“Dude I can’t believe I had to dare you to grab the codes to this thing.” Darius said as he ran his hand across the top of the instrument panel. “So the Senate is just handing these out now?”
“He got it as part of his recent promotion for settling the dispute over on Solilia.” Lez replied unimpressed.
Lez’s father had been part of the Senate since he could remember and his family had benefited quite a bit from all the perks, everything from new models to family vacations to flat out cash. Darius’s family on the other hand was part of the common council, which still gave him more perks than being a baseborn but nothing like the new model CRX 15.
“Seriously? That place is lightyears away, why does the Senate even care about whether or not they nuke themselves? I mean they’re just going to be back at it in a century anyway.” Darius said.
It was true, Solilia was notorious for being trigger friendly and they were constantly disputing among each other. Lez’s father had to deescalate three dire situations over the last century alone. And Lez was still amazed at the lack of self-preservation the Solilians seemed to have.
“Check out this navigation system.” Darius said, flipping through the different star maps. “He’s got access to it all, The Betas, Cryus, and even Neffer. Dude, we have to take this thing for a spin.”
Lez rolls his eyes and replied, “Dude, they have a tracking system on here. We'd get caught and then I would definitely have zero chances of going to Caprica this summer.”
“Well it just so happens that you are best friends with the top programmer in Tholia.” Darius replied smirking as he flipped open the center console and began typing away.
“What are you doing?” Lez asked suspiciously.
“Relax dude,” Darius replied without looking up. “Remember common council are the ones who do all the coding. Which means I know exactly what I’m doing. Just a few more and then…. we are…. Done. Bam! No more tracking system.”
Lez silently stared at his friend, debating whether or not this was a good idea. He knew Darius was an amazing programmer, so good in fact it was likely he would be promoted to Senate quickly after orientation this fall. But still, if they got caught they chanced more than a ruined trip to Caprica.
Finally, Lez shook his head saying, “Even with the tracking system deactivated patrol would still get suspicious. I mean the two of us in a brand new model. We might as well bolt a flashing sign to the top saying, ‘pull us over’.”
“Come on man, now you’re just coming up with excuses. Okay how about you pick the spot. We can go to Ehines or Xephypso, they always have great music and hot chicks. Or how about…” Darius’s voice trailed off. “Wait, what’s this?” Darius asked, flipping through the navigation system.
Lez looked over and saw the words ‘RESTRICTED’ lit up brightly across the screen. Why would my father have restricted coordinates? He thought to himself as he walked closer to the console.
“Lez, dude. Your dad has restricted access! You know what this means? We can go past the Outer Rim. This is huge, we have to check it out.”
“But why would he have restricted access?” Lez wonders out loud this time.
“Who cares man. Let’s start this bad boy up and check it out.” Darius replied.
“Seriously? We have literally no idea what’s out there. For all we know there could be a black hole at the center.” Lez said, turning around to go sit back in his chair.
“Okay so first off, if there was a black hole it’d be a no go zone not a restricted one. Secondly, I bet it has some of the best views. The uninhabitable planets always have the best views. Plus, according to this no one will be there, look.” Darius said.
Lez glanced over and sure enough it said it right there, STATUS: INACTIVE. This meant that no one would be there to catch them, but it also meant that no one was supposed to travel without clearance first. Which ultimately meant it would be even worse than he initially thought if they got caught.
“Yea, that probably means there’s nothing out there worth looking at.” Lez replied but he could see that Darius wasn’t ready to give up without a fight. “Here how about we compromise and take a ride to the Outer Rim. We can head to the Dalia Arcade.” He quickly added, hoping to satisfy Darius.
This time it was Darius’s turn to roll his eyes, “Lez are you serious? We’ve been given a gift here and you want to use it to go to Dalia?”
Lez knew it was lame in comparison but he also knew the amount of trouble they would get in if they got caught in a restricted zone, an area that either had no life or new life which meant nothing intelligent lived there.
“And you would rather go to ‘Restricted Area 514? As if that sounds any more exciting,” Lez shot back. “Look do you want to take this thing out or not? If so, I’m all for it but not if it means going to a restricted zone. So what’s it gonna be Darius?”
The two friends stared at each other for a moment before Darius finally surrendered. “Fine, Outer Rim here we come.”
Lez jumped up and squeezed Darius shoulders before settling into the seat next to him. “How about you take the helm tonight.” He said, hoping to cheer Darius up a bit.
Darius looked over with a coy smile, “Alright, that works. Let’s get this baby in the air.”
They both grabbed their harnesses and strapped in while Darius entered their destination codes into the navigation system.
