A Long Way Home Chp 6
Siris had thought that he had prepared himself for the anger that the shareholders would feel at learning the news that they were alone and likely marooned on an alien planet a thousand years past their allotted time, but when, Geoffrey, according to the name on his chest, pushed him to the ground, he realized he was mistaken. It was basic human nature, he supposed, for the dumb brute to lash out, but Siris would have preferred if he had used a wall or something to target his ire. Geoffrey and the others that gathered behind the large boy in classic caricature of the riled-up angry mobs of the movies must have looked at his arm band and pitted him in the category of ‘them’ in the ‘us versus’ them scenario that they clung to. They needed someone to fight, someone to blame, and Siris was the easiest target, at least if it wasn’t for Cato.
The big dog lowered his head and let a rumble sound from deep in his chest, made all the more intimidating by the look in his eyes, eyes that were looking directly at Geoffrey, but the boy didn’t hear Cato’s warning. Geoffrey was ranting now, implying that Siris had somehow been, if not the cause, then definitely a contributor to the debacle that they were now in, and as he pulled his leg up to stomp on him. Cato let out a loud bark.
One of Geoffrey’s goons grabbed his leader’s arm and pulled him back just before he could follow through. Geoffrey cursed.
“What! Tyrone, he deserves it. He’s just a Yakka.” But Tyrone was looking at the dog, and so Geoffrey turned and saw Cato, ready to pounce. He was giant, muscle-bound, and had a head twice the size of Geoffrey’s.
“That dog’s gonna rip your throat out if you keep that up, Geoffrey.” And then at Geoffrey’s stoney glare. “Just Say’n.” Tyrone apologized.
“Look. I get it. I’m a Yakka, but I’m not even part of the ship's crew. See.” He pulled at the red band. “Red means essential colonial maintenance.” Geoffrey seemed to actually be thinking for a change. He stood there for a few seconds, weighing his options.
“So, like…you’re just a janitor?” He asked. “That’s okay. Someone has to clean our toilets.” He laughed and elbowed Tyrone who roared obligingly. He even slapped his leg as if he had never heard anything so comical in his whole life.
“Knock it off, Geoff.” The girl…Peter’s sister, had shrugged back into her jumpsuit and was standing, hands on hips, glaring at the much larger boy. Compared to her, Geoffrey looked like a giant, but despite her diminutive size, she had a presence that was impossible to ignore. Siris didn’t know if it was her attitude or her beauty that lent the ability, but he liked both.
“To be honest…” Siris broke in. “You’ll be lucky to have toilets, let alone clean drinking water..food, shelter…” He trailed off at the confused, terrified faces around him. He didn’t know why they were so shocked by the news. It seemed obvious to him that few automated mechanisms would still work a thousand years past their expiration date even if they could restore power to them, but the shareholders were rocked by the thought.
“The hab units will, most likely, be out of commission.” A chorus of emotional questions flew at him and he rushed to qualify his statement. “At least until we can restore power to the aft depot.”
Siris sidled past Geoffrey and his cronies and pointed to the door.
“We need to get out of here before those things come back. Grab anything that might look useful and we’ll head out.”
“Who voted and made you boss?” Siris didn’t really think that that was how bosses were made, but he kept his mouth shut, and just shrugged instead.
“He’s right, Geoff.” the girl said. Her name patch said Iris. “It doesn’t matter who the boss is as long as we do what makes sense, and that makes sense.” She said, pointing at Siris.
“Stop calling me Geoff.” Geoffrey said. His voice had lowered dangerously and he’d taken a threatening step toward her. Siris was shocked by how serious the boy sounded. Perhaps Geoffrey realized how ridiculous and weak he looked just then, because he visibly relaxed and even threw on a fake smile to try and take the edge of crazy off his behavior, but it was too late. Everyone had seen.
“Fine. Let’s go, everyone. Get your stuff and let’s get out of here.” He said loudly, as if they all required his order to make it happen.
Siris went over to the medical cabinet and pilfered for supplies that had withstood the test of time. He had to make executive decisions as to what to keep and what not to since his pack was nearly full already. He decided to leave an extra set of coveralls that looked to be about his size in exchange for bandages and antiseptic. The girl, Iris, came over and crouched next to him with a backpack like his and began topping it off with the same.
Siris desperately wanted to talk to her, but he wasn’t sure what to say. Finally he decided that his best bet was to offer his thanks. He cleared his throat to speak, but she beat him to it.
