An End to Infinity/ The End of Infinity

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 09, 2019

Reads: 73

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 09, 2019

A A A

A A A

1: A Discovery of


 

Translated from the original dialect:

In a bid to save the planet from themselves, humans had left the Earth, entrusting their futures to the floating settlements they’d constructed in outer space. Situated in stagnant pockets of gravitational equilibrium, locked into place by the opposing pull of celestial bodies, they made their new homes. A vast collection of immense, rotating space stations were erected and organized into cities, to simulate the planet they could no longer inhabit.

Thousands of years had passed since mankind’s exodus from Earth, and yet none of the homes men found and none of the homes they built could compare to the paradise they had lost. At least that’s what the stories said; passage to Earth was strictly forbidden, heavily policed, and even infringement of the planet’s airspace was punishable by internment to the Death Pits of Mars.

Habitation on Mars had long been humanity’s back-up plan for its overpopulated civilization, even before the technology existed for the journey there. Early Martian colonists, however, discovered that prolonged exposure to the partial gravity of the red planet led to adverse and eventually fatal side effects. Now, the only inhabitants there are criminals, those who go to escape what they’ve done, trading freedom for a shortened lifespan, and those who are forced there for their crimes, prisoners in a place they cannot escape. Some of humanity though feel just as trapped in the confines of space.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elias had never felt that way. He enjoyed living in a Cigar City, as his friends called them- because of the long, cylindrical shape of the stations that comprised the space colonies. ES-5, as his particular city was officially designated, contained over 1000 individual space stations, all orbiting together in a coordinated formation. Each of the colossal stations were several kilometers long, almost 450 meters in diameter, and housed roughly 10,000 people, although some had other purposes than habitation, such as administration or resource production.

ES-5 was positioned in one of the gravity wells produced by the Earth and the Sun; their competing gravitational forces formed an immense region of space that was easily occupied and required very little fuel to maintain a position inside of, called a Lagrange Point. The ES-5 Lagrange Point was along Earth’s orbit around the Sun at the point where it formed an equilateral triangle with the Sun and the Earth. A million souls housed in the emptiness of space, just one of the many cities that mankind created after leaving Earth.

Lying pressed against the glass in the outer observation windows, Elias loved to watch the city roll by. Again and again, as the station rotated around to create the artificial gravity inside, he could see everything. Here he could count the asteroids being hauled by mining ships on their way to extractor depots; the hundreds of other vessels, each intent on their own destination; the thousands of other stations in the city, all winking and flashing with distant activity; and sometimes he would just marvel at the millions of stars and wonder if anyone was marveling back.

“You know, one day a tiny piece of space junk is gonna poke a hole through that glass and suck you right into space,” said a voice above him.

Elias replied without even looking back.

“Just because your dad swore he heard a ship captain tell him that happened, doesn’t mean it’s true. First of all, the object would have to be travelling unbelievably fast to even break the polylead lined mesh film on the window. And even so, the city’s radar would catch anything coming even remotely close to a collision course with a station, like they do all the time.”

“Yeah, well maybe the thing’s going SO fast that none of that matters.” the voice responded, in such a tone that Elias could practically picture the speaker’s hands going to their hips, argumentatively.

Elias rolled over and sat up to see just that. Arianne stood there, left foot forward, hands on her sides, grinning like a git. Her long brown hair flowed down over her shoulders and onto the small of her back. Her small frame was accentuated by the form fitting, grungy standard-issue jumpsuit she almost always wore. She wasn’t much for fashion.

“Cmon, we’re late,” she said sticking out her hand down toward him and smiling so that creases formed around her hazel eyes.

Elias’ own green eyes widened. “Oh skrit!” he blurted. He hadn't realized how long he’d been staring off into space.

He grasped her outstretched hand appreciatively, pulled himself up, and they hurried out of the observation hall. They ran down the corridor and up several flights of stairs to the nearest tram stop. They ran their wrists over the scanner as they boarded and heard the accompanying chirp, one after the other, as their ID was acknowledged and the fare was started.

It was mid-morning rush, so there were no seats left to be had. They didn’t mind, though; their adrenaline was still pumping from their run, but even so they were panting and out of breath. Each stop the tram made felt agonizingly brutal, as the sluggish commuters ambled out and then even more piled in. Arianne groaned audibly, and Elias answered hers with his own, using his eyes instead of his mouth but just as loudly.

