An unexpected journey.
This started as an online competition, but the story grew beyond the parameters of the competition. This is the first chapter. The initial challenge had been to evacuate earth.
Assignment #1 – Evacuate Earth!
A high-pitched wail ripped through the air.
Several students in the classroom jumped to their feet, while the teacher emitted a low whimper. They had been writing a mid-term exam, furiously scribbling answers on their paper in an effort to beat the time constraints. The room had been silent, no sounds but low breathing and the scratching of pencils on paper. The wail continued on; becoming a repetitive screeching, which had the teacher and students perplexed. A few of the students who were standing crept towards the windows and the teacher quickly followed.
The day looked like any other; the grayish haze that always filled the sky still filtered through soft beams of sunlight. The grass was its normal brownish-green color, swirling in an angry wind. The town looked its normal indolent self, but the odd person would come from their homes and gaze skyward, searching for the source of the repetitive wail.
It reminded Mrs. Tyler of the nuclear sirens that she’d seen in old films. It had that same haunted fatalistic sound to it; she was chilled by such a thought. Suddenly, a caravan of large green hovercraft loomed in the distance. One of the students next to her let out a gasp. The mid-term was forgotten by this point and all the students had their faces pressed against the windows.
Though everyone knew hovercraft existed, no one in the small town had ever seen one in real life; much less a whole caravan of them! Everyone in the classroom seemed to be holding their collective breath as the hovercraft moved closer. One of the students requested that they go home for the day; he desperately wanted to be with his family. His fear was evident in the way his voice wavered.
Mrs. Tyler nodded her approval and several students fled out the door. She’d assumed all the students would have followed the frightened boy, but there were several who seemed too enraptured by the hovercraft to even blink. When she looked back out the window, she took a startled, involuntary step back. There was a huge hovercraft directly out the window.
The classroom door suddenly burst open, ripping screams from the throats of her students. Though she was loathe to admit it, Mrs. Tyler had also screamed. Four men suddenly charged into the room, and Mrs. Tyler was lost in the sudden flurry of activity. Some students screamed and bolted, while others seemed too frightened to react. Mrs. Tyler was about to start protesting, but there was a sudden bright flash of white light and her world dissolved into darkness.
A soft, steady thrumming sound slowly pulled Mrs. Tyler out of her stupor. She heard low murmuring voices above the steady thrum, so she didn’t open her eyes. She didn’t want to whoever had her to know she was conscious, so she simply focused on listening to her surroundings. There was nothing but that insistent thrum-thrum-thrum and the voices were barely above a murmur so she couldn’t hear what they were saying.
She furtively wiggled her toes, then her fingertips making sure she had use of her body. As far as she could tell she was unrestrained and in seemingly good health. She had a slight headache, but after being rendered unconscious it was expected.
“HELP ME!” A terrified voice pierced her ears and Mrs. Tyler realized it was one of her students. Although she’d never heard the girl sound so desperately frightened, she immediately recognized Becca Rae’s sultry accent. At that moment, fear for the girl overpowered reason and she snapped her eyes open. The sudden influx of light momentarily blinded her, and she had to blink a few times to get her bearings.
“It’s OK, sweetheart,” a surprisingly tender voice drawled from Mrs. Tyler’s left. She looked over and seen a matronly old woman kneeling beside Becca Rae’s bed. They were in a wide, long room, festooned with beds, dressers and even a couple desks. The light, though blinding at first, was dim and fluorescent, and the walls looked a dark grey metal she was unfamiliar with. Every few feet hung a dark brown curtain that did nothing to add to the ambience of the room.
Mrs. Tyler was about to launch herself at the grey haired matron when a husky yet chipper voice said: “Ah! I see you’re awake!”
Mrs. Tyler immediately glanced up, noticing an olive-complexioned young man in blue doctors scrubs towering over her. He had an honest grin on his face and nothing in his dark brown eyes betrayed hostility. He had the air of a well-mannered young doctor; perhaps a male nurse. He apparently read something in her eyes, for suddenly his demeanour changed. He went from grinning young man to stalwart doctor in an instant.
“I know you’re probably confused,” he began. He looked slightly dejected. “I know I was, at first. Just know we are not here to harm you, you’re safe here.”
“What’s going on?” A tentative voice emerged from behind Mrs. Tyler. Both she and the doctor turned to look at a frightened Nicky Vance, another of her students. His normally well-kept golden hair was dishevelled and lackluster, and fear was evident in his bright green eyes. Behind that fear however, was a stony determination as he stared at the young doctor.
“We’re on a ship. In outer space.” The young man said flatly, “Earth has been destroyed; the amount of resources needed surpassed what was left. We basically used the earth into extinction. It could no longer support life; therefore it was either flee or be destroyed.”
Becca let out a pitiful wail of despair and fell into tears. Mrs. Tyler and Nicky exchanged a significant glance. It was evident both were sceptical. The idea was too preposterous. As if reading their expressions the young doctor quietly moved to one of the ruddy brown curtains and pulled it aside. It was pitch dark, with the odd glistening star in the background.
