“I don’t want anyone to get their hopes up yet,” Captain Delar announced to the ship. “The planet we are coming across is surrounded by a strong forcefield of gasses that we cannot yet identify at this altitude. We also cannot yet determine the resources of this world. There seems to be water and plant-life, but something appears to be smothering it. We have located one clear, warm spot to land our small ship. Descent will begin in five minutes and will take almost an hour. We are proceeding slowly due to the fact that we are not familiar with this new territory.”
An hour! To think of it, after endlessly speeding through space for 15 months, just blew my mind! It was almost too good to believe. My hopes were soaring despite my captain’s words.
Next to me, one of my best friends, Calune, spoke up. “Do you think we will see people there?” she asked.
“Good question,” I remarked. “From the sound of it, Captain Delar doesn’t know.”
“If there were people, I wonder if they would look like us,” Tessu said. He was another good friend. Six of us, all of adolescent age, shared the A-2 wing of the craft.
“I don’t care, as long as we finally land,” countered Frega. She hated flying; it made her sick.
“Oh, come on, you’re not the least bit interested in where we’re going?” Ronden asked. He couldn’t stand Frega’s complaining nature; it bothered him more than anyone else.
“Oh, a little, I guess,” she replied grudgingly. “What about you, Pandel and Avia?”
“I’m too worried to be excited. Worried about the air, the environment, or if we’ll survive. If this landing doesn’t work out, we’re stuck. We don’t have enough fuel to take off again.” Pandel was our resident skepticist.
“Don’t say that,” I replied. “My hope is that we can use this place as our new home.”
Our conversation ended as Capt. Delar’s voice broke through the radio in our wing.
“Our scanners have found large traces of plant-life, both in the immediate vicinity and covering the planet. Animal life has also been detected easily, but human life can only be found in very minute trace amounts. I would gather there are about five living beings, and that may be generous. This may indicate harsh environmental conditions. That is all, as of now.” The radio went dead.
Our group remained silent for awhile, waiting for the landing.
Half an hour later, Frega spoke. “I wish Captain Delar would just speed this up. It’s getting hot and this descent is really giving me a headache. I want to be be free of sickness.”
“Do you ever stop?” Ronden muttered, loud enough for all of us to hear. “We will be landing soon, so your poor little head can stop hurting and maybe your big mouth can stay shut.”
Frega punched him playfully. “But then you’d have no one to make fun of.”
“Besides,” Pandel cut in, “the world could be instant death, even with our space suits. Maybe our impact even will kill us. We were traveling extremely fast, you all know that. We were going faster than the speed of light.”
“Don’t say that,” I said again, trying to be optimistic. “Captain Delar knows what he’s doing and I’m sure he’s taking care to decelerate in a way that will be the best for our survival.”
“Sorry, I’m just a realist,” Pandel replied.
“I can’t wait to explore this new world. I want to see the plants and the people. I want to see what it’s like to stare up at the sky from this planet,” I said, trying to change the subject.
“I’m just glad that all of us escaped the comet collision that our astronomers predicted. That would have killed us for sure. Now we at least have a chance for our people to survive,” Tessu pointed out.
“Hey! Look! I see clouds!” Calune exclaimed. We all fell silent, in awe of this planetary wonder we had missed for so long.
“This is your captain speaking. We are approaching the inner atmosphere of this new world. It appears now that landing will go smoothly. I suggest that all of you put on your protective suits, for as of yet we cannot determine the exact contents of the air or water. Our craft should land in about 15 minutes if everything goes as we plan. This will be our last communication until landing is complete, unless we face some unexpected difficulty.”
We began to decelerate drastically. Within minutes tall trees were visible in the distance. Soon concrete land came into view. I wondered how the people would react to this strange alien vehicle.
Calune seemed to read my thoughts. “I wonder if people there will be afraid of us.”