They readied into their best track poses as their desired stop approached, eyes on the ticking clock above the door and pounced through as it slid open, squeezing through before it was even fully open and tore down the wide avenue. Arms and fingers waved and wagged at them in disapproval as they ran past, skidding around pedestrians and narrowly avoiding knocking into stripped-shops and their goods.

The pair’s shoes squeaked loudly as they screeched to a halt outside their destination. Huffing and puffing, Arianne smoothed her jumpsuit and opened the door with as much confidence as she could muster. Fifteen some odd faces turned to the door with a mix surprise and interest. One goatee-covered and much more wrinkled face glowered at them, having clearly been disturbed from whatever chit store novel he was reading that day.

“We’re sorry Proctor Galway, we didn’t think…” Arianne started to say.

“Well that’s clear,” the Proctor interrupted.

“We didn’t think the trams would be so busy,” she finished, sheepishly looking down at her scuffed boots.

Galway didn't answer; instead, he just pointed to the doorside scanner pedestal and finished the motion with his finger ending towards their seats. Arianne groaned, as the chipper robotic female voice built into the scanner sounded.

“Recreational allowance reduced, tardy,” it said.

Sparse sniggers came from the other students. Elias scanned himself in as well, staring venomous daggers at the guffawing buffoons. Didn’t they have work to be doing, he thought to himself.

“Alright, settle down,” Proctor Galway said absentmindedly with a shooing hand motion, his eyes already returned to his book.

Arianne slumped into her seat sadly and saw Elias staring across at her with eyes that said “I’m sorry”. He mouthed it to her too, just to make sure she knew. She couldn’t help smirking, even as she rolled her eyes and shook her head at him.

He’d make it up to her; he always did. Since Elias never really spent his recreation allotment, he had plenty to make up for what she’d lost and was always willing to share, following her to random electronic shops to pick up this missing motherboard or that broken breaker. He’d basically follow her anywhere and she knew it.

Elias watched Arianne as she powered up her screen and began tapping in commands, her other hand in a fist under her chin. He loved how everything she did had a simple fluidity and grace. She turned and caught him staring again and scrunched up her face in a playful frown and pointed at his own monitor. He grinned at her oafishly and booted up his computer, grabbing his VRogglesTM from his desk compartment and putting them on over his eyes.

He preferred to be fully immersed in his lessons, whereas Arianne liked to have a more detached analytical overview as she worked, always taking her extensive detailed notes. Elias had never been one for notes; he liked to just go from memory, strengthening it like a muscle, he said. Both approaches seemed to suit each one just fine.

They would be 16 soon, Arianne in a few weeks and Elias in the next couple of months after that and would be taking the Vocational Aptitude Placement Test, the VAPT, like all other Interspace Citizens did at that age. Once the semester was over, they would be matched with a job that suited their skills. Long gone were the days of blundering through life searching for a career, one was algorithmically chosen for you; no one really complained.

Every possible job available was systematically catalogued and cross referenced to ensure that no position remained unfilled or was given to an incompetent candidate. People were usually happy with wherever they were placed because they had been studying for it. The more a person worked toward their wanted profession, the more chance they had of landing a job they wanted. Anyone who slacked off or didn’t have a preference was slotted into a role to best fit their innate abilities. The system suited the overachiever and apathetic alike.

For his lesson that day, Elias scrolled past core competencies and settled where he usually did, on Earth. He selected pre-War civilizations, turned off the audio, and let the overview program play.

A pale blue dot appeared in front of him and quickly grew. He saw verdant greens and snowy whites, tawny swathes surrounded by seas of azure. Mountains clawed up towards him, and deserts stretched out and gave way to tracts of trees, forests, and jungles. Past plains, prairies, plateaus, peninsulas, islands, and archipelagos, he looked up to see, still-blue, clouds and sky. All these things he had never actually seen beyond simulation or recreation.

Then buildings appeared; the flat, terrestrial cities of old, rising as tall as man dared make them, angular and cold, piercing the clouds. Aptly named, skyscrapers, he thought. Though, they were beautiful in their own right. At the top of some tower, he awed at the sprawl, gorgeous unnatural wonders, the megalopolis.

With a corresponding thought, he flicked the audio back on.

“...And although globalization was necessary for their development, stark nationalism was drawing tensions to the brink of conflict,” the narrator droned.

Elias yawned and shimmied down into his chair to make the upcoming lecture as comfortable as possible. He’d seen it twice before and was already past his favorite part, but he needed to brush up on the regional states of national powers prior to the last World War. He yawned again.