When Becca noticed these, she nearly fell into spasms. She was inconsolable and the old lady tending her gave the young doctor a helpless pleading look. He turned back to Mrs. Tyler and Nicky who were pulling themselves out of their beds to get a closer look. Nicky found a curtain directly behind Becca’s bunk while Mrs. Tyler slowly made her way towards the young man. She searched his face for a brief moment, looking for signs of deception or ill-humour. She found none. When she glanced out the window, she was stunned.
She was staring directly at the rings of Saturn! They were immense, stretching on for miles both in width and length, and in the distance the sun. She felt faint. It just wasn’t possible! The people of earth hadn’t developed the technology for such a feat! They couldn’t have sustainable living on a ship in space! It was just too… unreal.
She pinched her arm in an effort to stave off the dream, which brought a humourless chuckle from the young man. “I did the same thing when I first woke up. However, when I woke I could see the earth. It was covered with a grayish haze, not the beautiful greens and blues you think you’d see. It’ll take you a while to come to terms with your new reality. I’m Dr. Colton Brady. This is Muriel Egglestaff. Welcome aboard The Mayflower.”
The next week was a dejected blur for Mrs. Tyler. Although life on the ship wasn’t difficult, the enormity of her circumstances left Mrs. Tyler sullen and angry. On earth, she’d had a young daughter named Hannah, and a loving husband. She’s searched the entire ship looking for them, but neither were on board. In her grief she wished they’d left her on earth. Nothing could compare to the loneliness she was feeling.
She simply went about her day; she’d wake, eat, roam the ship, and then lie to sleep. It was an endless cycle of pointlessness and she found herself at a loss for what to do. Becca too, had succumbed to misery. The normally raucous red-haired vamp was now prone to staring out the port-hole windows in miserable silence. Nicky however, thrived aboard the Mayflower. He’d found a couple of friends and had taken to sparring with the military boys housed on the other end of the ship. He seemed filled with boundless energy and cheeky grins. Mrs. Tyler had nothing to smile about.
“Mrs. Tyler?” Becca asked one day, pulling her from her gloomy thoughts. Becca was staring at her. It was then that she noticed how sallow the girl looked. Her normally lustrous hair was limp and hanging in matted tangles; her blue eyes hollow. This was a girl at the edge of defeat and hanging only by a single thread. “What’s going to happen to us?”
She studied the young girl for a moment. She was debating between honesty and false hope. She didn’t want the girl to give up, but at the same time, their situation seemed so desperately hopeless. As hopeless as she felt, however, Mrs. Tyler gave her a weak grin.
“I’m not sure, Becca.” She admitted. “I know that we’re alive, and with that, there’s always hope. Who knows, maybe we’ll find a planet we can survive on. I’m sure the people in charge of this ship have a plan set in motion. They wouldn’t launch us into space with no contingency plans.”
Becca gave a weak smile and nodded. In that moment, Mrs. Tyler decided it was time to give up on feeling sorry for herself. There were people here who needed her, and she wouldn’t be of any use if she were lying in her bunk pining. “Come, let’s go to the Mess Hall.” She took the girls hand and swept out of the room.
Captain Jack Ferrell stared out the window in wide-eyed astonishment. When they’d left earth, the initial plan had been to set course out of the milky-way and to try and find an inhabitable planet for his people. However, what Cpt. Ferrell was staring at threw his plan into tumult. No one could have expected what he was seeing.
It looked like a huge bird of prey soaring through space. He’d first noted the shape when it had come up on his radar, and had assumed it was simply an oddly shaped meteor. He’d been wrong. It was a giant ship! In all his years of training he’d never been taught how to deal with aliens. Was there a certain protocol? Do you just say hello?!
Jack’s wife Louisa Marsh also stood slack jawed and staring. Neither of them expected to run into a ship out here. She gave him a side long glance and swallowed. He tried to offer a reassuring grin, but by her expression it probably came out as a sneer.
Louisa and Jack had been instrumental in the design and naming of the Mayflower. Though Jack had wanted to name it Goshawk, Louisa had insisted on the Mayflower, as homage to the early pilgrims and their settling. Jack had reluctantly agreed, since in their own right, they were pilgrims.
The weapons officer, Kent Slayer suddenly burst into the room. His dark raptor-like gaze took in the scene and instantly rushed to the weapons console. Jack told the young man to wait a moment as Louisa sat herself at the communications console.
There was a sudden blinding flash that rocked the ship. Jack grabbed the railing in a strong grip and watched as the falcon-like ship out the window suddenly had flames licking its hull. The flames had apparently come from an explosion within and the ship was burning to cinders. Jack, Louisa and Kent all watched in horror as flames consumed the other ship.
There was an electronic crackle and a grainy voice suddenly rang out from Louisa’s console. He could hear screaming in the background; baleful wails of despair, when a voice suddenly came on. The message was simple, only four words. It wasn’t the message that chilled Ferrell to his bone, it was the voice.
Terror crept slowly into his spine as his own voice rang out over through the communication console:
“Don’t take the deal.”