Chapter 6

1K 76 2
                                    

A planet hung silently in the stillness of space. No poets had ever seen it. If George had the talent, he would have written a ballad for it himself.

For six years, he had been imprisoned on the Facem along with approximately two thousand other poor souls. During that time, the vessel had traversed the vast gulfs between the stars, spanning twenty light years between Sol and this far away planet. It had embarked almost exactly twenty-five years before, but the blessing of relativity made it so that the passengers only had to experience six.

In those six years, George Archer had come to realize that the stars were companions best known from a distance; soaring among them was maddeningly dull. Absolutely nothing had occurred during the grand voyage. The ship performed all its function perfectly, and the passengers remained quite complacent, having the onboard entertainment database to amuse them. George meanwhile, could not bring himself to distraction by the limitless quantities of literature, film, and art at his disposal. He needed something meaningful. But none of his old habits were satisfied. Even his ever-stolid companions, the stars, with their myriad of familiar constellations, had begun to change as the Facem roared its way through the night, changing with each passing week as though they were nothing but motes of dust in a dark room, and he an insect lurching his way through them.

George panned the camera's view, moving it to include the planet's large moon as well. The two spheres looked almost identical in appearance. The only real difference was the red-brown tinge of the larger one, as opposed to the cool blue of the smaller.

George continued to adjust the camera's view, until he sighted the planet's three suns. The brightest one was orange, shining the same color as a volcanic sunset. The other two, much further away, were white, bright pinpricks barely distinguishable from the stars.

The Facem was on its final approach. In a mere two weeks, it would complete its final burn, which would bring it into orbit around the planet. Until then, the admiral had required the crew to live, eat, and sleep in the bridge, where they watched idly at the computers as they guided the ship with more grace than a human could ever manage.

The days dragged on. Information pamphlets were handed out, instructing in bold, friendly letters how the impending exodus would be handled. The passengers were told how to operate the shuttle's emergency systems in the event of disaster, what to do upon landing, and given a general idea of what to expect on the surface. Impatience built as the planet grew nearer.

Probes and telescopes targeted the planet and the star which it orbited, watching them closely. They confirmed what was already known. The star was part of a trinary system, existing beside two others. It orbited its two companions at a great distance, completing a revolution every seven hundred years. The other two stars, larger and hotter, wheeled around each other closely, completing a full ballet ever forty-two years.

The smallest of the three was a red dwarf star, dim and calm, perfect for a habitable world. The small red star held two planets in its gravitational embrace. One was a small gas giant, fluttering around the sun in a mere seven days, boiling at several thousand degrees Kelvin. The other, the important one, was a terrestrial world, swathed in a protective layer of oxygen and nitrogen. It had a year of about forty days, and revolved about its own axis in precisely the same amount of time. This meant that it forever kept the same hemisphere facing the sun. The planet was about three times as massive as the Earth, with twice the surface gravity. It had a single, icy moon. The name the world had been given was Gaea, from the Greco-Roman deity of the earth.

Yan Liu regarded the planet from an observation deck. It was unfamiliar, alien and confusing, even when viewed from such an immense distance. Because of its orbital characteristics, one of its hemispheres was doomed to an endless staring contest with the sun. That side was burned and grey. An enormous cyclone, birthed from the continually boiling air, raged across the entire surface, its white arms holding the planet like a celestial octopus.

GaeaWhere stories live. Discover now