Arianne stopped typing, rolling her head along her neck as she did so. She looked over to see Elias slumped over in his seat, his usually coiffed hair now hanging down over his visor. If it was anybody else, she would have assumed he was asleep, but Elias always had top marks on all of his assessments. If anything, he was just looking down on some text inside his goggles that only he could see. Sure enough as she watched, she could see his lips subtly moving, soundlessly mouthing the commands his brain was in turn relaying to his headset. She shook her head and laughed at him silently.

The computer couldn’t see his mouth moving; it registered his brainwaves into commands automatically, but Elias did it out of force of habit. His own personal comm device was set to receive auditory instructions. He liked to be able to hear his own voice; he swore that it made him think better.

“Rewind, four speed,” Elias thought into the headset, and the images in front him zoomed backwards. “Stop. Magnify,” he told it, and then after a few seconds, “Play.”

“A decision that would ultimately lead to the dissolution of the United Nations,” continued the narration.

Elias watched as the delegate from Russia folded his binder and turned away from the podium. A cacophony of voices erupted into argument before the man had even made it out of the hall.

The scene faded away as the narrator went on “Over the next 200 years political relations devolved as nations prepared to respond to escalating conflicts over disputed territories and resources, before culminating into the start of the Third World War, now known as The Last War.”

By this point, Elias was staring straight up at the ceiling through his goggles. His hands were stuffed inside the pockets of his iridescent pants, which themselves were tucked inside of his high-top slips. Arianne looked down at her own faded and beat-up boots. He always looked so stylish, she thought. She was always so knee-deep in oil and parts that she seldom wore anything that she didn’t plan to get dirty. Still, he had always looked at her like it didn’t matter.

 Proctor Galway’s uninterested voice eventually came on over the speakers, “Conclude all lessons, students. Those with scheduled assessments, please prepare. All others scan out. Thank you.”

Practically jumping out of her teardrop-shaped, cushioned chair, Arianne made her way over to Elias and startled him by eagerly shaking his shoulder. He pulled off his headset, exhaling to calm himself.

As he opened his mouth to speak, she quickly interrupted, “Fight time!” she exclaimed giddily.

When Arianne got that gleam in her eye, the look she was bearing down on him with now. It was pointless to argue with her.

“Can I at least bring my goggles?” he asked meekly, clawing desperately at them as she pulled him towards the door. How is she so strong?! he thought, struggling to break her iron grip.

“Oh no, mister,” she called back over her shoulder. “You’re gonna watch this time, and you’re gonna like it,” and with that, she pulled both of their wrists over the scanner and out through the door.

Proctor Galway hadn’t looked up but reflexively muttered, “Have a great day,” as he flicked his finger across his screen to turn the page and continued reading.

Cafeteria L62-3 was better known to nearby residents as Cafe Solana, since the same small, elderly woman had run it for longer than anyone could remember. Solana never took a day off, never left the eatery, and rumor was that she even slept in the kitchen so she could catch the cooks’ mistakes in her sleep. Arianne was sure that was an exaggeration, but Solana did serve the best food on the outer levels, hands down, so who knew.

“I’ll grab us spots. You owe me lunch, captain-made-me-late,” Arianne teased.

Elias nodded, smiling and walked up to the food queue. Arianne squeezed and jostled her way to a pair of open seats between a well-dressed lady to her left and a small, wiry man a spot over to her right and fixed her eyes intently to the screenwall in front of her.

Elias spotted her as he came out of the line and gingerly made his way over, carrying two large trays of vege-mash, crispy greens, and Caffe shakes. He slid a tray in front of her and sat down. She started eating appreciatively, attention not wavering from the vidfeed where two heavily scarred, muscular men circled each other.

A wicked-looking, curved knife was in the hand of one man, a hooked and battered pipe in the grasp of the other combatant’s. The knife plunged in. The pipe punished, connecting with a sickening crack to the other man’s opposite elbow; he let out an involuntary yelp of pain and rolled away, coming up with a limp and useless left arm.

The crowd around Elias cheered hungrily, including Arianne; he grimaced. Pipe-man sensed victory and advanced in a flash, jumped up, and swung down with all his force. Knife still in his usable hand, the other man crouched low and lunged upwards not raising his weapon but instead slipping inside of the reach of the improvised club and driving his head straight into the falling chin of his opponent.

