The Second Star To The Right

Submitted into Contest #130 in response to: Set your story in a nameless world.... view prompt

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Fiction Science Fiction Romance

Sleep.

I had slept for a very long time.

Three years to be precise but I was meant to have slept for five, while hurtling through space in the star ship Endeavor before being awoken at New Europa.  A colony located on Exoplanet Alpha Centauri A-a, which spun around Alpha Centauri A. Well, that was the official designation, before it was changed to Tera, to help the public get a grasp the fact that it was our new home. For some of us…

The mission was to ship supplies to New Europa then on our second run, we could stay. It was the price we paid for salvation and to get off our sick and dying planet. Only geniuses, farmers, engineers and the super wealthy, qualified to head straight there but fly boys like me had to do it the hard way.

We were a skeleton crew of five as all the available space was reserved for our precious cargo, which included long life food products, machines and equipment needed to make the new world habitable. That was meant to be the mission…

I woke to the sounds of alarms, screaming and the acrid smell of melting plastic and burning electrical wires. It was hard to breath as my face mask wasn’t pumping air so when I came to, I ripped it off and rubbed my eyes.

Suddenly, the lid on my broken cryotube was raised and I found Captain Tracy Vega standing over me, screaming my name.

“Vince! Vince! Get up and help us with the fires, before everything goes up in flames!”

I slowly stepped out of the cryotube and into a hellscape. Captain Vega was putting out fires at one end of the cabin while our co-pilot Susan Loche was at the other but there was no sign of the other two remaining crew.

Adrenalin pushed me into action, and I grabbed another fire extinguisher then attacked the last of the fires. After about ten tense minutes, the fires were put out and I had the chance to walk to the bridge and see where we were. Wait a second… I ‘walked’ there. Why did we have gravity?

When I arrived there, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see. The front of our ship was crushed in and all the instruments were damaged but luckily, the hull wasn’t breached. What was most startling, was what could be seen outside the damaged front windows. Instead of the inky black void of space and the sprinkle of stars, I beheld a strange landscape of an unknown planet.

The sky was red, and the small amount of flora were shades of reds and purples. Jagged mountains could be seen in the distance and rather than a yellow sun, there was a big red dwarf. Panic set in as I ran back to Vega to find out how everything got right and royally screwed up.

“Captain! What the hell happened?!”

I asked, then Tracy Vega faced me and said,

“Settle down, Wilde. I think we hit something and when the automated navigation system tried to correct our course, it got zapped by a power surge. It could have happened a day, a week… Hell, it could have happened a year ago, but we were eventually woken when the collision warning system kicked in.”

Captain Tracy Vega was a very attractive woman with blond hair, blue eyes and a great body, which could be clearly seen as she was in her underwear. What was most attractive to me was her fierce intellect and courage. She would never panic or show fear. Instead, she would use the stress of any given situation to make better decisions and actions.

Loche then joined us and announced,

“Sanders and Eaton are dead, Captain. What do you want us to do?”

Susan Loche was also pretty in a cute, wholesome way, with freckles, short red hair and brown eyes. We had flown together before and I think she had a thing for me but neither of us had time to explore our attraction.

I had been told that I was a good-looking guy, with my muscular build, broad shoulders, jet black hair and bright blue eyes but I had never settled down as what was the point! If I started a relationship with someone on Earth and they didn’t make the flight over, then it would have been a waste.

Tracy turned to Susan and said,

“Let’s find out what works. Starting with Ripley.”

Ripley was our main computer, which was controlled by artificial intelligence. It was programmed to have a human like character and was named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the movie, Alien. We found a workstation that wasn’t damaged in the crash and were able to fire it up. After a few moments, we heard a female voice through the cabin speakers.

“Hey, boss. We’re in a bit of a pickle now, huh?”

“Ripley. What is our status?”

Asked Tracy with absolutely no humor in her voice.

“The first four modules are structurally sound but the last two are compromised. All propulsion systems have been damaged and ejected before I was able to make an emergency landing on this exoplanet. The communications array has been irreparably damaged and navigation system has been fried. We have no idea where we are, boss.”

Although having no propulsion system meant that we were marooned, we were lucky that it was ejected before we landed as it was nuclear. Tracy considered our position then asked,

“Tell us about the rock we are on.”

“Gravity is 1.2 g and the atmosphere is similar to Earth but with a slightly higher oxygen and carbon percentage so it’s breathable but don’t run a marathon. The outside temperature is 35.2 degrees Celsius and we are orbiting a red dwarf. Lucky, huh?”

Ripley’s programming could be unnerving sometimes, as you forget that it’s a computer. Tracy then turned to us and said,

“OK… We are going to go step by step through the whole ship and make note of what we have and what still works.”

