Last week we had a three way Tie, between Justin Lowmaster Lawrence Simon and Norval Joe
|Great Hites 41|
|Theres no Place like Home By: Ashley Redden|
|Don’t Take my Sun for Granted By: Peter S.|
|The Daily Eclipse By: Norval Joe|
|Night Fall By: Jeff Hite|
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There’s no Place like Home
The metallic blobs flew through the upper atmosphere of the world as if shot from a weapon. They bumped and jostled, rolled over and changed position constantly appearing so much like an ancient shiny circular school of fish. The group settled suddenly, though they did not slow, as they were bathed with a signal. All of the blobs returned the signal immediately and shot even faster toward a single habitat below.
A larger blob was nestled into a small niche at the edge of the dwelling. The group arrived suddenly, and still bobbing and weaving, sent a formal greeting of the beings known as the custodians that was returned warmly.
“Now settle down little ones,” sent the large blob. “No pushing and shoving. I wouldn’t want anyone to be injured.”
Though the group found great humor in this, they all settled down in a small semi-circle surrounding the larger custodian. Harming a custodian through physical means alone was a tall order indeed.
“Honored Gran,” began one of the smaller ones, “tell us a story please.”
“What would you like to hear? You have heard them all so many times. What would you like to hear my precious little ones?”
“Please, honored Gran, tell us of the old ones, the ones that named Sol. Tell us of the first ones. Tell us, honored Gran, of the humans.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” came a chorus from the smaller custodians.
“What specifically would you like to hear?”
“Tell us why,” said a small one. “Yes, honored Gran, tell us of the ones who stayed and why they stayed. Why they did not flee with the rest.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” again came the chorus. “Please, please tell us honored Gran,” sent a small bobbing custodian as others joined in.
“Okay,” answered Gran. “Calm yourselves and I will tell what is known.” The large metallic blob that carried the moniker Gran settled herself and accessed the habitat’s not insignificant data net. The younger caretakers observed in awe. One day, they knew, they would be allowed access to the net. But for the present, they could only obtain the knowledge second hand in tellings.
Gran sent, “about 6 billion years ago, there was a planet that was about the size that Sol is now.” All of the custodians observed the white dwarf Sol in momentary silent contemplation. “On this planet,” began Gran.
“Earth,” blurted out a young custodian. “The planet was called Earth, right Gran.”
At this, the other young custodians shushed the one that spoke.
Gran said, “That’s right my little one, the planet was know as Earth. At first, all humans were the same. They called themselves Homo sapiens at this time.”
“When were they not the same honored Gran?”
“Sometime in the first 2 billion years humanity began to change. Some of it was for the better, but some was for the worse also. That is how change works my little ones; you have to learn to take the good with the bad. It is at this time that humanity began to leave.”
“Where did they go, honored Gran?”
“Everywhere,” answered Gran. Humanity changed and changed through the eons hence. Many continued to leave, very few came back, but always some stayed on the home planet Earth watching our star, Sol, slowly grow old.”
“What happened to Earth honored Gran?”
“About 5 billion years ago, Sol began to expand and became a red giant. Had the remaining humans not intervened, Earth would have been destroyed. But they moved it and changed it as well, for change my little ones is the way of things. When Sol grew, almost all of the humans had departed. Many had changed so much that they no longer thought of themselves nor called themselves human anymore. But always, Sol system was home. None of Earth’s far flung children wished to come home anymore, for as the universe expands the price to be paid for travel home grows and grows. But always, they remember and wish to speak with those that remained, to check in from time to time. So that is why a small group stayed. Some stayed because of duty, but most stayed because they were homebodies and liked it right where they were. All stayed because they loved their home. But they knew that things could not remain the same. So they changed themselves again as Sol grew and the sky turned bright. Do any of you know what they became,” asked Gran?
“Did they become starseeds?”
“Yes, my precious little one,” answered Gran. They changed themselves so much that they no longer considered themselves human. They no longer lived out beyond the reach of fiery Sol, but within its outer atmosphere as it swelled to its red giant phase. The starseeds learned to live in the terribly hot. This is also when the mostly organic humans became the totally metallic starseeds.”
“How long did it last honored Gran?”
“Oh, not so very long, just a couple of hundred million years is all,” said Gran
“What happened then?”
“Then,” continued Gran, “the starseeds changed again. They became custodians. As the humans then starseeds had watched the sky grow bright and red as Sol swelled outward, so it was that the starseeds then custodians watched as the sky grew dark as Sol shrank to the white dwarf that it is today. But change on a scale such as this is very dangerous and not all of the humans or the starseeds that attempted the great change survived.”