Blood erupted from his mouth as he undoubtedly had bit off his own tongue, and his eyes widened from the shock of pain and the surprise of the unorthodox blow. The pipe fell from his slackened grip, and he crumpled to the ground. Everyone in the cafe exploded in excited, bloodthirsty cheers.

“End, end, end!” They chanted. As in, end his life.

Votes began popping up on the display. “Thumbs Down” skyrocketed to an early lead, and Elias sighed. He tapped in his own vote of “Thumbs Up” into his wristcomm. He could hear Arianne feverishly tapping in her own vote. He didn’t have to guess what she had chosen.

In instants the bars had settled onscreen, and the “Thumbs Up” had it. Groans echoed from all around.

“Prisoner 2287609 has been spared!” chimed the dulcet tones of Celestine Arcona, the resident match announcer, through the speakers, “1000 chits to the winner!”

Grumbles of disappointment continued all around Elias, and he was glad that some of the other Cigar Cities were apparently more charitable than the occupants of Solana’s.

The victor, back on screen, raised his knife weakly in triumph, his crippled limb hanging from the socket; the shattered bones inside it were grossly apparent. He dropped his blade as the familiar buzz of the Med-evac ship approached, and he sagged down to his knees, the adrenaline finally fading from his weary body. His face dissolved away as the camera cut to an overview of the entire arena, the infamous Old Domes of the first Martian settlements, repurposed for the gruesome games now two millennia later.

The bleak and barren landscape bubbled up with the large, multifaceted domes. They arose like blisters atop the back of some enormous red beast. They looked to Elias like the eyes of insects he had seen magnified in his lectures, a hundred or more small tiles making up a greater whole. They disgusted him.

Fascination lingered in Arianne’s eyes as she turned finally from the screen and faced Elias. “My money was on Mr. I’m-mute-now,” she said frowning and crunched on a baby carrot.

Elias grabbed her by the elbow, pulling her closer and looked around fearfully. “You know you aren’t supposed to be doing that anymore!” he chided, leaning over to her with a concerned whisper.

“It’s just a saying,” she replied, somewhat too quickly, pulling her arm back from him. “I wasn’t being literal,”

She was.

“I was just kidding!”

She wasn’t.

“Oh… okay..,” Elias nodded back, hesitantly.

He looked down at the long, thin black line tattooed across her right hand. It circled from just under her pointer finger, down diagonally to just above her wrist on the opposite side and wrapped back up on the underside of her palm, making a loop. She noticed his gaze and moved her hand out of sight, looking ashamed.

Elias didn’t press the issue any further. Instead, he gave his best reassuring smile and turned his head back to the screens, a silent offer to change the subject. Arianne graciously accepted and squeezed his hand with her ink-free one, in an equally-wordless thanks.

Her tattoo had been forcibly applied, like it was to all convicted criminals, but thankfully it was only a third of the whole piece; those repeat offenders who had it in its entirety were expelled from Interspace Society and sent to Mars to die.

“Welcome back to the Death Pits, action fans!” Celestine’s voice sang, drowning out the din of the cafe. “What a special bout we have planned for you! Up next, your reigning, non-aspirating, living-dominating, mechinery maestro of mayhem, AJX-17!”

Roars shook the small eatery as the petite image of the on-screen Arcona waved her arms in a flourish, signaling the camera to cut to a humanoid figure standing rigidly against the backdrop of the dilapidated, ancient remains of the defunct Martian community. As the shot panned around the stationary silhouette, glimpses of a terrifying onboard arsenal glinted threateningly: extendable arm blades poised and ready to spring, archaic projectile-launching barrels resting beside state-of-the-art laser arrays, sonic dehabilitators, poison injectors, and several other malicious surprises, still unknown but promised to be revealed to the salivating fans.

AJX-17 stood utterly motionless, tall and lanky appendages deadly still. His gleaming yellow eyes were the only indication of activity; they flickered like flames, scanning and monitoring for any signs of movement, switching from this spectrum to that, assessing, planning, hunting.

“Will our champion finally find a challenge?!” Came Celestine’s disembodied voice, bristling with anticipation. “Our boys in R&D certainly hope so,” she chuckled. “Tonight! twenty, that’s right twenty of our most heinous offenders have been collected to face our undefeated icon!”

She raised her arms as if they were wings as her body materialized back into frame. “Are we ready, viewers?!” And at that cue another vote popped up on the screen, “Fair” or “Not”. The options winked wistfully, eagerly soaking up votes. It wasn’t even close.