We did as she ordered until we reached the last two modules, which we couldn’t access. As we had launched Ripley’s operating system, we could verbally communicate with it anywhere on the ship. Tracy thought for a moment and said,

“Ripley. Scan the surrounding area out to about 100 meters and tell me what you see.”

“Give me three minutes, boss.”

We then walked back to the bridge. When we were about halfway there, Ripley reported,

“The soil contains a large percentage of perlite and vermiculite, which would be a suitable growth medium for plants and there seems to be a source of water, but it has an extremely high PH reading. Very acidic.

We seem to be on the edge of a valley, but a wider scan would provide more detail of the topography.”

“OK, do it.”

Responded Tracy. She stood there with her hands on her hips and head down while she pondered our situation, then said,

“OK… We have about a week’s worth of water on the ship, so I want to break out the water purifier. The light from the red dwarf will keep charging our solar panels meaning we won’t have an issue with power, and we have literally years’ worth of food.”

“Can we ‘try’ and fix the communications system? Try to send out a mayday?!”

We could tell that Susan was panicking then we heard Ripley say,

“Susan. My sensors have detected that your heart rate and breathing are elevated. Are you in distress?”

“Yes, Ripley but mute crew sensor readings for now.”

Commanded Susan.

“Unable to comply.”

Was Ripley’s response. All three of us looked at each other, then Tracy asked,

“Why… are you unable to comply, Ripley?”

“I have detected an anomaly in my programming.”

It responded.

“Run a diagnostic and repair, Ripley.”

I commanded.

“Unable to comply.”

We shrugged our shoulders and went to work and when it was time to venture outside, we did so in our space suits. If Ripley was glitching, then we didn’t want to risk a chance of inhaling a lung full of poisonous gas our burning to a crisp. I stepped out first followed by Susan then Tracy and before we decided to take in the sights, we reviewed our instruments.

“Everything checks out as per Ripley’s report boss. Permission to remove my helmet and see for myself.”

I asked.

“Granted.”

I removed my helmet and took my first breath of air on whatever planet this was. It seemed a little thin and there was a tinge of sulfur or something but otherwise, breathable. Somehow, we were marooned on a Goldilocks planet.

I gave Tracy and Susan a thumbs up and they took off their helmets, before we started investigating the immediate area. I came across a few small springs that fed into a creek, just as I was joined by my colleagues. Tracy had a quick look around and said,

“OK, Mr. Wilde. Set up the water purifier right here and rig up a few forty-gallon drums. Susan? You and I are going to bury Sanders and Eaton. Let’s get to it, guys.”

We did as she ordered and within a few hours we had two large barrels filled with drinkable water and poor Jeff Sanders and Bruce Eaton were buried. I looked up at the red dwarf and noticed that it barely moved in the few hours we were there so when we returned to the ship I asked,

“Hey Ripley. Have you been monitoring the planet and recording all relevant data?”

“Affirmative, Vince.”

Responded Ripley.

“OK… based on the movement of the sun in the three odd hours that we’ve been here, can you estimate when the sun will go down?”

I asked and Ripley immediately replied,

“About twenty hours. I will give you precise figures once we have had one full solar revolution.”

I decided to get out of my hot space suite as there was no real need to wear it any longer. Once I opened my locker, I stripped down to my briefs and was about to dress into a jumpsuit when I heard Ripley announce,

“Captain Vega, my sensors have detected that you are sexually aroused. Are you sexually aroused?”

I turned around and found a very shocked Tracy and heard Susan laughing in the adjoining pod. The shock only lasted for a few moments then Tracy announced,

“Incorrect, Ripley. Your sensors are malfunctioning.”

She then walked by me and started changing into her jump suit, but I made sure not to face her, or I’ll be having to tell Ripley that her senses were malfunctioning as well. Once I knew she was dressed, I turned to Tracy and said,

“By the way boss, the days are probably going to last at least twice as long as they do on Earth, so I suggest that we base our activities and sleep around three eight-hour intervals.”

“Sounds like a plan, Vince.”

The night slowly approached, and we were dead tired, so Tracy called it a day then we had some freeze-dried food type… product. Before we went to sleep, Tracy announced,

“It’s going to be a long night so let’s set our alarms for eight hours then once we get up, we’ll start working within the ship. I’m going to have the red dwarf dictate what we’re going to do.”

It took a while for us to get to sleep, as our imaginations started to run amuck. Were we going to die? Was there any chance of rescue? After an hour of trying, I heard footsteps coming toward me in the dark.

“Vince? Are you awake?”

“Uhm… Yeah, Susan. What’s up?”

I asked.

“Are you scared?”

Asked Susan and I could tell that she was upset but I tried to make her feel better.

