Last week’s FFF: Courthouse Edition
As the ship orbited just outside above the Sterilis’s atmosphere, Jenkins couldn’t help but stare at the beauty of it. Below him there were vast expanses of blue seas and dusty white beaches. Scattered clouds hung in the sky, but they were just wisps and barely obstructed his view.
He couldn’t wait to go down there. It had been ages since he’d stepped foot on land. Sure, he’d have to go in his spacesuit, but the thought of being on solid ground made him downright giddy. He placed his hand to the window, stroking the image of the planet and imagining himself making a home there.
Jenkins crew had two jobs: install the teraforming hydropump and protect the teraforming hydropump. While this planet had an abundance of water, it lacked any life due to the face that almost off of the oxygen was locked inside it’s oceans. Their pump would release it, making the world eventually habitable for plants, and eventually, for animals.
But not everyone thought they belonged on that planet. A rebellious faction broke off from the Coalition, and they harbored an almost religious belief that mankind belonged in space. Given the opportunity, they would sabotage the teraforming. Jenkins had spent far too many decades looking for a remotely habitable planet to let them get in his way.
A green light flashed in the ship, signaling Jenkins and his crew that it was time to head to the surface. He hung his suit on the shuttle wall, did a double check on the teraformer, and sat in the copilot seat. His crew consisted of two other men. One was the pilot who doubled as a engineer. The other was pure muscle, along to move the equipment and fight if necessary. The soldier stood near the pump, armed and ready, with magnetic boots to keep him upright.
We sealed the doors to the shuttle and unclasped the anchor. The ship floated upward. With a whoosh, the bay doors open. The pilot expertly navigated them out of the ship and set a course.
They listed toward the surface. Before they broke through the atmosphere, the shuttle lost power. The soldier floated helpless as Jenkins tried to assess the situation. The power came back and the pilot turned sharply and headed back into space. The sudden course correction knocked the solider against the shuttle walls, leaving him unconscious.
“What happened?” Jenkins asked.
“I’m sorry,” the pilot replied.
Before Jenkins could make sense of the situation, the pilot slapped him in the neck. Offended and confused, Jenkins looked at the man. As he pulled his hand away, Jenkins could see the electrical current extending from a pad on the pilots hand. A moment later, he felt the jolts of electricity in his neck and promptly passed out.
When Jenkins awoke, he found himself on the floor of an unfurnished room. The walls were seamless steel.
“Hello?” he yelled.
He stood and began to pace the room. He couldn’t find the door. Perhaps if he knew were it was, he’d be able to surprise whoever entered with an ambush. But every inch of the steel looked the same.
“What do you want from me?” he yelled.
A blinding light erupted in the middle of the room. Jenkins had to shield his eyes from it’s intensity, but peeked as best he could. A man stepped out from the light. Once he was clear, the light disappeared. Jenkins blinked rapidly. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Not only did this man just come from nowhere. But this man was his brother.
“Kelvin? What are you doing here? How did you get here? What was that thing?”
“Hello, brother. It’s been a long time. That was a portal. Neat little thing, isn’t it? It makes holding people so much easier. No worry of escape.”
Jenkins had never heard of such a thing existing in real life.
“Yes. We’ve got a great many technologies that the Coalition has never dreamed of. If you all weren’t so busy trying to find planets and return the human race to what it used to be, then you could focus on the future, like we have.”
“I suppose that means that you’re running with the Defiance these days?”
“I hate that title. We like to think of ourselves as the Conservators.”
“Whatever you call yourself, why did you bring me here?”
“There is a war coming, brother. We can’t let you teraform that planet.”
“Because mankind had its chance at living on a planet. It was called Earth and we destroyed it. We can’t doom another planet.”
“But this planet is lifeless. What does it matter?”
“But it isn’t. They just want you to think that it is. There are more than three thousand species on that planet. At least four of which have a chance of reaching sentience. But the majority of them either live under the water or under the ground. And they built like us. You might not recognize them as life by the standard definitions. But we have studied them, and they are truly amazing. Teraforming will kill them all.”
Jenkins was unsure what to think. He had his orders. He’d lived with his crew, his commanders, and everyone on his ship for decades. He could hardly imagine them lying. But desire does strange things. It corrupts and it blinds. This was his brother.
“Tell me,” Kelvin said, “will you join my side?”
“If you can prove to me that you’re right, then I will do everything in my power to help you.”
The portal opened again, and this time, Jenkins went through. He and his brother emerged on the deck of a ship. They were deep in space, with only specs of stars in view. The bridge was filled with aquariums of strange creatures that moved in unnatural ways. Beyond that, there was an abundance of equipment that Jenkins had never seen before, and was suspecting he wouldn’t understand.
“Welcome, brother, to the fight for the future of life.”