“Listen…Si…Whatever your name is. Just so you know, I’m not on your side, okay. Peter and I are on our own side. I don’t care if that big oaf beats you to death. As long as it doesn’t affect me, or mine…I’ll look the other way. Got it?” She stood up and left him there, swaying in the wake of that same attitude that he had so admired moments before.
Siris remained crouched for a minute, just staring into his pack, wondering if he should have just taken Cato in the other direction and left all of these…people to fend for themselves.
The group of kids eventually had to be coaxed, and some pulled, away from their private lockers full of knickknacks and keepsakes that would be of no use to a group of desperate survivalists in a hostile world.
Siris took the lead out of the hibernation room into the corridor. He led the group through the dark interior of the ship toward the rear of the ship where the computer had indicated there had been a hull breach. He hoped that they would be able to exit there as any exterior hatches would probably have been sealed shut with rust and corrosion centuries ago. They wouldn’t be magnetic locks like those on the interior, so the mechanisms would probably have seized as well, meaning that explosives might not even get them out.
The presence of alien creatures inside the ship gave him hope though, that there was a way out.
Young voices murmured and cried behind him as they walked despite his repeated attempts to quiet them, and he was worried that the sound would encourage the creatures to attack again. He could almost sense them looking at them from the darkness like before and he kept Cato close just in case.
Siris thought that he could see a little bit better so he tucked the glow stick between his pack and his back and waited for his eyes to adjust. Yes. He was sure now. A faint light filtered through the darkness and he smiled.
“I think we’re almost there.” He said aloud, and pulled the glow stick back out. Sunlight stabbed through a curtain of silhouetted hanging vines that draped over the ragged hole in the ship. But it wasn’t a hole.
As Siris pushed through the vines he was forced to shield his overwhelmed eyes for a long time until the glare eased and he could see his new home. The ship had broken in half and the ‘breach’ was as wide as the ship, but the green plants that had overgrown the debris made it surprisingly difficult to pick out from the rest of the landscape. As a matter of fact, as he looked out over the undulating terrain below them, he couldn’t pick out where the other half of the ship had landed.
The half of the ship that contained all of the colonization equipment was nowhere to be seen. The situation had suddenly become even more complicated than what he had described to Geoffrey and the rest.
“It’s beautiful.” Iris’s voice whispered beside him, and he allowed himself to take in the rest of the scene, shifting his focus momentarily from the search for the aft portion of the ship to the low scudding clouds and green covered cliffs and valleys.
It was definitely rugged. The scientists in charge of the briefing packets had described how Ross 128 b was still a young planet when it came to geologic activity, at least compared to earth, and it showed. Everything had an almost ‘unfinished’ quality to it. The mountains were sharper, cliffs more jagged, and from this slight promontory, Siris could spot the white reflection of no less than three waterfalls. She was right. It was beautiful. He looked up, perhaps looking for a sign of where they’d come from, but he took in a surprised breath. Iris followed his gaze.
Two moons were visible in the blue sky. One massive blue sphere seemed to hover over them. Its size gave the illusion that it was about to crash into the planet any minute. To the right, and much smaller, was a moon that looked a lot like the moon they’d all grown used to. It was gray and pocked with the darker gray of shadowed craters.
“Incredible.” Siris heard himself say. Everyone was speaking in hushed tones as they took it all in, as if to speak at a normal volume would be disrespectful, except Geoffrey.
“That’s pretty cool.” He said. It sounded like he yelled it. Maybe he was trying to wrest everyone’s attention back to what mattered…himself. But, the fact that someone that full-of-himself could give any amount of praise to something else other than Geoffrey was a testament to just how awe inspiring Ross 128 b was.
“It looks like the sun is going down.” Peter’s small voice piped up. He was right. Siris looked toward the big yellow sun and shielded his eyes again. He racked his brain for the information in the briefing pamphlets about Ross’s orbital patterns and this planet’s day length. It seemed just out of his grasp.
“Ross 128 b doesn’t have day and night.” One of the kids in the back said. “It all depends on where we landed. Judging from the position of the sun, I’d say we are right where we’re supposed to be. Further south and we’d bake.”
“That’s right. I remember that. No rotation.” Siris agreed. No wonder this place was so green. It was the perfect spot for living things to thrive. He smiled, imagining the colony spread out in the valleys below.
A rumble echoed off to his left and his smile vanished. A storm, dark, but for the rapid flashes of electricity stretched the length of the horizon.
“The sun might not go down.” Siris said, “but it’s going to get dark soon regardless.”