“The people have spoken! And boy, do we have a treat for you all.” Arcona gestured dramatically, and the arena appeared again. An upward angle of the dome showed the small glass portals above, irising shut. Their metal shutters, originally designed to prevent atmospheric exposure due to any potential panel breakage, began closing. Darkness reigned.

“And lights!” yelled Celestine.

Beams of bright, artificial light pierced down from varying spots around the arena. Like spotlights, they illuminated tight circles on the ground, cutting vertical corridors through the still-dominating dark.

“Camera,” cued Arcona as AJX-17 came into view, now painted in the now neon glow of night-vision.

“Engage!” she ordered, and the gleam of unfeeling eyes blurred out of focus as the mechanical assassin leapt into action.

Twenty red dots appeared, spread over a top-down 2-D representation of the arena. One yellow “X” approached the closest circles rapidly. As it did, the rendered map rotated into a 3-D model and zoomed in to show collapsed buildings, arranged concentrically inside of a large crater. Three computer generated, glowing human models crouched, huddled around an impromptu fortification. At that moment, the camera seamlessly switched to live-feed, and the cowering prisoners’ features crystalized into view.

Fear was plastered across their faces; one was visibly shaking, the beam emitter clattering audibly in his hands. They sat as close as they could to the nearby shaft of light to be able to see but not be in full view, trying to hug the blindspot between night and normal vision. It seemed as though they had seen AJX-17 at work before, not that it mattered though.

A piece of rubble fell from a rooftop close by them, and the man with the magmabolter unleashed a hail of searing, needle-like bullets towards the source of the sound. Instantly, AJX-17 landed among them, cracking the ground beneath him with the sheer force of his impact. With his left hand hand, he smacked away the incoming electrigaf and clamped a four-fingered hold around the ex-wielder’s neck.

Simultaneously with his opposite hand, AXJ-17 grabbed the handle of the beam emitter swinging toward him from the other side and crushed the bones of the hand holding the hilt into splinters; the mouth of the man connected to the obliterated hand let out a dreadful, pain-filled scream that was cut abruptly short as AJX-17 effortlessly slammed him into an adjacent wall, turning the man’s insides to pulp.

Still struggling in vain against AJX-17’s unyielding grip, the other man was hoisted into the air as a blade slid out of the robotic arm holding him and through his neck; he gurgled momentarily, and then stopped moving altogether.

All of this had occurred before the third man could even wheel around his gun from where he had been firing, and as he pointed the weapon at the mechanical nightmare in front of him, AJX-17 pointed his own human-adorned left arm back at his only still-living target, and the blade protruding from the nape of the dead man’s neck, shot out with a pneumatic hiss and found a new home, square through final man’s skewered brain.

“Well, so much for a challenge.” Celestine laughed, unseen, as AJX-17 dropped his now-lifeless accessory and put his hand over the face of the harpooned corpse before him; the blade retracted back into the metallic arm from whence it came, and the body from where it was, slid slowly down to rest.

“Oh, 17.”  Celestine called singsongedly.

“Ma’am?” The robot asked.

“Don’t dawdle.” She chided.  “Plenty of more criminals to be punished!”

“Ma’am.” The robot replied.

Arianne squealed in delight as 17 took off again. “Did you see that?!” She shouted.

“Oh, I saw it,” Elias grimaced. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and finger and pushed himself up from the table. “I can’t watch this anymore.”

“Suit yourself,” Arianne shrugged, already turning back to where AJX-17 was in the process of eviscerating a new set of unfortunate souls.

“Stay out of trouble,” Elias added, walking away.

Arianne grunted in affirmation and waved dismissively over her shoulder. She pounded her fists on the table in frustration as a fiery explosion sent AJX-17 tumbling into and through a small domestile and out of sight. Elias didn’t bother to stay to see the outcome but did snag a Cocoa Nug on his way out.

Thankfully, the corridors, atriums, and trams were sparsely populated with the fights ongoing, and Elias was able to enjoy relative silence as he hurried to his favorite spot on the station. He even bypassed a few levels by cutting across the terraced arboretum, bounding up its central staircase, skipping every other step.

He noticed two words crudely carved into a tree just beside the thoroughfare and felt bad for the perpetrator, who would surely be receiving a disciplinary mark for defacing its trunk; hopefully it would just be their first offense, like the one Arianne had. He read it as he went by, “Question everything,” it said. Hope that was worth it for you. Elias thought, running on.  