“But honored Gran, why did they risk so much to change? They could have left and then come back after Sol grew dim. They simply would have had to live further out in the solar system.”
Gran sent a signal of love to all the young custodians eliciting coos from the gathered throng. “They stayed and changed and then changed again so that we may live as we do so close to our life giver Sol. They risked so much because they knew; back when their hearts were organic and even when they were changed to molten metal that no matter where you go, there is no place like home.”
The young custodians sat in awed silence as they honored the memory of those that had come before.
“When will we need to make a decision to change again, honored Gran? Sol will not remain a white dwarf forever.”
“No, young one, nothing stays the same forever. But Sol will stay as it is for a very long time. And if Sol does change, we will simply make a decision at that time,” answered Gran.
“But that is then and this is now. How about some nice soup to put a bit of lost metal back into your young bones and a glossy luster into your coatings,” suggested Gran?
Cheers erupted from the throng of young custodians jostling, bobbing and weaving as they floated into the habitat after Gran.
Don’t take My Sun For Granted
By: Peter S.
“Members of the board, Global warming will be the least of our worries!” Dr. Schileren blurted out, before any one else had a chance to finish.
Dr. Schadenfreude responded, “Again, Schileren, we all agree something is going on, just not to the degree that you do”.
When Dr. Shadenfreude spoke, it was with a powerfully quiet reservation that could calm all but the most fevered scientist or world leaders. “It is my, and the boards continued belief,that these Solar anomalies are nothing more than an unprecedented…”
“…But not a totally unprecedented swing back to Solar Minimum years, not some Extinction Level Event.”
Almost turning blue, Dr. Schileren exhaled powerfully “Minimum? Minimum?! You call a 120 month running count of Solar Flares of 70 Minimum year? That is a yearly average of one half of one flare per year! And I sincerely hope we all have not forgotten that in the last 36 months we have seen NONE. Naught point Naught”.
Dr. Schileren finished and gasped for more air to continue but Dr. Schadenfreude beat him to the punch, “It is the finding of this board and is only logical that our local star is so massive that it can do only one thing and that is to continue to burn Hydrogen, convert that into Helium, which in turn will turn to Lithium and then to Beryllium and so on and so forth and to keep doing this for the next 4 or 5 Billion years; as it has been doing for the past 4 and a half billion years.”
Mustering as much reserve as he could, Dr. Schileren responded “As I have already said to nearly each and every one of you separately,” He said pointing to each of them, “and now all of you in this meeting, the solar energy output is down now, by most calculations by 10%, when the Sun’s output should be incrementally increasing every year. While this is something to be slightly celebrated as it will help with our rising surface temperature, when this information is more closely examined; the Coronal Mass Ejection dissipation, Solar Flare elimination and Energy output reductions, this cannot be good for the planet, and we must get to the bottom of this quickly! We are in the dark here and no one is shining a light on this issue!”
“My Dear friend, “Dr. Shadenfreude started, “I will grant you that this might need some more concentration on the overall issue, but can we pick this up again later? It looks like a beautiful day outside. I would be remiss if I did not attempt to repair any animosity this discussion has caused before the day was over…”
The Sun, that massive and magnificent star, the one that provides for the growth of all life on earth, flickered, and in less than 15 seconds from the first noticeable dimming, was no longer visible in the sky.
As he finished speaking, the whole of the earth that was normally bathed in daylight, that part of the Earth that also included the members of this Scientific review board, watched as day turned to night.
The Daily Eclipse
By: Norval Joe
They sat in angry silence, under the protection of the glass filter dome, and watched as day turned to night. At least, as much of a night as you get on the planet side of the moon. It was the mid day solar eclipse which would last several hours before the sum re-emerged on the opposite side of the big planet. “I don’t even like this side; it never gets dark. We have the sun shining on us all day, and at night, the planet glows so much it might as well be day.”
The last edge of the sun was slipping behind the giant orange planet. The moon where they lived was tidally locked with its planet and therefore, the same side always faced toward the planet, the side where Julie and her family now lived. “I want to go back to our old home, on the back side. At least there we had complete darkness at night. I wouldn’t mind if I never saw that big red eye staring at me ever again.” She stood to stomp around the room to emphasize her anger, but the atrium was so filled with plants that she would soon be lost to her parents vision, and the effect would be wasted. She was a year old now, and had a typical pre-adolescent flair for the melodramatic.
She sat back down, her mother was lecturing her, “I expect you to show a little more gratitude to your father. You have quickly forgotten how long and cold the nights were, and how long and hot the days were, on the backside. And your father has worked, and sacrificed, to get us this place up on top, where we can have a dome, and plants, and see the planet. It wouldn’t take much to lose everything and be down at the dirt level with the indigents and general laborers.” She sighed inwardly and rolled her eyes, ‘What did her mother know? There was nobody down that low.’
