1: GAIA APPROACHING
Maggy heard her name but chose to ignore it. It wouldn’t be long before her grandma climbed up the ladder and pulled her by the ear from her perch on the roof. Where the old woman found the strength, was anyone’s guess.
Maggy tucked a loose twist of dark hair back into the ribbon holding most of the bunch together, in a long ponytail. She pulled her knees to her chest, and massaged the smooth dark skin around her legs, just as she heard her name being called again.
Maggy pouted stubbornly and turned her gaze back towards the stars. The vast expanse of space stretched out above her, tugging at her desire for adventure. She felt like she could literally walk off the edge and fall endlessly through it. She might have done so, but unfortunately, she was an adult now and knew doing so would not end well. Maggy sighed as she watched a shooting star streak through the sky. How she wished she were a kid who didn’t have such grown up fears. But that wouldn’t have worked either. Spectral 7, much like the other human colonies was enshrouded in a mysterious shield. She didn’t know much about the shield except that it required a lot of monitoring and maintenance.
All that science stuff.
But it was amazing, what the shield could do. As the colony rotated on its axis, and their sector turned towards the sun, the shield would slowly turn translucent, and blue just like a real sky. It even had clouds, though everyone knew those weren’t real.
“Maggy! Come down here!” Her grandma yelled.
Maggy turned around to see a pair of aged eyes sitting on swollen and sagging eye sacs, looking at her with all the intensity it could muster. She noticed her grandma was also panting a bit.
“You shouldn’t push yourself so hard mama. I’m fine. I’m just stargazing.”
Maggy turned around just in time to see another shooting star whiz past.
“You’ve always loved those ones.” Her grandma noted.
Maggy turned towards her, trying to hold in her surprise. By now, the old woman’s thumb and index finger would have pinched around her ear, dragging her kicking and screaming down the ladder and back inside their house.
“Well, they are free to roam the universe.” Maggy responded. “I think that’s the most beautiful thing.”
Her grandma shook her head and smiled.
“You are so like your parents. Curious. And it is why they are not here… those two. Now would you come inside, before a shooting star flies too close to you? You know this shield lets things through from time to time. Besides, you have school tomorrow.”
Maggy sighed. Her grandma was right. The shield was designed to allow certain particles to permeate through it and to stop others. Sometimes, the shield made mistakes and when it did, a meteor or a shooting star could pass through. The results were usually fatal.
Grown up fears.
Maggy climbed down after her grandma, happy not to have her ear pulled. The interior of their tiny home was as cozy as could be, considering it was literally a block of metal with metal tubes running on either far wall of the square shape. Maggy had learned long ago not to go close to the metal tubes at night, as hot water flowed through them then. It served well in heating up the house and providing a warm bath, but it also generously provided a nasty scald to the careless. The house was demarcated by wooden walls built into the interior to create a bedroom, a living room, a bathroom and a kitchen.
Maggy walked past the hologram Display. A wrestling show was on and the fighters’ forms distorted as Maggy walked through it, partially stepping on the holographic projector displaying the images.
“Oh, Maggy will you stop doing that? You are twenty for heaven’s sake.” Her grandma complained.
“Well, you always call me inside like I’m eight, mama.” Maggy turned around and made a tongue out face before lifting her foot off the projector.
The blue projections reformed and the wash of blue light spread across the living room once more. As Maggy flopped on her bed and stared at the ceiling, she heard her grandma call out to her.
“Remember to get a goodnight’s rest dear! The planetary landing’s tomorrow!”
“Okay, mama!!” Maggy called out happily.
She had completely forgotten about the planetary landing. Most people never got to experience a planetary docking in their lifetime. This would be her first and her grandma’s second. Grandma had told her once, that she was too young to remember her first planetary docking, seventy-five earth years ago. She’d been born a year earlier and after the docking had spent her first twenty years on planet Sierra 19A.
Living on a planet.
Maggy had always wondered what it was like. She imagined herself running through a great green grassy field, getting lost in its tall blades with an exciting and awe-inspiring mountain looming in the distance. She thought about rain. She’d never seen rain before or heard rain or felt it. Grandma’s stories always sparked her imaginations. As Maggy thought of all these things, they slowly became a part of her dreams that night.
There was a buzz on Sector 16 of the human colony called Spectral 7. A red-haired lady walked to an observation window, where other people had gathered, and peered out. It was massive and had a green hue enshrouding it. As the lady observed the planet, she realized it was much more massive than any other planet she’d ever studied in her astronomy lectures. Gaia, it was called. The red-haired lady gasped and checked to make sure her bun was still in place.
“Beautiful, isn’t it, Kaya.” A male voice said behind her.
Kaya whirled around and met with Dr. Dresden’s analytical eyes. His silver-grey hair fell in sharp strands around the sides of his face, his forehead and down to the back of his neck. Even at fifty, he was still strikingly handsome. Of course, it helped that he was one of the most intelligent human beings in the universe.
“It… most definitely is… sir.” Kaya responded, not sure if she was talking about planet Gaia anymore.
“You’ve done very well Kaya. You are my best intern. You should take five more minutes to enjoy the view as much as you can. Things will get very busy thereafter.”
Dr. Dresden turned around to go.
“But sir, we interns were instructed to help with census updates as we approach Gaia’s atmosphere.”
“Yes, but like I said, you are my best intern. Which is why I have assigned you to assist in the de-boarding process.”
Kaya’s eyes widened behind her spectacles. She couldn’t believe it. She had been given a task only assigned to authorized Space Colony Engineers or SCEs as they were called.
“R…really sir?” Kaya asked, still in disbelief. She dug her fingernail into her palm as she waited for his response.
“Yes really.” Dr. Dresden said as he looked back at her and smiled. “Your five minutes are counting. There’s a slingshot waiting to take you to Sector 50. That is your designation. Make sure everyone there is de-boarded safely. Clear?”
“Clear!!!” Kaya yelled before covering her mouth.
The ambient noise that was a coagulation of hundreds of conversations, seemed to stop for a moment at Kaya’s excited yell. Her big blue eyes darted one way and then the other. The buzz soon picked up again and Kaya slowly let out a sigh. Dr. Dresden was very famous and even if not many around them acted like it, they were all aware of his presence there. They most likely were wondering what he’d said to make her yelp so loud.
Careful girl. You know you can get preeeeeeeetty excited. Kaya cautioned herself.
Dr. Dresden had already left her and she took a look around her surroundings one more time. The observation room took on the arc of the space colony and was a long bend made of white metal plates shaped in a cylindrical manner, wrapping around as far as the eye could see on either side. The bright white lights added to its pristine look and the only colors were that of the uniforms adorned by SCEs and interns alike. She turned back to look at Gaia and wondered what lay in store for them there. Whatever it was, she was excited to be a part of it. Kaya smiled and quickly made her way to the slingshot. First up, was Sector 50.