Starglow

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Science Fiction
Humanity's galactic superiority was challenged when the Coalition discovered the Bastions. When victory began drifting ever farther from their grasps, Coalition forces built a wall to protect their colony. It was meant to keep everything out. But what happens when someone attempts to exit?

Submitted: April 22, 2016

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Submitted: April 22, 2016

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Chapter I

“Listen well, Soren: you are not to venture beyond the Wall. It is simply far too dangerous for a boy to go playing around out there,” Garik said to his son. Lieutenant Garik Jade, Coalition officer - a big, strong, protective military man.

 

“But Dad, what’s out there that-”

 

“Enough, Son! I told you. There are things out there that you are not to see - that no one is ever to see,” Garik interjected.

 

It had been at least a decade since the close of the First Contact War, and only five since the death of Soren’s mother, Nira; the boy was still silent on most days, and his rare words were often spat angrily at his father.

 

Garik sighed, and scratched his head. The weather out was nice. Few clouds had gathered in the atmosphere above them, and the warm weather had settled in days before.

 

“Tell you what,” Garik said, breaking the silence. His boy’s head rose. “How’s about you and I go to the hill and sit on the Wall?”

 

Soren smiled for what seemed like the first time since his mother had passed. Garik almost let a tear escape, but he kept his composure.

 

“Really, dad? Do you mean it?”

 

“Sure, Son. But you must stay with me the entire way, especially on the Wall,” Garik replied, knowing in his heart that Nira would have scolded them both for venturing so close to the Badlands.

 

Garik knelt low, and his son mounted his shoulders. The family homestead was a simple one; it was a standard 167 square-meter, Coalition-issued PTD (Portable Terrestrial Dwelling), with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a single bathroom. It was nearly a kilometer away from the hill, which bordered the I-Sector of Makelo.

 

The terrain was unique to this planet; the soil was a grayish purple color, while the grasses and local foliage had a deep blue-green hue. They took the same old path that they took several years back, during the colonization years, to the Wall. Soren remembered everything about the route; he recalled a pond with orange water, a tree that grew in the shape of an ‘h,’ and he even knew that the hill had a bare patch of soil exposed because of a shadow cast down by one of the Wall’s many antennae.

 

Garik grabbed his son by his sides and lowered the boy to the foot of the hill. The incline was shallow, but high enough up their side of the Wall to allow Garik to lift Soren up, and subsequently hoist himself.

 

Helping Soren, Garik placed his child onto the white reflective lip of the construct. He climbed up as well, and sat beside his son.

On the other side of The Wall was a vast expanse of dusty plains, known as the Badlands; this is where the final battles of the First Contact War were fought. Littered about the dunes were large boulders, rusted metal, and the occasional chunk of a long dead Coalition soldier’s armor. It was a graveyard, and it was meant to stay that way.

 

“Tell me about the war,” Soren said, his gentle voice breaking the violent silence that his father was hiding within.

 

“I’ve told you many times,” Garik started.

 

“I know, I know…” his son replied, looking down at his feet, which were dangling off the edge of the pearlescent defensive wall. The elevation on the other side was significantly lower than that of the I-Sector’s side, and a fall from the top of the Wall would be fatal for a smaller individual, and catastrophic for an adult.

 

Garik was lost in the dune sea; his thoughts skipped from his first kill, to the loss of his best friends, with nothing but blurs between and after.

 

“Dad?” Soren asked, making his father snap back into reality.

 

“You mother was pregnant with you before we came here,” Garik explained. “You were born in the capital-”

 

“I’ve never been to the capital,” Soren interjected defensively.

 

“Of course you have. You came from the capital, son. Anyways, I was already in the Coalition’s armed forces. When we colonized Makelo, we thought it was ours - we thought we were the biggest, meanest bunch on the surface. It wasn’t until we tried expanding that we discovered we were not,” his father went on, never breaking his gaze out into the fields.

 

Soren, on the contrary, ceased his viewing of the Badlands, and had kept a solid stare at his father’s face. It was strong, littered with tiny scars from miscellaneous injuries. His father was not a bearded man, but he rarely shaved either. His stubble tickled Soren’s cheek when his dad kisses him goodnight.

 

“When the Coalition had us explore the regions to the west of the capital, we discovered the Bastions,” Garik went on.

 

Soren had heard tales of the Bastions from other men at the barracks, but no one dared to reveal the secrets within them.