“Nah,” Tessu replied. “They’ll write it up in all of their history books. Everyone in the future will know when the alien ship landed. We’ll be immortalized! All will know about the seventh day of the fourth month in the year 3087.”
“Don’t you remember what Delar said?” Pandel asked, irritated. “It’s likely there are very few humans, if any at all.”
Right then we landed. I thought it would be some huge event. Instead we were in motion one minute and the next we were on firm ground. We all sat, breathless.
“It’s me again,” came Capt. Delar’s voice over the radio. “We have landed safely. There has been a reading of the atmospheric contents. The air is composed of approximately 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, relatively the same as what we are accustomed to. Actually it’s quite a precise match. However, I still ask that you wear your protective suits upon first walking on this new land.”
My companions and I put on our full protective suits, consisting of many layers and safety features. Then our ship began to unload, wing by wing. First the scientists, then the medical staff. Next came the professors and other respected academic professionals. Following them were the military and their families. Then the day-care center wing exited. Finally it was time for us, the stowaways, to step out. Lastly, some of the Space Control Agency crew members got out, while a few stayed on board to monitor the craft.
The six of us stretc¬hed in our suits upon landing, glad for the sheer freedom of an open space. We seemed to be in some sort of enormous parking lot.
It’s true that we weren’t supposed to be on the ship. At our planet the government had total control. Thousands of years ago there had been separate lands called countries, but since long before I’d been born all that our world knew was the Central Control Agency.
The CCA had started out with good intentions. It was made to try to maintain world peace, control crime, stop poverty and hunger, and to enhance world education. However, as power often does, it went to the heads of those in charge. They became corrupt and cruel. The leaders no longer respected public wishes and began enforcing rules upon them. The CCA was also too big with too much control for protest. The military was greatly built up although theoretically there was no one to fight. There also opened a Center for Control Research where very advﬂanced secret scientific and medical experiments and research began.
It is to our good fortune that Tessu was such a science buff, so determined and so sneaky. He often went to spy at the Center while he worked there as an errand boy. He listened to conversations and watched lab experiments. It was through this spying that he learned of the comet expected to smash our planet and the government’s secret plans to blast off into outer space in hopes of survival, and leave the rest of the world to die. They were frantically working on ways to improve the spacecraft. Tessu told the rest of us, but we didn’t believe him at all about the comet collision. After he showed us the ship late one night we could not deny that the government would be traveling somewhere out of our world.
It became almost a game. The ship was marked to leave the first day of our month of freedom from Control Education. We wanted to tag along, just for kicks, to see where the craft would take us. We ·all thought we would return after a month or so, despite Tessu’s warnings to the contrary.
Tessu stole six suits for us one day while working. He also learned as much as he could about the inner workings of the ship. On takeoff day all we did was put on our suits and board with all the families of the military and other government officials, and no one noticed a thing.
We were discovered about four days after blasting off into space. We could not very well be sent back. Instead they just put us all in the smallest wing, originally used for storage. We also discovered quickly that Tessu’s comet collision was not a figment of his active imagination.
And now here we were, on a new world, surviving the odds—as long as we could live and thrive on this planet, that is. I could not help but think of my family back home. They most likely would not live unless the comet did not hit. A single tear fell from my eyes, just as I was beginning my new life.
“So this is the new world,” Calune said softly. Very deep, profound and insightful for the first words she spoke on the planet.
“I guess so,” I replied with a heavy heart, still thinking of all that I had left behind.
It was just then that Assistant Controller Kranze, one of Delar’s right-hand men, came over to our little group. “Some of us are taking the many rovers from the ship to go out and explore the new land. We would like you to stay in this vicinity. You may explore on your own, but all the rovers will be in use so you must go by foot. We have found a place full of empty rooms—that building right over there—for all the families to stay. You are welcome to go there if you please.
