to another life-giving star.
I wanted to go for so long, but lacked the funds, and now that I have them, I don’t want to leave. I guess I’m a romantic. Human history has captured my heart in the same way that exploration tugs at the hearts of others.
And here the words of Dr. Turnbull drive me further down a steep decline of sanity. He didn’t have the advantage of easy space travel. Had there been anything or anyone else in Sol, we would have found it by now. A discovery of Columbian proportions.
There should be nothing, but I still feel as though there must be something. It was all too quick, too easy to destroy our planet and leave it for it not to have happened before, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago.
“Jack, put that shit down and get in the hole,” Deng tells me. He speaks Mandarin, but I hear it in English through the neural implant that serves so many purposes. “We got a ship coming in. Two hours.”
“Right, fine,” I say, throwing that shit down. He doesn’t have to be such an asshole all the time. Half the time I actually think about telling him. “Where from?”
“They’re not broadcasting and I don’t give a shit. Keep in mind, you don’t either.”
It’s probably a trafficker, packing their ship so illegally tight full of people that half of them wouldn’t survive the trip. It’s a way to charge less and make more. Currency, which should be lacking in our society of plenty, is the one string that ties humans throughout the solar system. In my opinion, we should be totally rid of money. Nothing is really worth paying for, anyway.
“So where’s the ship?” I ask Beal, who stands holding her tablet in one hand a cup of overpriced coffee in the other.
“We don’t know,” she says, staring at Callisto outside the window of the cafeteria. “Only showed up on radar for a couple hours.”
“They check infrared?” I had reported to Deng, who told me to get the fuck out of hole and wait in the cafe. Something, I know, is wrong. “Sometimes they cloak for the deceleration phase. Pirates have been pretty hot the past few months.”
“Infra, ultra, and everything between. They didn’t even leave a heat sig. I’m thinking it was a ghost, but Mel just checked the calibrations manually and everything’s right.”
“How about radiation from the planet? Could be a shadow.”
Beal looked at me with incredulous eyes. “You don’t trust my piloting? We’re far enough outside the radiation belt. It’s weakened from a month ago.”
“Fine, fine.” I look out Callisto and wonder what it be like to just disappear. “I’m gonna get some coffee.”
On the way Deng interrupts my path and says, “Alright, come, let’s go. Time to check this bitch out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’re going in the shuttle. You and me. Come on. Don’t be slow or I won’t pay you this month.”
You can’t do that, Deng, you bastard. “You have to…” he raises an eyebrow “give me a minute, I’ve gotta take a leak.”
“Make sure it’s not a radiation leak, huh? Hah!”
I shake my head and get my coffee, chugging it down through the hallway toward the hanger. The shuttle is prepped and ready to go. I suit up and board, with Deng waiting in the navigation seat. “You’re piloting, okay?”
“Why not Beal?”
“Beal needs to be here.”
“In case of attack. We don’t know what this thing is. No more talk now, let’s just go.”
So there is something out there. It could be anything, and the hope that it is something wells up inside me. Another ship, the source of which we don’t know. I may be the first to see it. I engage the engine and drift from the station.
TO BE CONTINUED…. (leave comments, let me know what you want to see happen next!!!)