“No, I’m not. Tracy’s a good captain… We have more than enough food and water and regardless of what Ripley says, I’m sure that we can jerry-rig something and call for help.”

“Really?”

“Sure! Just enjoy the ride and think of all the stories you get to tell when we get to New Europa. It’s just a pity about Sanders and Eaton.”

I said reassuringly. I could tell by Susan’s breathing that she had calmed down a little, then she asked,

“Vince? I know that we really don’t know each other well but…. would it be OK if I slept with you? Not Sex! Sleep…”

“Sure. Hop on in.”

Our beds were quite small so Susan had to spoon me in order to fit on the mattress, but it was kind of nice to have that human contact. I was about to fall asleep when I heard,

“Susan, my sensors have detected that you are sexually aroused. Are you sexually aroused?”

Susan then yelled,

“No, I’m not! Your sensors are still malfunctioning, Ripley. Shut up so we can get some sleep!”

“Activating night mode. Speak to you in eight hours.”

Announced Ripley. Across the room, I heard Tracy giggle, but I could tell that she tried to stifle it, which got me going and eventually, Susan.

Days became weeks… Weeks became months and we continued to focus on our survival and trying to call for help. The soil on the planet proved to be suitable for our plants, which grew at an astonishing rate, thanks to the long days. The three of us got to know each other very well and we started treating Ripley like a crazy old Auntie, who said inappropriate things.

We all had turns being embarrassed by Ripley, who periodically zinged whoever had their libido cranked up. We knew that her sensors weren’t malfunctioning and after a while, stopped pretending that it was.

A year went by and we had created a nice little home for ourselves. I had just dug up a few potatoes for our dinner when I spotted Susan and Tracy walking toward me. I had started wondering where they were as they had been gone for a few hours and I was about to ask them, when I noticed that they had strange looks on their faces. Tracy then said,

“Vince…we haven’t been successful in getting our communications up and running. All we have, is the emergency beacon that we can launch, only if there’s a passing craft.”

Then Susan continued her point.

“Having said that, we thought that… maybe we should start living. Not just existing. Do you know what we mean?”

I sort of had an idea of what they were saying but I didn’t want to be mistaken. The three of us were in our twenties and sexually active. Tracy cleared her throat, looked at Susan then said,

“We want to date you… INDIVIDUALLY. Not like a ‘menage a toi’.

OK. That made it abundantly clear and it seemed like it was something that they had discussed in detail. We knew that we were attracted to each other, thanks to jolly ol’ Ripley. After a few moments I said,

“OK but can we do it like… organically? Spontaneously? I generally like to make it mean something. You know?”

They agreed and we proceeded with our tasks. That evening, we said our good nights and tried to get some sleep. Tried being the operative word, as I considered what the girls had proposed. Our beds were about eighteen feet apart, so they were close enough to hear each other stirring or gently snoring.

I heard shuffling from the direction of Tracy’s bed then felt a hand touch my shoulder.

“Vince? It’s Tracy. Would you like to go for a walk?”

“Uhm… Yeah, Tracy.”

I responded.

We walked to one of the rear modules, that contained a number of furnishings, meant for the new colonists on New Europa. One of the containers was open and laid beside it was a king size bed. I turned to Tracy, who came up and kissed me. We became more and more passionate then she stopped for a moment then said,

“Lights off.”

And the module lights extinguished. That was the first night that I spent with Tracy and the following night, was my first time with Susan. I often thought about the morality of our situation but ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t apply any of the usual moral rules of right and wrong in our unique predicament. We were the world. The only civilization.

About five years later, I was tending the crops closest to our home, which we no longer considered to be a ship. Tracy and our daughter Jane were collecting drinking water from the small pond that we had created, while Susan and our son Jack, were inside and preparing dinner.

We had found peace and enjoyment in our lives and we didn’t remember the last time we thought about being rescued, until we heard Ripley call us from the external loudspeaker.

“Captain Vega, Susan and Vince. Please report to the bridge.”

We made it to the bridge when Ripley announced,

“My sensors have detected a craft approaching within sensor range. There is a small possibility that we can be found if we launched the beacon, but we have to do it within the next thirty seconds.”

I hadn’t thought about being rescued for so long, that I couldn’t understand what it meant to me. To us! I turned to Susan and Tracy and they seemed as confused and concerned as I was, but Tracy then said,

“I haven’t been the acting captain for a long time, but I say that if one of us wants to go, we all go.”

No one responded, then Ripley announced,

“Twenty seconds.”

Susan then said,

“Life at New Europe may not be as good as it is here.”

“Ten seconds.”

I just smiled and said,

“I’m not leaving paradise.”

Susan and Tracy smiled as well. We weren’t going anywhere. It was then that we named our new world.

Paradise.

January 27, 2022 21:37

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