Copyright © Roslyn Gilmour
I started writing the Legacy series in 2003 while taking a creative writing class. I never thought to put them out there for anyone to read, but I figure life is short and what the hell, you'll either love it, like it, hate it, or say 'yeah whatever' and move on never to return to my humble little website again...
Fatal Worlds is the first in a line of related short stories, all centering around survivors, who were saved from their distraught world, and transported to another planet. They band together and grow as a colony, learning along the way that not all sentient species are easily recognizable, and not all familiars are friends.
“Captain, we’re receiving an urgent message from the research outpost in the Solar Stream, section two.”
Captain Loden Shayce swiveled in his chair to face Commander Borasch. “Go ahead Commander.”
“A planet has stopped emitting life-force signals. The outpost is requesting an immediate investigation.”
“Thank you, Borasch. Inform them that we are on our way. Commander Beale locate the three nearest research vessels and have them meet us at the planet.”
Loden planted his fists on the edge of his console. His jaw clenched. His shoulders knotted. Distress signals always brought back memories of his childhood, when the gaseous core of his moon-base home, had breached the surface. Scientists were able to repair the breach, but not before millions suffered a slow, torturous death. Loden lost many friends and family in the days that had followed.
“Captain, we’ve reached the co-ordinates around the planet,” Borasch’s hurried words brought him back to the present. “I’m deploying probes now.”
Loden monitored the three research vessels as they slipped into place, each releasing a data pod. Between them all, they formed an information net around the globe.
Within moments, the data from Borasch’s probes, began to coalesce into an image on the holographic monitor. Loden zoomed into one section. From his console he read the chemical composition and quality of the atmosphere and the terrain. He compared these with readings that had been taken from the planet, several years earlier.
“This... can’t be right,” he murmured.
The atmospheric and terrain-based readings had altered so dramatically that it didn’t even appear to be the same planet. Its surface had been devastated, no longer showing any kind of stable environment that would support life.
Loden sank back into his chair, as more surface images came into view.
Ash, mangled structures, lifeless gray forms covered this now dead terrain. Nothing lived. The only movements were the mounds of dust blowing on a chemical wind.
This planet-wide change, the total destruction both in the air and on the ground, suggested to Loden an unnatural occurrence. Extremely high levels of radiation, and a mixture of toxic chemicals not previously prevalent, now covered the planet.
Loden starred, unblinking, at the images. All that life, all gone. He could not conceive why someone or something would deliberately do this. However, the facts were there.
“Captain, I’m picking up some faint signals from the planet’s surface. It could be life.”
Thankful that Borasch had interrupted his thoughts, Loden spun in his direction. “Can you pinpoint any specific signal?” Hope spiked in his chest. Survivors?
“I have one of the surface probes locked over the area. It’s scanning a structure and surrounding land mass now, sir.”
Loden clenched and unclenched his fists. His eyes fixated on the console. His heart pounding in rhythm with the console lights.
“They are life-force signals,” Borasch’s confirmation pierced the quiet room. “A small group.”
“However, there’s only one way to penetrate the structure without damaging the interior. An exterior doorway that has been sealed and reinforced internally, can be re-opened from the outside with minimal impact.”
While they could enter easily enough, breaching the inner sanctity could be fatal to the life within. They would need to work inside a force-field, but even that was only temporary protection from the effects of some of the chemicals that could penetrate the field. They’d have to act fast.
Borasch and Loden agreed that saving the life forms inside, was worth the risk.
“Did the research outpost transmit all known forms of communication, they’d previously identified?”
“Yes sir, I’ve programmed them into the translator.”
Loden tweaked a smile as Borasch raced from the room, heading, Loden knew, toward the shuttle docks. After serving with Borasch for over thirty years, Loden no longer had to ask.
He monitored the pod that shot from the ship’s lower decks, carrying Borasch and his team. Within minutes, it hovered a foot off the planet’s surface.
“Captain we’ve reached the co-ordinates,” Borasch’s voice buzzed over the communicator.
“Lieutenant’s Indri and Varig have set up the force-field and are attempting to force open the external doorway.”
Loden sat motionless, listening to the silence, anticipating Borasch’s voice.