“I would like to keep in contact with you, however. Avia, I want you to take this radio and wear it. If it beeps that’s your signal to turn this switch on so that we can communicate. If you need to reach me, just press this blue button on the side. Is this understood?” I nodded. “Also, Captain Delar has just officially stated that the suits are unnecessary; the environment is safe.” He quickly turned and left, walking with an efficient and authoritative gait.
“Why me?” I mused aloud. “Why did they choose me?”
“Maybe because they know you’re responsible and trustworthy,” Calune stated matter-of-factly.
“But still I don’t understand why they didn’t pick someone else. We aren’t even supposed to be here.”
“Who cares?” Ronden asked. “Let’s get out of these suffocating suits and go explore!”
That decision was unanimously agreed upon. In ten minutes we were all walking across the parking lot, seeking nothing in particular. Pandel pointed out this thing up ahead that looked like some sort of train. The doors were wide open so we decided to enter. Tessu, our technological genius, found the control panel first. “Let’s see what this button does!” he yelled and we were off! We flew through the air with incredible speed. Water passed beneath us.
Within seconds the vehicle stopped and the doors opened. “We might as well get out,” Frega said. “I mean, that ride was awfully fast and I was scared. What if we fell in that water?” No one argued with her, not even Ronden.
After walking for a short distance Ronden remarked, “It feels so good to breathe fresh air again, to see a star shining high in the blue sky.”
“But it is hot,” Frega added. “It’s like the tropics here. And those trees over there don’t appear to give much shade.”
“Well, let’s just enjoy it,” I replied.
“While we can, that is,” Pandel put in. “You never know what could destroy us here.”
“Oh, you are such a fatalist!” Calune exclaimed.
Right then we spotted some sort of entrance. We walked inside to see a land filled with wonder. There were huge, strange-looking structures that were both stunningly beautiful and mysterious. I wanted to see what was inside. Recorded party music played over and over incessantly, as though a record were broken. The whole place, though, seemed to be void of people. Once or twice a foul smell crossed our paths, but otherwise the place was just captivating. Electricity whirred at each station or area where a structure was built. The sidewalk beneath us sparkled and glittered.
At first we walked around, in awe of all these new things, remarking on some of them and trying to figure out whâat their purposes were.
Finally Tessu saw one he thought he could understand. We followed him through a maze of ropes until we reached two elevators. We took the one on the right to a landing and then walked to a circular platform. From there we sat in individual rockets. Tessu told us to pull down the levers in front of us, which made us soar high in the sky. It felt so nice to fly through the air. The wind whipped my hair all around. I saw pictures of other worlds as I flew. We were going really fast, always moving in a circle. It was exhilarating! Soon, though, it was time to leave. We went back down the elevators laughing and smiling.
“That was so much fun!” Frega exclaimed.
“Wow, a compliment from Frega! That thing we rode has just received the highest honor,” Ronden replied playfully.
“Let’s do some more,” Calune cried.
We were about to do just that when my radio be}eped. “Hold on guys!” I shouted and switched it on. The group gathered around me to hear.
“Avia, this is Kranze, are you there?”
“We have explored much of this land. There is mass destruction out here. Bodies are lying everywhere in tortured positions. It’s like a mass grave. The land, though, is filled with an abundance of natural resources. The air is clean. From what we can tell, the water is healthy, thriving with marine life. It’s just that the people are all dead. We are on a large slab of land, all surrounded by water. We are currently sending out the rovers over the water in search of more land, or anything for that matter. Food here is plentiful. It is really hard to understand what has happened. If anything more is discovered, I’ll be in touch with you. Over.” The connection was cut abruptly.
None of us knew what to make of this. We weren’t scientists after all. We were just six lucky runaway kids. Pandel of course remarked that we might end the same way. We decided to explore some more; it was the fun thing to do.
We rode these strange vehicles that spun us around in circles, throwing us up, down, left, right, swerving and turning every other second. It ended quickly but was really great.