A few minutes later he arrived outside of his destination. The infoplate on the door read: F.E.T.O.L, and underneath that it said Fixed Earthbound Telescope Observational Laboratory, and under that in bold, Samar Vicin-operator, and below that, still even bolder, Restricted Access: Keep out. Elias banged on the door loudly.

“Sam, it’s me, open up!” he shouted, continuing to pound his fist emphatically.

After a few seconds the door slid open to reveal a very annoyed looking, squat man in his early 50’s. His all-grey attire almost matched his ashen complexion. His peppery hair was askew, as usual, and crumbs dotted the creases and corners of his pursed lips and were tangled in his bristling mustache.

“You could have commed,” Sam puffed. “I’m very busy today. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

Elias craned his tall frame over Sam to spot a vidscreen tuned to AJX-17 stealthily approaching a group of unwitting victims. Snacks lay scattered across the desk in front of the screen.

“Uhhh-huh,” Elias breathed, arching his eyebrows skeptically. “I just wanna take a quick peek. I’ll be in and out, won’t even stay past the commercials,” he promised, now pointing to the screen, chocolatey confection conspicuously in hand.

Sam spotted it instinctively, “Solana’s?” he asked anxiously.

“Straight off the cooling racks,” Elias answered with a grin.

Sam snatched it in a flash, impressing Elias with the speed that he unpeeled it and started munching.

“Fine. Fine. Come on in,” Sam managed to say between bites.

Elias went over to the left-hand side of the small, cluttered lab, away from the food-laden counter and straight to the magnified image of the Earth displayed on another, much larger screen.

“Is this live?” Elias asked, eyes full of amazement.

“So fresh I haven’t even uploaded it to the system,” Sam answered, taking a load-off in his favorite cushy chair and eating happily, utterly absorbed in his quickly-shrinking treat.

Elias ran his fingers over the old-fashioned fist-sized trackball mouse embedded into the desk. Sam like the out-of-date periphery, said it gave him a “tactile” control of the computer’s navigation. Elias flicked the ball left and time rewinded onscreen; the Earth spun backwards rapidly, and a sheen caught his eye.

He rolled the ball back to the right, and there it was again. In the middle of nowhere, in upper Africa, surrounded by a tan sea of sand, in the Sahara desert. Something glinted as it reflected light into the telescope’s mirrors and lens, something massive.

In disbelief, Elias rolled the feed back and forth several more times, narrowing down closer with each pass. Then he saw it, like an insect’s eye staring up at him. It was like one of the Old Domes of Mars, he thought incredulously, only bigger, much bigger, hundreds of kilometers across at least.

Before he could zoom in any farther, a burly arm pushed past him, and with a few deft button presses the image disappeared, replaced with charts and data. Elias hadn’t even heard Sam get up, let alone cross the room. He was fast when he wanted to be, Elias thought.

“Another piece of debris crossing in front of the lens,” Sam concluded quickly as he studied the information he had pulled up.

“But...but…” Elias stuttered.

“I’ll have to scrub that from the video and recalibrate the whole dern thing,” Sam said, putting a hand on Elias’ shoulder and guiding him firmly to the door.

“Are you sure?.. I don’t think…” Elias started to say.

“Oh ya, happens all the time,” Sam cut him off. “And now between this and your little visit, I’m loads behind. So if you’ll excuse me.”

Sam all but shoved him out, and Elias was left staring blankly at the now-closed door in front of him. The way home was a blur. He ran back down and through the arboretum, skirting the Investigation bots, now cordoning off the vandalized tree Elias had seen on his way over. He paid for a non-stop tube back.

He couldn’t stop thinking about what he had seen, or at least what he thought he saw. No way that was some piece of space-junk like Sam said it was, but Earth had been deemed a no-human zone for at least 2000 years; that structure couldn’t exist. Plus, if it did, someone would know about it.

His house was empty when he ran in. Mom must still be at work, he guessed. Elias went straight to his room.

“CAIRN,” he said aloud. “Bring up SAT footage of Earth for the last week.”

A floating Earth appeared in a hologram in front of him. “Magnify, 4-time. Speed, 30-time. Play.”

After about 45 minutes of stopping, reversing, and playing again, there was still nothing in the spot he had seen back in Sam’s lab, but that’s when Elias knew he was finally on to something.


© Copyright 2019 W. Jacob Litener. All rights reserved.

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