1664 words (6 minute read)

Promises Made

Promises Made

Guabanex came into view, his gray and silver suit glistening against the red background. We had gone from skies of crimson to rusted soil. Atubey and I waited in silence watching his slow approach both knowing what had to be done, but wishing there was another option. Guabanex reached us and we all stood there in an awkward, painful silence.

“So… Nothing here, is there?” I couldn’t take it anymore and had to say something. They both replied with a dry “No”. “So what are we doing then?” I knew what we had to do, we had been trained but none of us ever thought we would be in this situation. This was supposed to be a trip of triumph, a formality, instead it had gone sideways right from launch.

There was only silence over the coms. For the first time Atubey didn’t have the answer and Guabanex didn’t have a smart ass comment to make.

“Ok I will ask a different way. Who is staying behind?” The words stung as they exited my mouth, it was what had to be done but I felt like a monster for saying them. Silence, once more.

I was ready to say something else but Guabanex beat me to the punch. “We know I have to stay behind, it is my ship, I crashed it, I am stuck. All I have to say is you two geniuses better hurry up and come back to get me.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Hell no, I am not sure! Would you want to stay in this dead, red rock? But we all know that is what has to be done. The question is where will you be going?”

Atubey’s analytical mind quickly took over the situation and we both just listened. “There is only one other planet in the habitable zone. We had established it was too young, but on the other hand, we thought this was a sure thing. Our only course of action would be to head to the 3rd planet. It is orbiting on the same side of the star right now, if we take off now, we should arrive there in one day.”

“Perfect, one day to get there, one day to get help and one day to get back. I should just about to be starting to enjoy the silence by the time you guys come back to rescue me.” Guabanex made light of the situation, but he was right, we had to stay positive. The suit would keep him alive for at most, 30 days. We really didn’t have time to waste.

Guabanex assured us he could find shelter in his ship, or wreckage as I saw it. We took his word for it; he was a big boy after all. Atubey and I boarded our ships and got them ready for liftoff. As the outer disk of the ship spun it gathered the photons needed to fire up the engines. It didn’t take long, we said one last “see you soon” to Guabanex and we were off.

It was a quiet trip, even though our ships were traveling relatively close, we were still moving too fast for the communication signals to keep up. And even if we could communicate I doubted that Atubey would want to have any small talk. I had sort of burned that bridge with her when I asked her to quit the scout program. But that is a story for a different time. We were about to arrive at our destination. If this planet wasn’t viable, I didn’t…, it needed to be viable. It just needed to be.

The ships photon engines disengaged and the new planet came into view. We were using the momentum to glide the rest of the way but the blue pearl already stood out in the darkness of space. It was beautiful. The wisps of white broke up the dark cobalt sphere, revealing specs of green and brown. I could feel the tears of relief streaming down my face inside of my helmet. I let them glide down my face and gave into the feeling of hope.

“Wow,” that single word broke the silence as Atubey was as amazed as I was at what we were seeing. We didn’t need readings or testing, it was obvious that we had found our new home. Life exuded out of the blue marble, it was viable, it was paradise, it was true hope.

The orb grew with every passing second becoming more breathtaking while revealing more of its secret. More and more landmass came into view. More places to settle, more places for our people to start anew after more than 200,000 years of being held captive and safe under the Red Layer. For a brief second, I worried that there might be no one to save back home but quickly brushed those thoughts aside. Forward, always forward, I had to focus on what was ahead.

That is when the planet revealed one more concerning secret. On its outside edge where the star’s light could not reach, where darkness should have ruled, there were lights. Many lights, all twinkling like their own microscopic universe. Some of the twinkles clustered like galaxies while others were scattered in the infinite darkness of the sphere.

“We have a problem” Atubey coldly said.

“Yeah I see it too.” I replied.

“There is life, advanced life.”

“Maybe it is us. Maybe it is the previous scouts.” I kept providing nonsensical possibilities for what we had just discovered but I knew they were exactly that, nonsense. We needed this planet, not wanted, but needed. If there was no way to get asylum from its people, or quietly assimilate, it might mean ugly things, very ugly things.

We prepared for our approach and landing, we picked on of the land masses on the northern hemisphere and set our course. Unlike the last red dust ball planet, this one had a heavy atmosphere and it was a rough entry, but once we found the right angle it smoothed out. The closer the blue oceans became alive, gently waving back and forth the wind and currents creating swells that made it look as if were one dancing moving mass. The dark blue gave way to greens, browns and grays Lots of grays.

Pockets of what could be only civilization and cities peppered the land mass. It was all concerning yet I could not help to be worried about what we were going to find. Having passed the western edge, an explosion of reds, browns, and tan colors overtook the landscape. Everything looked dead and barren but there was such a beauty to it.

That’s when my shields went down. Well more like they were shot down. We were taking fire from something, someone. The only thing that could take my shields down was a gravity weapon. From the information the ship was collecting there shouldn’t have been anything on the planet able to do such a thing.

“Take evasive maneuvers Atubey.”

“What? Why?”

“My shields just got shot down. Something, someone down there has a gravity canon, and they have it aimed at us.”

“That’s impossible; nothing here should be able to do that… My shields just went down. Take evasive maneuvers. Now!”

I felt so tempted to tell her, I told you so, but that wasn’t going to help us right now. I acknowledged her and started to dance through the clouds quickly changing altitudes and flying vectors.

The sensors kept lighting up, as close call after close call, of the gravity canon, attempted to take the ships down, each time the shot got closer. We had to keep changing our evasive patterns, is like as soon as we picked one, they knew exactly what we were going to do. The familiarity of my unseen foe was leaving an unsavory taste in my mouth and a pit in my stomach.

It wouldn’t be long before they guessed what evasive maneuver we would use next. We needed to get off the skies and quickly. Ahead the land had a huge scar which carved its way deep into the soil. A shallow river ran through the bottom of it leaving great walls and canyons exposed to the unforgiving wind. I let Atubey know of my plan and we made a beeline towards the safety of the canyons.

We barely made it but we found safety in the comfort of the giant scar. We knew it wouldn’t be long before they found it so we needed a better shelter. We weaved around the endless corridors of soil until we found some caverns. We missed it the first time and had to turn around. The scanners hadn’t picked them up as we flew around, which made them perfect. I am certain that if we couldn’t find them, neither could our pursuers.

The caverns were big enough for both ships. We carefully maneuvered our way into them as deep as we could and shut down engines. I sat there; my mighty ship rendered down to a heavy metal paperweight and let my mind get lost in the silence. I wanted to ask who was shooting at us, but I didn’t want to know the answer.