We found these cars that took us across the sky to another part of the place we were in with the touch of a button. We walked a little until Pandel pointed out a building that might be interesting. Inside, we went through an ancient-looking maze until we reached some boats. On them there were fake gunshots that scared me half to death, and these strange people singing. Next we entered a building with yet another, longer maze. It was another boat ride. This time we got splashed with water, which really cooled us off. Again there was strange singing. All of it was wonderful fun, yet also intriguing. I couldn’t understand how the people all could have died in a place filled with such magic. It made no sense.
“I think I’ve figured out what this place is,” Tessu said, deep in thought. “I think it’s something called an amusement park. They were very popular before the year 2050, before CCA formed.” Tessu was also a history buff.
“I read about them in one of my history books,” Calune exclaimed. “Families and children traveled to them all the time for vacation, for a lot of fun. People paid a lot of money for trips to these parks.”
“Yes, but why a re there no people here now?” I asked. No answer was forthcoming.
Frega spotted a tall house with strange sounds emanating from within. We walked to this huge house while the sky darkened around us. Strange figures danced in the air as eerie moaning noises continued to pierce the air. We all agreed to enter.
Once inside there was a room that grew larger and larger. This really scared Tessu, who could not figure out the reason. Next we entered these cars that took us along a path where lights flickered and cˇold wind blew. Claws reached out, but I knew they wouldn’t touch us, even if they did seem close.
We came off the ride laughing again. “I really wish that the CCA never took over. A few thousand years ago, before them, people did this stuff every day. Places like this still existed,” I remarked.
“Yeah,” agreed Calune. “This is a lot of fun.”
“I gather, then, that all of you enjoyed your ride?”
We whirled around to see that a strange-looking man had joined us. He looked very old and had no hair on his head. His face sagged with exhaustion and his lips quivered. He was much taller than our group and had startling green eyes. His voice was broken and cracked, and he had quite an accent. I had never seen him on the ship.
“Who are you?” Pandel a˛sked, eying the man suspiciously.
“Yeah. Are you one of the scientists, or are you part of the military?” Frega inquired with apprehension. The scientists generally didn’t mind our presence as much as the others.
“I am John,” the man simply replied.
“What is John? Is that a name or something?” Ronden prodded.
“Yes,” the man answered. He looked very confused. Again he spoke with a strong accent I could not place. “May I ask who you are?”
That was a real shocker! Everyone knew who we were, the stowaways.
“Wait! That means that you, that you don’t know us. That would mean you are from this world!” Calune said in awe.
“Oh, well, we’re not. We’re…visitors. Our home world was about to be destroyed so we have come to yours. Does that bother you?” my friend continued.
The man shook his head.
“Our men now are searching the rest of this world,” I informed him.
“It’s no use,” the man said with his accented voice. “They won’t find anyone.” He sighed heavily.
“What happened?” Tessu asked.
“Our world was never fine in all my life,” the man, John, began. “I woke each morning as the years went by knowing only hostility and violence between peoples. Hatred poured from every mouth as words, insults and threats were spoken. None of the nations could get along. Most had trouble from within as well.
“Finally when I was in my early thirties, war broke out. Weapons of high technology were used from each group. I came here to hide from it all. I have hated violence forever. I could not ta¯ke part in this destruction, this hatred. I could not even choose a side to fight for, for to me it seemed useless. I hid here to avoid it all.
“The weapons used were incredible. They were made only to kill people, not to harm the land or the animals. Some agents even helped the environment of the air and water, which had been suffering badly. It’s ironic. They did all of this so that the world could still survive, so that they could preserve the plants and animals, so that one day after the war ended they could watch a beautiful sunset again. They worked so hard to conserve the world but didn’t realize that their hate would kill it anyway. What good is a saved planet where no one could ever live to enjoy it? Even though I still live, I am trapped here. I cannot look at all that death out there, all those tortured people. All for whom I’ve cared have fallen victim to this hate and I’ve got nothing left. I can’t bear to see it all with my own eyes.”
