6: FALLING STARS
Maggy’s body shuddered violently as another wave of grief heartlessly tore through her body, her soul, and her mind. The tears flowed to the tune of Gaia’s gravity now, and even though she forced a smile, told herself that she was strong and that she’d be okay, it could not seal the dam that had been burst.
“Maggy.” Kaya’s voice came over the communicator.
Maggy did not answer. She forced another smile, but it quickly dissolved into another wave of grief. This was a cloud without any silver lining, and its rain – her tears – kept on pouring.
“Maggy… what’s the structural stability read?”
Maggy so desperately wanted to snap at her. She wanted to vent and take out all of her anger on Kaya. How she loathed her and yet here she was concerned for her safety.
“Don’t worry about it, I will be fine.” Maggy offered coldly.
“If your reading is not at a hundred percent by the time we hit Gaia’s atmosphere, the friction with the atmospheric gas will burn you and your pod to a crisp. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough light shows for today.”
“Maggy…” Clieo called. “I really don’t want to lose… my friend.” Clieo cried.
“But you have your parents…” Maggy responded.
“The data sheet just came in for successful landings. They weren’t in it. The pods depressurized in space…”
Clieo choked back tears.
“Maggy what’s the reading?!” Kaya snapped.
“Ninety-nine percent for goodness sake, get off my case!”
“We’ve got thirty seconds to impact…” Kaya responded.
It was said with an ominous tone and what reverberated through Maggy’s mind was what was not said.
Thirty seconds to impact. If your pod is not at a hundred percent stability by then, you die.
“Curses.” Maggy muttered under her breath.
She looked at her pod’s readings and saw a simulation of the small hole in the insulation skin, which was slowly getting smaller. Her display read the progress.
“Fifteen seconds to impact.”
“Ten seconds to impact.”
“Five seconds to impact Maggy!” Kaya yelled.
“I know! I know!”
“Repair complete!!” Maggy yelled.
“Oh, thank goodness!!! Go you!!!!” Kaya yelled back excitedly.
“Thank you so much, Maggy!!! Thank you for not leaving!” Clieo chirped in excitedly.
“Of course not. Where do you think I was going?” Maggy asked, half laughing.
“I can’t wait to see you guys when we land.” Clieo added.
It was in that moment that Maggy and Kaya realized they had been celebrating Maggy’s survival together. In that moment, they realized that through their differences and squabbles, they had grown to care about each other, in a very short while. There was silence over the speakers as each girl contemplated this quietly in her own pod.
“Me too.” Kaya said finally.
Maggy gasped when she heard this and slowly wiped a tear from her eye.
I lost my grandma today. Did I possibly find two sisters?
“Me too.” Maggy finally said. It had taken a while, but this cloud eventually revealed its silver lining.
“Me too.” Maggy repeated after a little while.
The pods shuddered as they tore through Gaia’s thick atmosphere. They passed through a particularly tall layer of thick cotton clouds and when they broke through, the sight that awaited them took their breaths away. All around them were numerous pods, all descending towards Gaia. They stretched out as far as the eye could see, and when the sunlight hit their silver metallic bodies, they looked like a million shooting stars falling towards another layer of white cotton clouds.
“Oh… my…. God.” Clieo said in shock.
Nothing else was said for a while. In her pod, Kaya looked out at the vast expanse that they fell to. She could barely make out the whistling wind that was beginning to build up in intensity, as they fell lower.
So, this is what a planet looks like. So beautiful.
There was a crackling static on her communicator and garbled noise came through. Soon the noise became clearer and Kaya could make out a voice.
“Kaya! Kaya come in! Kaya can you hear me!”
“Dr. Dresden!” Kaya exclaimed.
“Thank goodness you are okay. I heard about the Seraph attacking a few pods and was worried about you.”
“I am fine Doctor. We entered the atmosphere five minutes ago.”
She wondered if Dr. Dresden knew her pod was one of those that had been attacked.
“Then your pod should be just about ready for landing procedures. Sit tight, Kaya. I’m on the ground waiting for you.”
“My pod left a while before the others. Once you land, stay in your pods. Ground Rovers are inbound to your general landing locations to safely transport all of you to medical facilities.”
“I understand doctor.”
“Be safe Kaya.”
The channel disconnected. Kaya understood Dr. Dresden’s warnings. There was no telling how each person would react to Gaia’s environment, even though it was habitable to human life. They also had to receive the necessary immunization shots against all identified planetary infections as well as being treated for any infections they might have already. They called the process, planetary introduction, and orientation or PLAIN. She had gone through so many simulations during her time as an SCI. Kaya worked her pod’s display controls and reconnected with Maggy and Clieo.
“Hey girls, can you hear me?”
“Yeah, where were you?” Maggy asked.
“Mentor called in. We are entering the final phase of our descent. During this time, your pod will begin making corrective adjustments in order to land safely on Gaian soil. Look to your left, right below your display control. Do you see a green button?”
“Yes!” Maggy and Clieo responded in unison.
“If at two thousand feet AGL you are still going in excess of a hundred miles per hour, hit that green button.” It will deploy a parachute that will save your life.”
“What’s AGL?!!!” Clieo yelled.
“Above Ground Level.” Kaya responded.
“What if the chute fails?” Maggy asked.
“Hit the button again. It should deploy a secondary shoot. Hit that button only once or else you will deploy both shoots and they may get entangled with each other.”
“What if the secondary chute fails?” Maggy asked once more.
There was a brief silence before Kaya responded.
“Pray. I’d hate for either of us to die before we can really be friends.”
Maggy managed a wry smile.
“Likewise.” She responded.
They could see the ground now. It was a vast expanse of green. Even the water had a green to turquoise hue about it. In the distance, the land rose so high as to pierce the clouds in icy tips, before dipping down again to hug the ocean front. Creatures Maggy had never seen before, flew overhead and roamed the land below.
“Guys?” Clieo asked.
“Hmmm?” Maggy said, still in awe.
“When you look at this… how can you believe what they teach us? That no one made this? That has to be the biggest mistake we’ve made. Someone made this, and whoever did… has to be amazing.”
At any other time, Maggy would have argued against Clieo’s remarks. But in this moment, while caught in awe of the beauty around her, she couldn’t help but think there was some element of truth to her words. If there was a creator, then there was a life after. If there was, then maybe just maybe her losses would not be permanent.
Mom, dad, grandma… Are you watching me now? Is it beautiful over there too?
The thoughts flooded Maggy’s mind as they descended to Gaian soil.