Equinox: The return to Earth

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Home is where the heart is

The sun rose over a calm, dark-blue ocean ushering in yet another glorious day, much to the delight of the carefree seagulls enjoying the fresh morning. The gentle breeze which playfully brushed against the water carried with it a slight chill, the only other clue besides the carpet of Jacaranda leaves littering the sidewalks, that it was mid winter.

Jason’s home town, Oceanview, had never experienced a harsh winter for as long as he could remember. The lush greenery and colourful flowers which still bloomed at this time of year attested to this. The mild weather here on the east coast was in stark contrast to areas further inland where the grass had already turned brown at the onset of winter and the temperature plummeted to well below freezing point every evening, and didn’t rise by much more than a few degrees during the day.

Ronald and Renetta King still lived in the large double storey house which stood at the end of Hillview Drive in the quiet little suburb to the south of the noisy town centre.

A steep tarred driveway wound its way down the left side from the street, making its way to the awning sheltered veranda and front door. For the faint hearted driver who chose to park on the street instead, there was always the long stairway with its waist high, light blue walls, lined on either side by Purple Heart plants flaunting their dark purple leaves and tiny pink flowers.

Whilst their home still boasted spectacular views from its high vantage point, it had fallen into a state of disrepair, almost mirroring the sombre atmosphere inside. The once daffodil yellow paintwork had discoloured, peeling away in places and now resembled cracking alabaster. This didn’t seem to bother the pigeons nesting under the eaves, any more than the missing roof tiles at the edges did.

The dilapidated building bordered by an unkempt garden at the front and a frightening growth of tall grass and shrubbery at the rear was once home to the child prodigy, Jason King.

Inside, the air was dense and heavy with the despair of a couple caught between mourning the loss of their only son and living in false hope, patiently waiting for the day that he would return to his childhood home.

Sunlight seeped into the lounge through the partially opened curtains, casting away some of the darkness as Ronald and Renetta sat down to a breakfast of toast and eggs, even though neither of them felt hungry.

The once stocky, green eyed Ronald had lost weight and had visibly aged, well beyond his years. His long, untidy grey hair and grisly beard gave him the appearance of a hobo.

The years had been a little kinder to Renetta who maintained her slender form, though her brown eyes appeared tired and hollow and her face bore many new formed wrinkles.

Jason’s arrest and detention had taken a severe toll on his parents. They had retired from their jobs and became introverts, spending their days indoors, reading or watching the news in the hope that some clue would emerge as to the fate of their son, silently rejoicing at the news of his escape, and praying for a miracle.

The insistent ringing telephone caught them off guard as it was such a rare sound. Ronald seemed momentarily mesmerised by the sound, staring blankly at the instrument. A nudge from his wife quickly broke the spell getting him to walk across the room to the handset.

“Hello?”

Renetta listened intently to Ronald’s side of the conversation, her curiosity getting the better of her.

“Yes, it is,” she heard him say, followed “Ok, I understand.”

The remainder of the conversation was one sided, with Ronald simply nodding his head as he listened to the caller.

“Thank you very much for calling,” he concluded, and hung up.

Renetta tried to read the expression on her husband’s face but couldn’t tell if it was good or bad news. He simply looked dazed.

“Well, what is it, Ronald?” she asked, snapping him out of his daze.

Her voice had the desired effect and he quickened his pace towards the table, where Renetta was already standing up.

“Let’s sit down first,” he said as he sat himself down again in his chair.

“Oh no”, she responded fearing the worst.

“That was Jason’s friend, the one who works at the base,” he started. “He called to let us know that Jason is alive.”

For the first time in years, a quivering smile appeared across her hardened face, followed by tears.

“Apparently, some footage was received from the space ship which was sent to find the Equinox, that suggests our son is still alive and well, on a distant planet, but the transmission has since stopped.”

“Thank God that Jason is ok!” exclaimed Renetta. “I knew it! I knew that he was alive and well somewhere out there.”

She grabbed her husband’s hand.

“He’s alive! He’s alive!” she continued. “If I could just see him again!”

Meanwhile, a short distance away, deep beneath the rolling green hills to the west of Oceanview, at the secret military command centre, a large, imposing figure clad in a highly decorated military jacket looked visibly agitated as he paced the floor, in front of the podium.

Eight uniformed men sat behind a semi circular dark wood table facing the front of the room which boasted a large central display screen that was almost the height of the wall, displaying curious expressions on their faces. They had just watched the last audio and video transmission from the Raptor, captained by Lieutenant Pretorius.

General Sam Oliver stopped pacing, took a deep breath and addressed the men in his usual booming voice.

“It’s obvious, from the abrupt end to the transmission that the Raptor has been destroyed and our men most likely killed in the process.”

He looked at the men who reluctantly nodded in agreement.

“We can also conclude that this event happened about four years ago, since a radio transmission would take about four years to reach Earth from the Alpha Centauri star system,” he continued.

The General paced the floor again looking thoughtful.

“Gentlemen, we need a plan of action!” said General Oliver. “There is a very real threat of retaliation from a space faring alien race that may be much more advanced than we are, and we need to be ready!”

Further afield, on the other end of Oceanview, Melissa rocked her daughter to sleep as she stared out of her bedroom window, thinking about Jason.

She had eventually married, realising that Jason may never ever return, but deep down, she still prayed for his safe return, one day.

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