Good thing Dad’s at a Gala tonight, Lez thought as the loud engines whirred to life. He could feel the craft begin to lift them off the ground and towards the sky. Lez knew they only had a few moments left before the propellant gases completed their warming cycle. He quickly looked over at Darius with a smile as his friend winked back. What is that about, Lez wondered before being thrusted into space and off the planet.
It took him a moment to shake off the rush of adrenaline flooding his body. “Whooo!” Darius shouted, absolutely thrilled with the takeoff. “That was faster than I thought it’d be, and smooth too. Did you feel how it eased out of hyper speed like that? There was none of that jolting crap our model has.”
Lez laughed as he unbuckled his harness, getting up to stretch. After taking a quick look around he noticed the sky looked different, Dalia’s rings were nowhere in sight. And its blue sun had been replaced with a bright orange fire off to their right. Where are we, Lez thought. Then panic began to rise within him as he realized what had happened.
“You idiot! Are you serious?! What did you do!” Lez screamed at Darius who was resetting the engines. “Why are you freaking out?” Darius asked without looking up.
Lez couldn’t tell if his friend was genuinely oblivious to what had just happened or if he was a really good actor, either way they were screwed he thought.
“Where did you send us?” Lez asked pointing towards the blazing orange heat in the distance.
Darius’ eyes widened with amazement. “It’s an orange sun, and it’s huge! I’ve never seen an orange sun this big. I wonder where the planet is.”
“Darius, where did you send us?” Lez asked trying to stay calm.
“I don’t know, I swear I put in the coordinates for Dalia. Oh man, Lez there’s got to be a new life planet here somewhere. This is awesome.” Darius said, unconcerned about the current predicament he had just placed them in.
Lez quickly responded, “It doesn’t matter because we are leaving. Put in the coordinates for Tholia. We’re heading home now, I’m so done with this night.”
Darius shifted uneasily in his seat. “We’re already here, Lez, we might as well take a look around.” He said. “Besides we have at least 15 minutes before we can get hyper speed back online anyway.” He added.
Lez interlaced his fingers behind his head and closed his eyes, finally conceding, “Fine, screw it we’re already here. But you swear the tracking system isn’t working right? Because the last thing I need is the Senate patrol showing up and escorting us back to Tholia.”
“I promise we’re good. Just give me 15 minutes and we’ll head straight back.”
“Alright, deal but no landing. If there is new life we have no idea what stage it’s at and I’m not chancing getting eaten by a bug or something.” Lez said with a chuckle half kidding half serious, thinking back to the stories his father use to tell him about how unpredictable new life planets were.
There was never any way to predict whether the planet would be covered with microscopic life that could only be seen under a lens or giant creatures roaming freely across the surface. Either way the Senate would classify them as off limits for travel and closely monitor them until signs of intelligent life emerged. The Senate was basically the gate keepers of the universal community, helping life evolve and coexist within the cosmic community.
It wasn’t long before the two friends found the restricted planet on the other side of the sun. And based on the amount of water and atmosphere they both knew that this was a new life planet.
“What do you think it is?” Darius asked.
“My guess is microscopic based on all that water.”
“Unless it’s a bunch of water based creatures like on Muvozuno.” Darius said with a smirk.
“Either way it doesn’t matter. Like I said, no landing.” Lez said with a sigh.
“Alright, but let’s at least get a closer look. I just want to take a peek at the formations.” Darius replied.
“Fine. You got 10 minutes before I start the thrusters.” Lez said sitting back in his chair.
Darius sat back, easing their craft closer and closer to the little blue marble floating in front of them.
As they flew towards the atmosphere, Lez saw something structural float past them. “What was that?” He said straining his neck to get a better look.
“What was what?” Darius replied staying the course.
“Why would there be structures in a new life planet’s atmosphere?” Lez asked, hoping his friend would have a plausible explanation.
“Maybe it’s a piece of an asteroid that got stuck in orbit. Or it could have been something left behind by one of our ships.” Darius replied, seemingly unconcerned by the object.
“I don’t know,” Lez replied hesitantly as they approached the planet’s atmosphere.
“Here we go.” Darius said as they were engulfed by the thick white clouds surrounding the planet. Lez held his breath as they entered the inner sky and finally hovering above a vast body of water.
“Told you dude, microscopic.” Lez said, exhaling in relief.
“You don’t know that yet. Let’s go check out the land masses. I want to see how high they go.” Darius said as he slowly pushed the ship forwards.
Instead of arguing with Darius Lez decided he might as well enjoy the view before they headed home, leaning over to admire the sheet of water beneath them. He had always been fond of the liquid element, mesmerized by the way it moved and flowed. It was the one substance in the universe that he felt truly connected to.