She thought she knew what would be coming next, and she wasn’t off by much. “Your father has sacrificed so much to make all this possible for you!” Her mother was even working up some tears. ‘Hypocrite,’ Julie thought to herself, ‘Where will you be as soon as Dad is gone’? What did she call it, ‘Social networking’? She wondered if her mother had ever really loved her father, or had she just loved his potential. He was nearly twice her age; she had just turned 2 and he was nearly four when they were married.
It was true that in the last solar circuit her father had been gone much of the time traveling between their moon, the planet and the two major moons in between. He had made most of his fortune on shiploads of fresh water from the watery moon that orbited the planet twice for every time theirs did just once. She wondered what days and nights were like on those other moons; they were both tidally locked, as was this one, but to have a day and night pass so quickly was incomprehensible to her. The closest of the larger moons, to the planet, would have four days and nights for each of hers. ‘Wouldn’t that just make you dizzy?’
Her mother was still harping about her lack of consideration, but she had heard it all before. Each time her father was preparing to leave, her mother would start to get edgy and irritable, then like clockwork, she would break into a tirade, unleashing her frustration on her daughter.
Space travel had only been developed in the last 10 years. Her father had taken the existing knowledge about space travel and applied what he knew of material science and designed space barges that could harness the magnetic charges that were generated between the various moons and the planet and slingshot the barges back and forth, making the the transportation of heavy items profitable; minerals harvested from moons, heavy gases gathered from the atmosphere of the planet, and in his case, water from the next moon in toward the planet. Her father had built his empire on the transportation of fresh water. There was salt water deep in the crust of this moon and it could be pumped and desalinated, as it had been for millennia, but with the advent of space travel, fresh water was an available luxury.
But was it for Julie, that her father worked so hard and was away so often? She didn’t think so. With his rise in wealth there also came a rise in prestige and political power.
Outside the dome, with the sun fully hidden behind the planet, it was as dark as it was going to get, only the planets own light showed right now. Their day was divided into 100 hours, and each hour, 100 minutes. The eclipse lasted between thirteen and fourteen hours. Julie liked it dark.
As soon as her father was away and her mother found her ‘other occupations’, Julie would work her way down the elevators, stairwells, and passages to get to the ground level. Over the millennia new dwellings were built atop the old, reusing the existing radiation filters and magnetic shields. With the current imports, new structures, with more efficient shields were being built at the highest levels. It would take a long time to get to the ground, she would have to pack several meals. She had only been there a few times since their move to the planet side and only stayed a few minutes, but she had stood in the open air, on natural soil, unaffected by the waves of radiation that the domes, and shields at the top of the city were designed to reflect.
“Julie”, her father was saying, “my travels have produced another benefit, that I would like to share with you.” He caught her attention, instantly. Though she did her best to act indifferent to his work, and the ‘benefits’ that the family enjoyed, the allure of this relatively new space exploration intrigued her. “What the scientist had theorized; that our people had come from a different planet hundreds of millions of years ago, may actually be correct. We have found, ‘people’, for lack of a better word, similar to us on another moon. Some are theorizing that we, and they, came from a common ancestor. These creatures are not as intelligent as us, and are probably more suited to manual labor, but they show a willingness to work, and, in fact, appear to thrive under our direction.” He looked closely at her face to gage her reaction. “I have acquired on of these beings to be your companion. She appears to be about your same age, and has already begun to
understand our language. Would you please make it your project, over the next few weeks, to teach her more of our language, and help her to understand some of the basic menial tasks around the home?”
She began to reply but looking at her fathers face she could see that he had already assumed that she would be compliant with his wishes and had begun to gather his things to leave.
Her own thoughts were racing. She had heard talk among her acquaintances at school that slaves were being brought in from one of the other moons, and now she would be the first in her class to get one. The day was looking up.
By: Jeffrey Hite
This planet had provided them with a great number of surprises. The short day night period, only eight hours, was only the first of them. Despite its relatively small size the gravitational pull created by the planet was incredibly strong. That was why the survey ship had come down so hard that it had damaged its systems enough that it needed the rescue team in the first place. The rescue team despite the warnings had almost made the same mistake. They had come down so hard it was only luck that saved them same fate of the survey ship.
Not for the first time they watch as day turned into night. But, for the first time they would be without lights during this night. The planets rotation was such that their small solar panels had not been enough to collect the power necessary to run the big flood lights, or really any of the exterior lights on the ship. All they would have were the small hand held flashlights and the low level lighting of the ships interior. This was more than a little disturbing to Alice, and she was not sure why.