 

“They destroyed the men who went in, and even kept them in most cases. Those who came out were… different.” His father’s eyes welled up with tears, and Soren placed his tiny hand in Garik’s. The man smiled awkwardly, and looked at his son.

 

“I love you, Soren. Promise me you won’t venture beyond the Wall?” he asked.

“I promise, Dad,” Soren replied with genuine sincerity.

 

The deep crimson sun was slowly descending, and only half of it was visible above the horizon of the Badlands. The blue and white twin moons of Makelo would soon begin to replace the warm embrace of the sun with the shivering cold grasp of the infamous Makeloan nights.

 

Garik’s voice entered gently into the silence:

 

“Tell you what… if you can be home within the next hour, I’ll let you sit up here. But do not cross that line, Soren. You must promise me.”

 

“I promise,” Soren said with a delighted, heightened tone.

 

“Alright then,” Garik sighed. “I’ll see you home within the hour. I love you, Son.”

 

“I love you too, Dad.”

 

Zhan patted his son’s tiny back with his large, callused hand, and stood up. He stretched his arms outward, and a loud crack came from his spine.

 

“Ow!” he said, laughing.

 

“Was that your back?” Soren questioned, giggling along with his father. “You’re getting old, dad!”

 

The two found humor in Garik’s aging bones, and then he dismounted from the flat top of the Wall.

 

“Remember, Son,” Garik said before turning to embark for home.

 

“I will, Dad!” he called out behind his father. Soren turned to face into the vast expanse of dust and decay; it was magnificent.

 

He rummaged around in his satchel, which he was given several years earlier by his mother, shortly before her death. From its depths, he removed a pair of white, boxy binoculars. They were a basic, outdated model used by Coalition scouts during the war; he found it lying in a heap of scrap metal outside the barracks, and claimed it as his own.

 

Through them, he looked into the Badlands. Soren scanned the horizon, looking for Bastions, enemy troops, or anything else, really. But nothing moved, save for the thin screen of dust above the topsoil, and the occasional berryhawk - a native bird of Makelo, ironically named due to its carnivorous nature - hovering above rock piles.

 

He lowered the binoculars into his lap, and his shoulders sunk. His thoughts of adventure, heroic combat, and strong Coalition soldiers bled into faded memories of his mother, Nira; she was a tall, slender woman, with deep scarlet hair and green eyes - to the best of Soren’s memory, accompanied by stories from his father.

 

He tried to remember her voice, but the only remnants of her was a ghost that ricocheted off the insides of his skull.

 

Soren, spaced out in attempted reminiscence, was oblivious to a new movement on the horizon. A bright flash caught his attention. His thoughts abruptly disintegrated as he immediately placed all his senses on the anomaly.

 

There was a craft of sorts, and it was nearing the surface out in the dunes. Soren placed the rough, wartime technology to his face, and focussed them in on his target.

 

It appeared to be rather small, and was coated in flicking flames that began to dance off the dirty soil of the Badlands as it drew ever closer.

 

Soren gasped; the craft was crashing. He watched it intently for several moments, until the flaming spacecraft’s nose impacted the surface. At that moment, fire and debris flew vertically into the air, and the ship dug a deep trench into the ground. It continued on its path for perhaps a dozen meters, and slowed to a burning halt.

 

The twin moons had broken the horizon, and darkness was quickly falling; he would be late - and in deep trouble - if he did not abandon his seat. The boy hopped off the Wall onto the blue grass of the hill, and burst into a sprint down the path.

 

The cool night air flowed briskly over his face and the tops of his ears. Nocturnal insects chirped as their dark sanctuary settled in, keeping them in the shadows.

 

He could see his father standing on the deck, arms crossed.

 

“Dad!” he shouted, still a good distance away from his home, “Dad, Dad! You won’t believe it!”

 

Soren ran up the short flight of metal steps and up onto the deck. Garik, Soren reasoned, was perturbed by his slight lateness.

 

“You’re off, Son. Ten minutes since nightfall. I was getting antsy,” Garik told him, arms still crossed.

 

Garik was a tall man, with muscles that had only just begun to soften up. He was wearing a tight, white silk Coalition military shirt, with black pants - the usual for his father, and many other soldiers that were off duty.

 

“Dad, I saw…” he gasped, “something crash… out… in the Badlands...”

 

“Did you?” Garik inquired skeptically. His son was hunched over, drawing in quick, short breaths.

 

“Come inside, Soren; you’re not in any trouble. I’m just giving you a hard time.”

