Hello all again! Recently, my colleague and collaborator on the upcoming anthology about space and colonization – Mr. Goran Zidar – sent me a draft of his story. Dealing with Terraformers, the story tells the tale of the people who went on ahead of the main colonization force to alter the climate of Gliese 581 g (aka. Yuva) to meet the needs of the coming settlers.
As all fans of sci-fi know, terraforming is a very labor-intensive process that takes decades, if not centuries, and requires some pretty top of the line equipment and hard science. So you can imagine how excited I was to see Mr. Zidar’s take on the whole thing. Well, the text of his draft is posted below, the first installment on what will be a full-length short story, and certainly impressed the hell out of me. Read it for yourselves, you’ll see what I mean.
“Don’t you just love it?” Kirana said. She leaned back against the stones and let the reddish light of the sun bathe her face. The warmth from the small red dwarf star felt good through her oxygen mask, and she closed her eyes to let it wash over her.
“It’s just a sunset, Kira,” her brother, Justin, pointed out. “We see them every day.”
“Dad says that in ten years we’ll be able go outside without masks. I can’t wait.”
“Ten years? That’s ages.”
“It’s not that long when you think about it.”
“What do you mean?” Her brother looked at her, his brows furrowed.
“The machine’s been running for more than thirty years already. Ten years isn’t much compared to that.”
“It is when you’re only eleven.”
“I suppose, but it’s still incredible.” She sighed wistfully. “I’ve lived here my whole life, but it’s like I know we don’t belong here.”
“You’re a weirdo, you know that?” He gave his sister a playful shove.
“You know that Earth’s sun is about three times bigger than here?”
“Now that’s incredible,” Justin said. “Imagine it. Must be like summer all year round.”
“Now you’re the weirdo.” She shoved him back.
“Kira. Justin. Where are you?” Her father’s voice came over the intercom.
She looked across to her brother who rolled his eyes. “On the ridge, Father,” she said, keying the mic for broadcast. “What’s up?”
“I need you both back here. We’ve been summoned. There’s a shuttle arriving to collect us in three minutes.”
“Okay, Dad. We’re on our way.”
“Yippee!” Justin said, clapping his hands together. “I’m going on a shuttle.”
Kira raised an eyebrow. “There must be something big happening for them to send one of those.”
“Let’s hurry.” Justin rose and disappeared between the rocks. “We don’t want to miss it.”
Kira laughed as she chased after her brother. “Slow down, Justin. They won’t leave without us.”
The pair reached the small research station just as the shuttle was touching down. Dust flew everywhere as the landing thrusters engaged to bring the small transport to a gentle stop.
Their father waved them over as he waited for the dust to settle. Kira could tell by the stiffness in his stance that he wasn’t happy. She knew he hated interruptions and a summons from on high would definitely not sit well with him. She slid her hand in his and squeezed it slightly. He relaxed immediately; she always knew how to read his moods.
“What about the ATV?” she said.
“I’m sure they brought someone to drive it back.”
This station was located about 1500 kilometres from the space elevator. The three of them had spent the last few days trekking across the planet’s surface to survey the damaged research stations closest to the space elevator. Most of the data could be collected remotely, but father hated the politics topside and these malfunctioning stations were the perfect excuse for him to get away.
The hatch on the shuttle cracked open, and Daric stepped out. As soon as Justin saw it was him he ran up to the pilot. Daric opened his arms and the pair embraced fondly. Justin dreamed of one being a pilot, and Daric was something of his hero. It’s a good thing he was such a nice guy because Justin can be annoying from time to time.
“Hey there, Daric,” her father said he drew nearer.
“Good evening, Sir.”
Kira felt her dad stiffen. Formality didn’t sit well with him, especially not when it came from Daric.
“What’s up?” he said.
Daric shrugged. “No idea, I’m just the taxi service. Whatever it is, it’s above my pay grade.”
Her father sighed loudly. “Let’s get this over with.”
