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It was huge news, plastered over the television, radio, newspaper, and Internet. Everyone was excited about the new Earth that had been discovered. We will make contact! NASA promised. It was a promise they kept, with the president socking money into the program to send people to the stars, to explore and discover this world that was exactly like ours. We celebrated the day the spacecraft hovered over the atmosphere of New Earth, we waited with baited breath, and then chaos broke out.
Shannon looked out on to the quietness of space, her hands shook as she sipped her tea. Her hair was gray; her skin snagged with lines, there hung a sharp sadness in her coal black eyes. “Are you all right, Gram?” Shannon’s granddaughter, Jessie, with her long black hair and long lean legs walked over the cabin threshold to the porch where Shannon sat. “Yes, dear, why?” “You look so far away,” Jessie’s voice was heavy as her eyes looked up to the sky. “It’s a beautiful night; you can actually see the stars.” “Yes.” Shannon looked to the south where a heavy cloud of fog hung over the horizon. “Do you want the radio to listen to what’s going on? I can hardly stand to listen anymore.” Shannon considered for a moment as she handed the now empty tea cup over. “I think I will tonight. Are you going to bed?” “Yes, I’m exhausted. The corn is not growing as well as I had hoped.” Jessie went inside and returned with a small radio that she sat on a bench behind her grandmother. She turned it on. “Goodnight, Gram. See you in the morning.”
“Night, dear,” Shannon replied as she rocked in her chair and listened.
Battle through grids 400 to 600 continued today, it is estimated 1200 people lost their lives. New Earth numbers range…3000.
Shannon looked to her hands, her eyes glazed over the creases and folds…her mind drifted…
* The champagne splashed and cheers rang. “Is this covered under NASA regulations?” Todd laughed as he tipped the bottle to his open mouth. Seven astronauts crowded around him and laughed. “I’m thinking it’s not,” a young Shannon replied, her dark hair that had been neatly tucked in a ponytail hung in loose strands about her olivetoned face. “Oh, come on, Commander, have some! When else are we going to be able to celebrate?” Susan, a short, pretty redhead in her late thirties said. “Celebrate with us!”
“Speech, Speech!” Someone yelled. Everyone joined in they raised their glasses for a toast. Shannon looked to each of her crew members. She did not feel like celebrating. There was a growing concern that gnawed in her belly, but for them, for her crew, she raised her glass and forced a smile. “To our fortune, to humanity, to…New Earth,” she said. Everyone cheered as they brushed glasses together before they drank and proceeded to bubble over with laughter.
* “I understand that, sir, but I still think we should…” Shannon could feel her blood pressure rise. “Given the circumstances, I don’t think it…” “It doesn’t matter what you think,” the person on the other end of the telecom replied scornfully. Shannon twisted in her chair and tried to avoid the small window that gave a perfect view of the planet, New Earth. “We are announcing the discovery tonight and we want you at the prompt for a cast.” “Sir, off the record...” There was a heavy sigh over the telecom followed by a very brief silence. “Shannon,” the person replied, which brought a smile to her face, at
least he was going to be one-on-one like the old friends they were. “I know what is going through your head, I understand where you are coming from, but I have superiors here who are adamant about letting the public, the entire world, know we’ve discovered a this new Earth. This is an extraordinary opportunity for humanity.” Silence “Think of the possibilities.” “There are people down there,” she said in a whisper and inched closer to the telecom. “People, Eric, what if I give my little speech to the world and just happen to say, ‘oh by the way, there are inhabitants, but don’t worry, you’ll still get your fair share of the pie.’” “There is more to it than that, Shannon.” “I know, that’s what frightens me.” An even longer pause “Your name will go down in the history books as the new Christopher Columbus.” Shannon held her finger near the telecom disconnect. “Maybe I don’t want that distinction.” “You can’t say anything that is an order, Shan…” She cut him off.
Later… It was easy enough to give the speech to the world, without a hitch she told everyone the miracle of seeing a planet as livable as Earth. She listened as the reporters grew pregnant with questions, but only one caught her attention and left her unable to eat or sleep for days. Are there inhabitants?
* “Gram?” Shannon’s eyes snapped open. Jessie loomed over her but her eyes were to the heavens above them. “You’re not going to be here all night, are you?” The young woman’s voice was riddled with concern. Shannon followed her granddaughter’s eyes. There was a purple glow dotted with white sparks from shrapnel. “They’ve started up again,” Shannon said absently. Jessie sunk to her knees next to her grandmother’s chair and laid her hand on the elder’s. “Gram, do you think it will ever stop?” “Only when nobody is left.”
* Todd and Susan announced themselves by a light tap at Shannon’s bunk. “Commander?” Todd asked, nervously. Shannon quickly rolled over to face them. “It’s nothing serious,” Susan immediately added. Taking note of their hunched shoulders, and dour looks, Shannon yawned. “You can speak frankly with me, you know.” She watched as their tensely riddled bodies softened. “You have questions, concerns, about them?” “Why is nothing being said?” Todd would have made a perfect peace activist. His brilliant blonde hair would only need to be a few inches longer. Susan charged in and said, “We read that they are already setting up grids to price out land to the highest bidders.” Shannon calmed her own frantic voice as she spoke, after all, a commander could not sound out of control. She took a deep breath. “I know what both of you are feeling, my God, I sound like them now. Listen, I’ve spoken with everyone, and I mean, everyone. They don’t want to divulge anything about these… people… to the general public.”