As he was gazing into the depths below them, Lez noticed something move beneath the surface. His heart began to beat heavy against his chest as he came to the realization that this planet was not covered with microscopic life after all.
“Darius.” Lez said slowly, moving away from the window.
“What?” Darius asked, still focused on navigating them towards the nearest landmass.
“This isn’t microscopic life. Look.” Lez said, pointing towards the water beneath them.
Darius quickly engaged auto pilot before leaning over to see what Lez was pointing at. For a moment he couldn’t see anything but water. Then finally he let out a gasp as he saw a creature break the surface. It definitely wasn’t microscopic. The creature had to be at least 8 feet long and was covered in a smooth, grey skin of some kind. It leapt up out of the water only to dive right back down moments later.
“It’s following us!” Darius shouted.
Lez felt the color drain from his face. If it was following them then this meant that there might be intelligent life here after all. But why would it be restricted then? He thought as he watched the creature continue to leap into the air only to return to the water again. He looked up at the hyper speed countdown which now read 9 minutes, noticing how slowly time seemed to be moving here. Lez knew that time moved differently within each galaxy but here it felt different, it felt almost as if it stood still.
He was lost in his thoughts when all of a sudden an object shot by them at lightning speed.
“What was that!?” Darius asked as the object disappeared behind them.
“I have no idea.” Lez said trying to track where it went. “But it definitely didn’t look biological. Let’s turn on the radar system in case it comes back.” Darius nodded in agreement, engaging their radar system.
“I think we should hang out up top while we wait out these last 8 minutes.” Darius said. “What do you think?”
Before Lez could respond the radar system lit up notifying them of two more objects headed their way. It was in this moment that Lez realized this was not a new life planet but instead one teeming with intelligent life. He looked over at Darius and knew his friend realized it too.
“Shit dude we have to get out of here.” Darius said, attempting to steer the craft upwards when all of a sudden they were jolted out of their seats. Something had hit the back of their ship and it hit it hard. As Lez lifted himself off the floor he could see sparks flying behind him and smoke filling the air.
He tried to get to his feet and was pulled forcefully towards the front of the ship. That’s when he realized that they were no longer flying parallel with the planet beneath them but instead were being pulled towards the ground.
“Darius! Are you okay?” Lez shouted, squinting to see his friend through the clouds of smoke billowing around them.
“Yea. What was that?” Darius asked, trying to take control of the ship.
“I don’t know but we have to get out of here.” Lez replied.
“Bad news, we can’t. We lost control of everything, including the main system.” Darius said, looking over at his friend somberly. Lez knew instantly what this meant, they were going to crash.
“We’ll run.” Lez said.
Darius nodded in response.
They both braced themselves for impact as the ground grew closer and within moments they had hit the soft dirt beneath them. Their ship slid for half a mile before slowing to a stop.
Moments later, Lez lifted his head to find Darius standing above him shouting, “Lez! Wake up. We have to run.” The crash must have knocked him unconscious he realized. Shaking his head Lez jumped to his feet.
“Grab the hatch.” Lez said, looking towards the door.
Darius quickly ran to unhook the lock as Lez followed behind him. They paused for a moment to regroup before releasing the hatch.
Lez looked at his friend intensely, trying to remember the tactics his father had taught him over the years about interstellar travel. “Okay, as soon as the doors open you need to run. Don’t worry about me or if we get separated, just run. Once we find safety we’ll reconvene and come up with a plan to get off this planet. Got it?” Darius nodded, “Got it.”
They both took a deep breath and Darius pushed the door open.
Immediately they were blinded by a bright white light. “Go!” Lez shouted as he sprinted out of the craft, unable to see where he was running exactly. He had gotten about twenty feet away from the ship when all of a sudden he heard a loud bang! And Darius shout his name from behind.
Lez continued to sprint forward, hoping that Darius was alright, when all of a sudden he felt a painful shock hit him in the middle of his back. The next thing he knew he was lying on the ground moaning in agony from the electric jolt that continued to reverberate throughout his entire body.
He could hear footsteps and shouting coming closer as he laid there unable to move. “Darius?” Lez said meekly through the pain, hoping for some sign that his friend was nearby. When there was no response Lez managed to pull himself up on his side before opening his eyes. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light before he saw him.
Darius was a few yards away, lying lifeless and surrounded by blood. Lez was horrified and began to weep hysterically despite his pain.
Then the next thing he knew he was being sealed inside a plastic container and hoisted into a grounded vehicle. He quickly looked around for any signs of help but all he could see was the broken navigation system that now read ‘Restricted area 51“ and a sign in the distance that said: “Welcome to Roswell.”