When we think of space travel we imagine encountering alien species, but perhaps the aliens are with us all the time.
One by one we woke from our long slumber, and after twenty years of inactivity resumed our designated duties. Thanks to the pulses connected to the sleeping pods our limbs were only slightly stiff from inactivity.
‘Attention all crew. This is your captain speaking. Please make your way to the central communication area for a debriefing as soon as possible.’
I was one of the first to arrive, but shortly afterwards the majority of my fellow travellers were gathered, cramming the area to capacity. The Captain instructed the auditors to make a head count while Doctors carried out health checks to confirm we were both mentally and physically fit.
The final tally was that from our original contingent of one hundred and fifty, seven were suffering from various degrees of post-traumatic stress and three hadn’t woken. I happened to be glancing towards the door as the physician returned, and noticed the slight shake of his head as the Captain caught his eye.
The rest of us were soon at our respective stations, carrying out pre-landing duties. It was the reason we had endured the long journey to try to discover new worlds with similarities to our own. The team had been carefully selected to include experts in all the major fields. After generations of gradually destroying our own earth’s natural bounty through greed the governments had finally realised the necessity of discovering new worlds if humanity was to survive.
The early expeditions had proved fruitless and dangerous but now they were conducted with military precision, and many believed were actually safer than staying on earth. As the search widened the main problem of the time it took to reach beyond the stars was solved. Our own losses of two percent were within the acceptable guidelines, particularly as the average death rate on our own planet was nearing five percent per month.
Mental aptitude was carefully analysed before being allowed to go through the selection processes for one of the exploratory trips. With the journey time increasing with each mission, the likelihood of finding a new planet, carrying out the requisite experiments to confirm the possibility of sustaining life, and then returning home before the earth disintegrated completely lessened with each new voyage.
Our crew were all aware we only had a window of a few months before deciding whether to settle or attempt the return journey; most of us had accepted that it was make or break, and that this would be our new home.
First impressions were not favourable. Rock and glaciers greeted us, with no sign of flora or fauna. However ice meant water which indicated life so we were not too despondent. If necessary we could spend the remainder of our lives in the ship, although we hoped to be able to erect living domes if our search revealed suitable locations.
Following standard procedure we were given two days to completely recover from our enforced sleep. Day three saw mixed squads of various talents commencing their reconnaissance excursions. At first these were restricted to a maximum of an earthly hour, but gradually expanded as all the working parties returned safely to submit their reports.
By the end of two weeks, with an interim safety rating of over 50% evaluated, permission was given for overnight stays in the transporters to allow for a more wide-spread search. I was part of the unit allocated the south-east vector and was in high spirits when we set out on our journey. After several hours of the same boring landscape I felt disappointment until I noticed the rocks were gradually reducing in size.
The exterior temperature reading was also rising steadily from below freezing to a more acceptable twelve degrees, although by our equivalent of nightfall it had begun to drop again. We knew that a day on this planet was equivalent to thirty nine earth hours but every expedition used standard earth or E-times to avoid confusion. Although it was twenty-four E-hours since we had started out it was still light beyond our viewing panels.
Continuing our journey on auto-control, three of our unit of twelve remained on watch while the others got some sleep before taking over the shift. Mine began when it was pitch black outside but one by one the three suns arose, and by the time we were all awake brightness was illuminating our surroundings.
Rocks had given way to smaller pebbles, and we began to see what appeared to be grasses and cactus-like plants emerging through the sand. The agronomists and botanists carried out their research and reported back favourably.
We obtained permission to continue our trek even though the need for final reports prior to decision day was fast approaching. After several more E-days we came across a small pond with tiny insects hovering above the clear, pure water. It was the first proper sign of animal life we had seen and we were overjoyed.
As you might have guessed D-day came and went and this is now our home. Life settled into a routine, and with our numbers expanding we now occupy four separate regions on Encounter as we call our new world. There are the mountain, valley, meadow and sea areas, and each has their own identity and customs.
Cracks are appearing in our relationships, and bickering between the different zones is taking on sinister overtones. Instead of working together, each area is trying to outdo the others and claim superiority. Arguments are breaking out between the communities and the North has even suggested banning residence for people from other sectors.
For my grandchildren’s sake I hope the problems don’t escalate. Perhaps I won’t even live long enough to see it. The universe is infinite but the disease of animosity appears to have accompanied us to this new world, carried in the souls of the explorers who once had such hopes and dreams for the future.
It reminds me of the old saying ‘You can take man out from the earth, but you can’t take earth out of the man.’
© Voinks October 2016