As she stood outside the main hatch of the ship, watching the sun go down so fast that you could track the suns moment across the sky over only a few minutes. It was almost like being in orbit, but it seemed like more than this that was disturbing her. As the sun set below the horizon the blackness that surrounded them was nearly complete. The planet had no moon, not completely unusual, but the large amount of dust and debris in this system made all but the brightest stars invisible. All of this meant that once the sun set there was no natural light, and the side of the planet facing away from the sun was in total darkness.
The small hand held lights seemed woefully inadequate. That was why when Raymond, the search team lead, walked out of the foliage no one noticed him until he was nearly on top of them.
“Alright folks.” His voice boomed from the darkness.
“Raymond,” Alice shrieked. “It is eerie enough out here without you sneaking up on us like that.”
“I’m sorry Alice, but I really didn’t sneak up on you. I was right over there before the sun went down,” he said gesturing with his flashlight. “I know you saw me.”
“Yes, I did I am just a little jumpy. This dark is just very eerie.”
“Agree, so lets find the survey team and get back to the ship so we can all get off this rock.” There were grunts of approval and the all started for the rovers.
There were going to be three teams each would head in the general direction of the crash site and then fan out to find the survey ship. The Normally the plan would have been to land within a mile of the crash site, but their rapid decent and near crash had caused them to be several miles from the crash site, and to not be able to pin point it’s location. This meant that they would actually have to search for the other ship in total darkness.
The rovers had lights and that did cut down on the nervousness that she was feeling but, there was something more than the darkness that was bothering her, but she could not put her finger on it. Maybe it was that they had not been able to raise the other ship, when they knew there had been survivors. The Captain of the Arkon, though a little banged up, seemed to be in good spirits when he had called for the rescue ship less than a week ago. He had reported that the entire crew had survived the crash with only minor injuries. But since they had landed they had heard nothing from them. Even as they approached the planet they were not able to make contact. But even this could not explain her uneasiness. There was something more.
When the Radio squawked she nearly veered the rover into the outcropping that she had been following.
“Alice, from the sensors you are the closest one to the crash site.”
“You should come on the ship in two or three hundred yards. You might want to slow down a bit in case someone is wondering around over there.”
“Acknowledged,” She said as she slowed the rover. Within a few seconds the lights of the rover reflected off the shiney hull of the Arkon. Alice stopped the rover and dismounted with the rest of her team. As they spread out around the ship the feeling of dread grew.
“Alice, over here.” Redmond yelled from the other side of the ship. “I found the crew hatch, but it looks like the controls have been damaged. I can’t get the hatch open.”
“That is odd.” She shone her light at the control panel as Redmond fiddled with it trying to get it to work again.
“Commander,” She turned to find Louis standing near the emergency access. He was the only one in the crew that was still new enough to call everyone by their rank. “I think you should see this.”
“What is it Louis?” She asked as she directed Marget to continue assisting Redmond, and headed to where Louis was standing.
“Commander, this hatch looks like some one of something tried to force it open from the outside.”
“That is odd.”
“You can say that again. The only way to get these open is from the inside. Whoever tried to get it open was pretty desperate, look at these marks along the seal. Ever seen anything like that?”
“Do you suppose it could have been pushed out like that during the crash?”
“No way, it is too far up the side of the ship. See there is no crush damage to the hull at all, just to the landing struts and launch engines.” He indicated the crushed parts of the ship.
“Right. Well keep looking around, and see if you can figure out what might have caused this.”
Just then, the other two rovers came out of the surrounding foliage. As they did this side of the ship was bathed in light for the first time, and Alice noticed the strange markings around each of the hatches.
“Alice, what is going on here? Have you guys found the crew? I want to get back to the Weston, this place is creeping me out.” Raymond said as he dismounted.
“So I am not the only one.”
“Twice on the way over here I could have sworn we were being followed, but the other team was in the lead and when we looked back we couldn’t see anything. So what is the deal here?”
“Well the main hatch controls seem to have been damaged, Redmond is working getting them working again. Louis is looking at some weird markings around the escape hatch aft, and as you came up I noticed that there are some weird markings around all the hatches.”
“Yeah look at these,” She said shining her light at the area around the main hatch.
“Alice, I think I got the controls working.” They all made their way to main hatch.
“About time, get it open so we can get the heck outta here.”
“The weird part,” Redmond said as he worked the controls, “is that this thing was all but ripped from the hull, it was like someone didn’t want it to work.” The door hissed open then and there was a scream from the interior of the ship that piercied the air. When it finally died all that was left was a quiet sobbing. They slowly entered the ship, which was completely dark.