They all climbed into the shuttle, Justin claiming a seat in the cockpit next to Daric while Kira and her father sat in back. She found her father looking out the window. Dust billowed as the shuttle’s engines started, obscuring the view outside. By the time they’d cleared the dust, they saw that ATV had already begun its long trek back to the Needle, as the space elevator was called.
The trip up to the station perched atop the Needle took less than fifteen minutes. Kira sat in silence while Justin chatted incessantly to Daric. She was constantly amazed at the young pilot’s patience when it came to dealing with her brother. With a smile, she looked out the window at the station that loomed before them.
The station was a reminder of where they came from, the only really tangible thing they had that spoke of Earth. It was built over a hundred and fifty years ago, originally serving as the ship that brought the reconnaissance team here. It was huge, large enough to accommodate some humanity’s best minds and their families.
Doctors, scientists, engineers, mechanics, and teachers, the best and brightest with all the skills needed to shape an entire world to their will. An entire generation had lived and died on that trip. Cryogenic storage techniques were deemed too experimental to risk on this journey. The crew all knew that even with the best life extension therapies available to them, most of those who’d left earth would never live to see their arrival.
Gliese 581 is twenty light-years from Earth. It was a long way to travel, and the journey lasted more than a century. Kira’s father was born in that inky void, a true child of the stars, but she and her brother had been born here. Everything they knew of Earth came from their studies. To her, the human home-world was nothing more than a collection of images and words, equal parts beautiful and terrible. The poisoned ball of rock beneath her was more a home to her than Earth ever would be.
When the colonists first entered the system, their ship was placed into a low geo-stationary orbit around the star’s fourth planet, and their work began. It stopped being a ship, and became the crucible for their hopes and dreams. After all these years it may no longer be capable of interstellar flight, but it remained their home.
She thought of everything they’d managed to accomplish since their arrival. All the lives lost, the risks, the sacrifice, all of it so that when the next waves of humans arrived, they’d have a world to live on. Some part of her wondered if these newcomers would be worthy of it. From what she understood of human nature, she doubted that they would be.
The shuttle docked with the station, and the three of them disembarked, leaving Daric to complete his post flight checks. Their father took them aside and hugged them tightly. It was a long hug, and based on Justin’s fidgeting, not something he was entirely comfortable with.
“What was that for?” Kira said when he finally released them.
Her father smiled. “Does a father need a reason to hug his kids? I just wanted to show you I loved you.”
“Dad,” Justin pushed their father back a step. “We already know that.”
“You’re going to a council meeting, aren’t you?” He always got clingy before one of those. The nest of vipers he called them. Kira hadn’t ever really seen a viper, but she understood the reference well enough.
He nodded. “Now go home, both of you. We’ve been roughing it for a while so I’m sure you’ll enjoy being free of these damned suits. For a little while I’ll be there just as soon as I can.”
“Yes, father.” Kira sighed.
“Oh, and Kira.”
“I know, I know, keep an eye on Justin.” She turned and ushered her little brother into the station.
“I’ll see you in a little bit.” Her dad called out after them.
Kira rolled her eyes, and give her father a dismissive wave as she turned the corner. Walking through the corridors of the station made her feel uncomfortable. She imagined that the steel walls were closing in on her. It was always like this after coming back from the planet’s surface. Down there she felt like she could go anywhere, do anything, but up here, everything was so constrained, so… regimented.
Things had to be done according to a predefined schedule, and there was never any room for compromise. Of course she understood exactly why such routine was important; their very survival depended on it, but it always took some getting used to after being planet side for a few days.
See what I mean? Sub-orbital stations, space elevators, atv’s, shuttles and sleeper ships. I’d say this stuff practically writes itself, but it doesn’t! People like Mr. Zidar, Mrs. Muhammed-Ali, Mr. Joel, and myself do! Ah, I’m just kidding, we aint divas and we definitely don’t think our hips weight a tonne. Then again, if this book goes mainstream and makes us famous… all bets are off