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Lonely Stars

Lonely Stars

My ship kept rising up in the atmosphere quickly approaching the small opening in the Red Layer. I could see more and more of the lower shield destabilizing and the concern of the aperture closing became a real one. Part of me felt selfish worrying about myself, while I knew hundreds of thousands were probably perishing down on the surface. But I had come too far to die like this.

The opening held and without turbulence or delay I escaped the Red Layer. It promptly closed behind me, leaving me to wonder what was happening on the surface. I had no way to radio back, the interference from the Red Layer was too strong. I finally had my view of the endless universe and all I could think or worry about was the surface of the planet.

The photon engines began to initialize as scheduled and I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop them. I was strapped into the ship and it was going to take me to my destination. I needed to focus on the mission, so I did. Whoever survived was definitely going to need a new home and a new planet. It was up to me to find it.

The engine had gathered enough photons and was ready to fire the laser on the antimatter. The explosion would reflect of the deflectors and what would take the planets almost two decades, would take me three days. They were going to be three long nerve wracking days, especially now. The engine fired and the beautiful horizon of speckled stars disappeared into a blur. A quick surge of nausea overtook me and I was forced to shut off the viewing screens.

I was once more encapsulated in a blind cocoon of safety as I made my way back into the inner system. There was absolute silence, the ships were moving so fast that they outran any sort of communication wave. After three very long, sanity testing, days, the photon engine shut off as I approached my target planet. I eagerly turned on the viewing screen and prepared to enjoy the view of our new home.

It didn’t take long for the planet to come into clarity and for a second I thought I was looking back at Boriken our home planet. My heart sunk, a barren red planet lay before me.

“Alonso do you copy?” Atubey’s voice broke my silence of disbelief.

“Yes.. What is this?” I had sensors, telemetry and all sorts of information at my disposal but I couldn’t pry my eyes away from what I was seeing. Our best hope was a dead orb of red dust. “Just get down here Alonso…”

I did as Atubey said and prepared to enter the atmosphere and planet. I expected turbulence but the atmosphere of the planet was so thin it was almost a smooth ride in. I followed the signal of Atubey’s and Guabanex’s ships and readied myself for landing. As I approached I noticed one of the ships looked odd. The closer I got, the more evident that the ship was damaged. Things just got a little more complicated. I felt awful thinking it, but I really hoped it wasn’t Atubey’s ship.

I landed, perfectly as usual, got my suit ready and disembarked onto the surface. With every step the red dust danced around my boots as it gently floated back to the surface. The low gravity made my body feel like it was stretching towards the dead skies of the planet. I could see Atubey patiently awaiting me but Guabanex was nowhere in sight. A pit formed in my stomach, maybe the damage to the ship was worse than it looked and he was part of it.

“Where is Guabanex?” I couldn’t wait to reach her to ask, I kept looking at her helmet and what looked like two large black eyes, hoping to get some response from her body language. The suits and her training made it impossible.

“He is fine, trying to find any sign of anything in the dust ball.” Her words quickly calmed me while creating new concerns.

‘What…?” I didn’t know what to ask, shock didn’t begin to describe what I was feeling. This was supposed to be our best chance to a new home. It was anything but that. I checked the reading on the suit and the atmosphere was as friendly as the dry, dead soil. I didn’t need to explore or go searching to know this was a very dead end.

“I don’t know Alonso; I would like to know myself. Everything we knew was completely wrong. It doesn’t make sense.” I never heard Atubey like this. I might have been the best pilot but she was definitely the best scout. Nothing ever got past her and her preparation was impeccable. If she was concerned and confused we were in real trouble.

I still remember the first day I met her. We had both filed into the academy classroom along with all the new cadets. She instantly caught my eye. She was tall, had long dark hair, curves in all the right places and beautiful brown eyes with specs of gold in them. She should have been entering a room for a movie reading, not a scout training. I said hi to her and she smiled as she responded. I am pretty sure that was the first and last time I saw her smile. Once the commander walked in the room it was all serious business for her. Still to this day, even as we joke around, a smile never escapes her beautiful face.

Even though her compulsive seriousness made me wonder about her, I learned to trust her. As I placed first in all the flying and physical testing, she came in first in all the written tests. And by first I mean perfect. Never did she get a wrong answer and it was incredibly infuriating. On the other hand if I ever had a question I knew who to ask with complete confidence. We created quite the synergy over the years, I wanted her, she rebuked me, I showed off my piloting skills while she corrected me in everything I did wrong. You know, one of those love, hate, I want to kick you, relationships.

The fact that she was as stumped as me, for once, was quite disconcerting.

“Guabanex do you copy?” I called out over the coms.

“Yes, go ahead.”

“You finding anything?”

“Yes.” We both brighten up with the hopes of anything. Then he continued “More damn red dirt and rocks. That is all there is. I am on my way back.”

The air rapidly escaped out of our hopeful balloon and we were back to no answers.

I had delayed long enough on asking, so I braved myself and did it. “Who’s ship crashed?” Guabanex quickly owned up to the destroyed vessel and as ashamed as I was, I was relieved it wasn’t Atubey’s.

I had flown over the ship on my approach and it was going nowhere. It had left a kilometer long scar on the face of the planet. The ship, or what was left of it, lay on a heap at the end of the half-moon crater it formed. It certainly wasn’t going anywhere and there was no room in the other ships for a passenger. We had a big decision to make and I was not looking forward to it.

Next Chapter: Promises Made