“Why did you survive?” I inquired, truly intrigued.
“Nobody would touch this place, it was sacred. No one came here anymore either because there was no magic, but still it was left untouched because no one wanted to ruin the land of wonder, the happiest place on Earth. I knew it was where I had to go.”
“What is Earth?” Pandel asked.
The man looked startled. “Oh,” he said with a smile. “It is the name we call this planet, my world.”
“Earth,” I repeated softly to myself, liking the sound of what would become my world. It was a beautiful name.
“What is a sunset?” Tessu asked.
“The sun is that star that was out earlier that lights the sky and warms the ground.”
“Wow,” Frega breathed. “There is so much that we don’t know about this Earth even though we speak the same language.”
“I wonder why that is,” Ronden pondered. “I mean, how is it that we come from two totally different worlds and the dialects we speak are the same?”
“Our world, which is called Valga, John, did not always use this language. It evolved a little less than a thousand years ago, about 2090 or so. Before that many tongues were spoken. Thank goodness there were detailed history books in the CCR or I would not have known this.” Tessu informed us.
“2090? Are you sure? For some reason that year sounds familiar.” John was deep in thought.
“I’m pretty sure.”
“Maybe that was the year the tension started, when the first conflict between nations arose. No, that wasn’t until later, around 2650. Oh! I know! That was the year the aliens came.”
“Aliens?” we all asked in unison.
“You mean we are not the first?” I added.
“Well, no one knows for sure, but it is legend that aliens either contacted or visited us that year.”
“That’s interesting,” Tessu muttered, more to himself than to anyone else.
“What was the war about?” Calune asked. I could tell the question had been burning within her this whole time.
“Well, it all started with religious differences. Small debates about morals and beliefs slowly emerged in many separate areas of the world. These debates gradually grew into more hostilities and bigger conflicts. No one wanted to accept or tolerate the beliefs of others any longer. Ancient hatreds resurfaced as the individual battles grew into world affairs. It seemed each group so firmly believed that they were right and that all others were wrong that they would not even compromise. Each faction believed they were following the word of whatever higher spiritual being they worshiped.
“All that had been done to promote acceptance and understanding across creeds had fallen to pieces. In the media there was an ongoing war of words. Groups trashed others and claimed they were right above all else. Policies were made by stronger peoples against weaker ones, meant to control them. This only caused more turmoil, ang˚er and resentment. Then, as I said, actual fighting broke out about forty years ago.
“The reason I think that people used ‘safe’ warfare, the biological agents that preserved the Earth, is because they all believed they were fighting and killing in the name of their superior being. They didn’t want the world to end, no one did. Everyone just wanted to intimidate others into surrendering and agreeing to believe as they did. The ironic thing is that now no one is left to worship any being or follow any tradition.”
“What about you?” Calune asked, very caught up in John’s story. “Didn’t you have any belief to follow?”
“No. I don’t know what to believe. I don’t know which belief is right. I can’t truly support or reject anything because I don’t know in my heart what to follow. That’s the honest truth. I could never be so sure, in my own mind, as to devote myself to one way of thinking. I ask too many questions. Besides, the way I saw it, there were good and bad things about each faith. I guess you could say I’m open-minded and tolerant of others. But at the same time I am too critical and too skeptical to ever truly believe anything.”
“There must have been others like you,” Ronden said.
“I suppose there were. Maybe others survived in different areas, but I have seen no other survivors. I haven’t seen anyone at all since the war ended, except for the six of you.”
“Wow,” Frega said.
“Avia, your radio is beeping,” Pandel told me. I looked at it and realized he was right. I’d been so engrossed in John’s tale that I had not noticed. I switched it on.
“Avia, it’s me,” Kranze said gravely. “This world is a mess. Flowers bloom, trees grow, animals roam. Buildings and structures still stand, electricity flows. But there are no people as far as we can tell. It’s so sad. There was a great war—”
“I know,” I interrupted. “My friends and I have done a little exploring on our own. There is something important I’d like to say, but I want to say it to everyone all at once.”