“We’re through...” The communicator crackled, then died.
“Borasch, what’s happening?” Loden’s concern over the lack of communication, intensified with each passing moment. “Indri, Varig do you read me?” He paused, “Commander Borasch, respond.”
“Captain, we’re under fire!” Loden heard the tension in Borasch’s voice. “Hold your fire...” He heard him yell, and was followed by another stretch of soundless apprehension.
“Captain, I presume?” Came a strange voice over the communicator.
“Who is this? Where are my men?”
“Your... men... will live, maybe...” A brief pause ensued and Loden tried to speak. However, the voice continued over any demands or inquiries Loden tried to interject. “Considering that I have your men restrained, and...” he drawled, “I should probably mention that I have our weapons system targeting your vessel, I will be the one asking the questions.”
Loden had read all the technical data and knew they had no such weapon, but he decided against debating the issue.
“Firstly who or what are you, and what do you want?” The alien voice demanded.
At least he was willing to discuss the situation.
“I am Captain Loden Shayce. We have been monitoring this part of your star system. When your planet stopped emitting life-force signals we came to investigate.”
“What... life-force signals?” Loden noticed the disbelief in the alien’s voice.
“A long time ago our scientists discovered that all life, no matter how large or small, emits a living detectable signal, a kind of energy signature. When we monitor individual life forms, the signal is small, faint, but when we monitor an entire planet, the collective signal is powerful, sometimes overwhelming. Occasionally a planetary signal will fluctuate, but yours... just stopped.”
“What do you mean it just stopped?”
It occurred to Loden that the life forms inside this sanctuary may not know the extent of the damage to the surface. “Your planet is dead,” he said, softly. “Every living cell is dead, the life in the air, the water, the ground, all polluted with fatal toxins. The planet is no longer capable of sustaining life, and it may be a very long time before anything will live or grow again.”
“How... how long?” Loden knew the alien was being cautious, the disbelief still lingering in his tone.
However, this question had to wait. The situation was volatile enough. He did not need to burden these creatures, these people, with too much information at once.
Instead, Loden decided to ask a question or two of his own. “Can you tell me what happened to this planet?”
“Ahhh...” Loden could almost feel the sigh loaded with regret and sorrow. “There was a war,” the alien admitted.
Another pause and Loden’s memory took him back to his history lessons about ancient wars on his world, and how close they came to total destruction.
“We built these underground shelters in preparation,” he continued. “I had no idea they would go this far.”
“Who are ‘they’?” Loden asked, but knew the answer before the alien could explain.
“Our peace-talking world leaders. They were supposed to protect us. They were supposed to have our best interests at heart. But instead, they destroyed us.” Loden heard the alien’s voice rise with anger and then drop in despondency. “So, it’s really all gone?”
“I’m sorry,” Loden decided it was time to move the focus of the conversation to the survivors. Those that were in the shelter, and also to the possibility of locating others existing in similar shelters, around the globe.
“There are others, not many,” the alien advised him. “We’ve had brief talks over our generator-powered radios.”
Loden signaled the other ships to send their probes to the surface, in search of other lifeforms existing underground.
“We’re doomed aren’t we?” Loden knew from the alien’s tone that he was not looking for an answer.
“We can relocate you. There is a planet that is somewhat similar to this one. It could sustain you. You could adapt. We can help you establish a colony. Give you all you’ll need to survive; materials and information about the planet. You can rebuild your lives.”
“Leave? I don’t know if I could do that. Besides, maybe we deserve to die for what we’ve done to this planet,” his disgust was apparent.
“You should not hold yourself responsible for the mistakes of others. Cherish the life this planet has given you. Hold it sacred. One day your race may return to its origins.”
“That’s a beautiful speech,” the alien sighed, “but it doesn’t make this any easier.”
“At least come aboard my ship and let me show you what we have to offer. Think about the survivors, those who are there with you. Do what is best for them,” Loden pleaded.
“I guess you’re right,” the alien resigned.
“What is your name?” Loden questioned once more.
“Jackson,” the alien responded. “Jackson Burrows,” he paused once more, his breathe rattling though the speaker. “And this was our Earth.”