“But they’ve read the reports, they can’t go plowing their way in there, selling off land, like…like…” Todd splayed out his hands. “Jesus, Shannon, you’re an American-Indian.” “I don’t know if that’s the best way to put it.” Susan looked uncomfortable, which surprised Shannon. “Eric said the same thing, but regardless of my heritage, the facts are these people are about to get run out of their homes and there is nothing we can do about it.” “Will they even understand what is happening?” “I’m sure they will. Even as primitive as they are, they will know, in time. Now, return to your posts and stop with the worry, that’s my job.” They nodded and left her to return to her already troubled sleep. She noted the other eyes that had turned to watch and listen in the dim sleeping chamber before she laid her head to her pillow. If a crew of eight can understand the ramifications of our actions, why couldn’t the big guys? Shannon silently reflected. Surely, we’ve come to a point in our civilization to not repeat such atrocities? But in the hunger of a world that was overcrowded, overburden, and sadly, dying, how could she argue with the people of Earth, the old Earth’s, deepest desire to start life fresh on a new planet?
* While Shannon slept in the arms of stars, millions of miles away the government had already divided the small new Earth into grids. Shortly, the bids would begin, and in no time at all, the land would be sold. Every last bit, from plain to mountain, to every drop in the oceans. All gone.
* Jessie shook as she watched the sky. “Will you go back to the fort, see if they are considering flights again?” “No, I’ve a feeling that is never going to happen now.” Shannon watched as a target was hit, a low boom traveled up the valley. “I managed to reach Eric earlier, I didn’t say anything, you were in the field, perhaps I shouldn’t tell you any more.” “Go ahead, I’ve a feeling I know what you are going to say anyway.” “Then there is nothing to say. We’ll live as best we can.” Jessie laid her head on Shannon’s lap as tears slipped across her cheeks. “Do they know if anyone survived on Earth?” “They’re not sure, there’s been no contact.”
* The crew met in the eating area, silent as they stared at the viewcom. Shannon leaned close to the group, she wanted to watch and listen, too.
The bidding ended 2 months ago, but the fights continue as countries war over who precisely owns and has rights to New Earth. Ambassador…
“Do we really need to listen to this?” Susan said over her breakfast. Todd patted her on the shoulder. “The whole planet will end up in war for sure.” “Not a word was said about New Earth’s inhabitants!” Shannon broke through the group to turn off the viewcom to get their full attention. “Gang, I’ve just been told that we need to gather the numbers of New Earth’s population and report it directly to Sirius One.” Questions broke out. “Numbers?” “Sirius One?” “Yes, they want the total of the population for the Sirius crew; they are only a month out from our location.” Shannon said as she looked from
person to person with emphasis. “After we gather the data, we’ve been directed to start grouping them into specific grids.” Silence prevailed all through prep, no words beyond that of running the mechanics and computers of the ship to New Earth. They’d been here before, several times, to witness how the New Earth people lived. That had been full of mystery and intrigue, discovery, now they stepped silently onto the planet, luxuriated in the peace, breathing deeply of the unspoiled air, and devoured with their eyes the perfect blue sky. “A mere 5,000 people,” Shannon punched the numbers into her handpad. Todd glanced over her shoulder. “Can’t believe we are about to be rendezvoused with an army, why not a science crew like us?” “Money, honey, it’s all about the money.”
* Shannon and Jessie were awoken the next morning by a vicious pounding on the front door.
The two women raced to the door to find a group of New Earth’s inhabitants waiting outside for them. Shannon and Jessie silently and peacefully left the interior to join their captors outside. Jessie held her grandmother’s hand as they followed the small, but heavily armed group that had been on the porch. “I remember a similar walk, years ago…with mother.” Jessie said. Shannon’s eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that, please don’t cry,” Jessie wiped her grandmother’s face. “You did the best you could.”
* Shannon raced back to the ship, her heart pounding in her throat. The quiet was beyond disturbing, it was driving her insane! Her hands fumbled with the door catch, but she managed to get in, gasping, choking, pleading for her frantic mind to quiet. “Sirius One, Sirius One, this is Gateway!” Her voice shook as she yelled over the telecom. “Sirius One, somebody please answer!!” “This is Sirius One.” “Abort,” Shannon stopped long enough to gulp down air. “Gateway?”
“Don’t come to the plant, I repeat, do not…” “Shannon?” The voice of her husband nearly gave her a heart attack. “Greg?” “What the hell is going on? Where is the orbiting Gateway?” “Greg? My god, Greg, it’s gone, get Sirius away from orbit!” “We’ve already made contact, there’s already twelve ships on the ground, Shannon what…” Shannon buckled, her face in her hands, it was over, all over.
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