words Michael Bell
The call to come home had reached you too late. The mission had been long. You found yourself fumbling with preparations, hoping to finish the last experiments before you left. The solar panels had gotten stuck on the haulage ropes.
The trip was quiet as usual. Space and time were abundant resources and the company disliked unnecessary fuel expenditures.
The files that had been drifting to you slowly met you on your path back through the sky. The first reported an asteroid headed for the moon. They predicted that it probably wouldn’t be dangerous, and that the earth might not be affected. News reporters shown arguing with scientists about the accuracy of their predictions.
You roll your eyes at the shows, confident in the science that had propelled you out into space. Then they increased. The first report was 2 months late, all held back and collected at a satellite orbiting Osteros. Each one was conflicting. Politicians shown downplaying the possible effects, funding going towards possible conflict with the Europa colonists. They argued with each other. Reports that there was nothing to be afraid of clashing with scientists warning that a series of arks should be made, just in case the worst came.
Some people said it was the end, calling for Gods and angels. Some said that the earth deserved it.
You tried to hurry, using the fuel injectors to move the ship along, before an automated system kicked in, shutting the emergency fuel down as the computer sensed no problems in the storage tanks. A recorded voice from the corporation floated down from the intercom. A polite warning that marauders and those that ignored company policy would be expelled from the craft.
It took energy to fuel these ships. And energy cost. You gave up, sitting with the plants as the reports came in.
The scientist thought they could move the asteroid out of the way before it hit, but it would require working with the Mars Resort, who thought ‘earth should solve their own problems’.
The last report came through. The asteroid had hit. The moon had exploded with the impact. Slow moving asteroids had hit earth, devastating whole towns. The presidents made a speech from their ship as it evacuated.
The earth had been knocked out of orbit.
The earthquakes had started by the time you got there. You heard the sudden influx of voices crying out on the comms as you came within range. Then silence as the station was rocked and swallowed.
You called out back to them, using the ships weak sensors to scan what earth you could. To get down and back up again would take about 7 hours with the emergency protocols. You started pulling the emergency packs off the shelves. Each was a med pack, parachute, rations and small canisters of oxygen, stale from the long-term storage onboard. Without the station on the planet triggering landing procedures, the ship would not have a guiding system to land.
‘Emergency Status has not been established’ called out the automated message.
If not you, then who? You tried to bypass the system, but it was full of security programs designed to stop you. You ripped out a panel of the ship’s hallway. The red lever should have been there. It was not.
“The corporation thanks you for your service and warns that unauthorised triggering of emergency systems may result in termination.”
You dropped the metal. No one else came. You are stuck in orbit as the planet of your birth is set adrift.
But the system is stopping You. You jump up, removing the panel under the control console, pulling out the computers main drive.
“Tampering with Corporate property may resul-“
It cuts off. You have not flown without the automated system before. You will have to do it manually. But someone, anyone. Just save someone.