 

Garik let out a playful, fatherly chuckle, and turned to enter the house.

 

Soren nodded, and followed at his father’s heels. Their kitchen was a small open space, enclosed in countertops made of a similar material to that of the Wall - along with most of the Coalition’s structures. Soren sat in one of the three bar stools that lined the counter, and held his head up with his fist. The aroma of dinner, some sort of soup on the oven top, was circulating throughout the entire house.

 

Garik proceeded straight to the pot, and lifted the lid, releasing a miniature cloud of meat-scented steam. A plethora of spice jars we scattered on the counter.

 

“Your favorite: berryhawk and rice,” Garik said over his shoulder as he gently stirred the Makeloan delicacy. Soren’s stomach rumbled.

 

“So,” his father said, tapping the ladle on the lip of the pot, and turning to his boy. “Tell me what you saw out there.”

 

Soren looked deep into his father’s crystal blue eyes. He gulped.

 

“I saw a ship.”

 

“A ship?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What kind of ship?”

 

“I dunno.”

 

Garik leaned onto the countertop in front of his son, supporting himself with crossed arms.

 

“It was on fire,” Soren continued. “I was just sitting there, and I saw a light. When I looked with my binoculars -”

 

“I thought I told you to return those,” Garik interrupted.

 

“It was on fire,” Soren continued, shoving off his father’s statement.

 

“I see,” Garik replied. “I’ll report it to Governor Montross first thing tomorrow,” his father told him, a slight level of sarcasm that all adults seemed to apply when a child told them something important.

 

Soren sighed.

 

“I’m serious, Dad.”

 

“Alright, alright,” Garik replied, holding his hands up in a mock defensive stance.

 

“Whatever you say, Son.”

 

Soren held much disdain for the governor; Nathan Montross was a Coalition officer before the war, and is often blamed for the entire conflict. He sent his entire battalion into one of the Bastions, disobeying his orders to remain non-combative. That was before their nature was even discovered. In a way, Governor Montross was responsible for provoking the first contact, and the vast majority of Makeloan colonists wish him to be court-martialed. He would not investigate the craft, but likely destroy it.

 

Garik placed two full bowls of berryhawk stew onto the counter, and walked around to take a seat beside his son.

 

“I hope you’re hungry, Soren,” Garik said with a hearty chuckle as he picked up his spoon.

 

“I lost my appetite,” his son replied, pouting at Garik’s lack of seriousness.

 

“I heard your tummy rumbling; it said ‘Feed me! Feed me!” Garik teased, poking Soren’s ribs. They played and cackled, until the joyous moment was interrupted by a loud round of rapping on the door.

 

Still chortling, Garik stood from the stool, holding his hands over his abdomen to prevent Soren’s tiny fingers from retaliating with violent pokes.

 

Garik walked over to unlock the door while Soren blew on his spoonful of stew. The steam that rose off the tender flesh of the berryhawk was perhaps the most wonderful smell Soren could collect with his nose.

 

After punching a nine-digit code into the wall-mounted console by the frame, the automatic door soundlessly slid open. On the other side were several Coalition troops.

 

“Lieutenant Jade?” one of them asked from inside his helmet.

 

“Aye?” Garek answered.

 

“Your presence is requested by Governor Montross, Sir,” the soldier on the left replied.

 

Garik looked over his shoulder at Soren, who had lowered his spoon. They made eye contact, and Garik mouthed the words ‘I’m sorry.’

 

Facing back at the men, Garik nodded. They turned and walked to their patrol shuttle.

 

“Soren, I’ll be back. Just put my stew into the pot. Make sure to wash up and get to bed early, okay?”

 

“I will, Dad.”

 

“Love you, bud,” Garik said, walking out to the idle craft.

 

Soren looked at his reflection in the soup, or at least the parts of himself that were visible among the chunks of meat and rice.

 

He poured the contents of the bowls back into the simmering pot, and turned off the heat on the stove.

 

The insects outside were chirping, their songs landing comfortably on Soren’s ears. If there was one thing he loved more than sitting up on that Wall, it was falling asleep to the local wildlife’s nocturnal opera. His feet drug as he shuffled down the hall to his bedroom. The blankets were tucked in nicely, and his pillows were placed perfectly - a setup made by Garik.

 

Soren undid all of it, wrapping himself in the dark blue bed sheets. Everything was odd, but that was okay. His eyes gently closed as he evaluated the events of the day.



© Copyright 2017 A. M. Vakaryan. All rights reserved.

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