“Hello, Captain Martin? This is commander Raymond Mathews of the Weston. We are here…” He was cut just off as the last of them stepped through the door. A crazed looking woman bolted from shadows toward the door screaming. “Grab her!” Raymond said as he was nearly knocked from his feet.
“Got her sir.”
“Let me go. Shut the door, shut the door. Please shut the door.”
“It’s alright we are from the rescue corp.” Raymond tried to sooth her.
“The Door. Get it shut. You have got to get it shut you don’t understand.”
“What, is it? Why do we need to shut the door?” Alice asked.
The Woman tried desperately to pull free from Louis, all the while insisting that they close the door. Raymond walked back down the corridor and pushed the button to close the door. Only when the door had closed completely did she stop trying to pull away from Louis and just collapse to the floor.
“What is going on here?” Alice asked the sobbing woman. “Where is the rest of the crew?” Alice pulled her to her feet so she could check her for injuries and looked at her name tag. “Alright Ensign Wilson, you need to calm down and let us know what happened her.” Wilson only shook her head insistently
“No you won’t tell us?” Raymond asked “Or no you don’t know?” It was obvious that his patients was wearing thin.
“I don’t know,” she managed between sobs.
“Alright, Alice, you get her something to eat and get her calmed down. The rest of us will explore the ship. Don’t open the exterior doors, but look for anything that would give us some kind of a clue about what is going on here.” Raymond broke the rest of the team into groups and they spread across the ship.
“It came once the sun went down,” Wilson said. “The first night we still had battery power, They second night the lights went out about half way though the night. soon after that we heard them. We never saw them, but we could hear them on the hull.”
“What came out, We didn’t detect any life other than the plants.”
“The Captain sent several people out to go see what was going on. They never came back. One by one people outside after night fall disappeared. They all left me.” She said breaking down into sobs again.
“Are you saying that there is something out there that took the rest of the crew?”
“We never saw them. We never saw anything. People just went out and didn’t come back.” When she stopped talking they could hear the quiet scraping against the hull.
“What is that?”
“They are back.” She sobbed uncontrollably again.
Alice stood and walked toward the hatch. She was about to open it when Wilson tackled her slamming her painfully against the bulkhead.
“You can’t open the door. They will come in. They will take us away too.”
“What is out there?”
Raymond came back at that point. “What is going on here?”
“Wilson says that something outside carried the rest of the crew off.” Alice said getting to her feet and rubbing her head where it had been knocked into the bulkhead.
“It was the dark, you can hear it now, it is trying to get in.”
“What are you talking about?” In the silence that followed the scraping that they had heard before was back and this time there was more of it. The longer they listened the louder it got.
“What is that?”
“The dark.” Wilson whispered.
The rest of the search crew came back then. “Sir we didn’t find any signs of the crew, but as we were looking around, we could hear something scratching at the hull. Jonston and I were going to go out and figure out what it was.”
“No!” Wilson screamed “It will take you too. The Dark will take you too.”
“She says the rest of the crew was carried off by whatever is making that noise.” Alice said.
“Alright, then we sit here until sun up, and then we get what we can, and get back to the Weston. Is it safe to go out during the day light?” Wilson nodded, “Alight then we go out as soon as the sun comes up and we can search for the rest of the crew from orbit if we have to.”
They stayed in the main hatch as a group for the next two hours as they waited for the sun to raise. All the while the scraping got louder and more insistent. Then just before dawn it stopped.
“Are they gone?” Alice asked
“Not until the sun is up. But it has retreated to the bush.”
“Good we can get out of here.” Raymond.
“No, don’t it is still out there.”
“I want to get a look at this thing.” Raymond headed toward the hatch and before Wilson could move had it open. He stood in the opening for a moment then he was gone into the darkness. He hadn’t stepped out of the ship, he was just gone.
“Close the door or it will get us all.”
“But Raymond, we.”
“He is gone. There is nothing we can do. The captain thought we could go looking for people too and everyone disappeared.” She slammed her hand against the emergency close and the hatch slammed shut.
The sun came up five minutes later, moving quickly up the sky. They went outside and looked for signs of Raymond, but found nothing.
“Alright,” Alice said “I am taking charge, any one have a problem with that?” No one answered. “Contact the Weston and let them know we have one survivor and that we are coming back.” She said to Louis, “Redmond you go with the other rover and get it back to the Weston, take Wilson with you. The rest of us will get the black boxes and the camera feeds from the Arokn and meet you back Weston. If we do not come back before night fall, do not come looking for us. Is that clear.”
“This Planet is quarantined, Be afraid of the dark.”