“All right,” Kranze agreed without much persuasion. “I will gather everyone by the ship in an hour.”
“What are you going to say?” John asked.
“I don’t know yet exactly, but the ideas are formulating in my head,” I answered honestly.
“I have a theory,” Tessu cut in. We all waited for his insightful words.
“I think our government knew about this world. We were probably the ‘aliens’ who contacted the people here in 2090. It was right around then that our language began to evolve into theirs. Otherwise, tha˛t is one very strange coincidence. I think our leaders knew then that we would eventually have to live here. Or maybe they wanted to bring people from Earth to Valga. Besides, for a hopeless, lost ship just cruising the universe, we found this place where living conditions were pretty adequate fairly quickly. There is probably more going on than we know about.”
“Perhaps so,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. We walked with John back to the flying train. Frega insisted on being the one to take us back to the ship in the huge parking lot.
In an hour, as promised, people was gathered. I was surprised to see that absolutely everyone was there, including Capt. Delar himself and all the small children.
I stepped to the front of the group, next to Kranze. The group quieted. I still didn’t know exactly what I would say. I would have to improvise.
I began by introducing John and telling his story about the birth of the war and the horror it caused to Earth.
I ended by saying, “Luckily for us, Earth has been preserved, but at quite a high price. This will be our new home for the rest of our lives, and we can make it into any kind of society we wish. I think, though, before we establish new lives and a new routine, we must learn a lesson from all the suffering that has transpired before us. We should create an environment where everyone is accepted for who they are, where no one tries to impose their personal beliefs on others, where we can live in peace.” I took a deep breath. “I also think there should be no military. We should work hard to settle disputes in a mature matter. We really do not need to resort to violence or force; that will get us nowhere. We should take every precaution so that each person can feel free to live as a unique individual, and so that no war will hurt or destroy us.”
I saw Pandel raise his hand.
“Yes, Pandel, I know you have doubts. So do I. I have a lot of doubts, but I’m willing to make every effort to try. I think we can make it work. And, if we can’t, I want to be able to know we tried our best.”
“Yeah!” one little girl in the crowd shouted. “Let’s make Avia our new queen!”
“No,” I replied quickly. “I don’t think there should be one person with more power or control than the others. We should truly live as equals.”
“Yes,” Kranze agreed. “I really believe we must take this to heart as a lesson, what we have found here today. Some might consider this our own fault. Earth has been asking for our aid for years, but we didn’t set out for Earth until our own planet was in danger. We waited too long. Now it is our duty to rebuild Earth in a way that will ensure that this mass destruction will not occur again.”
Capt. Delar came forward. “Now that we know for sure that this is a safe place where our people can live, we can get the rest of Valga’s people and bring them here. It will take less time to travel back and forth now that I am sure of the way. I will leave tomorrow.”
Wow. This was all so hard to take in; it was unbelievable. The CCA was actually looking out for the well-being and safety of the general public. They had sent their own men to check out he area first, and were going to bring the rest over later. I might get to see my family again! I couldn’t have been more happy, or more surprised.
Later I was just milling around. Many congratulated me on my speech and initiative. My friends called me a hero, but I knew, and made sure they knew, that none of it would have happened without all of them.
“Thank you, Avia. You don’t know how much this means to me,” John said. “Now I can really call this the happiest place on Earth, after what happened here today. I must say, though, that it will be strange to live with people who all have purple hair, at first anyway. I’m sure I’ll get used to it after awhile.”
I guess finding out that the CCA wasn’t as evil as I had thought wasn’t the biggest shock after all! This was a real surprise! Imagine, someone who had never seen anyone with long, flowing lavender hair! Incredible!
So, this is a story from my senior year in high school. More weird sci-fi stuff, you know.
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